How To Apply
Instructions for First-Time Application for Admission by Examination
Applications for Admission by Examination are accepted only during the following periods:
All documents listed in Board Policy P-3.01(a)(2) – (10) must be received by the TBLE in the proper format on or before the final deadline in order to be eligible to sit for the examination. Details regarding the documents required for a complete application are listed in the step-by-step instructions below.
As an applicant to the Bar of Tennessee, you are responsible for ensuring that all documents are submitted to the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners (TBLE) in a timely manner, even if the documents are coming from a third party. You will be notified at least once by the TBLE that there is a deficiency in your file if you submit your application and pay the filing fee on or before the Initial Deadline. If you begin your application or pay the application filing fee after the Initial Deadline, you will not receive notification of any deficiencies. Documents must be received on or before the final deadline or you will not be eligible to sit for the bar examination. Notice of a deficiency does not entitle the Applicant to an extension of time to submit the required documentation. Neither the application nor the fees are transferable or refundable if you fail to complete your application prior to the deadline.
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 make payment, which can be made online by credit card after you have finalized and submitted your application.. We cannot accept payment without a Synergy application. Hard copies of applications are not accepted. Applications for Admission by Examination are governed by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7, Sections 3.01 and 3.03 and Board Policy P-3.01 and P-3.03.
STEPS TO TAKE TO COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATION
Read and familiarize yourself with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7 and the Board Policies and Procedures, found under "TN Supreme Court Rule 7" in the bar at the top of this page or under Governing Authorities in the list to the left or by clicking the link. The full version of Rule 7 and the Board Policies are at the bottom of the Governing Authorities page.
Go to www.ncbex.org and create a secure NCBE number account. The NCBE number is required on all forms completed for the NCBE and the TBLE application process.
Go to www.ncbex.org and complete the online NCBE (character and fitness) application for background investigation. 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. When you have completed the NCBE application form on-line, save the application and all attachments as a .pdf file. Submit the materials and payment to the NCBE as required in the NCBE instructions.
Note: The NCBE application and all attachments must be submitted to the NCBE and a .pdf uploaded to your Synergy Application on or before the Final Deadline. You will upload the saved .pdf file to your Synergy Application as provided in Step 5, below. A detailed checklist, with mailing instructions, is available after finalizing your online application. Your NCBE application will not be complete until you have complied with all of the requirements included in the checklist sent by the NCBE, including receipt by the NCBE of any required mailings.
Note for Applicants who previously applied as a First Time applicant but did not sit for the examination: Please see Re-Examination/How To Apply on this website here for information regarding expiration of documents required for a complete application and which documents need to be submitted each examination.
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).
Important Note: 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 and upload a .pdf of your complete NCBE application to your Tennessee Synergy Application (see Step 4). You may be deemed ineligible to sit for the exam and your licensing will be delayed if you submit the application only to the NCBE or only to the TBLE.
A link to the Tennessee application portal can be found in the upper right corner of this page. Click on the Synergy tab and complete the new user registration and submit. Upon completion of your Synergy registration, you will receive an email to confirm your registration; check your spam if you do not receive the email and be sure to add "@tncourts.gov" to your trusted senders. Once you have completed the confirmation, you may log in to Synergy from the website or by clicking here. From the dashboard select “Application for First Time Examination.” 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).
Note: Applicants for admission by examination who are not licensed and/or are not in good standing in another jurisdiction must appear for an in person interview, which will be scheduled up to six weeks after the bar examination. Applicants who are licensed and in good standing in another jurisdiction may, in the discretion of the Board, be required to appear for an in person interview.
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. Certain third party forms must be sent directly from the third party to the TBLE, as noted below. An application for admission by examination consists of the following items:
a. Application for first time applicants – completed online at synergy.tnble.com;
b. a .pdf file of the NCBE application completed online and any required attachments created in STEP 3, above;
c. a current, color passport photo in .jpg file format only (see FAQs for more info);
d. your current resume in .pdf from only;
e. undergraduate transcripts for degrees earned (Bachelor’s or above) mailed directly from the school or transcript service to the TBLE (see additional information below including petition requirement for undergraduate degree from non-SACS approved* schools);
f. 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 (mailed directly from the law school to the TBLE office, see additional information below) REQUIRED FORMS ARE AVAILABLE AT THE END OF THIS PAGE;
g. if you are licensed in another U.S. jurisdiction*, certificates of admission and of good standing for each jurisdiction in which you have been admitted (.pdf format only) – some states use one form for both but certification of admission to the highest court and of current good standing before the Bar are both required for admission (see below for more information);
h. if you received your legal education outside the United States*, District of Columbia or U.S. territories, an equivalency evaluation and/or completed Certification of Dean of Legal Studies in the U.S. form and Affidavit of Practice in Foreign Country, and letters from three attorneys in each country in which you are licensed who can verify that you are licensed and attest to your practice in that country; see Rule 7, Section 7.01 and Policy P-3.05 and P-7.01, all found here;
i. if you attended a law school outside of Tennessee* that was not an ABA-accredited law school at the time of your graduation, proof of licensing in the jurisdiction in which the law school was located and an Affidavit of Past Practice; and
j. full payment of fees.
Submit the $575 application filing fee (ONLINE by credit card only after the Synergy application is finalized and submitted OR by CHECK OR MONEY ORDER payable to the TN Board of Law Examiners; do not mail cash) to the Board of Law Examiners, 511 Union Street, Suite 525, Nashville, TN 37219. Please be sure to clearly mark your full name and NCBE number on the check or money order. Credit card service fees, sometimes called convenience fees, will be paid directly to the vendor in a separate transaction.
DEADLINES AND ELIGIBILITY TO SIT FOR THE EXAMINATION: All of the documents listed in STEP 5, 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 and 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 and the Board of Law Examiners Office is open from 8:00 until 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, other than recognized state holidays. Items from third-parties must be sent to the TBLE directly from the third party and must arrive prior to the time the office closes to meet the deadline. 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. Applicants who submit the Synergy Online Application and pay the application filing fee on or before the Initial Deadline will receive at least one notice of missing documents/deficiencies. Applicants who do not submit an application and pay the fee on or before the Initial Deadline will not receive any notice of deficiencies. 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.
OTHER INFORMATION: TRANSCRIPTS, FORMS AND ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS
Undergraduate Transcript. Order an official transcript from the school where you received your bachelor’s and/or master’s degree(s) and have the transcript sent directly to the TBLE. DO NOT send a transcript from every school you attended, only from those where a degree was conferred. Electronic or PDF transcripts are not accepted. Transcripts must be sent directly to the Board 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 application deadline for the application to be complete and for you to be eligible to sit for the examination. 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 TENNESSEE BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS DIRECTLY FROM THE SCHOOL OR CLEARINGHOUSE AND MUST CONTAIN THE SCHOOL SEAL.
*Applicants who are admitted in other jurisdictions, educated at a non-ABA approved out-of-state law school or an unaccredited undergraduate college, 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.
Waiver of Non-Accredited Undergraduate Education including Foreign Undergraduate Degree (U.S. J.D.)
If you received your undergraduate education from a college that was not on the approved list of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (SACS) or equivalent regional accrediting association, or you received your undergraduate education at a school located in a foreign country, you must include with your application a petition to waive the requirement as set forth in Rule 7, Sec. 2.01(c). For applicants who received their legal education in a foreign country and who did not receive a J.D. from an ABA-accredited or Tennessee-approved law school, see Foreign-Educated Applicants, below.
Other Bar Admissions. If you have ever been admitted in another jurisdiction you must submit, on or before the deadline, certification dated within the last 6 months from the highest court of each state in which you are or have been licensed, indicating (1) that you are admitted to the highest court of the jurisdiction and (2) the standing of your licensed in the jurisdiction (good, inactive, suspended, etc). This may be a single or multiple certificates, depending on the certification process of each state. A certificate from the state bar is not sufficient unless the State Bar is the agency charged with maintaining the official admission and disciplinary records. If you become licensed in another jurisdiction while your Tennessee application is pending, you must amend your application and provide certification of admission to the highest court and good standing.
Foreign-Educated Applicants If your legal education was received in a country other than the United States, you may qualify for admission by examination or transferred UBE score if you meet the requirements for eligibility. There are two paths to qualify:
1. Foreign Education is "Substantially Equivalent" to a U.S. Bachelor's Degree or higher and a J.D. Degree: You must satisfy the Board that your undergraduate education and legal education were 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. To substantiate your education, applicants must submit a comprehensive evaluation that includes a course-by-course evaluation, determination of equivalency, plus authentication of transcripts (the “Foreign-Education Report”) from a Credential Evaluation Service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (www.naces.org). The Foreign-Education Report must be sent directly to the Board of Law Examiners by the company performing the evaluation. See Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 7 § 7.01(a). NOTE: If you are licensed in a foreign jurisdiction, you must comply with the provisions in paragraph 3 below.
2. Foreign Education is not "Substantially Equivalent" but have a Law Degree from a Foreign Jurisdiction: You do not have education that is substantially equivalent to the requirements of Sections 2.01 and 2.02 of Rule 7 but have completed a course of study in and graduated from an accredited law school in a foreign jurisdiction, and you have an LL.M. Degree that meets the requirements and is certified as provided in sub-paragraph a, below, and you are licensed in a foreign jurisdiction and have practiced law in that jurisdiction for five of the eight years prior to your application, as explained further in sub-paragraph b, below.
a. LL.M. Degree: You must have been awarded, by a law school fully accredited by the ABA or a Tennessee law school approved by the Board under section 2.03 of Rule 7, an LL.M. Degree that meets the following requirements:
i. LL.M. Requirements: The LL.M. program:
* must prepare students for admission to the Bar and for effective and responsible participation in the United States legal profession;
* must teach the courses for the LL.M. Degree in English; and
* must be taught and attended by applicant on site at the ABA- accredited or Tennessee-approved law school in the United States or its territories; distance learning of any kind is not permitted.
ii. Certification of LL.M.: In order to document that the LL.M. Degree meets these requirements, you must provide the Legal Studies in U.S. for Foreign-Educated LL.M. Verifcation, available below, to your law school and such form must be submitted by your law school directly to the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners. You must complete the first page of the form, have it notarized and send it to your U.S. law school.
b. Admission in foreign jurisdiction: You must be admitted to practice in a foreign jurisdiction and in good standing at the bar of the foreign jurisdiction and you must have been engaged in the active practice of law in the foreign jurisdiction, as defined in section 5.01(c) of Rule 7, for at least five of the eight years prior to applying for admission to the Tennessee bar. See paragraph 3, below, for documentation required to certify that you are licensed in a foreign jurisdiction. Include with your application the Affidavit of Foreign Practice, available below, to document your time in practice.
3. Documentation of License to practice in a jurisdiction other than in the United States: For any foreign-educated applicant who is licensed to practice law in a jurisdiction other than one in the United States, you must furnish with your application the following:
a. A certified copy of the record or license of the court which admitted you to practice in such country;
b. 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; and
c. Documents provided to the Board of Law Examiners must be translated to English by a certified translator with a copy of the original text provided.
MPRE Requirements: Board Policy P-4.07(d) was approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court on December 7, 2017, changing the minimum score required in Tennessee on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. Beginning with the July 2018 bar examination, first time applicants must achieve a score of 82 or higher within 2 years of successfully completing the Tennessee bar examination in order to be eligible for admission. An MPRE score is valid for admission if it was earned within two years of successful completion of the bar examination or UBE score transfer application date, except as provided below. For example, an MPRE score of 82 or higher from the August 2017 MPRE administration will be valid through the July 2019 bar examination administration.
Applicants Licensed in Another Jurisdiction: Applicants who are licensed, active and in good standing in another U.S. jurisdiction and who are using an expired MPRE score pursuant to Rule 7, Section 4.07(d) must provide proof of an MPRE score of 82 or higher, whether applying for the first time or for re-examination.
Re-examination Applicants: MPRE scores of 75 or higher will be accepted until the MPRE score is no longer valid, provided the applicant meets all of the following requirements:
- the applicant is not licensed in another jurisdiction; and
- the applicant first sat for a Tennessee bar examination prior to the July 2018 bar examination; and
- the applicant is applying for re-examination for the July 2018 exam or later.
After an MPRE score expires for a re-examination applicant who meets all of the requirements above, the applicant must achieve an MPRE score of 82 or higher to be eligible for admission.
Applicants who were successful on a prior Tennessee Bar Examination but who are not licensed prior to the July 2018 examination: An MPRE score of 75 or higher will be accepted for applicants who were successful on the Tennessee Bar Examination prior to the July 2018 examination who have not completed the required steps for licensing and admission until such time as the bar examination scores expire. If an applicant is not licensed prior to expiration of examination scores, the minimum MPRE score required at the time of re-examination will be required for licensing.
Applicants who graduated law school in May 2018: Policy P-4.07(d) was amended in January, 2018, to provide a one-exam exception in new paragraph (4) for May 2018 law school graduates who first sat for the Tennessee bar examination in July 2018. Policy P-4.07(d) was amended again when the Board Policies and Procedures were re-stated on September 7, 2018, deleting paragraph (4)1 as it provided an exception to the MPRE score policy that was no longer valid. Applicants to the Bar of Tennessee who graduated in May 2018 and either did not sit for or were not successful on the July 2018 bar examination must have an MPRE score that is less than two years old of 82 or above to be eligible for admission. Policy P-4.07(d)(4) read as follows:
First-time Examination Applicants Graduating in May 2018: An MPRE score of 75 – 81 earned by a first time exam applicant who graduated in May, 2018, on an MPRE examination administered in March, August or November, 2017, will be valid for the July 2018 examination only. If an applicant who graduates in May, 2018, is unsuccessful on the July 2018 examination, or does not take the July 2018 examination in Tennessee, an MPRE score of less than 82 will not be accepted for subsequent examinations. (Revised Policy P-4.07(d)(4): Approved by Tennessee Supreme Court, 1.26.18; removed from Policies, 9.7.18)
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. The Request for Non-Standard Testing Accommodation is in addition to the requirements for the Application for Admission by Examination and the same deadline applies. To see complete instructions for NST, click here. Non-standard testing applications require a comprehensive report 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.
Laptop Testing: A few weeks after the application deadline, all applicants will receive an email from ExamSoft, the exam Software provider, regarding the laptop testing 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. If you fail to register and download the software, you will be handwriting the examination.
SPECIAL NOTES FOR ALL APPLICANTS:
NO TRANSFERRED MBE 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 and only scores earned in a single administration will be considered.
SCORE EXPIRATIONS: Exam scores are valid for admission for three 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 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 www.ncbex.org for amendment requirements.