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According to the 2011 Demographics report of the State Bar of New Mexico, that year’s bar membership totaled 8858. The majority of New Mexico bar members (60.8%) were male. Sixty-eight percent of all bar members were engaged in a solo or private law practice, while 25% worked for the government, two percent for legal services organizations, and two percent for corporations. The average law firm size for most bar members consisted of two to four lawyers. Bernalillo County housed the majority of bar members (55%), followed by Santa Fe County at 19%. Baby boomers (ages 46 to 62) represented the majority of bar members (4508) followed by Generation Xers (age 29 to 45), totaling 2788 bar members. Would you like to become a member of the State Bar of New Mexico? Keep reading for valuable information on how to do so.
The New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners has not ruled that you must have any specific undergraduate education prior to receiving your Juris Doctor (JD) degree and taking the state’s bar exam. If you wish to be accepted into an American Bar Association-approved law school after undergraduate school, however, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree prior to applying.
All undergraduate schools from which you receive degrees must be accredited by a known agency listed with the U.S. Department of Education. This accreditation is required if you wish to gain entrance to an ABA-approved law school following graduation.
Requirements and Standards
You need not take any specific coursework during your undergraduate years in order to qualify for entrance into an ABA-approved law school after graduation. Studies have shown that law school students who have undergraduate backgrounds in political science, criminal justice, philosophy, business and communications tend to perform well in law school, however.
Just as there are no specific courses you must take during your undergraduate education, the major of your degree does not matter. As long as you obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, you should qualify for entrance into an ABA-approved law school (that is, if you pass the LSAT and meet other entrance requirements).
With bachelor’s degree in hand, you are now ready to sit for one of the most important standardized tests you will ever take - the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test. This six-hour long test is required in order to gain entrance to ABA-approved law schools nationwide.
How to prepare
Excellent study resources are provided free of charge at the LSAT website. If you wish to take some sort of LSAT preparation course (at a cost, of course), choices in New Mexico include:
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in New Mexico:
Your knowledge, skills and abilities in problem solving, reading comprehension (involving complex passages), analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning will be tested when you take the LSAT. The exam consists of four 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions, as well as an unscored 30-minute writing sample and an uncsored 35-minute experimental section to test new questions (but you will not be able to tell which section is experimental). It will take you about three and one half hours to complete this pencil and paper test, offered quarterly around the nation.
Applications to sit for the LSAT are processed and paid for online (a $160 examination fee must be paid when you register). The LSAT is given on Wednesdays and Saturdays in June, October, December and February, at the following New Mexico examination centers:
Receiving Your Score
You can expect to receive your LSAT score, which will fall between 120 and 180, three weeks after sitting for the examination. There is one ABA-approved law school in New Mexico, and the median LSAT score it accepts follows:
Accomplishing the LSAT is now behind you. You are now prepared to submit applications to ABA-accredited law schools. Unless you are already licensed as a lawyer in another jurisdiction (see below), you must graduate from an ABA-approved law school to qualify to take the New Mexico state bar exam. There are over 200 schools nationwide that fit this bill, and they are listed in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. The school you choose does not have to be located within New Mexico, as long as it is ABA-accredited.
Credential Assembly Service
The Law School Admission Council's (LSAC) Credential Assembly Service will greatly help you in collecting, authenticating and distributing your undergraduate records to each of the ABA-accredited law schools to which you apply. Register online and pay the fee, which some ABA-approved law schools will refund to you once you are accepted. Registration for the CAS is valid for five years and covers the preparation of law school reports for up to five law schools to which you choose to apply.
The New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners requires that you graduate with a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an ABA-accredited law school. The only way that non-ABA-approved law school graduates will be accepted to take the bar examination is if you are already a licensed lawyer in another jurisdiction and have practiced there for four of the past six years.
ABA-Accredited Law Schools in New Mexico
One law school in New Mexico has ABA accreditation:
As written in the Rules of the Board of Bar Examiners, the following subjects will be tested on the New Mexico bar examination and should therefore be covered in law school:
Additionally, lawyering skills will be tested on the performance portion of the bar exam. These involve problem solving, factual analysis, legal analysis and reasoning, organization and management of a legal task, recognizing and resolving ethical problems, and communication.
Online Law Degrees
Most ABA-approved law schools will require that you fulfill some sort of clinical requirement as part of your curriculum. The University of New Mexico School of Law, for example, offers students opportunities to participate in practical clinics such as the Southwest Indian Law Clinic, the Law Practice Clinic, the Community Lawyering Clinic, and the Business and Tax Clinic. Other programs offered by the school includes an extern program, in which you may be placed into the public defender’s office, a judge’s office, a private practitioner’s office, or federal and state administrative offices. New Mexico’s Supreme Court adopted a rule in 1970 that allows students to practice in state courts.
Although you must have a JD degree in order to qualify to sit for the New Mexico Bar Exam, the University of New Mexico School of Law also offers dual degree programs, combined with the JD degree, to broaden your horizons. You may obtain a JD and MPA in Public Administration, a JD and MBA, or a JD and MA in Latin American Studies. Other opportunities exist for students to earn a JD with an MA, MS, or PhD in other fields of academics.
You have received your JD degree from an ABA-approved law school. You must also fulfill the following requirements before being eligible to sit for the New Mexico bar examination:
The National Conference of Bar Examiners website offers free study aids to help you prepare for the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). Other bar preparation review courses in New Mexico include:
It takes two days to complete the New Mexico Bar Exam. Day one consists of six 30-minute New Mexico essay questions on topics listed in the “Course Requirements” section of Step 3 above. You will also complete two MPT questions on day one, covering lawyering skills. The second day of the exam is devoted to the MBE, 200 multiple-choice questions on subjects listed above.
Begin here when you are ready to apply to take the New Mexico Bar Exam. All information must be submitted on the written forms here, including:
All information, including fees (which will be noted on the appropriate forms), must be submitted to NM Board of Bar Examiners, 9420 Indian School Road, NE, Albuquerque, NM 87112.
The New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners says that 83 percent of all test-takers passed the most recent (February 2012) bar examination. Results for previous bar exams, published by MultiStateEdge, are as follows:
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
You must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a score of 75 or better prior to admission to the New Mexico Bar. The Board will accept your score regardless of when you took the MPRE. For more information or to sign up to take the exam, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.
Admission on Motion
New Mexico does not recognize reciprocity or offer admission on motion (that is, admission to the bar without taking the bar exam).
Licensing and Admission to the Bar
For the February bar exam, results will be mailed to you by mid-April. For the July bar exam, results should be mailed to you by mid- September. They will also be posted on the Board’s web site. If you pass, you will be notified of the time and place of your swearing-in/admission ceremony to the state’s bar.
Your hard work has finally paid off, and you are now a licensed lawyer and member of the State Bar of New Mexico. The bar is available to help you as you begin your legal practice, with everything from law practice management resources, to career services, opportunities and advice.
Whether you wish to start your own practice or join an existing one in New Mexico, opportunities are available to you. According to FindLaw.com, new attorneys starting out at some of the top law firms in the state can expect a starting salary of $70,000 annually, with the potential to increase to $80,000 by your third year of practice. Popular firms in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe include Miller, Stratvert & Torgerson, P.A.; Modrall, Sperling, Roehl, Harris & Sisk P.A.; and Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb, P.A.
Government entities and agencies are also often in need of legal counsel. Potential government employers of lawyers in New Mexico include the New Mexico State Personnel Offices in Hobbs, Clovis and Santa Fe; the Department of the Interior in Albuquerque; the Bureau of National Affairs in Albuquerque; and the Department of the Army in Santa Fe.
Legal specialty certification
New Mexico’s Legal Specialization Program helps lawyers become certified to practice in a specialized area. Fourteen specialty areas of law are currently recognized in New Mexico, including:
You must complete an application and meet rules and standards to become certified to practice in any of these areas. For more information, call the Legal Specialization Program at (505) 821-1890.
Requirements for maintaining license
In order to keep your New Mexico law license active, you must fulfill Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements of 12 hours per year. This must include one hour of ethics and one hour of professionalism. For more information, call the CLE department of the Bar at (505) 797-6020.
Court Systems in New Mexico
The New Mexico State Judiciary is structured like this:
Elective membership organizations
Think about joining another elective professional membership association for attorneys in your state, such as:
New Mexico Resources
Lawyer Career Specialties
New Mexico Stats:
|NM Active Lawyers||8,858|
|Average Annual Wage||$117,190|