Attorney licensing in Florida differs from many other US jurisdictions, and these disparities can make the process feel confusing. But if you create a strategic plan and take things one step at a time, you can piece the puzzle together. Here are the basics to help you approach Florida licensure one manageable chunk at a time!
Florida Legal Education Requirement
To become a licensed attorney in Florida, you must meet the educational requirements for licensure by showing you’ve obtained either a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school or a determination of educational qualification by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners (BBE). (Typically, this latter route is used by foreign-educated attorneys practicing law in another US jurisdiction.)
Applicants must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) to be admitted to the Florida Bar. The MPRE is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice exam that is administered three times a year. (For more about what to expect when taking the MPRE, check out this lesson on Ask EDNA!—the powerhouse platform with free resources for your entire law school journey. Create your free Ask EDNA! account to get started.)
Each jurisdiction sets its own passing MPRE score. In Florida, an applicant must earn at least 80 out of a total potential score of 150 to pass. Additionally, this score must be obtained within 25 months of the date you sit for any part of the Florida exam that is passed (more on that later), so it’s important to be thoughtful about when to take the MPRE.
Applying for the Florida Bar Exam
In Florida, you can (and should, if possible) register with the Board of Bar Examiners (BBE) as a first or second-year student. This process is labor intensive but will save you time and money in the long run. If you register as a law student during your 1L or 2L year, you will ultimately pay less in application fees, and you will have less paperwork to submit when you convert your student registration to a Florida Bar registration at the beginning of your 3L year.
If you did not register as a student, have no fear—you can still apply to sit for the Florida exam; it will just cost a little more money. Make sure to keep deadlines in mind when planning for this process—the application, which you can read a sample of here, will take many hours to complete and must be postmarked by November 15 (for the February exam) or May 1 (for the July exam).
Character and Fitness
All jurisdictions require a background investigation into an applicant’s moral character to determine whether the candidate is trustworthy and fit to practice law, and Florida’s evaluation is particularly rigorous! An investigator for the Florida BBE will pore over your responses to the questions from your application, review supporting documentation, and reach out to your references to assess whether you should have access to client confidences, finances, and trust.
You can read more about navigating the Character and Fitness process in this Ask EDNA! lesson, but, as a rule of thumb—candor is key and omission (even innocent) is your enemy. You will need to disclose criminal issues, litigation involvement, employment history, untreated substance abuse and mental illness, traffic violations, and financial history, and you will have an ongoing obligation to report conduct that occurs after you submit your application, too. This will be a lengthy process, and to ensure that you’ve received clearance to practice by the time your bar exam results are released, it’s advisable that you submit your application well before the deadlines listed above!
The Florida Bar Exam Specifics
Florida rules do not allow for reciprocity between states—if you want a Florida license, you will have to take the Florida Bar Exam. Here’s what you can expect:
The Florida Bar Exam is administered over two days in the Tampa Convention Center—on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in July and February. (Read more about the test-day schedule and exam specifics.)
The first day will consist of a “Florida-prepared Examination,” known as Part A. On day two, you will take the MBE, known as Part B.
Part A is a six-hour exam—three hours in the morning consisting of three essays, and, after a one-hour lunch break, three hours in the afternoon consisting of 100 multiple-choice questions. The Florida Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure and Florida Rules of Judicial Administration are always tested in one segment of Part A.
Additional testable subjects include:
- Florida Constitutional Law
- Federal Constitutional Law
- Business Entities
- Real Property
- Wills and Administration of Estates
- Criminal Law and Constitutional Criminal Procedure
- Articles 3 and 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code
- Chapters 4 and 5 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar
You will take the Multistate Bar Exam—Part B—along with the rest of the country (except Louisiana) on day two of the exam. The MBE is a 200-question, six-hour long, multiple-choice exam that tests your knowledge of—and ability to apply—general principles of law to hypothetical fact patterns. All the testable subjects on the MBE overlap with the Florida-prepared topics, but while Part A can assess your knowledge of both state and general law (the majority approach), the MBE only tests federal law (where applicable) and majority rules. You can read more about the MBE, and how to prepare for this marathon test of cerebral fitness, here.
If you’re worried about how you’re going to learn all this information ahead of the exam—have no fear. A comprehensive bar review course like Helix Florida can provide you with the content and practice you need to ensure you’re ready for both parts of the Florida Bar Exam on test day!
Passing the Florida Bar Exam
The “cut score” to pass the Florida Bar Exam is 136. But here is another way that Florida is unique—you can either pass the exam by earning (at least) a 136 on each component of the test (Part A and Part B), OR you can pass “overall”—meaning that your average score when combining Parts A and B meets the passing threshold score of 136 (regardless of whether each individual score was “passing”). Furthermore, if you do not earn an overall score of 136 but pass one component of the Florida exam and fail the other, you have the option to retake only the part of the exam that you failed. If you then earn a score of 136 or higher on that individual component, you will pass the bar. (Note: If you’ve recently taken the bar exam in another jurisdiction, you can transfer a passing MBE score (136 or greater) to Florida, so you only have to take the Florida-prepared examination.)
If this seems like a lot—you’re right. Many consider the Florida Bar Exam and application process to be one of the toughest in the country, and they’re not wrong. It will be rough and will take a lot of your mental and physical energy to get through it. But all bar exams are draining. If you put in the work, the results will speak for themselves. By the time you begin preparing for the bar exam, you will have earned one of the most rigorous and demanding educational degrees possible. Draw on that knowledge when you need a reminder that you will be able to pass the Florida Bar Exam, too!