Bar Exam for foreign attorneys: Easiest states

By George Edwards

The National Jurist contacted George Edwards, a law professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, in Indianapolis, and author of LL.M. Roadmap, to ask about bar exam options for foreign-trained lawyers. Here is his response:

Which are the easiest states to get admitted to as a non-U.S.-trained lawyer? It depends.

No U.S. bar exam is easy! LL.M. graduates and J.D. graduates both have to work very hard to pass!

You might check the bar pass rate for non-U.S.-trained lawyers for states that interest you. For up-to-date bar pass statistics, check the websites of the bar authorities in those states. You might also check with the U.S. law school whose LL.M. program you wish to join, and find out what percentage of that school’s non-U.S.-trained LL.M. graduates sit for a bar, which bars they sit for, how many pass the bar on their first or subsequent attempt, and how many never pass.

When assessing whether it is “easy” to become eligible for a particular bar, you might also consider whether you satisfy certain requirements already, or whether you can take steps in the future to cement your eligibility. States consider your background. Different states look to different aspects of your background to determine your eligibility to sit for the bar exam in their state.

For example, there is nothing you can do now to modify the characteristics of any non-U.S. law degree you already possess. For example, either you first degree was in common law, or it wasn’t.

However, if you have not yet completed your non-U.S. degree, perhaps there are steps you can take now to help ensure your non-U.S. training meets requirements of particular U.S. bars.

If you have not yet completed your U.S. law degree, you may be able to take steps to help ensure that your U.S. degree helps render you bar eligible.

It is highly recommended that you decide as early as possible whether you wish to join a U.S. bar, and try to tailor your pre-U.S. and U.S. education and experience to meet the requirements of that particular bar.

Plan for your U.S. bar admission early, and wisely!

Your background. Aspects of your background you might consider when choosing a bar to become admitted to include:

•What your educational background is in your home country (e.g., whether your degree is in common law, civil law, Sharia law)
•What law school you attended in your home country (e.g., whether it meets a “sufficiency of legal education” requirement of some U.S. jurisdictions)
•Whether you are admitted to practice law in your home country
•Whether you have any actual law practice experience in your home country
•From which U.S. law school you plan to receive your LL.M.
•The nature of your U.S. LL.M. degree (the number of credit hours, which courses you take, whether this degree was completed a few or many years ago, etc)
•Whether you are already admitted to the bar of a U.S. state (since some states will permit you to sit for their bar exam if you are already a member of the bar of another U.S. state).