How To Apply
Instructions for First-Time Application for Admission by Examination
Applications for Admission by Examination are accepted only during the following periods:
- October 1 through December 20 for the February examination; and
- March 1 through May 20 for the July examination.
It is highly recommended that you not wait until the last week of the application period to submit your application. Please note that if you try to submit an exam application outside these time frames, neither the application nor the fees are transferable or refundable.
The process for submitting an application for admission by examination is completed online at synergy.tnble.com. You must finalize and submit your Synergy application before you mail payment. We cannot accept payment without a Synergy application. Hard copies of applications are not accepted.
Applicants to the Bar of Tennessee are responsible for ensuring that all documents are submitted to the Board of Law Examiners in a timely manner. Applicants may be notified by the Board that there is a deficiency in the file; however, such notification is a courtesy. Failure of the Board to notify an applicant of a deficiency does not entitle the Applicant to an extension of time to submit the required documentation. If you wait until the two weeks prior to the deadline or later to submit your application, you probably will not be notified of a deficiency in your application.
STEPS TO TAKE TO COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATION
Applicable Rule. Prior to beginning any step of the application process, read and familiarize yourself with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7, found here. By submitting an application, you affirm that you have read and understand Rule 7. Further, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the Board Policies and Procedures, found in the same tab as Rule 7, and all of the instructions for submitting an application. Failure to adhere to the requirements of Rule 7 may be viewed as a character and fitness issue.
STEP 1: Create your NCBE Number Account. Create a secure NCBE number account by accessing www.ncbex.org and selecting “NCBE Account” in the top right corner of the page. The NCBE number will be required on all forms completed for the NCBE and the TBLE application process.
STEP 2: Complete the online NCBE application. You may begin the NCBE Application at any time within six (6) months prior to the date of the examination you plan to take; however, you may not submit it to the TBLE until the application period is open for submission. To access the NCBE Application, login to www.ncbex.org and select Character and Fitness. Failure to provide complete information may result in denial of your application. A duty of candor applies (Rule 7, Sec. 3.08).
Save the NCBE application: When you have completed the application form online, print your completed NCBE application. Sign and have notarized the appropriate pages as required. Make a copy of the application for your records. Scan and save as a .pdf file the original, signed and notarized application, including attachments and upload to your Synergy application. Submit one original to the NCBE with your payment either by filling in the credit card information or by paying with a check or money order. DO NOT SCAN THE PAGE WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD TO THE SAVED .PDF FILE. Upload the .pdf file to your Synergy Application.
The NCBE and the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners are separate entities. The NCBE conducts background investigations for the TBLE. Submitting documents only to the TBLE or only to the NCBE will not meet the filing requirements and will not constitute a complete application. You MUST submit your application to the NCBE by the deadline AND upload a signed and notarized .pdf to your Synergy application in order to be eligible to sit for the exam. You may be deemed ineligible to sit for the examination and your licensing will be delayed if you submit the application only to the NCBE or only to the TBLE.
STEP 3: The Tennessee (Synergy) Application. Go to www.tnble.org (this website) and access Synergy by clicking on the Synergy portal at the top of the screen. Complete the new user registration if you do not already have a login and submit. You will receive an email to confirm your registration. Once you have completed the confirmation, you may log in to Synergy. From the dashboard, select Tennessee First Time Examination Application, which you will complete online. You will have a chance to review your answers before you “submit and finalize” the application. Be sure to read and answer each question fully. Failure to provide complete information may result in denial of your application. A duty of candor applies (Rule 7, Sec. 3.08).
Expunged matters: A matter that has been expunged MUST be disclosed unless it is a matter that was resolved as a juvenile. See generally State v. Schindler, 986 S.W.2d 209 (Tenn. 1999), Wright v. Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, 277 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2008).
STEP 4: Related Items. Once you have finalized the Synergy online application, return to the Dashboard and click the “details” link next to the application (looks like a magnifying glass). From that screen, you will upload the required documents listed below in .pdf format unless otherwise noted*. An application for admission by examination consists of the following items:
- Application for first time applicants – completed online at synergy.tnble.com
- a .pdf file of the signed and notarized NCBE application completed online and including a bar-coded application number (see STEP 2, above)
- a current, color passport photo in .jpg file format only (see FAQs for more info)
- a .pdf file of your current resume
- full payment of fees
- three (3) letters of recommendation as outlined below
- Official Undergraduate transcript (direct mail, see below)
- Completed Law Degree Verification and Certificate of Dean of Law School form from every law school attended; disclosure form from Non-ABA approved law school, other than Tennessee law schools approved by the Board (direct mail, see below).
Deadlines and Eligibility to Sit for the Examination. All of the documents listed in STEP 4, including any additional documents required for those licensed in another jurisdiction*, educated at a non-accredited U.S. institution*, or educated in a foreign country*, must be received by the final deadline (May 20 for July exams; December 20 for February exams, unless a weekend or holiday and then the next business day) in order to be eligible to sit for the examination, upon Board approval. Familiarize yourself with the deadlines included under the Exam Sites and Schedule tab. Please note that these deadlines are “received by” deadlines, not “postmarked by” deadlines. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7, Sections 3.10 and 11.02, neither the Executive Director nor the Board has the discretion to waive or extend the dates for filing applications nor may any fees be waived. Do not wait until ten days or fewer remain prior to the deadline to begin your application as any deficiency found will result in a finding by the Board that you are not eligible to sit for the examination. You may begin your application at any time during the application period and upload documents as you receive them prior to the deadline. The responsibility for ensuring timely completion of the application is on the applicant. The Board will deny an application if any item is missing, regardless of when it was requested by the applicant. * Applicants who are admitted in other jurisdictions, educated at a non-ABA approved out-of-state law school, or have an undergraduate or law degree from a foreign country have additional requirements that must be filed prior to the deadline in order to be eligible to sit. Please refer to Rule 7, Board Policies and Procedures, the application, and directions below for information.
OTHER INFORMATION – Additional information regarding documentation requirements, laptop testing and special forms:
Letters of Recommendation. You must submit professional letters of recommendation from three (3) law professors under whom you have studied, or lawyers or judges for whom you have worked. The Board does not accept letters from the following family members: parents, grandparents, siblings or spouses. If a relative other than your parent, sibling, spouse or grandparent is providing the recommendation, the relationship must be disclosed in the letter. Letters must be on letterhead, signed and dated within 6 months of the exam, describe the professional relationship between the author and the applicant, and state whether or not the author would recommend the applicant to the bar. Letters may be sent to the applicant and uploaded to Synergy (in .pdf format) or mailed directly to the Board by the author and received by the deadline for filing applications for the application to be complete and for the applicant to be eligible to sit. Letters sent directly to the Board are considered confidential and will not be visible to applicants through Synergy. A late recommendation letter will result in denial of eligibility to sit for the exam. Neither the Board nor the staff of the TBLE has the discretion or authority to waive or extend the dates for filing applications.
Undergraduate Transcript. Order and have sent directly to the TBLE an official transcript from the school where you received your undergraduate degree(s). DO NOT send a transcript from every school you attended. Electronic or PDF transcripts are not accepted. Transcripts must be sent directly to the Board and received by the deadline for filing applications for the application to be complete. An undergraduate transcript received after the deadline will result in denial of eligibility to sit for the exam, regardless of when the transcript was ordered. Neither the Board nor the staff of the TBLE has the discretion or authority to waive or extend the dates for filing applications.
Law Degree Verification. Print the Law Degree Verification and Dean Certification Instructions and forms for each law school attended, even if you did not complete your degree at the school (see forms below). For each law school, complete and have the Authorization and Release form notarized and send ALL pages to your law school Dean for completion, including Instructions. Forms must be sent directly to the Board by your law school and must be received by the deadline for filing applications for the application to be complete and for the applicant to be eligible to sit. If you have not completed your law school studies at the time of the deadline, the law school must complete the form with the anticipated graduation date and submit by the deadline then submit the Late Confirmation of Degree Form on or before the Friday preceding the bar examination. A law degree verification form received after the deadline will result in denial of eligibility to sit for the exam. Neither the Board nor the staff of the TBLE has the discretion or authority to waive or extend the dates for filing applications. (For verification of an LL.M. for foreign educated applicants, see below).
BOTH THE UNDERGRADUATE TRANSCRIPT AND THE LAW DEGREE VERIFICATION FORM MUST BE SENT TO THE BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS DIRECTLY FROM THE SCHOOL OR CLEARINGHOUSE AND MUST CONTAIN THE SCHOOL SEAL.
Other Bar Admissions. If you have ever been admitted in another jurisdiction you must submit, on or before the deadline, a certificate of good standing, dated within the last 6 months, from the highest court of each state in which you are or have been licensed, indicating that you are admitted to the highest court of the jurisdiction and are in good standing. A certificate from the state bar is not sufficient. If you become licensed in another jurisdiction while your Tennessee application is pending you must amend your application and provide a certificate of good standing.
Laptop Testing. A few weeks after the application deadline, all applicants will receive an email from ExamSoft, the exam Software provider, regarding the laptop registration procedure. Included in the email will be details regarding the deadline for registering to use your laptop for the essay testing portion of the exam. If you wish to handwrite the exam, do not respond to the email and do not download the Software. By registering and downloading the Software, you agree that you have read, understood and accepted the General Information, Instructions and Release of Liability in "Laptop Testing" here or click the link to Laptop Testing in the navigation tabs to the left.
Requests for Non-Standard Testing Accommodations
If you require non-standard testing (NST) accommodations, please complete the Request for Non-Standard Testing Accommodations application online and provide the required NST forms. To see complete instructions for NST, click here. Non-standard testing applications require information from your treating professional and, in most cases, professional diagnostic test results. Please familiarize yourself with the Board’s Non-Standard Testing Accommodations Policy that can be found under the link for Non-Standard Testing and under Governing Authorities. A Request for Non-Standard Testing Accommodation must be submitted if you have a medical need for medication, food, water, glucose testing supplies, equipment or other non-standard items at the exam table.
Educational Equivalency Requirement: If your legal education was received in a country other than the United States, you must furnish information demonstrating that your post-secondary education was substantially equivalent to the requirements of Sections 2.01 and 2.02 of Rule 7 of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court. This means that your foreign education degree(s) must be substantially equivalent to a Bachelor's degree or higher and a Juris Doctorate degree, but this does not necessarily mean that two separate foreign-earned degrees are required. Proof of equivalence to both degrees must be shown. All foreign educated applicants will be required to submit a comprehensive, course-by-course evaluation of educational equivalency from either International Evaluation Services of the Center for Applied Research, Evaluation and Education, Inc. (www.iescaree.com - request the comprehensive report) or International Education Research Foundation (www.ierf.org - request the detail report with course level identification), in lieu of foreign transcripts. This is a requirement for all foreign educated applicants, unless you were approved to sit for the July 2015 or February 2016 examination using credentials approved for either of those examinations. See Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 7 § 7.01(a).
CERTIFICATE OF DEAN: The U.S. law school at which you earned your LL.M. must submit a completed Certification of Dean of Legal Studies U.S. on or before the deadline for filing applications. You must complete the first page of the form, have it notarized and send it to your U.S. law school. The form is available below.
U.S. EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS: In order to be eligible to sit for the bar examination, you must have been awarded an LL.M. for Practice of Law in the United States in addition to your foreign education. This is required even if you previously sat for or were approved to sit for the examination with less than an LL.M. degree. See Rule 7 §7.01(b).
Licensed to practice in a country other than the United States: If you are licensed to practice law in a country other than the United States, you must furnish:
- A certified copy of the record or license of the court which admitted you to practice in such country.
- At least three (3) letters from attorneys or judges in such country certifying that you are in good standing at that bar, or were in good standing at that bar when you left that country.
SPECIAL NOTES FOR ALL APPLICANTS:
NO TRANSFERRED SCORES: Tennessee does not accept MBE scores transferred from previous Tennessee exams or from another jurisdiction, whether or not concurrent. All applicants sit for the entire examination.
SCORE EXPIRATIONS: Exam scores are valid for admission for two years from the date of grade release. You must complete all requirements for admission within that time or your scores expire.
AMENDMENTS TO APPLICATION: If you have previously submitted an application for admission to the Tennessee bar, regardless of type of application, and you have supplemental, new or different information to report, please print and complete the application amendment form (see files below). Once completed, save the form as a .pdf file and upload to your Synergy application under 'Applicant Additional Documentation'. You may change your personal address and phone number in Synergy (https://synergy.tnble.com) in your system profile (My Profile Page). To change your email address, please email BLE.firstname.lastname@example.org requesting the change. Please note that if your NCBE application is still pending you are required to amend your application with the NCBE as well. Visit http://www.ncbex.org for amendment requirements.
MPRE Requirement: Applicant must achieve a passing score of 75 or higher on the MPRE within 2 years of successfully completing the Tennessee bar examination; provided, however, that an applicant who has an active license by examination in good standing in one or more jurisdictions, may submit certified proof of a passing MPRE score of 75 or higher that is more than two years prior to a successful Tennessee bar examination. For Information Regarding MPRE Test Dates, Sites, Fees, visit http://www.ncbex.org/exams/mpre/