New York Bar Requirements

New York is the most popular jurisdiction for foreign-trained attorneys who aim to seek admission into the practice of law in one of the States.  The official website detailing eligibility requirements for those trained abroad is: http://www.nybarexam.org/Foreign/ForeignLegalEducation.htm.

Below is a summary of the steps a foreign-trained attorney must take in order to 1) sit for the New York Bar Exam and 2) be admitted to practice.

ALL foreign trained attorneys interested in the New York Bar must create a New York State Board of Law Examiners (“BOLE”) account using a valid email address and then must submit an online request for evaluation of academic credentials. Several documents must be submitted after completing the request for evaluation form.

  • Official Transcript(s).  You will need an official transcript issued directly from every law school attended that includes the dates of attendance for each period of study, the courses taken and passed for each period of study, the grades, the degree awarded, and the date the degree was awarded.
  • Degree Certificate. If the official transcript does not clearly state the degree awarded and/or the date such degree was awarded, you must also furnish the degree certificate.
  • Proof of fulfillment of the educational requirements for admission to the practice of law in the foreign country.
    (a) If you are admitted to practice law in a foreign country, attach a copy of your admission certificate, OR
    (b) If you are not admitted to practice law in a foreign country, submit proof of the educational requirements for admission to practice law in your country and proof from the bar admission authorities that you have fulfilled these requirements.
  • Accreditation. Submit a written statement from the competent accrediting agency of your foreign government that the law school or schools you attended were recognized by them as qualified and approved throughout your period of study.
  • NOTE: All documentation must be original (or copies certified directly by the issuing school or institution) and issued directly from the issuing institutions and/or government agencies. Each document needs to be in a sealed envelope (you can then send each sealed envelope along with your other application materials directly to the NY Bar). Faxed copied, photocopies certified by a notary public, and/or photocopies certified any anyone other than an official of the issuing school or institution will NOT be considered.

The deadline that is enforced by BOLE for the online foreign evaluation form AND all documents is October 1st, 2014 for applicants to be qualified to sit for the July 2015 exam date. The above requirements are enumerated in Section 520.6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law (22 NYCRR 520.6).

It generally takes longer than six months to receive a decision from BOLE regarding one’s qualification to sit for the New York State Bar Exam, thus those interested are advised to submit the required form and documents well before the October 1st, 2014 deadline. Applicants that “qualify” to sit for the exam by BOLE will fall into one of three categories:

 Deficiency Example 
Possesses a background that presents   neither  a “durational” nor a   “substantive” deficiency. A law graduate trained in the common law   who holds a 3-year LL.B.
Possesses a background that presents a   “durational” deficiency. A non-traditional law graduate trained in   the common law who holds a 2-year “Conversion” LL.B. and has met   training and Bar admission requirements in a foreign country
Possesses a background that presents a   “substantive” deficiency. A law graduate trained in the civil law   who holds a 3-year LL.B.

To “cure” either deficiency, you must:

  • Complete a U.S. LL.M. degree program
  • Take a minimum of 24 semester credit hours, with no more than four of those hours being counted from summer courses.
  • All 24 semester credit hours must be from “classroom” courses. Research, thesis and externship hours (among other categories) do not counts as classroom hours.
  • All 24 semester credit hours must be from the same degree program
  • Credits accumulated through part-time study are acceptable only if earned within 24 months
  • A maximum of four credits can come from clinical courses
    • Take 12 semester credit hours of approved courses.
    • At least two semester credit hours in professional responsibility/legal ethics
    • At least two semester credit hours in legal research, writing and analysis
    • At least two semester credit hours in American legal studies
    • At least six semester credit hours in subjects tested on the New York bar exam

Once qualified, one must then register for the exam. The registration period for the July 2015 is the month of April 2015. Registration occurs online and requires payment of a $750 non-refundable fee. Applicants are strongly advised to wait until they have received a determination on qualification before submitting an application to sit for the examination and paying the $750 application fee. It is strictly non-refundable.

EFFECTIVE January 1, 2015, candidates for admission to the New York State Bar must complete at least 50 hours of law-related pro bono work that can be done either in the U.S. or abroad. One can take the exam prior to completing the hours, but the pro bono supervisor(s) must fill out a form confirming service prior to the candidate being sworn in. For more information visit http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf

New York also requires that candidates for admission take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), prior to being certified by the Board to the Appellate Division.*  The minimum passing score in New York for the MPRE is 85. This test can be taken before or after the New York State Bar Examination, however, candidates must pass the MPRE within three years either before or after passing the bar examination.

 

* Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE):

The MPRE is administered three times each year, in March, August and November. Applications and information regarding the MPRE is available from NCBE at http://www.ncbex.org/about-ncbe-exams/mpre/.