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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 alumni 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: Michigan Essays

    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)

    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. 

    Constituional 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.

    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 Registraton Deadline ($95 fee)  Late Registration Fee ($190 fee)
    Saturday, March 24, 2018 February 1, 2018 February 8,2018
    Saturday, August 11, 2018 June 21, 2018 June 28, 2018
    Saturday, November 10, 2018 September 20,2018 September 27, 2018


    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 Application 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 Michigan C/F Board are below:

    Exam Application Deadline Application Fee Late Application Deadline Late Application Fee
    February   November 1 $225 December 15 $325
    July  March 1 $225 May 15 $325


    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.

Planning on taking the bar exam outside 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

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