State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Career Info in Maine

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor has published figures for May 2011 stating that the average lawyer in Maine earned a salary of $101,990 that year. Lawyers practicing in certain areas of the state made higher annual salaries than average. For example, lawyers working in the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford area earned an average salary of $125,740. Those practicing in the Portsmouth New Hampshire/Maine area earned an average of $103,810 per year. Lawyers in Maine specialize in a variety of areas, including health law, insurance law, federal and state taxation, natural resources and environmental law, workers compensation law, women’s law, child protection and juvenile justice, and elder law. If you would like to join the more than 3100 members of the Maine State Bar Association and become a practicing lawyer in Maine, keep reading.
 

Step 1

Get Your Maine Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

The Maine Board of Bar Examiners requires that you have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree before beginning your legal education.

Accreditation

Although Bar Admission Rules for Maine do not state any accreditation necessary for your undergraduate education, when you apply to an American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law school, you will need proof that your bachelor’s degree is from an accredited college or university. Accrediting organizations listed with the U.S. Department of Education are commonly recognized for such purposes by ABA-accredited law schools.

Requirements and Standards

The only requirement of your undergraduate education is that you obtain a bachelor’s degree from a nationally or regionally accredited institution. However, the ABA has recommended certain types of courses and subjects that have proven to be most helpful to students when they enter law school. They include:

  • Economics
  • Politics and government
  • Communications (oral and written)
  • History
  • English
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • World Cultures

Degree Options

Since no major is specified by the Maine Board of Bar Examiners or by the ABA, any major is acceptable in your undergraduate education, so long as you graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Majors taken from the above course and subject areas are usually the most beneficial to your future law school career, however.


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Step 2

LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Maine

You must next pass the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, before any ABA-accredited law school will accept your application for admission. It is a standardized test of about six hours in duration, given four times annually.

How to prepare

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) provides free study resources at the LSAT website, including practice tests and question/answer explanations. Other LSAT preparation resources include:
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Maine:

Exam content

There are four scored sections in the LSAT:

  •  Logical Reasoning – two sections in which you are presented with a short paragraph and must answer questions based upon the contents of the paragraph. It involves activities like finding answers based upon the paragraph, finding answers that weaken the paragraph’s argument, or finding assumptions made in the paragraph.
  • Reading Comprehension – one section consisting of four longer (600-word) passages, and seven questions per passage. You must be able to identify the main point of the passage and make inferences based upon the passage in order to answer the questions.
  • Analytical Reasoning – one section, also known by students as Logic Games. Four games with about seven questions per game are presented. Each game describes a situation and a list of rules. You must determine what is true and what is not true based upon the rules.

Application process

Apply online with the LSAC to take the LSAT. Your exam fee of $160 is also payable online. You may take the LSAT on Wednesdays or Saturdays in February, June, October and December. The following centers in Maine offer the LSAT:

  • Bowdoin College, 5700 College Station, Brunswick, ME 04011-8448
  • University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469
  • University of Southern Maine, 96 Falmouth St, Portland, ME 04103
  • University of Maine at Presque Isle, 181 Main St, Presque Isle, ME 04769-2888
  • Colby College, Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville, ME 04901

Receiving Your Score

It takes approximately three weeks before you will find your LSAT scores in your mailbox. The lowest score you can receive is a 120, and 180 is the highest. Scores commonly accepted by ABA-approved law schools in Maine include:

  • University of Maine School of Law: 153-158

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Maine

Application process

You are now ready to apply to law schools. It is recommended that you apply to ABA-approved law schools, but the Maine Board of Bar Examiners will also accept non-ABA approved schools under certain conditions (see below). There are over 200 ABA-approved law schools across the United States. Services that each requires for admissions are in this list.

Credential Assembly Service

If you do apply to an ABA-approved law school, you must use the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS).  It will help you to gather your transcripts from all institutions you have attended up to this point, recommendation letters, and online evaluations. It will also apply electronically to the ABA-approved law schools you choose. You are charged $155 for the CAS, payable online through your LSAC account. Some non ABA-approved law schools may also require you to use the CAS. Check with the schools in which you are interested for their specific admission requirements.

Accreditation

Under the rules of the Maine Board of Bar Examiners, you must graduate either from an ABA-accredited law school or from a law school accredited by the jurisdiction in which it is located. A list of all 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the United States may be found in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.

If you graduate from a law school that is not ABA-accredited, the following conditions apply:

  • You must have either graduated from a law school accredited by the jurisdiction in which it is located and have been admitted to practice by exam to a US jurisdiction and have practiced law actively in that jurisdiction for at least three years; OR
  • You must have completed two-thirds of your graduation requirements from an ABA-approved law school and within 12 months after completing these requirements, studied law in a Maine attorney’s office full time for at least 12 months.  

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Maine

Only one law school in Maine holds ABA-accreditation:

Course requirements

Law school coursework in Maine should include:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Legal Writing
  • Torts
  • Criminal Law
  • Property
  • Contracts
  • Administrative Law
  • Business Associations
  • Evidence
  • Taxation
  • Trusts and Estates
  • One upper-level commercial law course (such as bankruptcy, secured transactions or negotiable instruments)

Online Law Degrees

Internship

Clinical internships/externships give you the opportunity to practice what you have learned in the classroom in a real-life, hands-on situation. Depending upon your law school, opportunities that may be available to you include legal aid clinics, justice clinics, prisoner assistance clinics, human rights clinics, and patent clinics. Your performance will be graded just as a regular academic course would, by on-site supervisors and law school professors.

Degree Programs

You must graduate with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Bachelor of Laws (foreign equivalent) degree from an ABA-approved law school (or non-ABA approved school if you meet the conditions outlined above). Other degree programs may exist at your law school, such as:

  • JD/MBA – dual law degree with a Master in Business Administration
  • JD/MCP – dual law degree with a Master in Community Planning and Management
  • JD/MS – dual law degree with a Master in Health Policy and Management

Foreign Law School Graduates

Did you graduate from a law school outside of the United States? You may be eligible to take the Maine Bar Exam if you satisfy the requirements of the state’s Regulation for De­termining Equivalency of Foreign Legal Education and if you have practiced for at least three years in the jurisdiction in which you are licensed. Under this rule, you must complete 24 semester hours of credit at an ABA-approved law school, with at least 16 semester hours in five of the following categories:

  • Constitutional law
  • Evidence
  • Procedure
  • Taxation
  • Decedents’ estates
  • Uniform Commercial Code
  • Business organizations/corporations
  • Real property
  • Torts

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Step 4

Take the Maine State Bar Exam

Once you have met the state’s educational requirements, you may sit for the Maine bar exam. It is offered twice annually, in February and July. If you wish to take the February exam, you must file your application between October 15 and December 20. If you wish to take the July exam, you must file between March 15 and May 20.

Preparation

The Maine Board of Bar Examiners will sell you copies of the Maine essay examination questions used in the last six administrations of the bar exam, for $5. This is available for purchase directly from the Board.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners website has study materials posted for the national portions of the Maine bar exam, namely the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). You may also want to consult the following preparation resources before taking the Maine bar exam:

Exam content

You will take the Maine Bar Exam over a two-day period. Parts of the exam include:

  • Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)– 6 hours, 200 multiple choice questions
  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT) – 90 minutes, one performance question
  • Maine essay exam – six 45 minute Maine essay questions

Topics that you may encounter on the Maine bar exam include:

  • Business associations
  • Conflict of laws
  • Constitutional law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal law and procedure (both Federal and Maine)
  • Civil law and procedure (both Federal and Maine)
  • Evidence (both Federal and Maine)
  • Family law
  • Maine professional responsibility
  • Uniform Commercial Code
  • Taxation
  • Wills, trusts, estates
  • Real property

Application Process

Before filing an application to take Maine’s bar exam, you must answer some preliminary questions found here.  

  • If you are applying to take the bar exam and you have not been admitted to practice law in another jurisdiction for one year or more, use this Application to Take Bar Examination
  • If you have been admitted to practice law in another jurisdiction for one year or more, you must first complete the NCBE Character and Fitness Electronic Application. Then you must file the Maine Supplemental Application.
  • You must have your law school send an official certificate of your graduation to the Board, and it must be received by them at least one week prior to sitting for the bar exam
  • If you have practiced for less than a year, you must have three to five references complete a Reference Questionnaire and send it to the Board
  • If you have been admitted to practice in another jurisdiction, have a Certificate of Good Standing sent from that jurisdiction to the Board
  • If you have been admitted to another jurisdiction for more than one year, the application fee is $500, plus a fee of $300 payable to NCBE
  • All other applicants must pay a fee of $450
  • All application fees must be paid via personal check, cashier's check, treasurer's check, or money order made payable to the Board of Bar Examiners
  • Applications, fees and supporting documentation must be mailed directly to Executive Director, Maine Board of Bar Examiners, PO Box 140, Augusta, ME 04332-0140

Pass Rates

Adaptibar.com has published these pass rates for the Maine Bar Exam from 2002 to 2011:

  • 2011: 68 percent passed
  • 2010: 88%
  • 2009: 77%
  • 2008: 86%
  • 2007: 80%
  • 2006: 73%
  • 2005: 70%
  • 2004: 63%
  • 2003: 64%
  • 2002: 62%

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

You must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a score of at least 80 before admission to Maine’s bar can occur. Consult the NCBE for information on where and when to take the MPRE.

Reciprocity

Reciprocity in Maine is recognized only for lawyers who are licensed to practice in Vermont and New Hampshire. Use the Maine Reciprocal Admission Application.

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

It will take about 75 days for the Board to mail your bar exam results to you. Along with your scores will be instructions on where and when your bar admission ceremony will take place.

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Step 5

>Now that You Have Passed the Bar in Maine

You have done it! You have passed the Maine bar exam and are now a licensed member of the Maine bar! The Maine Bar Association has many resources to help new lawyers get their careers off the ground, whether you wish to open your own practice or join an existing one.  Their free online research tool, Casemaker, is available to all bar members and can help streamline your legal research.

If your idea of being a Maine lawyer is to open your own solo practice, you might benefit from reading this article on Americanbar.org that addresses that very issue. Is joining a larger, more established law firm more to your liking? If so, many laws firms are located throughout Maine, including multi-service law firm Bernstein Shur in Augusta; personal injury specialists Peter Thompson & Associates in Falmouth; wrongful death attorneys Skelton, Taintor & Abbott in Lewiston; criminal lawyers the DeGrinney Firm  in Portland; and civil litigators Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger in Bangor.

Nonprofit organizations often hire graduates fresh out of law school. Such organizations in Maine include Kennebunk Land Trust, Advocates for Children in Lewiston, Biodiversity Research Institute in Gorham, Allies Inc. in Bangor, and Birth Roots in Portland.

Legal specialty certification

Are you particularly interested in a certain area of the law? Why not become certified so that you can specialize in practicing it?  The National Board of Legal Specialty Certification provides certification services for specializations in civil, criminal, and family law; social security disability advocacy and civil trial law advocacy. You must pass an exam as part of the certification process. If interested, contact the Maine State Coordinator of the NBLSC, N. Laurence Willey, Jr. at 207-262-6222 or lwilley@midmaine.com.

Requirements for maintaining license

In Maine, you must complete 11 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) each year to maintain your license to practice law. At least one of these hours must be in professional responsibility and/or ethics. Contact the Maine State Bar Association for more information.

Court Systems in Maine

The structure of Maine’s judicial system includes the following:

  • Supreme Court- the highest court in Maine, the Supreme Court hears appeals from trial courts in civil and criminal cases, appeals from criminal sentences, and disciplines lawyers in the state
  • Superior Court- the only level of Maine’s judicial system in which jury trials are available, the Superior Court is Maine’s trial court of general jurisdiction. Among other types of cases, it hears adult criminal cases, post-conviction reviews, jury and jury-waived civil cases, and appeals from administrative agencies. Each of Maine’s 16 counties has one Superior Court (except Aroostook, which has two).
  • District Court- The district court hears cases in 13 districts throughout the state. Without a jury, it hears civil, criminal and family matters, including domestic relations cases, as well as involuntary commitment cases.

Elective membership organizations

Think about becoming a member of one of the following associations for Maine lawyers. Membership in any of these organizations could help you as you start your career in Maine law:

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Maine Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  Maine Statistics:  
ME Active Lawyers 3100
Average Annual Wage $101,990

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