Taking the Bar as a Foreign Lawyer

Taking the Bar as a Foreign Lawyer

06-02-2020

Foreign-trained lawyers are capable of handling complicated processes if they want to practice law in the U.S. One of the essential requirements to become a lawyer in the U.S. is to take and pass the bar exams. Foreign-educated lawyers are not spared from this requirement.

A bar examination is a test to determine whether a law graduate, domestic or foreign, or an international lawyer is qualified to practice law in a specific state. To be eligible to take the state bar exam, U.S. educated students only need to complete their law studies.  Foreign lawyers need to do a couple of more steps.

Taking the Bar as a Foreign-Educated Lawyer

Anyone who has completed his law studies abroad and is a licensed lawyer in his country of origin does not instantly qualify him to practice law in the U.S. He still needs to sit his bar exam in the state he intends to practice law. 

Before a foreign lawyer is eligible to take the state bar exam, he needs to complete a Masters in Law (L.L.M.) in the U.S. This is to familiarize and allow international students/lawyers to master US laws. 

Different states have varying requirements for foreign lawyers who intend to sit the bar exam. According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, 30 states allow foreign-educated lawyers to take their bar exams without many requirements. Each of these states, however, has different stipulations with regards to eligibility, including:

• The authorized to practice law of the foreign lawyer in his country of origin. 

• The foreign school attended by the lawyer meets the standards of the American Bar Association (A.B.A.) or not.

• Civil law or standard law system in which the foreign lawyer was educated.

• Moral character is also considered.

Of the thirty states, California, Georgia, New York, Wisconsin, and Washington allow foreign lawyers to sit the bar exam upon completion of a Masters in Law degree from a school in the U.S. accredited by the American Bar Association (A.B.A.).

Several schools in the U.S. that offer LL.M programs have curriculums based on the requirements of the bar exam. These programs make sure students graduate not only with a Masters in Law degree but also equipped with the skills required to ace the bar exam. 

California, Maryland, New York, and the District of Columbia allow graduates of international LL.M programs to take the bar exam directly.

Alabama, California, New Hampshire, New York, and Virginia do not require foreign-educated lawyers to retake their law studies in the U.S. before taking the bar exams. They, however, need to have their foreign-completed law degree analyzed and reviewed by the American Bar Association (A.B.A.), which can take over a year without guarantee of being accepted.  

When the A.B.A. accepts credentials of foreign lawyers, they can take the state bar exam just like individuals who completed their Juris Doctor degree in the U.S. 

Foreign lawyers often choose to practice law in New York because it is one of the jurisdiction that is most friendly to foreign lawyers. In this state, international lawyers do not need to complete further studies (Juris Doctor or Masters in Law)  before taking the bar exam. 

The requirements for admission to the bar vary among states. Foreign lawyers need to research the requirements before starting any process carefully. They need to check with the Board of Law Examiners of the country where they intend to take the bar exam.  

The foreign lawyer should also submit all required documents and fees for the bar exam. Each state has a designated final authority to accept or reject the requirements of international lawyers to be able to take the bar examination.

The Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners includes a directory of the State Bar Admission agencies. 

Preparing for the Bar Exam 

As a foreign lawyer, it can be extremely challenging and daunting to prepare for the bar exam. It is not right to say that US-trained law students have the edge over foreign-educated students/lawyers when it comes to the bar exams.  With the proper preparation, foreign lawyers can also pass the bar exams even if they did not take their necessary law studies in the United States. 

• Similar to American law students, foreign-educated lawyers also prepare to sit for the bar exam for many months. Preparation includes individual study and review as well as enrolling in review courses. 

• In bar exam review classes, students are trained to answer questions in the manner examiners want them to respond. These classes can be expensive and time-consuming, but they are worth it because it brings a foreign-educated lawyer close to his goal of being a licensed lawyer in the U.S. 

• Foreign students/lawyers can opt to purchase recorded videos of lectures, which can be repeated and repeated when some portions are vague.  

• The proactive study is an effective way of preparing for the bar exams, including taking several sets of multiple-choice questions and practice essays.

• The U.S. Bar exam is administered in American English. While a review in English will be much easier for U.S. trained students, there is nothing that preparing and studying can stop you from passing the bar exam.

• There are available one-on-one tutoring for international students/lawyers preparing for the bar exam. While this review method is beneficial even to U.S. trained law students, international students benefit more because of the added practice in English.

California, Texas, and New York are the most accessible states for foreign lawyers to sit for the bar exam. These states have qualifying rules to sit for the bar exam that is relatively easy to meet.

Benefits to Foreign Lawyers of Passing the Bar Exams in the U.S.

Practicing lawyers in their home countries often choose to sit for the bar in a state of the U.S. This is understandable because passing the state bar exam offers numerous benefits:

• Passing the bar exam in any state in the U.S. makes the CV of international students look stunning and impressive whether they choose to practice law in the United States, their home country, or in any country for that matter. 

• Passing the U.S. state bar exam proves that the foreign student/lawyer can read and write well in the English language, has mastered new concepts, and can work well under pressure. These are some of the fantastic qualities many employers look for when going through job applicants.

• Passing the bar exam in the U.S. shows that the foreign student/lawyer has extensive knowledge, at least with the basics of U.S. laws, which is a challenging and challenging feat.

• Passing the bar exam permits international students/lawyers to practice law in the state where he took the bar exam or another country without the need to take the state bar exam of the second state through the reciprocity rules. This opens a lot of job opportunities.  

While the state bar exam is written in English and is, of course, more comfortable for U.S. educated students/lawyers, spending a significant amount of time and effort preparing and studying for it may find you better prepared and equipped than American law students.

Related Articles:

About The USA And The U.S. Legal System

Passing The Bar Exam To Become A Lawyer In The U.S.

How Lawyers Achieve That Elusive Work-Life Balance

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