Foreign attorneys: What are your goals for taking bar exam?

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:

What are your goals in taking a bar exam? I suggest that any inquiry about bar eligibility might consider “what are your goals as a non-U.S.-trained lawyer”, “why do you want to take a U.S. bar exam” or “why do you want to get admitted to a U.S. bar”? Your answers to these and similar questions might help determine which U.S. bar you should seek to join.

Why do we care what your goals are? For many reasons…

If your goals are to practice law in state X but you do not meet state X’s bar examination requirements at this moment, you might be able to join state Y’s bar first, and use Y’s bar admission to help you meet the requirements of state X so you can sit for state X’s bar exam.

If your goal is simply to become a member of any state bar (for example if you want this credential to help you in your non-U.S. law practice), your strategy would be different than if you wanted to join a state’s bar and then practice in that state or a different U.S. state.

Other tips

Commercial Bar Preparation Course. No matter which U.S. bar exam you wish to take, please enroll in a commercial bar review preparation course, preferably one that targets international LL.M. students. Your chances of passing the bar exam increase.

Pre-LL.M. Academic Program. If you are able to participate in a pre-LL.M. training course, please do so! This will help you get accustomed to the rigorous academic life at a U.S. law school before your academic year begins. You may gain an edge, be better prepared for your U.S. legal education, and hence be better prepared for the bar exam.

Plot your course of action early, and wisely. 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. If you have not yet completed your first law degree in your home country, you might consider taking steps to help ensure that your home-country education meets educational equivalency requirements of U.S. bars. You might consider a U.S. school’s LL.M. bar passage information when deciding which U.S. school to choose. Plot your future early, and wisely.