I am a Rising 3L and STILL Haven’t Taken the MPRE

Help: I am a rising 3L and I haven't taken the MPRE yet!This week we welcome back guest writer, and rising 3L, Shirlene Armstrong, to talk about the MPRE and why she’s taking it her 3L year.

If you were about to listen in on many 2L’s minds, you would hear a variety of topics. “I need to practice for my upcoming mock trial…” or “After evidence, I need to run to the office to complete some interrogatories and meet with a client…” or “The MPRE is only a week away and I’m freaking out…” are just some of the daily conversations 2Ls have with themselves. As I close out my 2L year, I think back to all that I have accomplished, the stress of the year, and countless hours that I studied or worked. There is one quintessential 2L experience that I have yet to accomplish: taking the MPRE.

What is the MPRE?

Everyone (well at least law students) knows that in order to be a full-fledged, card-carrying lawyer, you have to sit for (and pass) the bar exam. However, there is a separate exam prospective attorneys must pass (in most states) in addition to the bar, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). If your law school is like mine, you had to take an oath of professionalism at the beginning of law school (and for other co-curriculars that involve attorney-like duties such as clinics). This is the essence of the MPRE – professional responsibility and the “ethics of lawyering.” Shocking to no one, being ethical and responsible are foundation principles of being an attorney. Thus, you are required to take a test that measure your ability and understanding of these core values. Some schools (like mine for example) require students to take a professional responsibility or ethics class in order to graduate. This helps prepare law students for the MPRE and most wait to take it until after taking said course. Unlike the bar exam, you do not have to wait until graduation to sit for this exam. To make post-grad life a little easier, many students take the MPRE in their 2L year or during the summer before their 3L year.

My Crazy, 2L Life

In case you haven’t personally experienced it yet or haven’t read any of my prior posts regarding the craziness that is 2L year, my second year in law school has presented me with a whirlwind of new challenges and stress. I am a self-admitted overachiever and constantly switch from one activity, job, class, or meeting to the next one. I have a full load of upperclassmen classes, I work for Lexis as a student representative, I am the head student rep for another company, I am the treasurer of the Women’s Law Caucus, on the mock trial team, work part-time as a law clerk, am a Ms JD Writer in Residence, and participate in numerous clubs and activities. As you can see, I have been extremely busy and my schedule is constantly packed.

Why I haven’t taken the MPRE and why I am not worried (yet)

In addition to all of the craziness I just laid out, I have just had unfortunate luck with scheduling. Professional responsibility is a course that my law school offers (and is required) which basically goes over what you will see on the MPRE. Since I’m a first generation college student, I needed to work full-time during the summer between 1L and 2L years, when many of my classmates took the class. Throughout my 2L year, I still did not have an opportunity to take it because there was only one section and it was always scheduled during another important class I wanted to take. So, I am finally taking the class in the Fall of my 3L year. Since I do not want to be hindered in any way, I want to take the MPRE after I have taken the class. Although my 2L year is coming to an end and my 3L year will be here before I know it, I am not really worried that I haven’t taken the MPRE. Although you need to take this test to become an attorney, there is not a set time that you should really take it, unlike the bar exam. Everyone is different, both in personality and the timeline of life. There is not a set way that someone has to “do” law school or be successful at it. I recognized that I may not be able to take professional responsibility until my 3L year. So, I have tried to lighten my load for my 3L Fall semester so I can take the class and the MPRE and then focus on finishing law school. So until another crazy life event gets in the way, I am not worried about the MPRE yet.

The MPRE is Important

Although I plan on taking the MPRE in my 3L year, I still want to stress the importance of this exam. You DO still need to pass it to be an attorney and it IS as important as the bar exam, so you need to study! Saving this exam for the end of your 3L year or during the time you are trying to prep for the bar is not ideal. For me, it just kind of worked out best to wait because my 2L year could not handle anything else. However, I made the conscious decision to do this and have planned accordingly. Preparing early and planning ahead is the key to success. Regardless of where you are at in your law school career, the MPRE is not going to go away. You need to be ready and figure out what is going to work best for you. If you understand its importance and plan accordingly, the MPRE will be an easy feat, bringing you one step closer to your legal career.


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About Shirlene Armstrong

Shirlene Armstrong is a first-generation student in her last year at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. At Wayne, Shirlene has been involved with numerous organizations and clubs, including mock trial, LexisNexis, the Women's Law Caucus, and the Journal of Law and Society. Shirlene enjoys mentoring others and sharing what she has learned on her legal journey and continues to work hard in accomplishing her dreams.

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