Legal education varies widely between countries. Common but not universal features include an undergraduate law degree (such as in China, India, New Zealand, Argentina and Brazil); a postgraduate qualification such as an M.A. or Juris Doctor (J.D.) (in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and the Philippines); an apprenticeship or period of time as an articled clerk varying from around six months (in Singapore) to three years (in the Netherlands and Sweden); and passing a bar exam (such as in India, Malaysia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Switzerland and Brazil). Some countries require judicial training for newly qualified lawyers (such as China and Korea). Others offer judicial training after a number of years in practice for those seeking judicial tenure (such as in England and Wales).
In the United States, lawyers must be admitted to the bar of each state in which they practice. Delaware created the first bar exam in 1763. Between the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the American Civil War (1861--1865), American lawyers had to undergo an apprenticeship and undertake the necessary studies alone. This continued until the formation of the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1878. Around the same time, the College of William and Mary and the University of Pennsylvania established higher education law departments. The ABA persuaded the Association of American Law Schools to introduce a prerequisite of three years of legal studies in around 1906; the J.D. Admission to a J.D. course requires successful completion of an undergraduate degree.
Dean Christopher Langdell (1826--1906) innovated the Law Faculty at Harvard University from the 1870s, introducing the now ubiquitous case method of legal teaching. The standard first-year curriculum includes torts, real estate, criminal law, contracts and civil procedure. Students at ABA-approved schools must study ethics, professional responsibility and an upper division writing paper. Topics in the second or third year include administrative law, corporate and commercial law, copyright and patent law, public international law and tax. Law school clinics at some colleges provide hands-on experience by providing free advice and representation to the public.
State bar associations require successful completion of a J.D. accredited by the ABA. As most law schools do not teach practical skills required for the bar exam, most students attend bar review classes such as the Preliminary Multistate Bar Review. Others use services such as e-BarReview which provides online courses for small groups or individuals.
Each state bar association or bar examining board controls the content and timing of its bar exam. Louisiana and Montana have a three-day examination period. Louisiana's involves more than 21 hours of exams over the course of almost an entire week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Most states have shorter exams on consecutive days.
Since 1931, some states use standard bar exams set and graded by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), a non-profit organization. The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) is comprised of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and Multistate Performance Test (MPT). These take place nationwide over two consecutive days. The NCBE also sets and grades the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, taken in most states that use the UBE. These standard qualifications are mutually recognized by many states. A drawback of the UBE is the absence of state law in the examinations. The MBE and MEE focus on legal knowledge. The MPT is a practical skills based performance test. It includes drafting documents such as motions, opinions and memorandums. States that do not use the MPT such as California and Pennsylvania create their own performance tests.
In Canada lawyers are called to the provincial bar. An undergraduate degree, completion of a provincial law society examination or that of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society or Barreau du Quebec, and articles, are prerequisites.
In England and Wales, the Bar Association and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, established by the Law Society, regulate barristers and solicitors respectively. These bodies set Law Conversion exams, Legal Practice Course exams, Bar Finals, and Professional Skills Course exams (PSC) as well as setting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements. Students with an undergraduate law degree require one year in law school, whereas those without must take the one-year Law Conversion course at a law school. Both solicitors and barristers have a two-year training/pupillage practice requirement during which time solicitors must take and pass the PSC.
The United Kingdom, like most jurisdictions, requires lawyers to keep up to date through a stipulated number of hours of CPD courses. Renewal of the practicing certificate or bar membership is conditional on demonstrating compliance. Legal education is an ongoing process because the law is constantly changing. One of the professional requirements of most bar associations is that lawyers must be up to date with the law, procedural requirements and professional requirements.