Academic & Personal Support

Academic Support at the University of St. Thomas School of LawSt. Thomas is committed to helping you succeed both academically and personally during your law school experience. ‌Academic Achievement Director Scott Swanson, a former public defender who also holds a degree in counseling, leads our support services beginning at orientation and continuing beyond graduation.

 These services include: 

  • A four-day academic success program during your first week as a student
  • One-on-one meetings, tutoring, skills training, practice exams, individual support and other services as needed
  • Midterm exams and feedback on your academic performance during your first semester
  • Preparation for the bar exam

Our #1-ranked Mentor Externship ProgramCareer Center team, and Alumni Relations division also provide support during various stages of your law school experience. The university also offers Counseling and Psychological Services and a designated psychologist to help you succeed.

Incoming students are invited to take part in St. Thomas Law's four-day Academic Success Program during First Week Orientation. In just four days, Scott Swanson, director of academic achievement, will lead the class through the different types of work that will be required in a law school semester, including case briefs, class preparation and test preparation. 

Midterm Exam Preparation

All first year, first semester substantive classes have mid-term examinations. A number of students find that they would like assistance in preparing for first year, first semester midterm exams--in addition to the assistance they have received as a result of their first exam-taking exercise in the Voluntary Academic Success Program. We help those students learn additional organizational skills, review practice exams, and prepare effective outlines for their classes.

Midterm Exam Review

Additionally, many students find that they would like additional specific, timely, concrete feedback on the outcome of their mid-term exams—feedback beyond simply the grade. We review exams with those students, help them understand what they have done well, and areas in which they can make improvements.

Finals Preparation

The Director of Academic Achievement is available to meet with individual students (for specific tutorial assistance) and will larger groups of students who would like assistance in preparation for final exams. That involves a wide range of options, from practicing specific skills to assistance and critiques of particular outline strategies.

The Director of Academic Achievement is available (again, for both individuals and groups) to help students on an ongoing basis with more effective study habits, classroom preparation, and ongoing assistance in understanding the substantive materials in their classroom work.

Qualified law students with documented disabilities who may need classroom and testing accommodations should make an appointment with the University of St. Thomas Disability Resources office on the St. Paul campus. Appointments can be made by calling (651) 962-6315. If you have questions about how to set up an appointment, you may also contact Jill Akervik, registrar for the School of Law, or Scott Swanson, director of academic achievement; they both assist the University in executing specific accommodations.

For further information, you can locate the Disability Resources Office on the web at

There are a few students who, for a variety of reasons, have a difficult time performing up to their own expectations in law school. We pride ourselves in providing support for those people, and will work in any way we can to make sure that law school is a productive experience.

St. Thomas employs a psychologist dedicated to the university's Minneapolis campus who is available to meet with law students in support of their mental health and interpersonal relationships, as well as academic performance. 

The Counseling and Psychological Services office in Minneapolis is located in Terrence Murphy Hall 251J on the second floor in the suite with Financial Aid. Questions about services, appointments and availability can be handled by calling (651) 962-6780.

School of Law Academic Achievement Director Scott Swanson also is available to counsel law students in support of their mental health. 

The St. Thomas Law supports the continued quality of life and well-being of the St. Thomas Law community by raising awareness of mental and chemical health conditions; by reducing the stigma and providing resources and support to those who suffer from these illnesses; and by promoting wellness, balance, collegiality, and perspective throughout the St. Thomas community.

St. Thomas Law currently provides a seminar-sized class that works with third-year students who identify themselves as students who continue to have concerns about their academic performance, particularly as it relates to taking and passing a bar exam.

Additionally, for those who do not take this class, the school provides an informal summer program for graduates that emphasizes the skills necessary to pass the bar exam. That program is available to all students. Samples of past Bar Prep Class Sessions.

In addition to a bar examination, there are character, fitness, and other qualifi cations for admission to the bar in every U.S. jurisdiction. Applicants are encouraged to determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission by contacting the jurisdiction. Addresses for all relevant agencies are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners. (b) The law school shall, as soon after matriculation as is practicable, take additional steps to apprise entering students of the importance of determining the applicable character, fitness, and other requirements for admission to the bar in each jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission to the bar.

Prior to orientation, the director of academic achievement sends a cautionary statement regarding character and fitness to all incoming J.D. students. This statement generally is included in the orientation mailing that is sent to incoming students in July. In summer 2015, an additional message was sent to incoming J.D. students from the director of academic achievement via email in late June. 

Uniform Bar Examination

Minnesota became a Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) jurisdiction beginning with the February 2014 bar exam. In January 2013 the Minnesota Supreme Court approved the petition of the Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners to amend the Rules for Admission to the Bar of the State of Minnesota.

The UBE was designed to provide consistent content and registration across jurisdictions. The primary advantage is an examinee’s score is “portable”—the score can be reported to all other UBE jurisdictions (receiving jurisdictions) when determining whether the person has met the requirements for admission to the receiving jurisdiction’s bar. Based on efforts by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the Conference of Chief Judges, and the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the following jurisdictions have adopted the UBE: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Score portability. Since all UBE jurisdictions are taking the same exam on the same days, the score is portable and can be reported to other jurisdictions. Regionally, with the recent North Dakota oil boom, this will be helpful to Minnesota attorneys who take the UBE and whose firms subsequently expand to practice in North Dakota (another UBE jurisdiction.)

Individual state requirements still exist. All jurisdictions have the ability to require an applicant to meet other requirements for admission, which include a separate character and fitness determination, and, in a few of the jurisdictions adopting the UBE so far, a separate test on state-specific topics.

States differ on passing score. A score that passes one state may not be sufficient to pass another state. For example, while Minnesota requires a passing score of 260, several other jurisdictions have a passing score that is a little bit higher (262 is a pretty common requirement). Specific state information can be found in the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements produced by the ABA and NCBE.

Time limits on transferability. A receiving state may place limitations on the length of time an applicant may transfer a score to that jurisdiction. Minnesota, for example, will require that the score be transferred as part of an application that is submitted within three years of the original test date.

Retroactive transferability. A receiving state which has recently adopted the UBE may choose to allow applicants to submit a score from another UBE jurisdiction that is from a test prior to that state’s adoption of the UBE. It’s unclear from the Minnesota Supreme Court’s order adopting the UBE in Minnesota whether that will be the case here in Minnesota.

Potential for additional jurisdictions adopting UBE. Now that Minnesota has joined, there are 13 UBE jurisdictions. There are nine or ten additional jurisdictions that are seriously considering becoming UBE jurisdictions. If that were to happen, it would increase the positive impact of the adoption of this exam for future examinees, and might increase the positive impact for examinees who have taken the exam in the past.

Format of the UBE. The Uniform Bar Examination consists of three components, all of which are drafted and distributed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE):

  • The Multistate Performance Test (MPT). Three hours the morning of the first day of the exam, two 90-minute MPTs. An MPT is a closed-universe legal task, consisting of an assignment, some factual information, and some legal authority, usually consisting of a statute or some rules and a couple of cases from a fictional jurisdiction. These two questions count for 20% of the overall score on the exam.
  • The Multistate Essay Examination (MEE). Three hours, the afternoon of first day of the exam, six 30-minute essay questions. Traditional bar examination essay questions. These six questions count for 30% of the overall score on the exam.
  • The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Two three-hour blocks, morning and afternoon of the second day of the exam, consisting of 100 multiple choice question per three-hour segment (200 multiple choice questions total). These 200 questions count for 50% of the overall score on the exam.

Substantive content changes. Some topics will no longer be tested on the UBE. No longer being tested:  Ethics and Professional Responsibility (tested on the MPRE); Federal Individual Income Taxation, Uniform Commercial Code, Art. 1, 2. Added topics:  Conflicts of Laws, Negotiable Instruments (Commercial Paper) and Secured Transactions.

For additional information, contact Scott Swanson, Director of Academic Achievement.