If you are planning to become a lawyer in United States then there are certain steps by which you have to go through like law schools , then the bar exams and certain other requirements which you need to fulfill and then you are done to become a lawyer. Its sounds very easy but it includes a hardwork of several years.
This article aims at analyzing how an Indian Lawyer can practice in United States without pursuing undergrad law degree i.e. the Juris Doctor in US College and also how lawyer with foreign degree can practice in Unite States.
According to the rule of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law, Lawyers who have qualified from a common law jurisdiction and have an experience of more than 2 years can submit their law degree for review and analysis and if it’s successful then they are not required to give Bar Exam. This rule is applicable to only Indian students.
Another thing which an Indian student can do is to pursue an LLM in US before being eligible to take the exam.
Each US state has different criteria some require you to earn Juris Doctor accredited by American bar association other may allow you without earning it.
On the other hand if you are planning to practicing law in United States with a foreign degree then most important thing you need to keep in your mind is that each state has different requirements. Before practicing you need to some research in which state you are hoping to practice. There are no general licence to practice law in the United States.
Why should I take the Bar in US?
Many international students choose to pursue an LLM in the US just because to take a US bar exam. Taking the bar exam looks great to your resume or CV both to US and foreign employers. If you pass the bar it will allow you to practice law in that states as a fully admitted lawyer.
Taking the Bar as a Foreign-Trained Lawyer:-
It can be extremely difficult for foreign-trained lawyers to sit the bar exam in US. Most states do require JD degree to sit in bar exam. There are some states which do allow foreign law graduates to sit for the bar exam, including New York, California, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Virginia.
In this I would be discussing of New York and California.
It’s a popular place for foreign-trained attorneys to practice, and the state requirements facilitate this process. The New York Board of Law Examiners, administer the New York Bar Exam, they have a specific set of requirements for foreign trained lawyers who wants to practice in New York.
If a foreign-trained lawyer has completed his program that is at least three years long and focusing on common law then he or she can appear for bar ( after receiving permission from the Board of Law Examiners).
Another great option for foreign-trained layers is California. It is similar to the procedures of New York infact it has relatively liberal admission requirements for foreign lawyers. If you meet the requirements it will be easier for you to sit for the bar exams in California as compared to New York. If foreign-trained lawyers who admits to practice law in a jurisdiction outside the United States are also eligible to take the bar exam in California without any complications or additional requirements.
As we have already discussed that each state has its own laws about how a foreign trained lawyer can qualify to practice in United States. Out of the fifty states there are thirty-four jurisdictions where foreign-trained lawyers have the opportunity to gain admission to the bar.
Apart from New York and California which we have already discussed – an LLM degree would also allow a foreign-trained lawyer to give bar exam in Washington state and Wisconsin. The remaining twenty nine jurisdiction where foreign trained lawyers are eligible to take bar exam feature variety of requirements to appear in bar exam. The requirements for each state shall be listed on state-specific bar exam website according to Bar Exam Guide.
In many states only LLM is required to sit for bar exam. The state that allow foreign trained attorney to sit for bar exam after earning an LLM. Then only you are allowed to sit for Bar Exam and once you passed the exam in United States it’s just a step in becoming an accredited lawyer in the United States. There are other requirements that will need to be fulfilled at this point (such as taking the MPRE and passing the character and fitness requirements for your state’s bar).
Law is one of the most competitive professions in the United States; and as well as one of the most difficult competition to break down for most of the foreign trained lawyers. Foreign-trained attorneys are at certain disadvantage compared to students who earned law degree in United States especially at the time of taking state bar admission.
If you are a foreign-trained lawyer seeking bar admission, the information provided here must be helpful for you in deciding whether to seek full admission to the bar in the state you are living in. Infact there are several options for foreign-trained lawyers who does not want to have full admission to the bar, including jobs as foreign legal consultants etc. No matter what you are planning to do just be sure to do complete research, as each has a different requirements. We all know that law is a very competitive field, but if you love this profession and completely indulged in it then just go for it and keep working towards your goal.