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First Time Applicant- How to Apply

Applications for Admission by Examination are accepted only during the following periods:

  JULY EXAM FEBRUARY EXAM
Applications Open March 1 October 1
Initial Deadline May 1 December 1
Final Deadline May 20 December 20

** If a deadline falls on a Saturday, Sunday or State of Tennessee holiday, the deadline is the following Monday or business day.  For examination test dates and locations in Tennessee, click here.

All documents listed in Board Policy P-3.01(b)(1) – (13) 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. For examination test dates and locations in Tennessee, click here.

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.

To be eligible to sit for the examination in Tennessee, you must provide two applications – the NCBE Character and Fitness Application (the “NCBE application”) found at www.ncbex.org and the Tennessee application for the current administration of the Uniform Bar Examination in Tennessee, found at synergy.tnble.com (the “Tennessee application”). You must finalize your NCBE application before you begin your Tennessee application. You may pay your Tennessee application fee online by credit card after you have finalized and submitted your Tennessee application; there is a separate fee for the NCBE application. You may also pay by cash, money order or check. The TBLE cannot accept payment without a Synergy application. Hard copies of applications are not accepted.  Tennessee 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. Additional Instructions can be found in Steps 3 – 5, below.

Use the Application for First-time Applicants if you have not completed a bar examination in Tennessee or if your application has expired.

STEPS TO TAKE TO COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATION

STEP 1: Read and familiarize yourself with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7 and Board Policies and Procedures found under Governing Authorities. Throughout the pages of this website, reference will be made to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7 as “Rule 7” and to Board Policies and Procedures as “Policy P-[###].”

STEP 2: 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.

STEP 3: Login to your NCBE number account and complete the online NCBE character and fitness application for background investigation. You may begin the NCBE Character and Fitness 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.

IMPORTANT NOTES FOR STEP 3:

  • 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 NCBE 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.  
  • For Applicants who previously applied as a First Time applicant but did not sit for the examination: You must submit a First Time Examination Application but see Re-Examination/How To Apply for information regarding expiration of documents filed with a prior application and required for a complete application which may have expired or need to be submitted each examination. 
  • For Applicants who last applied more than three years ago: You must start again as a First Time Applicant, but in your NCBE application, be sure to list previous dates you applied in Tennessee under “Prior Applications” and answer completely the related question in the Tennessee application, as well. All documents from the previous application expire when the application expires. See Rule 7, Sec. 3.04 for when previous applications and scores expire.
  • FAILURE TO PROVIDE COMPLETE INFORMATION MAY RESULT IN DENIAL OF YOUR APPLICATION. A DUTY OF CANDOR APPLIES (Rule 7, Sec. 6.04).
  • 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: The Tennessee application, which is separate from the NCBE character and fitness application, must be completed by the deadline. The Tennessee application can be access by clicking on this link to Synergy (https://synergy.tnble.com). Complete the new user registration, if you have not previously applied; 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 confirmed your registration, 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. 6.04).

  • As part of the Tennessee Application, you will be asked to select the county in which you wish to appear for your in-person interview.
    • 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. All applicants MUST select an interview location.

STEP 5: 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. ALL DOCUMENTS, EVEN IF FROM A THIRD PARTY, MUST BE RECEIVED BY THE FINAL DEADLINE TO BE ELIGIBLE TO SIT FOR THE EXAMINATION.

An application for admission by examination consists of the following items that are uploaded by you to your Tennessee application or, if required to be mailed, received by the TBLE on or before the Final Deadline:

  1. The NCBE application completed online and any required attachments, saved as a .pdf file (uploaded to the Tennessee application by Applicant, see STEPS 3-5);
  2. The Tennessee Application for First Time Applicants – completed online in Synergy (see STEP 4, above);
  3. 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);
  4. The 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, all mailed directly from the law school to the TBLE office; see additional information below; (REQUIRED FORMS ARE AVAILABLE AT THE END OF THIS PAGE);
  5. Applicant’s current resume (uploaded to the Tennessee application by Applicant in .pdf format only);
  6. A current, color passport-type photo of you in .jpg file format only uploaded by Applicant to the Tennessee application (see FAQs for more info);
  7. 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 (provided directly to the TBLE by mail or link from evaluator); see Rule 7, Section 7.01 and Policy P-3.05 and P-7.01, all found here;
  8. For all Applicants licensed in a foreign (non-U.S.) jurisdictions, 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 (uploaded by Applicant to the Tennessee application); see Rule 7, Section 7.01 and Policy P-3.05 and P-7.01, all found here;
  9. If Applicant is licensed in another U.S. jurisdiction*, certificates of admission and of good standing for each jurisdiction in which Applicant has been admitted (.pdf format only, either uploaded to the Tennessee application or mailed to the TBLE) – 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);
  10. 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 by examination in the jurisdiction in which the law school was located, proof of a passing bar examination score in the jurisdiction in which the law school is located, information sufficient to determine that the law school curriculum is equivalent to a three-year course of study that does not include online, distance or other than in-person learning beyond that permitted under Rule 7, Sec. 2.02(d), and an Affidavit of Past Practice (all uploaded by Applicant in .pdf format to the Tennessee application);
  11. For Applicants seeking non-standard testing accommodations, all required forms (Applicant upload and some direct mail to the TBLE, see below); and
  12. full payment of fees (online by credit card, or by check, money order or cash directly to the TBLE).

IMPORTANT REMINDERS FOR STEPS 3 – 5: THE NCBE AND TBLE APPLICATIONS

  • NCBE AND TENNESSEE SYNERGY APPLICATIONS – BOTH ARE REQUIRED: The NCBE and the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners are separate entities. The NCBE conducts background investigations for the TBLE based on the character and fitness application. To be eligible for the examination, you must submit the Tennessee Application through Synergy and upload a .pdf of the finalized NCBE application that has been submitted to the NCBE with fees paid to both the NCBE and 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 NCBE application to the NCBE and upload a .pdf of your complete NCBE application to your Tennessee Application as provided in STEP 5. 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.

STEP 6: Submit the $575 application filing fee after the Synergy application is finalized and submitted (ONLINE by credit card only 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 credit card transaction at the same time as the filing fee is paid. 

DEADLINES AND ELIGIBILITY TO SIT FOR THE EXAMINATION: 

DEADLINE: 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 link for Exam Sites and Schedule. Please note that these deadlines are “received by” deadlines, not “postmarked by” deadlines. The Board of Law Examiners Office is open from 8:00 until 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, other than recognized state holidays and the week of the bar examination in February and July. 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.

NOTICE OF DEFICIENCY FROM THE BOARD: 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 Tennessee Application and pay the application filing fee on or before the Initial Deadline will receive at least one notice of missing documents or deficiencies. Applicants who do not submit an application and pay the fee on or before the Initial Deadline will not receive any notice of missing documents or 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.

* 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.

OTHER REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION: 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 SO THAT THE HARD-COPY IS RECEIVED ON OR BEFORE THE FINAL DEADLINE AND MUST CONTAIN THE SCHOOL SEAL.

Waiver of Non-Accredited Undergraduate Education including Foreign Undergraduate Degree U.S. J.D. Candidates: If you received your undergraduate education from a college or university 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 and earned a J.D. in the United States from an ABA-accredited or Tennessee-approved law school, you must include with your application a request for waiver with evidence that your undergraduate education is substantially equivalent to an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited school, see Rule 7, Sec. 2.01(c) and Policy P-2.01. 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. For applicants who did not receive a J.D. from an ABA-accredited or Tennessee-approved law school, see Non-ABA Accredited Law School Graduates, below.

Graduates of Non-ABA-accredited or Non-Tennessee-approved law schools: If you received your legal education at a law school that was not ABA-accredited or located in the state of Tennessee and approved by the TBLE, you may be eligible for admission in Tennessee by examination or transferred UBE score. Your legal education must be based on in-person attendance, you must be awarded a J.D. Degree, you must have passed the bar examination in the state in which your law school is located, and you must be licensed and have been engaged in the active practice of law for three of the five years immediately preceding the date of your application. You must submit documentation regarding the legal education you received and an Affidavit of Past Practice (see forms below). For additional information, see Rule 7, Sec. 2.02(d).

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. For information about the two paths to qualify for admission, click here.

Documentation Requirements for all Applicants Admitted in a Jurisdiction other than in the United States: For any applicant, whether or not educated outside the United States, who is licensed to practice law in a jurisdiction other than in the United States, you must furnish with your application the following:

  • A certified copy of the record or license of the court which admitted you to practice in such country; and
  • 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.
  • 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: Applicants seeking admission by examination score (bar examination in Tennessee or transferred UBE score) must achieve a score of 82 or higher to be eligible for admission. To be valid, the MPRE score must have been earned within two years of successful completion of the bar examination in Tennessee or the date the UBE score being transferred to Tennessee was earned, except as provided below. (If the score has expired, the applicant must take the MPRE again.) For example, an MPRE score of 82 or higher from the August 2018 MPRE administration will be valid through the July 2020 bar examination administration.

  • MPRE Scores for 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.
  • For more information on MPRE Scores, please see Rule 7, Sec. 4.07(d) and Policy P-4.07.

Requests for Non-Standard Testing Accommodations: Familiarize yourself with the Board’s Non-Standard Testing Accommodations Policy.

The Request for Non-Standard Testing Accommodation is in addition to the requirements for the Application for Admission by Examination. The Request is found in Synergy and the same deadline applies for the Request for Non-Standard Testing Accommodation and required forms:

  • Non-standard testing applications require a comprehensive report from your treating professional and, in most cases, professional diagnostic test results.
  • A Request for Non-Standard Testing Accommodation must be submitted each exam with all documentation to show current limitations; comprehensive medical reports are removed after each exam to protect privacy.
  • A Request for Non-Standard Testing Accommodation must be submitted if you have a medical need for medication, food, water, frequent restroom breaks, glucose testing supplies, equipment or other non-standard items at the exam table.
  • To see complete instructions for NST, click here.

Laptop Testing: A few weeks after the application deadline, all applicants will receive an email from ExamSoft, the laptop testing 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 hand-write 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. 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.

SUPERVISED PRACTICE AND PRACTICE PENDING ADMISSION: For information on practice prior to admission pursuant to Rule 7, Sections 10.04 or 10.07, click here.

AMENDMENTS TO APPLICATION: You are under a continuing obligation to notify the TBLE of any changes to any of the information you provided in your application, including updating the TBLE if any of your answers to any of the questions in the NCBE Application have changed in any way. If you have supplemental, new or different information to report, please print and complete the application amendment form (see file below). Once completed, save the form as a .pdf file and attach any relevant documentation. Upload the .pdf file 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 request the change by sending an email  to: BLE.administrator@tncourts.gov. 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.