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The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, or MPRE, is a multiple-choice exam required for admission to the bars of all United States jurisdictions, with the exception of Wisconsin, Maryland, and Puerto Rico as of April 2011. Washington will require the MPRE beginning in July 2013. The 60-question exam is given three times a year in two hour and five minute sessions and tests knowledge of established standards of attorney professional conduct. The National Conference of Bar Examiners developed the MPRE and began administering it in 1980.
The MPRE does not test a candidate’s personal moral values, but rather his or her understanding of the standards that govern a lawyer’s professional conduct. These standards are based on rules in several sources, such as the American Bar Association (ABA), Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct. Constitutional decisions and federal and state case law also establish guidelines for attorneys with regard to evidentiary rules and procedures.
The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions. The candidate will have to apply his or her understanding of judicial ethics and answer questions about how lawyers are disciplined by state authorities. Other testing items measure knowledge of common law and generally accepted rules that govern lawyers in the United States. There are an additional 10 test center review items that gauge the test taker’s reaction to testing conditions.
An MPRE question is a fact pattern followed by a question with four possible answer choices. The test taker must pick the best of the four possible answers. Questions often include key words or phrases like “subject to discipline,” which asks if the conduct described would subject the attorney to disciplinary action. Other key phrases include “subject to litigation sanction” and “subject to disqualification.”
Each jurisdiction determines its own passing exam score. The standard score scale ranges from 50 to 150, with a mean of 100. Candidates should keep their score reports because some jurisdictions require them as part of the bar application process.
Candidates generally take this exam before graduating law school. An MPRE score from one jurisdiction is automatically valid in all other jurisdictions if timing requirements are met. There are many study aids and guides available. Most are books with practice exams and test-taking tips, but flash cards are another option. Companies like Kaplan offer prep courses online, while many law schools offer professional responsibility classes.
Some jurisdictions will waive the MPRE requirement for candidates with a C or higher grade in a professional ethics law school class. Connecticut and New Jersey are two examples. Jurisdictions that do not require the exam include questions about local rules of conduct in their specific bar examinations. Candidates should consult the bar association of the jurisdiction they want to practice in for specific MPRE requirements.