How to Become a Lawyer in Pennsylvania

By George Lawrence

Becoming an attorney is strenuous work. It takes long hours of studying and a good deal of legal writing. The process usually takes roughly 3½ years to complete. But the rewards are great. Once you are admitted to practice law, you can help people with their legal troubles. You can argue cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. You can direct the course of law in the United States. Becoming a lawyer in Pennsylvania is much like becoming a lawyer in any jurisdiction.

Attend and graduate from an accredited law school. The law school does not need to be located in Pennsylvania. To attend a law school you must graduate from a university with at least a bachelor's degree. You must then take the Law School Admissions Test, be accepted at a law school and successfully complete the 3-year course of study there.

Pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The MPRE tests ethical questions such as conflicts of interest and confidentiality. It has 60 questions, but only 50 are scored. As of 2009, applicants must attain a score of 75 to pass the MPRE in Pennsylvania. Passing scores in other jurisdictions vary. The MPRE must be taken either before an applicant sits for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam or within 6 months after the results are received from the Pennsylvania Bar Exam. Applicants cannot become lawyers in Pennsylvania until they pass the MPRE.

Pass the Pennsylvania Bar Exam. The bar exam is a grueling 2-day exam offered twice a year, once in February and once in July. The first day involves state-specific essays. The second day consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. An applicant must attain a scaled score of 272 to pass the Pennsylvania Bar Exam.

Obtain character and fitness approval from the Pennsylvania State Bar. An applicant seeking bar admission must submit an affidavit of personal history. Based on that affidavit, the Pennsylvania State Bar will determine whether that applicant is fit to practice law. Applicants with prior histories of drug or alcohol abuse or any conduct that suggests the applicant is not honest will likely run into snags during this phase.

Get sworn in to practice law. After completing the above steps, the applicant can get sworn in by the Pennsylvania courts to practice law in that jurisdiction and will be considered a lawyer in the State of Pennsylvania.

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