The Virginia Bar Exam

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The Virginia Bar Exam is given two times per year, once in February and once in July.  The exam lasts for two days.  The application deadline for the July exam is May 10th and the deadline for the February exam is December 15th.  The application must be received in the office by those dates or must be sent registered or certified to show it was mailed by those dates.  The deadlines are statutory and, to my knowledge, exceptions are never made. There are no real advantages to taking the exam at any certain time, although some have reported that the atmosphere seems more relaxed at the February exam.

The next two July exams will be held in Roanoke, Virginia (2009 & 2010), which is located in the western part of Virginia.  There is a fair-sized airport in Roanoke but there are limited flights, so book airplane tickets early.  Also, hotel reservations should also be made early as many exam takers complain about the limited number of convenient hotels.  The February exam is held in Norfolk, which is a sizable city on the coast of Virginia.

The Virginia bar exam is a grueling two day event.  On the first day, there are nine essays and twenty short answer questions which emphasize Virginia law.  The particular subjects tested are Agency, Commercial Paper, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Corporations, Creditors Rights, Criminal Law and Procedure, Domestic Relations, Equity, Federal Practice,  Local Government Law, Partnerships, Personal Property, Professional Responsibility, Real Property, Sales, Secured Transactions, Suretyships, Taxation, Torts, Trusts, UCC, Virginia Practice, and Wills and Estates. The second day is the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) portion of the exam, which consists of 200 questions covering six subjects: contracts, constitutional law, torts, property, evidence, and criminal law and procedure.

There is a misconception among bar exam takers that the Virginia bar exam is more about breadth than depth and that, consequently, the Virginia exam is easier.  Comments have been made that the questions on say, the California or New York bar exams, are tougher and require more analysis.  I heartily disagree with this notion.  The questions on the state portion of Virginia bar exam require knowledge of minute details, such as deadlines, exceptions to exceptions, and so forth.  This is compounded by the fact that there is a whopping  twenty-five subjects. (Although there is much overlap with the material tested on the MBE, it should be noted that some subjects, such as Wills and Estates are really two subjects: wills and the administration of estates are quite different.)  Students studying for the Virginia Bar Exam should view the test as one of both breadth and depth.

I am sometimes asked for my best tip for the Virginia bar exam.  The one piece of sage advice I have, especially for those who are just graduating from law school, is to not be afraid of digging into the Virginia code. (Students who are just graduating feel much more comfortable with caselaw and outlines than with statutes.)  Remember that any outline  you have is simply a paraphrasing of the statute.  In trying to make the statutes more concise, meaning can easily be lost.  The best way to study is to have an outline but to make frequent reference to the Virginia Code, which is written is a very straightforward way.  This is particularly true for certain subjects, such as wills or Virginia Practice. (For study materials and more information about the Virginia Bar Exam, see VirginiaStateBarExam.com)
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