What the Uniform Bar Exam means for foreign LL.M. students

The New York Bar examination is the U.S. bar exam of choice for many foreign attorneys, not because of its ease but because of the rules that permit international attorneys to sit for a U.S. bar exam. Many other states do not allow those who do not hold a U.S. J.D.  to sit for their exam, but New York does.  The New York Court of Appeals has now decided to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), beginning with the July 2016 exam. The Court of Appeals' Notice to the Bar about adopting the UBE did not list any amendments to the section of the rules that are dealing with foreign lawyers, but I am still keeping my eyes and ears open about any changes that may affect foreign attorneys seeking to sit for the exam. What the UBE very likely won’t do is provide an easier path for foreign attorneys to move between states as it does for J.D. graduates since the rules of admission in each state remain in effect. As the New York Court of Appeals’ Notice states:

§ 520.2.(b) The applicant shall . . . file with the Board, in accordance with its rules, proof satisfactory to said Board that the applicant:

(2) has attained educational qualifications that are at least equal to those required by section 520.3.520.4. 520.5.520.6 or 520.17 of this Part.

The eligibility requirements for the New York bar exam thus remain unchanged. 

What is the UBE?

The UBE is coordinated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and results in a portable score on a portion of the exam that can be used to apply for admission in other UBE jurisdictions with the limits mentioned above.  The exam is composed of three parts:

  1. Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) -- 6 questions worth 30% of the UBE
  2. Multistate Performance Tests (MPT) -- 2 tasks worth 20% of the UBE
  3. and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) -- 200 multiple choice questions worth 50% of the UBE

The UBE is administered during two days on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July. Each UBE jurisdiction may require their applicants to also complete a jurisdiction-specific educational component and/or pass a test on jurisdiction-specific law in addition to passing the UBE.  New York requires such a component with the New York Law Course (NYLC), an online course in New York-specific law, and the New York Law Exam (NYLE), an online examination. For admission in New York, applicants must also comply with the 50-hour pro bono service requirement and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), as is already required. Additionally, foreign educated lawyers who are required to complete an LL.M. at an ABA approved law school and who commence their LL.M. studies after August 1, 2018 must comply with the new Skills Competency Requirement set forth in Section 520.18 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals.

The New York Law Course

The NYCL is an on-demand online course with approximately 15 hours of video lectures on New York law. It covers the following subjects: Administrative Law, Business Relationships, Civil Practice and Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Matrimonial and Family Law, Professional Responsibility, Real Property, Torts and Tort Damages, and Trusts, Wills and Estates. The video lectures are embedded with questions which must be answered correctly before you can continue viewing the lecture.

The New York Law Exam

The NYLE is a two hour, open book test consisting of 50 multiple choice questions. The test is administered online and will be offered four times a year.  The dates and times of the NYLE in 2016 are: May 26, August 18, October 13, and December 15 at 12:00 pm EST.  You can only register for the exam if you have completed the NYLC.  However, you can take the NYLC and NYLE up to one year before and three years after you first sit for the UBE.

The fact that test takers do not have to deal with the many New York distinctions when taking the UBE may make it a bit easier to deal with – although easy may be the wrong choice of words. 


Desiree Jaeger-Fine is principal of Jaeger-Fine Consulting, LLC, a career management firm for international attorneys in New York, and author of A Short & Happy Guide to Networking (West Academic Publishing) (forthcoming).