Steps to become a Lawyer/Attorney in Minnesota

Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:

  1. Get my Minnesota Undergraduate Pre-Law Education
  2. Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
  3. Find Law Schools in Minnesota
  4. Take the Minnesota State Bar Exam and become an Attorney
  5. Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar

Law Careers in Minnesota

According to information provided by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, in 2017 people of color represented made up 16 percent of law firms in the United States, a record high in the country. However, people of color represent only nine percent of law partners. The Page Education Foundation in Minnesota encourages young people of diverse racial backgrounds to pursue a legal education. Page Scholars, partially made up of Minnesota lawyers, mentor children of color from kindergarten through eighth grade, encouraging them to pursue the law as a career. Becoming a Minnesota lawyer is a lofty goal achievable by anyone if you study hard and follow the steps outlined below.

Step 1

Get Your Minnesota Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

Pre-legal education is not mandated by the Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners. The American Bar Association does, however, require that you obtain a minimum of a bachelor’s degree prior to applying for admission to an ABA-accredited law school.  


In order to be accepted into an ABA-accredited law school, you must receive your undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. If the institution which you attend is accredited by an organization listed with the U.S. Department of Education, ABA-accredited law schools will usually recognize your undergraduate education as valid.  

Requirements and Standards

The ABA does not require you to take specific courses in your undergraduate education. Your school may have a pre-law advising department that will recommend the subjects and types of courses that would benefit your future the most. Courses in philosophy of law, criminal justice, history, government, politics, ethics, accounting, economics, and communication are the most highly recommended courses for pre-law students to take.

Degree Options

The ABA does not require that you get your bachelor’s degree in any certain area, just that you graduate with a bachelor’s degree (at minimum). Majors taken from the above-listed coursework areas are often the most helpful to you as you attempt to achieve enrollment at an ABA-accredited law institution.

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Step 2

LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Minnesota

Once you have a bachelor’s degree, you are ready to prepare to take the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test. It is a six-hour-long standardized test required for admission to most, if not all, law schools in the country.  

How to prepare

The LSAT website provides many free study aids, including sample questions/answers and practice tests. Additional preparation aids in Minnesota include:

LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Minnesota:

Exam content

The LSAT includes questions in these subject areas:

  • Reading Comprehension – You will be asked to read long, complex passages and answer questions based upon your comprehension of those passages. Your ability to make inferences and draw conclusions from the text will be tested here.
  • Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games) – This section tests your ability to see relationships and draw conclusions.
  • Logical Reasoning (Arguments) – Your ability to identify strengths and weaknesses in an argument will be tested here.
  • Writing Sample – This section is not scored as part of your overall LSAT score but will be sent to law schools when you apply for admission.

Application process

You must apply online and pay the $190 examination fee to take the LSAT. It is offered three times per year, in November, January, and March, on Mondays and Saturdays. Minnesota LSAT exam centers include:

  • University of Minnesota-Duluth, Duluth
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN 56001
  • Minnesota State University – Moorhead, Moorhead
  • University of Minnesota-Morris, Morris
  • Saint Cloud State University, Saint Cloud
  • Bethel University, Saint Paul
  • Saint Paul River Centre, Saint Paul
  • Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Saint Paul

Receiving Your Score

Your LSAT scores will be mailed to you about three weeks after you take the test. The lowest LSAT score possible is 120 and the highest LSAT score possible is 180. Average LSAT scores accepted by some Minnesota law schools include:

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities:164
William Mitchell College of Law:152
Hamline University:152
University of St. Thomas:154

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Minnesota

Application process

You have your bachelor’s degree and your passing LSAT score, and you are at least 18 years old. Now, it is time to apply to an ABA-accredited law school. Unless you are already a licensed lawyer elsewhere (see below), you must be a graduate of an ABA-approved law school in order to be eligible to sit for the Minnesota state bar exam. Choose from the more than 200 ABA-accredited law schools listed in the LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. You may go to any ABA-approved law school in the United States – it need not be located within Minnesota’s borders.  

Credential Assembly Service

You must use the Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) when applying for admission at any of the ABA-approved law schools. This service will assist you in gathering transcripts from all institutions you have attended and received college credit. You will also use the CAS to contact persons who have agreed to write your letters of recommendation to send to law schools to which you apply, as well as persons who have agreed to perform online evaluations of your character and work. The CAS will compile all of this information and use it when applying electronically to the ABA-accredited law schools of your choice. You must pay the LSAC a fee of $195, through your online LSAC.org account, to use the CAS.


Under the rules of the Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners, you must have a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school in order to take the Minnesota bar exam. The only exception applies if you are already licensed to practice law in another jurisdiction, in which case you must meet all of the following conditions to sit for the Minnesota bar exam:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Have a J.D. degree from any law school located within a state or the District of Columbia
  • Have been licensed to practice law in a U.S. jurisdiction for 60 of the past 84 months
  • Have been practicing law as your principal occupation for 60 of the past 84 months
  • Meet all of the requirements (residency, age, MPRE score, moral character/fitness)

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Minnesota

ABA-accredited law schools found in Minnesota are:

Course requirements

You can expect to take courses in the following areas when you attend an ABA-accredited law school in Minnesota:

  • Civil procedure
  • Contracts
  • Constitutional law
  • Criminal law
  • International law
  • Legal research
  • Legal writing
  • Professionalism and ethics
  • Practice issues
  • Property
  • Torts

Online Law Degrees

(For students who choose to focus on a subset of law other than an attorney.)


You may be required to complete an internship while fulfilling the requirements for your J.D. degree. Depending upon your law school’s policies, you may be placed into a fieldwork setting, work in an in-house legal clinic, work in a government agency, or do pro bono legal work. Whatever your internship setting, you will be advised and assessed by in-field supervisors as well as by faculty from your law school. This is the perfect chance to put into practice the knowledge and skills you have learned in the law school classroom. It also provides opportunities to network and makes contacts that could prove valuable to you when you become a Minnesota lawyer.

Degree Programs

The Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners requires that all lawyers in the state have a J.D. degree. There are other options for degrees at ABA-accredited law schools in Minnesota, such as dual degrees and certificates. Check with your law school for its offerings.

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Step 4

Complete the Minnesota State Bar Exam

Once you have fulfilled the requirements listed above, you are ready to apply to sit for the Minnesota state bar exam.

Residency Requirement

In addition to being at least 18 years old, having a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school, and having good moral character, you must be a resident of Minnesota, maintain an office in the state of Minnesota, or designate the clerk of the Supreme Court as an agent for service of process for all purposes.

Non-ABA approved law school graduates

The only non-ABA-approved law school graduates accepted to take Minnesota’s bar exam are those who are already licensed as lawyers in another jurisdiction. If you are a graduate of a law school not approved by the ABA, you must meet these requirements in order to sit for the Minnesota bar exam:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Have a J.D. degree from any law school located within a state or the District of Columbia
  • Have been licensed to practice law in a U.S. jurisdiction for 60 of the past 84 months
  • Have been practicing law as your principal occupation for 60 of the past 84 months
  • Meet all of the requirements (residency, age, MPRE score, moral character/fitness)

Graduates of Foreign Law Schools

Graduates of foreign law schools are not eligible to take Minnesota’s bar exam.


The National Conference of Bar Examiners website provides free information to help you study for the Minnesota bar exam, as Minnesota administers the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). This consists of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). You may also be interested in the following preparation aids for the Minnesota Bar Exam:

Exam content

You will take the Minnesota Bar Exam over two days. On the first day, you will answer two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions. As the name suggests, these questions involve a lawyer’s performance skills. You will be given a file and a library and will have to perform a lawyer’s task, such as writing a legal memo or brief.

During the afternoon of the first day, you will encounter six essay questions, each a half-hour in duration. The second day of the exam will be devoted to 200 Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) multiple-choice questions.

Subjects that may be tested on the Minnesota bar exam include:

  • Business Associations
  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Ethics and Professional Responsibility
  • Evidence
  • Family law
  • Federal Individual Income Taxation
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Uniform Commercial Code (Articles 1 and 2)
  • Wills, Estates, and Trusts

Application Process

You must first register through the Applicant Portal at the Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners’ website to take the Minnesota bar exam. Then you may fill out the application, typed only, and make sure to save a copy to your computer before filling it out. Print it and complete the additional sections prior to mailing it in with any supplemental documents or forms required. If you wish to take the July bar exam, you must file by March 15 to avoid a late fee. The final deadline is May 1. If you wish to take the February bar exam, you must file by October 15 to avoid a late fee. The final deadline is December 1. The exam fee is $500 ($600 if you wish to use your own laptop), and the late fee is $150. Be sure to submit all additional supplemental documentation requested by the deadlines above. Mail them to: Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners, 180 East 5th Street, Suite 950, St. Paul, MN 55101.

Pass Rates

The Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners has posted the following overall passing rates from prior state bar examinations:

July 201874.74%
February 201853.27%
July 201774.3%
February 201752.25%
July 201673.22%
February 201664.75%

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

Before the Minnesota state bar will admit you, you must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a scaled score of at least 85. Apply online to take this test.  Testing centers will be listed once you begin the application process.

Admission on Motion

If you wish to be admitted on motion to the Minnesota bar, without taking the bar exam, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must meet residency, age, and moral character requirements
  • You must have actively practiced law for five of the past seven years
  • You must have a J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school
  • You must be a bar member in good standing in each jurisdiction in which you are licensed
  • You must provide documentation for all of the above

If you meet these requirements, go here to apply for Admission on Motion

UBE Transfer Scores

If you took the UBE in another jurisdiction within 36 months of applying for admission to the Minnesota bar and received a scaled score of 260 or higher, you may be eligible for admission to Minnesota’s bar without taking the Minnesota bar exam.

Deferred Admission

A moral character and fitness investigation is performed as part of the bar admission process in Minnesota. If you have alcohol, drug, financial re­sponsibility, or other problems and have not shown rehabilitation, may postpone the Board’s determination of your character for a period up to 24 months. The Board will reconsider your application for admission after that time.

Temporary Legal Services License

If you have accepted employment with a Minnesota legal services program, you may apply for a temporary legal services license. This will authorize you to practice only on the behalf of indigent clients of that legal services program for 15 months. 

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

Bar exam results are generally mailed to you by mid-April if you take the February bar exam and by early October if you take the July bar exam. You will be given instructions, if you pass, on where and when to report for your bar admission ceremony.

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Step 5

You’ve Been Admitted to the Minnesota Bar

What an achievement – you’ve passed the Minnesota bar and are now a licensed lawyer in the state! The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) can help you with advice and guidelines for starting your new solo practice or joining an existing practice. Another valuable resource for you is Minnesota Lawyer, which offers news, opinions, and practice resources for lawyers in the state.

Law firms abound throughout Minnesota and include Faegre Baker Daniels in Minneapolis, Briggs and Morgan in Saint Paul, Gray Plant Mooty in Minneapolis and Saint Cloud, Larkin Hoffman in Minneapolis, Hellmuth & Johnson in Minneapolis, and Barna, Guzy & Steffen in Coon Rapids.

If you wish to become legal counsel for a corporation in Minnesota, the state is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies as of 2018. Major names of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state include United Health Group in Minnetonka, Target in Minneapolis, Best Buy in Richfield, 3M in St. Paul, CHS in Inver Grove Heights, U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis, Supervalu in Eden Prairie, General Mills in Golden Valley, CH Robinson Worldwide in Eden Prairie, Land O’Lakes in Arden Hills, Hormel Foods in Austin, Ameriprise Financial in Minneapolis, Xcel Energy in Minneapolis, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in Minneapolis, Mosaic in Plymouth, Securian Financial Group in St. Paul, Patterson in Mendota Heights, Polaris Industries in Medina and Ecolab in St. Paul.

The American Bar Association reported in 2017 that there were 25,483 resident and active attorneys practicing in Minnesota.

Legal specialty certification

The Minnesota State Bar Association’s Certified Legal Specialist Program provides certification services for qualified lawyers who wish to specialize in their practice in certain areas. These include civil trial law, criminal law, real property, and labor and employment. Examinations are required for certification purposes. The MSBA says that as of 2018, there are less than three percent of registered attorneys in the state who are certified specialists in their field. For more information, contact the MSBA Certified Specialist program.

Requirements for maintaining license

In order to keep your legal license active and valid in Minnesota, you must fulfill Continuing Legal Education (CLE). This entails completing 45 hours every three years, including three hours of ethics and two hours of elimination of bias in the legal profession. For more information, contact Minnesota CLE.

Court Systems in Minnesota

The Minnesota Judicial Branch consists of the following:

  • Trial (District) Courts: hears original cases of civil actions, criminal actions, family, juvenile, probate, and violations of city ordinances. It also hears appeals from Conciliation Court
    • Conciliation division: hears civil cases up to $7500
  • Court of Appeals: hears original cases of writs of mandamus or prohibition, and appeals of all trial court decisions (except first-degree murder convictions), hears appeals of decisions of the Commissioner of Economic Security and hears appeals of administrative agency decisions (except for decisions of the Tax Court and of the Workers’ Compensation Court)
  • Supreme Court: hears original cases of first-degree murder convictions, writs of prohibition, writs of Habeas Corpus, writs of Mandamus, and legislative election contests; hears appeals from the Court of Appeals, trial court decisions (if Supreme Court chooses to bypass the Court of Appeals), tax court appeals, and workers’ compensation court of appeals

Elective membership organizations

Now that you are a member of the Minnesota bar, also think about joining another elective membership organization for professional attorneys in Minnesota, such as:

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Lawyers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023. 

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