An applicant seeking eligibility to sit for the exam must satisfy the New York Bar Exam eligibility requirements. New York Board of Bar Examiners is the administrative organization that is charged with enforcing the New York bar exam eligibility requirements. Applicants often ask if they are required to attend law school to be eligible to sit for the New York bar exam. In short, every method for qualifying to sit for the New York bar exam requires some study in law school. There are four alternative New York bar exam eligibility requirements in order to sit for the New York bar exam.
- Obtain a Juris Doctorate degree from an American Bar Association (ABA) approved law school.
- A combination of law school study and law office study
- Unapproved law school study and practice in another jurisdiction
- Foreign law school study
- Pro Bono Scholars Program
Most applicants taking the New York bar exam have qualified by satisfying the eligibility requirement of obtaining a Juris Doctorate degree from a law school approved by the ABA. The law school must, at all times during the period of the applicant’s attendance, have been approved by the ABA.
Law Office Study/Clerkship
An applicant may also satisfy the New York bar exam eligibility requirements by completing a combination of law school study at an ABA approved law school and law office study.
Unapproved Law School Study
Another method for meeting the New York bar exam eligibility requirements is obtaining a Juris Doctorate degree from a law school that has not been approved by the ABA. However, the applicant must have been admitted, and practiced law, in another jurisdiction for at least five of seven years preceding the application to take the New York bar exam.
Foreign Law School Study
Many foreign attorneys become eligible to take the New York bar exam by studying law outside of the United States. The foreign law school program must be “substantively equivalent” to the Juris Doctorate program at ABA approved law schools. The program must also be equivalent in duration. The New York examiners may also require the applicant to complete additional study at an ABA approved law school in order to obtain eligibility.
Pro Bono Scholars Program
During an applicant’s final year in a Juris Doctor degree program of an ABA approved law school, the applicant may have eligibility to sit for the February New York bar exam in exchange for devoting his last semester to providing pro bono (i.e., free) legal services through an approved program.