How to Become a Lawyer in Tennessee: Education Requirements, Law Schools & Board Examiners

Embarking on a career as a lawyer in the vibrant state of Tennessee can be an exciting and rewarding journey. From the bustling city of Nashville to the picturesque landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee offers a diverse backdrop for aspiring legal professionals. But what does it take to become a lawyer in this thriving region? Let’s explore the pathway to a successful legal career in Tennessee, focusing on how to become a lawyer in Tennessee, from obtaining the necessary education to passing the bar exam and gaining admission to the Tennessee Bar.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Pathway to becoming a lawyer in Tennessee includes an undergraduate degree, LSAT and Bar Exam, JD from ABA or TN-approved law school, Law Course & CLE requirements.

  • Undergraduate pre-law education consists of earning a bachelor’s degree and taking courses in criminal justice & related subjects.

  • Tennessee attorneys can expect to earn an average salary of $149K/yr through experience and dedication.

Pathway to Becoming a Lawyer in Tennessee

Embarking on a career as a lawyer in Tennessee starts with a robust educational groundwork. Aspiring lawyers must first attain an undergraduate degree, followed by the challenging Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Once they pass the LSAT, they can pursue a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an American Bar Association (ABA) or Tennessee-approved law school, such as the prestigious Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. After completing law school, candidates must then pass the Tennessee Bar Exam and be deemed of good moral character and fitness.

However, the journey to becoming a lawyer in Tennessee extends beyond that. Once candidates have successfully passed the bar exam, they must also complete the Tennessee Law Course and obtain approval for admission to the bar. Upon gaining admission, lawyers in Tennessee are required to fulfill annual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements to sustain their law license. With the right combination of education, determination, and perseverance, a successful legal career in Tennessee is well within reach.

Prior to pursuing law school, prospective lawyers in Tennessee need to complete an undergraduate pre-law education, typically culminating in a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. While there is no specific pre-law major required, a well-rounded education in subjects such as:

  • criminal justice

  • political science

  • government

  • philosophy

A law degree can provide a strong foundation for a legal career, but law degree verification is essential to ensure its authenticity, especially for law graduates entering the workforce. The law school form plays a crucial role in this verification process.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, aspiring lawyers should proceed to apply for an ABA-accredited law school or the one non-ABA accredited in-state school currently approved by the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners. This ensures that the chosen law school meets the necessary standards for a quality legal education, which is crucial for passing the bar exam and ultimately practicing law in Tennessee.

Undergraduate Pre-Law Education

Earning a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in law school is a prerequisite by the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners and a vital stride in laying a robust academic groundwork for a legal profession. Aspiring lawyers can choose from a wide array of undergraduate majors, as law schools accept students from diverse academic backgrounds.

While there is no designated pre-law major, it is advisable to take courses in relevant subjects such as:

  • Criminal justice

  • Political science

  • Government

  • Philosophy

  • Human behavior

  • English

These courses will help you develop the critical thinking and analytical skills needed to be successful in law school and beyond.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Tennessee

Tennessee houses four law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, providing students an array of options to chase their legal education. Attending an ABA-accredited law school is essential for gaining the necessary foundational knowledge to pass the bar exam and excel in a legal career.

Some of the top law schools in Tennessee include:

  • University of Tennessee College of Law

  • Vanderbilt University Law School

  • Belmont University College of Law

  • University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

Each of these schools offers a unique learning environment and specialized programs that cater to the diverse interests of aspiring lawyers.

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

The LSAT plays a pivotal role in the process of becoming a lawyer in Tennessee. This standardized test is designed to assess the capability of future law school students, evaluating their reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning skills. The LSAT is typically completed in two parts and lasts approximately 3.5 hours, serving as a major element in determining admission to law school.

Law schools in Tennessee, and across the country, utilize the LSAT to evaluate the academic aptitude of potential students. A strong LSAT score not only increases the chances of being accepted into a reputable law school but also plays a significant role in determining eligibility for scholarships and financial aid. Therefore, it is crucial for aspiring lawyers to dedicate ample time and effort to prepare for the LSAT, ensuring they are well-equipped to tackle the challenges of law school and beyond.

Navigating Law School in Tennessee

Upon enrollment in a Tennessee law school, students will commence a rigorous journey of intellectual expansion and personal development. To succeed in law school, it is essential to:

  • Develop strong study habits

  • Engage with professors and fellow students

  • Take advantage of practical experiences and specializations offered by the institution

Law schools in Tennessee provide a range of specializations, such as:

  • Business law

  • Criminal law

  • Family law

  • International law

This allows students to tailor their education to their interests and career goals. Additionally, practical experiences such as clinics, externships, and internships offer invaluable hands-on learning opportunities, enabling students to apply their theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios and better prepare for their future careers.

Specializations and Concentrations

Tennessee law schools present a wide range of specializations and concentrations, tailored to the distinct interests and ambitions of their students. Some examples include:

  • The University of Tennessee College of Law, which provides two concentration options: Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, and Business Transactions.

  • Vanderbilt University, which boasts academic programs such as Law & Economics, Law & Business, and Litigation & Dispute Resolution.

  • Belmont University College of Law, which combines classroom learning with real-world practice.

  • Middle Tennessee State University, which offers a Pre-Law program that incorporates courses such as government, speech, logic, economics, and legal research and writing.

By choosing a specialization or concentration, aspiring lawyers can focus their studies on a specific area of law, allowing them to develop specialized expertise and increase their marketability in the job market.

Practical Experience and Clinics

Accumulating practical knowledge through clinics and internships during law school is paramount, offering students the chance to acquire hands-on experience and comprehend the practice of law in a real-life context.

Tennessee law schools offer numerous opportunities for practical experience and clinics, such as the University of Tennessee College of Law and Vanderbilt Law School, which both provide legal clinics that allow students to gain valuable hands-on experience and familiarize themselves with the practice of law.

Additionally, Belmont University College of Law offers a field placement program, providing students with practical legal experience while working with actual clients.

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, as well as Lincoln Memorial University, also has a clinic that enables students to acquire practical experience and make a positive contribution to the Memphis community.

By participating in these opportunities, students can hone their legal skills and build a strong foundation for a successful career as a lawyer in Tennessee.

Passing the Tennessee Bar Exam

Upon finishing law school, the subsequent significant accomplishment in the journey to becoming a lawyer in Tennessee is clearing the bar exam. The Tennessee Bar Exam is part of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) program and consists of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE). The exam assesses analytical and reasoning aptitudes and knowledge of fundamental legal concepts, ensuring that aspiring lawyers are well-prepared to practice law in the state.

To pass the Tennessee Bar Exam, candidates must achieve a minimum scaled score of 270 out of 400. Without reaching this score, candidates will not be able to clear the exam. The exam consists of three sections:

  1. Multistate Bar Examination (MBE): This section accounts for 50% of the total UBE scaled score and consists of 200 multiple-choice questions.

  2. Multistate Performance Test (MPT): The MPT is a closed-universe practical question section. Candidates are required to address two cases using simulated case files and legal documents.

  3. Multistate Essay Examination (MEE): The MEE tests candidates’ knowledge of various legal subjects and consists of six essay questions.

With diligent preparation and a solid understanding of the required material, candidates can successfully pass the Tennessee Bar Exam and move one step closer to practicing law in the state.

Exam Dates and Deadlines

The Tennessee Bar Exam is conducted twice a year, in February and July. For the July 2023 exam, the exam dates are July 25 and 26, with the initial filing deadline on May 1, 2023, and the final filing deadline on May 20, 2023. It is crucial for candidates to be aware of these dates and deadlines to ensure timely submission of their applications and avoid any potential issues.

While there is no financial penalty for filing after the initial deadline, notification of any issues with the application will not be provided if filed or fees paid after this date.

Fees and Costs

The fees and costs associated with the Tennessee Bar Exam vary depending on the specific circumstances of the candidate. For first-time examination in Tennessee, the fee is $625, while re-examination in Tennessee costs $450.

For those applying for admission without examination (comity), the fee is $1,100. Military spouse registration and initial application carry a fee of $375, with a re-registration fee of $100. Payment for these fees can be made via credit card, check, or money order.

To help offset the costs of law school and the bar exam, some institutions, such as the University of Tennessee Knoxville, offer scholarships to their students.

Gaining Admission to the Tennessee Bar

Upon successfully clearing the Tennessee Bar Exam, candidates need to fulfill a few more steps to secure admission to the Tennessee Bar. This includes:

  • Undergoing a character and fitness investigation

  • Completing the Tennessee Law Course, a mandatory online course that covers Tennessee-specific law

  • Passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), achieving a scaled score of no less than 82 within two years of taking the first Tennessee bar exam.

Upon successful completion of these requirements, candidates will be granted admission to the Tennessee Bar and can begin practicing law in the state. The process of gaining admission to the bar may seem daunting, but with perseverance and determination, the rewards of a successful legal career are well worth the effort.

As a licensed attorney in Tennessee, one can look forward to a fulfilling career helping clients navigate the complexities of the legal system, including dealing with cases that may reach the Tennessee Supreme Court, and making a positive impact in their community.

Establishing a prosperous legal career in Tennessee entails more than just a robust educational foundation and clearing the bar exam. Aspiring lawyers must also develop their professional network and continually update their knowledge and skills to stay competitive in the ever-evolving legal landscape. Joining an organization of Tennessee lawyers that match your practice specialty, demographic or interest is a great way to form networking connections. Doing so will open up new opportunities for professional growth and development. Such organizations offer networking opportunities, access to resources, and the ability to stay informed about the latest advancements in the legal field.

In addition to networking and professional development, aspiring lawyers in Tennessee should also be aware of the various specialization areas available. With the diverse legal landscape in Tennessee, attorneys can specialize in:

  • Civil law

  • Criminal law

  • Elder law

  • Family law

  • Juvenile law

  • Social security disability law

  • Bankruptcy law

  • Estate planning law

  • DUI defense

By focusing on a specific area of law and continually honing their expertise, lawyers can increase their marketability and build a successful legal career in Tennessee.

Salary Expectations

Paragraph 1: The anticipated salary for lawyers in Tennessee can fluctuate based on aspects like experience, area of expertise, and geographic location. On average, attorneys in Tennessee can expect to earn between $95,000 and $106,000 per year, with the mean annual salary being $149,050.

Paragraph 2: Though initial salaries for fresh attorneys might be on the lower side, through commitment and diligence, lawyers in Tennessee can relish a comfortable income and the gratification of making a significant impact in their clients’ lives.


Becoming a lawyer in Tennessee is a challenging yet rewarding journey that requires dedication, perseverance, and a strong educational foundation. From obtaining a bachelor’s degree and passing the LSAT to excelling in law school and conquering the bar exam, aspiring legal professionals must navigate a complex path to achieve their goals. With the right combination of education, practical experience, and a commitment to lifelong learning, a successful legal career in Tennessee is well within reach. As you embark on this exciting adventure, remember that the path to success is paved with determination, hard work, and the support of your fellow legal professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you become a licensed attorney in Tennessee?

To become a licensed attorney in Tennessee, you must get an undergraduate pre-law education, take the LSAT and go to law school in the state, then take the bar exam and complete the Tennessee Law Course before being approved for admission to the bar. Alternately, you can also be admitted by community (i.e. reciprocity).

How hard is the Tennessee bar exam?

The Tennessee Bar Exam is on par with the other 40 jurisdictions that have adopted the UBE and may be considered slightly easier than those with state-specific components.

How long is the Tennessee law course?

The Tennessee Law Course is a mandatory online course that takes approximately 7.5 hours to complete, and must be finished before approval for licensing and admission.

How much does it cost to get your law license in Tennessee?

It costs $250.00 to get a law license in Tennessee, inclusive of fees for the Board of Law Examiners, Board of Professional Responsibility and Appellate Court Clerk.

What are the main steps to become a lawyer in Tennessee?

To become a lawyer in Tennessee, one must obtain an undergraduate degree, pass the LSAT, attend an ABA-accredited law school, pass the Tennessee Bar Exam, and gain admission to the Tennessee Bar.

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