STATE BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


Courts of the Maryland Province were first authorized to examine persons seeking to practice law in 1715 (Chapter 48, Acts of 1715). These examinations typically were carried out by the County Courts from 1715 to 1851. Those duties then were assigned to the Circuit Courts from 1851 to 1898, when the State Board of Law Examiners was created (Chapter 139, Laws of 1898).

The State Board of Law Examiners and its staff administer the bar examinations by which persons are admitted to practice law in Maryland. The exams are held twice annually, in February and July. Each is a two-day examination of between nine and twelve hours of writing time.

Normally, the first day of exams is devoted to the traditional essay examination, prepared and graded by the Board. On the second day, the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) usually is given as part of the overall examination. The MBE is the nationally recognized law examination, consisting of multiple-choice questions, prepared and graded under direction of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. In Maryland, the MBE has been used since 1972. It covers six subjects: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, evidence, real property, and torts.

Subjects covered by the essay examination of the State Board of Law Examiners may include such areas as: agency; business associations; commercial transactions; constitutional law; contracts; criminal law and procedure; evidence; family law; Maryland civil procedure; property; professional conduct; and torts (Rules Governing Admission to the Bar, adopted by Court of Appeals, June 6, 2016 (effective July 1, 2016); Rules of Board adopted & amended through June 6, 2016; Maryland Rules, Title 19, Chapters 100 & 200). Subjects are not specifically labeled on the examination paper, and questions may encompass more than one subject area.

For out-of-State attorneys who apply for admission to the Maryland bar, applications for admission (filed under Rule 13) are processed by the Board. Applicants must have practiced law for a total of ten years or at least five of the ten years preceding application. The lawyers' examination is an essay test limited in scope and subject matter to Maryland's Rules of Practice and Procedure and Rules of Professional Conduct. Administered on the first day of the regularly scheduled bar examination, the test is three-hours long.

The requirement that all applicants to practice law in Maryland live in the State when admitted to the bar was abolished in 1982.

Seven lawyers compose the Board of Law Examiners. They are appointed to five-year terms by the Court of Appeals. Authorization for the Board continues until July 1, 2020 (Chapter 413, Acts of 2008; Code Business Occupations and Professions Article, secs. 10-201 through 10-218).

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