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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.
The Maine Board of Bar Examiners requires that you have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree before beginning your legal education.
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:
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.
Rasmussen College offers online Paralegal Associate's Degree and Post-Degree Certificate programs designed to give you the skills you need to provide expert legal support services, while preparing you for the CLA/CP Exam.
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:
There are four scored sections in the LSAT:
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:
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:
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.
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:
ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Maine
Only one law school in Maine holds ABA-accreditation:
Law school coursework in Maine should include:
Online Law Degrees
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
You will take the Maine Bar Exam over a two-day period. Parts of the exam include:
Topics that you may encounter on the Maine bar exam include:
Before filing an application to take Maine’s bar exam, you must answer some preliminary questions found here.
Adaptibar.com has published these pass rates for the Maine Bar Exam from 2002 to 2011:
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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
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:
Lawyer Career Specialties
|ME Active Lawyers||3100|
|Average Annual Wage||$101,990|