New York Bar Examination
Many of our foreign-trained LL.M. students consider taking a U.S. bar exam upon completion of their LL.M. studies. The New York Bar is one of the few jurisdictions that permits lawyers with foreign legal education to sit for the bar exam. Some foreign-educated lawyers may be able to take the bar exam on the basis of their first, non-U.S. law degree. Others may be eligible based on the combination of their first, non-U.S. law degree and an LL.M. in the United States that meets specific requirements.
The New York State Board of Law Examiners ("BOLE") is the entity responsible for administering the New York State Bar exam.Their website contains all the rules governing eligibility, application and admission to the New York Bar and is the most authoritative source for New York Bar rules.
Please keep in mind that passing the New York State Bar
Exam is not a guarantee of employment in the United States. Finding
employment as a lawyer in the United States is highly competitive.There are not enough jobs for all of the
foreign LL.M. graduates seeking employment in the U.S.Employers will focus on factors such as
previous full-time work experience, grades in your law studies (both in your
home country and at Georgetown), language skills, membership in the bar of your
home country, and the needs of their firm or business. The New York State Bar
Exam can be helpful for your practice outside the United States because it
provides an additional indication (in addition to the signal provided by your
Georgetown LL.M. itself) of familiarity with U.S. law, and English fluency.
Who is eligible to sit for the New York State Bar Exam based on foreign legal education?
What are the steps lawyers educated outside the United States must take to establish eligibility to take the New York State Bar Exam, and to be admitted to the bar after passing the exam?
Who is eligible to sit for the New York State Bar Exam based on foreign legal education?
Section 520.6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law ("Rule 520.6") establishes the requirements for applicants who wish to take the New York State Bar Exam based on their foreign legal education. The rules for eligibility for the New York State 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 on the New York State Board of Law Examiners ("BOLE") website.
Graduates of the traditional three-year (or more) common law education from countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Israel are usually eligible based on that legal education and do not have to take a U.S. LL.M. degree to establish eligibility for the New York State Bar Exam. See Rule 520.6 (b)(1). (They still must obtain an evaluation of their foreign credentials prior to registering for the bar exam.)
Foreign-trained lawyers who do not fall into the above category, including those with a civil law education, will be deemed ineligible by BOLE to sit for the bar exam. However, students in these categories generally can become eligible by pursuing an LL.M. in a U.S. law school that meets the LL.M. requirements set out in Rule 520.6(b)(1)(ii) (the "cure" provision).
What are the steps lawyers educated outside the United States must take to establish New York State Bar Exam eligibility, and to be admitted to the bar after passing the exam?
Step 1: Have your foreign credentials evaluated
All foreign-educated lawyers - whether eligible based on your common law education or through your LL.M. degree - must submit the Online Request for Evaluation of Foreign Academic Credentials to get a decision on their eligibility for the New York State Bar Exam. BOLE requires applicants to submit all documentation for the request for advance evaluation of eligibility at least six months prior to the first day of the application period of the exam you plan to take. See deadlines here. Georgetown Law recommends you submit the request and all supporting documents as soon as possible and definitely prior to coming for the LL.M.;it is much easier to obtain transcripts and other information while you are still in your home country. We particularly encourage submitting early if you are uncertain whether you need to fulfill the requirements of the "cure" provision during the LL.M., or if there is something unusual about your legal education that may lead the BOLE to require additional supporting documentation before deeming you eligible for the exam.
Step 2: Take the required courses during your LL.M.
[There are different rules in effect depending on when a foreign-educated law graduate began their LL.M. degree. Students who began their LL.M. prior to the Fall 2012 can find their eligibility requirements on the BOLE website.The information below applies for students who began their LL.M. in Fall 2012 or later.]
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, please review Rule 520.6, and the list of the courses at Georgetown Law that fulfill the Rule's requirements.
Step 3. Apply to take the exam
If you have submitted your foreign credentials for evaluation to the BOLE and have taken the required courses during your LL.M., you will apply for the New York State Bar Exam through the BOLE website during the time period designated for applications on the BOLE website. Students wishing to take the July bar exam must apply during the month of April before the exam, and students wishing to take the February bar exam must apply during the month of November before the exam.
When it comes time to apply for the exam, the Law Center will hold information sessions to assist our LL.M. students with the process, and our Registrar's Office will provide all the required documentation to the BOLE at the appropriate time. All the information about applying for the bar exam, as well as all forms needed throughout the process, can be found on the BOLE website.
Step 4. Complete the following additional requirements
There are a number of other requirements that must be met before students can be admitted to the New York Bar. The main requirement, of course, is passing the bar exam itself. However, there are some additional requirements that applicants to the bar must fulfill. Please note that the following requirements do not need to be completed in order to sit for the bar exam. That means that you can choose to fulfill these requirements after the LL.M. is finished and even after you have passed the bar exam itself. Georgetown Law encourages you to consider fulfilling these requirements after (or in the case of the MPRE and pro bono requirement, even before) your LL.M. study or passing the bar, because the LL.M. year is so short and is packed with important opportunities. Adding in too many New York Bar-related activities can prevent you from making the most of your LL.M. program.
Applicants must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) to be admitted to the bar. Read BOLE's information on the MPRE here;note that the exam may be taken within three years before or after passing the bar exam.
PRO BONO HOURS
The New York Bar introduced a rule requiring all applicants seeking admission to the bar after January 1, 2015 to complete 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work. See Rule 520.16. A helpful set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is available on the New York Court of Appeals website.The FAQs contain the most helpful and detailed information regarding how the Court interprets this rule.
·Note that FAQ#4 explains that foreign lawyers qualifying for the bar under Rule 520.6 can complete the pro bono hours up to one year before they begin their LL.M. study, and may also wait to pass the bar before completing the requirement. FAQ#10 explains that the work can be performed anywhere, including outside the United States.
·Georgetown Law provides information sessions during the academic year for its foreign-trained lawyers to provide some ideas and resources on how to fulfill the New York Bar requirement. Some students may engage in qualifying work through externships or volunteer activities during their LL.M. studies. The Law Center is not able to guarantee qualifying pro bono opportunities to all the LL.M. and J.D. students who plan to take the New York Bar Exam.
NEW YORK LAW ONLINE COURSE AND EXAM
The New York Court of Appeals adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, starting with the July 2016 exam. As part of this change, applicants for admission to the New York Bar are required to take an online course in New York-specific law, the "New York Law Course" (NYLC) and must take and pass an online examination, the "New York Law Exam" (NYLE). Details about the NYLC and NYLE can be found by scrolling down through the Uniform Bar Exam page on the BOLE website.
SKILLS COMPETENCY REQUIREMENT
In December 2015, the New York Court of Appeals adopted a Skills Competency Requirement for admission to the New York Bar. However, this requirement does not apply to foreign-trained lawyers who need an LL.M. to establish bar eligibility until the class beginning LL.M. studies in 2018.(Note that this is a requirement for admission and not for bar exam eligibility.)