Academic Success & Bar Preparation

The Academic Success and Bar Preparation Department is available to all enrolled students and graduates of Detroit Mercy Law seeking assistance with law school study skills and preparation for the bar examination. Charisse Heath, the Assistant Dean of Academic Success and Bar Preparation, and Sarah Garrison, the Director of Bar Preparation, are available to meet with students on an individual or group basis.

    Vision Statement

    The Academic Success and Bar Preparation Department seeks to be recognized, valued, and understood by Detroit Mercy Law students as an essential resource for developing and improving the academic strategies and skills needed to excel in the classroom, on assignments, on exams, and, ultimately, in legal practice.

    Guiding Principles

    The Academic Success and Bar Preparation Department at Detroit Mercy Law will

    • Provide a respectful, responsive, and welcoming learning environment.
    • Promote self-motivated learning, critical thinking, and rigorous legal analysis.
    • Encourage students to cultivate sound study habits.
    • Challenge students to strive to become professional, competent attorneys.


    The Academic Success Department meets with students on an individual or small group basis to discuss various aspects of law school study, including the following:

    • reading and briefing cases.
    • taking meaningful class notes.
    • participating in class.
    • using laptops carefully and appropriately in law school.
    • studying in groups effectively.
    • using supplemental study aids advantageously (we offer a lending library of study materials available for all students).
    • reviewing and synthesizing material.
    • managing time and avoiding the tendency to procrastinate.
    • balancing school, work, and home life.
    • preparing for and taking exams.
    • meeting with professors.
    • course selection for upper class students to prepare for the bar examination.

    The Academic Success Department is also pleased to provide the following services:

    • Meeting with 1L and upper class students to review writing assignments.
    • Meeting with students in academic jeopardy.
    • Providing, on an individual basis, assignments and exercises, and feedback on those assignments and exercises, to improve students’ writing and analytical skills.
    • Providing a skills lab entitled Critical Legal Skills for 1L students that focuses on building the analytical, writing, and organizational skills necessary to enhance students’ ability to perform well in law school, on the bar examination, and in the practice of law. The lab involves, among other things, writing assignments, practice essay examination questions, quizzes, and comprehension exercises.

    The Department also consults with students and graduates on a variety of bar related topics:

    • Assistance with the bar exam application process (in any state).
    • Counseling on matters of character and fitness.
    • Personalized study plans, strategies, and goals for the duration of the bar prep period.
    • Feedback on essay questions.
    • Individual consultations throughout the bar prep period.
    • Provision of practice questions and feedback to improve bar exam skills.

    For-credit courses are also offered each semester. Classes are specifically designed to jump-start studying by providing enhanced writing and test-taking skills with multiple opportunities for individual feedback.

    • Bar Exam Strategies (2 credits).
    • Multistate Bar Exam Strategies (1 credit; pass/no pass). This class will not be offered during the 2016-2017 academic year.
    • Both courses available to Detroit Mercy Law alums at no charge.

Detroit Mercy Law Bar Exam Preparation

Detroit Mercy Law is dedicated to helping our students prepare for and pass a bar exam. It is our goal to help students utilize the skills and substantive knowledge acquired at Detroit Mercy Law, as early as their first year, to succeed on a bar exam. The Academic Success and Bar Preparation department supports this goal by providing informational workshops on the exam itself, individual guidance regarding studying and exam strategies, as well as offering free programs to enhance essay writing skills and multiple-choice test-taking.

Michigan Bar Exam

The Michigan Board of Law Examiners requires all those seeking admission to the bar to have a JD from a US accredited school, obtain a favorable recommendation from the State Bar of Michigan Character and Fitness Board, receive a score of at least 85 on the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam, and receive a scaled score of at least 135 on the bar exam. For a complete set of regulations, visit the Michigan Board of Law Examiners’ website.

The Michigan Bar Exam is a 2-day exam, offered the last Tuesday and Wednesday in February and July of each year. The February exam takes place at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Michigan and the July bar exam is administered at the Breslin Student Event Center in East Lansing, Michigan on the Michigan State University campus.

The first day of testing is the essay portion of the exam. This section focuses specifically on a examinee’s knowledge of Michigan law. The second day of testing is the multiple choice portion of the exam. The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) is drafted and graded by the National Conference of Bar Examiners in Madison, Wisconsin.


    First Day: Essay Questions

    The first day of the exam will test candidates ability to identify legal issues and develop an analysis in the form of a written essay.  In Michigan, candidates are required to complete 15 essay questions. The questions are written and graded by members of the State Bar of Michigan and should be answered using Michigan specific law. Candidates are given three hours in the morning to complete nine essays and two hours in the afternoon to complete six essays. Each essay should take about 20 minutes to complete.

    While there are only 15 essays on the exam, the writers have 24 testable subject areas from which they can choose to create the questions. You will notice that the MBE subjects are also included in the list as an examinee will be tested on this material twice. The following subjects can be tested on the essay portion.

    Agency Criminal Procedure Professional Responsibility
    Civil Procedure (State) Domestic Relations Real Property
    Constitutional Law Evidence Sales
    Contracts Equity Secured Transactions
    Corporations Negotiable Instruments Torts
    Creditor's Rights No-Fault Insurance Trusts
    Conflict of Laws Partnerships Wills
    Criminal Law Personal Property Worker's Compensation

    Most essays will focus on only one subject area at a time, but there have been times when two subjects will be combined such as Torts and No-Fault Insurance. Essays are scored on a scale of 1 to 10. While candidates should strive for the highest score possible on each essay, a 7 is considered passing. An average of 7s on the exam will give you a passing essay score.

    Second Day: Multistate Bar Exam (multiple choice questions)

    With the exception of Louisiana, every state in the country uses the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) as a component of their bar exam. The MBE is a one-day, 200 multiple-choice question exam focusing on the seven core subjects listed below. Examinees are given three (3) hours in the morning and three (3) hours in the afternoon to complete this test. 

    Constitutional Law  Criminal Law/Procedure Federal Civil Procedure Torts                 
    Contracts/Sales Evidence Real Property

    The MBE tests these subjects from a common law perspective. To learn more about the MBE, including practice material and subject matter outlines, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.

Other Bar Exam Components


    Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam

    The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice examination developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) that is administered three times per year (March, November, and August). It is required for admission to the bars of all but three US jurisdictions (Maryland, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico). The purpose of the MPRE is to measure an examinee’s knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer’s and judge's professional conduct.

    In August 2019, NCBE, in partnership with Pearson VUE, will begin to transition the MPRE from a paper-based to a computer-based delivery platform. There will be no changes to the question format, content, or scoring of the MPRE.

    For the August 2019 and November 2019 administrations, a limited number of examinees will be selected at random during the registration process to take the computer-based exam at a Pearson VUE testing center; all other examinees will take the paper-based exam at a testing center administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Participants selected for online testing will be notified during the registration process and given separate instructions.

    MPRE requirements are different in each state. Michigan requires examinees to receive a score of 85 to pass the exam. Registration deadlines and fees to sit for the MPRE are below.

    Test Date
       Registration Deadline
    ($125 fee)
    Late Registration Deadline
    ($220 fee)
    Saturday, March 23, 2019 January 24, 2019 January 31, 2019
    Saturday, August 10, 2019  June 13, 2019 June 20, 2019
    Saturday, November 9, 2019  September 19, 2019 September 26, 2019


    It is strongly recommended that students take the MPRE the summer before they sit for the bar exam, but a student can choose to delay the MPRE until after the bar exam. One cannot be admitted to the state bar, however, until they have received a favorable score on the MPRE.

    Adequate studying for the MPRE requires 40 to 50 hours with study aids and practice questions. Each commercial bar vendor has MPRE materials (lecture, outline, practice questions) available for free. It is strongly recommended that students utilize at least one (or more) of these sources of information and that they do many practice exams before the actual testing day.

    To register or find more information on MPRE testing dates and locations visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners website at

    Bar Exam Applications and the Character and Fitness Process

    Before you can start studying for an exam you must apply to sit and begin the process of character and fitness.  This is a formal investigations into your educational, residential and employment history to gauge your fitness to practice law.  The State Bar of Michigan Character and Fitness Board of Michigan (C/F Board) makes all recommendations for Michigan candidates. The application process can be confusing and tedious, but is manageable if students give themselves time and remain focused. It is the job of the C/F Board to ascertain from a student’s personal and professional history if they are good candidates for the Michigan Bar.

    The filing deadlines and application fees to sit for the bar exam are below:

    Exam Application Deadline Application Fee Late Application Deadline Late Application Fee
    February   November 1 $400 December 15 $500
    July   March 1 $400 May 15 $500


    The filing deadlines and application fees for the C/F Board are below:

    Exam Application Deadline Application Fee Late Application Deadline Late Application Fee
    February November 1 $375 December 15 $550
    July   March 1 $375 May 15 $550


    The application process can be a great source of anxiety for students. The Academic Support and Bar Preparation Department will host workshops on how to manage the application process and compile the required documentation. Students should contact Sarah Garrison, Director of Bar Preparation, with questions or concerns.

New York Bar Exam


    New York Skills and Professional Values Requirement


    In December, 2015, the State of New York adopted a Skills Competency and Professional Values Requirement for admission to the New York bar (22 NYCRR §520.18).  This requirement applies to all J.D. students entering law school in or after August 2016.  There are five “pathways” by which our students can fulfill this requirement. 

     Detroit Mercy Law anticipates that all of our J.D. students who apply for admission to the New York bar will be certified for admission through Pathway 1, which requires each school to identify and incorporate into its curriculum the “skills and professional values” necessary for its graduates’ “basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession” as required by the American Bar Association Standards 302(b), (c), and (d).

    Detroit Mercy Law’s program of instruction is designed to shape the next generation of excellent, ethical, engaged lawyers.  To that end, we expect that our students will be able to demonstrate the following skills and professional values by the time of graduation:

    1. Graduates will demonstrate knowledge of the substantive and procedural law that forms the core of the American legal system.
    2. Graduates will demonstrate the ability to apply their understanding of legal principles to new factual problems.
    3. Graduates will demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively, that is, graduates will communicate both their written and oral analyses of legal problems in a clear, well-organized, and professional manner.
    4. Graduates will demonstrate the ability to engage in legal research necessary to determine the legal rules involved in solving new factual problems.
    5. Graduates will demonstrate competency in (a) using documents and other information in developing an understanding of a client’s case; (b) effectively interviewing and counseling clients; (c) drafting documents used in legal practice; and (d) developing effective strategies to address clients’ goals.
    6. Graduates will demonstrate the ability to practice law in a professional and ethical manner as follows: (a) graduates will demonstrate the ability to recognize ethical issues that may be presented in a particular factual scenario; (b) graduates will demonstrate an understanding of the ethical duties imposed on counsel; and (c) graduates will demonstrate an ability to apply that understanding of ethical duties in new factual scenarios.
    7. Graduates will demonstrate an understanding of the transnational nature of the practice of law in the twenty-first century.
    8. Graduates will be exposed to the value of serving in their communities and promoting the legal profession.

    Detroit Mercy Law will certify graduates who have successfully completed the following courses as satisfying the skills and professional values requirement under Pathway 1 (please note that successful completion is defined as earning a passing grade in each class):

    J.D. Students:

    Introduction to Legal Research and Communication (2 credits)

    Applied Legal Theory and Analysis I and II (6 credits)

    Professional Responsibility (3 credits)

    Upper Level Writing Requirement (2-3 credits)

    Clinic (3-4 credits)

    Law Firm Program (These courses are structured to mimic the work assignments, feedback, and professional skills development that first-year lawyers would experience at law firms, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate legal departments -- 3 credits)

    Global Law Requirement (These courses provide students with an awareness of and appreciation for the global nature of the practice of  law and for the contributions of legal systems other than the core American legal system -- 1-3 credits)

    Dual J.D. Students

    Comparative Legal Writing and Research (Parts I and II) (9 credits)

    Canadian and US Professional Responsibility (4 credits)

    Upper Level Writing Requirement (2-3 credits)

    Clinic (3-4 credits)

    Law Firm Program (These courses are structured to mimic the work assignments, feedback, and professional skills development that first-year lawyers would experience at law firms, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate legal departments -- 3 credits)

    Transnational/Comparative Law Requirement (6 or more credits)

    In addition, all students (J.D. and Dual J.D.) are required to complete the non-graded Professionalism in Action seminar which is a discussion of legal ethics and professional conduct with seasoned lawyers and judges.

Planning on taking the bar exam ouside of Michigan?

Sarah Garrison, Director of Bar Preparation, can help students navigate the application and studying process for all bar exams outside of Michigan.The NCBE website also has information on each jurisdiction on their website and in a pamphlet called the Bar Admission Guide.