The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, or the MPRE, is a rite of passage for law students. This is a 2-hour, 60-question multiple choice exam testing knowledge on the subject of ethics in the legal profession. In other words, test takers demonstrate their facility with the rules that encourage and constrain lawyers’ behavior both within and outside of the legal profession. Are lawyers allowed to reveal information about their work? Can they accept gifts from or enter into contracts with their clients? Can they lie to the judge?
Seems easy enough right? Well, doing the right thing in a situation may not always be easy or apparent. Clients may be in a lot of distress. They may withhold certain information or lie. Lawyers may become overworked and saddled with their personal and familial responsibilities. Conflicts develop between clients and co-workers. Attorney’s fees can become a bitter source of contention. Trust and communication may break down and either party may want to end the relationship. Attorneys are required to advertise and present themselves in certain ways.
The MPRE tests a range of topics including the umbrella of “ethics.” These include the following:
- Regulation of the Legal Profession
- The client-lawyer relationship
- Client confidentiality
- Conflicts of interest
- Competence, legal malpractice, civil liability
- Litigation and other forms of advocacy
- Transactions and communications with persons other than clients
- Different roles of the lawyer
- Safekeeping funds and other property
- Communications about legal services
- Lawyers’ duties to the public and the legal system
- Judicial conduct and ethics
Model Rules of Professional Conduct
The Model Rules of Professional Conduct, published by the American Bar Association, provide clear rules in certain situations, as well as guidance in the gray areas. While every state in the United States adopts their own set of rules, the Model Rules are very influential and are often used verbatim in the states’ codes of professional responsibility. A big part of studying for the MPRE is knowing these model rules well.
So, have I convinced you that doing well on the MPRE is not an easy undertaking? You may have heard your share of stories from classmates about their experiences with the MPRE. Some are myths and some are truths, but I think the key is this: Don’t slack on your preparation by leaving it until it’s too late.
It is not realistic to start studying only a few days before the test, even if you have taken Ethics or Professional Responsibility at your school.
I think that you should give yourself at least a couple of weeks, and more time depending on your other responsibilities. The process should first involve familiarizing yourself with the materials, which can be done through free courses online, offered by bar examination preparation companies or MPRE books. Then, try your hand at practice exams and questions to test your understanding. Rinse and repeat as needed. You may find that certain rules and applications come very naturally to you, while others take more thought.
I sat for the MPRE at the beginning of my 3L year, while taking Ethics at school. I took the MPRE toward the end of the class, when I was already studying for my exam and felt comfortable with most of the Model Rules. With this background and after reviewing the MPRE exam materials diligently, I still found some of the practice exam questions very challenging, and answered too many of them incorrectly. Memorization wasn’t enough; it was about applying the rules to uncertain situations. But as I completed more questions and went back to review the relevant materials, I found myself gaining a lot of confidence and accuracy. Practice was truly key, and I could not rush the process.
The takeaway – treat the MPRE as any other law school exam you’ve taken and will take! You need to give your ample time to let the substance sink in so that you can analyze and apply correctly.
Ethics is a part of the law school requirements and tested on the MPRE for a reason – lawyers need to know these rules to avoid putting themselves or their clients in jeopardy, whether it is discipline by the state bar association, sanctions by the judge, displeasure from the jury, civil litigation, or criminal liability. Studying these concepts seriously will be helpful down the line in your everyday practice.
With all that said, if you are studying for the MPRE, or will soon start to do that, I wish you the best of luck! I am confident that with proper preparation, you will easily pass on your first try.
For other simply strategies on the MPRE, check out this blog post.
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