Foreign Law Graduate Eligibility - New York Bar Exam
Foreign Applicant Eligibility
A foreign law graduate or attorney not admitted to practice law in any other (US) state may qualify to take the bar exam under the New York bar exam foreign law graduate eligibility rules. If you completed law school outside of the United States, or if you are licensed to practice law in a foreign country, you may be eligible to take the New York bar exam if your foreign law education satisfies certain criteria.
1. Foreign Law Graduate
The general requirements for you, as a foreign law graduate, to be eligible to take the New York bar exam include:
- Foreign Law Qualifying and Accredited Degree – You completed the educational requirements for admission to the practice of law in another country (qualifying to practice law in the country. Additionally, your educational program must have: 1) been in law; and 2) been at a school that is, and was at all times of your attendance, accredited by the licensing body in your country to award a first degree in law; and
- Substantive Equivalency – The foreign law school program you completed must be based on an “English Common Law” system and be “substantively equivalent” to the Juris Doctorate program at ABA approved law schools; and
- Durational Equivalency – The educational program must also be equivalent in duration to the Juris Doctorate program at ABA approved law schools. The Juris Doctorate program is generally a three-year full-time program or four-year part-time program.
LLM Degree from ABA Accredited Law School
If you are a foreign law graduate who also has an LLM degree from an ABA accredited law school(without a Juris Doctorate from an ABA law school), you can qualify to take the New York bar exam even if you do not satisfy one of the substantive or durational equivalency requirements (but not if you do not satisfy both of them).
2. Foreign Attorney Qualified by Law Study in School or Law Office
If you do not meet the requirements for a foreign law graduate, you may still be able to qualify to take the New York bar exam if you are admitted to practice law in another country. A person qualified to practice law in another country by law study in a school or law office may be eligible to take the New York bar exam under the following circumstances:
- Admission to Practice Law – You are admitted to practice law in a foreign country whose laws are based on English Common Law.
- Law School or Law Office – Your admission is based on law study in school and/or a law office.
- Durational Equivalency – The combination of law school and law office study is durationally equivalent to the program to obtain a Juris Doctorate degree from an ABA accredited law school.
- LLM Degree – You obtained a qualifying LLM degree from a ABA accredited law school.
As a practical matter, applicants qualifying under this rule permitting foreign attorneys to take the bar exam are solicitors or barristers in English Common Law jurisdictions who do not have a first degree in law. In most cases, these applicants are admitted in the foreign country by completing some combination of the following:
- the Common Professional Examination course,
- the Graduate Diploma in Law,
- the Bar Vocational Course,
- a practical skills course,
- a training contract (articles).
The aggregate of this law office study must meet the durational equivalency requirements set forth above. You will also need to obtain an LLM or Master of Laws degree program at an ABA approved law school.
Advance Evaluation of Eligibility
Foreign applicants seeking to qualify under these rules must complete a Foreign Evaluation Form (online) and submit supporting documentation including transcripts. Supporting documentation will be extensive and:
- must come directly from issuing institutions in sealed envelope.
- must be original or certified copy.
- must contain your applicant identification number.
- become property of the board.
Deadlines for Requesting Advance Evaluation of Eligibility
Applicants Relying in LLM Degree
If you are applying as a foreign applicant and require an LL.M. to qualify for the examination, then you must file a request for Advance Evaluation of Eligibility far in advance of the bar exam you intend to sit for. It can take as many as six months from receipt all required documentation to receive a decision. The board recommends that you seek the evaluation at least one year before taking the bar exam. However, you must submit all documentation at least six months before the day each exam’s application period opens. These dates are usually:
- February Exam – May 1 of Prior Year
- July Exam – November 1 of Prior Year
Applicants Relying in LLM Degree
If you are a foreign applicant not relying on an LLM degree from an ABA law school, then the board recommends that you file your online eligibility evaluation at least six months before the day that applications open for the exam. However, the absolute deadlines are:
- February Exam
Online Foreign Evaluation – November 30
Required Foreign Documentation – February 1
- July Exam
Online Foreign Evaluation – April 30
Required Foreign Documentation -June 15