New York Bar Examination
The New York Bar is the jurisdiction of choice for many of our foreign-trained attorneys. Most other state jurisdictions have requirements for the exam that either preclude or make it very difficult for the foreign-trained attorney to meet eligibility requirements to sit for the exam. Foreign law graduates admitted to practice outside the U.S., however, should also investigate the California bar, http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=MK-p_BBvcAE%3D&tabid=265.
The rules for eligibility for the New York Bar Exam distinguish between those law graduates trained in the common law in a traditional 3-year university program leading to the LL.B. and those who are not. Eligibility requirements are set out at the New York Board of Law Examiners (BOLE) website http://www.nybarexam.org/Foreign/ForeignLegalEducation.htm.
Graduates of the traditional three-year (or more) common law education from countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Israel are usually eligible based on that legal education. They usually do not have to take a U.S. LL.M. degree to establish eligibility for the New York Bar Exam but must receive this determination directly from BOLE. See Rule 520.6 (b)(1) .
Those educated in the civil-law tradition or a non-traditional or mixed legal system may qualify for the New York Bar Exam after receiving a U.S. Master of Laws degree with certain requirements. See Rule 520.6 [b]  [ii] and 520.6 [b] . It is our experience that students who take the British conversion course or those from India are treated in this category. See Rule 520.6 (b) (2).
All foreign-educated lawyers - whether eligible based on your common law education or through your LL.M. degree - must submit the On-Line Request for Evaluation of Foreign Academic Credentials (https://www.nybarapply.org/feval/) to get a decision on their eligibility for the New York Bar Exam. The Board of Law Examiners is now recommending that students submit that Request at least a year before you plan to sit for the exam. Georgetown Law recommends you submit the Evaluation Request and all supporting documents as soon as possible and definitely prior to coming for the LL.M. Please see "VI. Required Documentation" at http://www.nybarexam.org/Foreign/ForeignLegalEducation.htm.
There are different rules in effect depending on when a foreign-educated law graduate began their LL.M. degree. Please see below if you began your LL.M. in Fall 2012 or after. Students who began their LL.M. prior to the Fall 2012 can find their eligibility requirement at Section IV of this link: http://www.nybarexam.org/Foreign/ForeignLegalEducation.htm.
The Court of Appeals of New York State Rules for foreign-educated lawyers who must have a U.S. LL.M. to establish eligibility for the bar exam and who began their LL.M. in Fall 2012.
If you must establish eligibility for the New York Bar Exam based on an LL.M. degree from an ABA accredited law school in the United States, here is a synopsis of the new requirements (Georgetown Law courses that meet each particular requirement are shown in brackets below):
- The LL.M. must be completed within 24 months in the United States.
- You must take a minimum of 24 credits of "classroom" courses (externships NOT included) and no more than 4 credits may be earned in summer courses.
- 12 of the 24 credits must be in subjects tested on the bar exam, as designated:
(i) at least two semester hours of credit in professional responsibility (Professional Responsibility Law in the U.S.)
(ii) at least two credits in a legal research, writing and analysis course (U.S. Legal Discourse I and II)
(iii) at least two-credits in a course on American legal studies, the American legal system or a similar course designed to introduce students to U.S. law (Introduction to U.S. Legal Systems or Introduction to U.S. Constitutional Law)
(iv) at least six credits in subjects tested on the New York bar examination.
(Corporations; Introduction to U.S. Constitutional Law; U.S. Criminal Procedure; Introduction to Contracts; Tort Law and the Common Law Process; Commercial Law: Secured Transactions; Commercial Law: Sales Transactions; Commercial Law: Secured Transactions and Payment Systems; Conflict of Laws; Constitutional Law II: Individual Rights and Liberties; Decedents' Estates; Evidence; Family Law I: Marriage and Divorce; Family Law II: Child, Parent and the State; Federal Courts and the Federal System; Remedies.)
Note Well: The Court of Appeals of New York has amended the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law by adding section 520.16 to the Rules, which provides that applicants admitted to the New York State bar on or after January 1, 2015 must complete at least 50-hours of qualifying pro bono service prior to filing an application for admission. [The application for admission is filed after a candidate passes the New York Bar Exam.]
Foreign law graduates who qualify under Rules 520.6 are required to satisfy the Pro Bono Requirement if they are admitted to practice law in New York State on or after January 1, 2015. The 50 hours of qualifying work may occur in another state or country and either during or after your LL.M.
Please refer to the new rule at http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/baradmissionreqs.shtml and follow that site's link to Frequently Asked Questions.
Check out the NY Bar exam website for important information, including:
- bar exam description
- exam dates
- application fees
- withdrawal from exam
New York Bar-Approved Courses (PDF):
- for students who started the LL.M. in Fall 2012 and thereafter
- for students who began the LL.M. prior to Fall 2012