Many lawyers educated outside the United States are interested in qualifying for a U.S. bar examination–typically the New York Bar exam–through their LL.M. studies.  Our academic advisors can help you decide whether the Bar exam is right for you and assist you in developing a program of study that meets New York Bar requirements.

The Bar exam can be helpful for your practice outside the United States because it provides a strong indication (in addition to your Georgetown LL.M.) of familiarity with U.S. law and English fluency. However, passing a state’s Bar exam is not a guarantee of employment in the United States. Finding employment as a lawyer in the United States is highly competitive. Employers will focus on 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. While some foreign-trained LL.M. graduates find employment in the U.S., LL.M. students should be aware that such opportunities are limited, and should be prepared to return to their home countries following completion of their studies.

New York Bar Examination: Rules for Foreign-Educated Lawyers

The New York State Board of Law Examiners (“BOLE”) is responsible for administering the New York State Bar exam. Their website is the official source for information for the New York Bar.  The following summary is simply provided as a guide.

Eligibility to sit for the New York 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 governs the eligibility of foreign-trained lawyers for the New York Bar Exam.  

Graduates of traditional three-year (or more) common law LL.B. programs from countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, 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, but must 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, can become eligible for the bar exam by pursuing an LL.M. in the U.S. that meets New York Bar requirements.

Steps to Take to Sit for the New York Bar Exam

1. Submit the Online Request for Evaluation of Foreign Academic Credentials
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 at least six months before the first day of the application period of the exam you plan to take. Follow this link for deadlines for requesting evaluation of your foreign credentials.

Georgetown Law recommends you submit the request as early as possible, preferably prior to your arrival in the U.S., as it is much easier to obtain the necessary materials while you are still in your home country.

2. Take Required Courses During the LL.M.
Georgetown Law offers the classes necessary for LL.M. students to meet New York Bar requirements. See below for full details.

3. Apply to sit for the exam
In advance of taking the bar, students must apply to take the exam by the registration deadline.

Typically, to take the July bar exam, you must apply during the preceding April; to take the February exam, you must apply during the preceding November.

Courses Required of Foreign-Educated Lawyers for the New York Bar Exam

New York requires students to take an LL.M. program of at least 24 credits.  As part of those 24 credits, students must include 2 credits in a class on professional responsibility; 2 credits in legal research, writing and analysis; two credits in American legal studies; and six credits in subjects tested on the New York Bar Exam (a total of 12 credits).

The following courses offered at Georgetown have been approved by the New York Court of Appeals to satisfy the requirements of Rule 520.6.

1. Professional Responsibility (2 credits required)
Approved under Rule 520.6(B)(3)(vi)(a)

  • Professional Responsibility Law in the United States

2. Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis (2 credits required)
Approved under Rule 520.6(B)(3)(vi)(b)

  • American Legal Discourse
  • Scholarly Writing
  • U.S. Legal Research, Analysis and Writing

3. American Legal Studies (2 credits required)
Approved under Rule 520.6(B)(3)(vi)(c)

  • Foundations of American Law
  • Introduction to U.S. Civil Procedure
  • Introduction to U.S. Constitutional Law
  • Introduction to U.S. Legal Systems

4. Subjects Tested on the Bar Exam (6 credits required)
Approved under Rule 520.6(B)(3)(vi)(d)

  • Administrative Law
  • Commercial Law: Domestic and International Sales Transactions
  • Commercial Law: Sales and Leases
  • Commercial Law: Secured Transactions and Payment Systems
  • Constitutional Law II: Individual Rights and Liberties
  • Corporations
  • Criminal Law
  • Decedents’ Estates
  • Drafting Contracts
  • Evidence
  • Family Law I: Marriage and Divorce
  • Family Law II: Child, Parent and the State
  • Federal Courts and the Federal System
  • Introduction to Contracts
  • Introduction to Property
  • Introduction to Torts
  • Introduction to U.S. Civil Procedure
  • Introduction to U.S. Constitutional Law
  • Introduction to U.S. Contract Drafting
  • Introduction to U.S. Legal Systems
  • Law of Religion
  • U.S. Criminal Procedure

Additional Steps Required for Admission to the New York Bar

In addition to passing the bar exam, to be admitted to the New York Bar, you must complete the following additional steps.
We recommend consulting with your academic advisor prior to pursuing these requirements during the LL.M. year.

1. Complete 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work.
Foreign lawyers qualifying for the bar under Rule 520.6 can complete this requirement up to one year before LL.M. study or after passage of the bar exam (but prior to bar admission). The pro bono work can be performed anywhere, including outside the United States.

The New York Court of Appeals’ Frequently Asked Questions provides details about qualifying pro bono work.

Georgetown Law holds information sessions during the academic year to provide ideas and resources on how to fulfill the New York Bar pro bono requirement. Some students may engage in qualifying work through externships or volunteer activities during their LL.M. studies.

2. Take and earn a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
Note that the exam may be taken within three years before or after passing the bar exam.

3. Satisfy the New York Bar’s Skills Competency Requirement [NEW!]
Students may be able to satisfy this requirement through their pre-LLM law practice experience.  Others may wish to fulfill this requirement through the U.S. Law and Legal Methods “Pathway 1” track during their LL.M. program.

4. Complete the New York Law Course and take the New York Law Exam
This requirement may be fulfilled up to one year before or three years after the bar exam.

Information on Other Bar Exams (California, DC, Other Jurisdictions)

  • California.  Foreign-trained lawyers who are qualified to practice law outside the U.S. may sit for the California General Examination as attorney applicants.  Foreign-trained law graduates who have not yet completed the qualification requirements for law practice in their home jurisdiction can qualify to take the California exam upon completion of an LL.M. degree that meets certain requirements.  Our academic advisors can discuss these requirements with you.
  • D.C. Bar. Eligibility for the D.C. Bar Exam is much stricter than New York for all foreign-educated law graduates. We do not recommend using the LL.M. as a path to D.C. bar eligibility for lawyers trained outside the U.S., and encourage you to talk to an academic advisor if this is your plan. The D.C. bar requirements can not be completed as part of a specialized LL.M. program, and if done as part of a general LL.M., severely limit an LL.M. student’s ability to focus on his or her areas of interest.

Other Jurisdictions.  Some other U.S. jurisdictions permit foreign-educated lawyers to sit for their bar exams.  Review the National Council of Bar Examiners’ Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements in advance and contact the state bar authority directly for further information.