Bar Information for International Lawyers
An LL.M. degree does not qualify foreign lawyers to practice law in the U.S. Each individual state in the U.S. regulates the admission of attorneys to the practice of law within its jurisdiction. The requirements for bar admission vary from state to state and are complex. A foreign LL.M. student who plans to sit for a bar exam in the U.S. must carefully investigate the relevant requirements prior to beginning their studies.
It is the responsibility of the applicant to read the information provided by the Board of Legal Examiners in the state where they want to sit the bar. It is the applicant’s responsibility to contact that state’s Board of Legal Examiners with any questions, submit all documents and fees in a timely manner, and complete any U.S. law courses required by that state’s Board of Legal Examiners. Each state has final authority to determine whether an applicant meets the requirements to sit its bar examination.
Traditionally, the two most common and easily accessible bar exams for foreign lawyers have been in California and New York. However, the Texas Board of Legal Examiners recently changed its qualifying rules and essentially established itself as one of the three most easily accessible bars for foreign lawyers. Many states have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”), which allows successful bar takers to apply to transfer their license between UBE states.
After extensive efforts by The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues from across the state, the Texas Board of Legal Examiners amended Rules I, II, III, XIII, XIV, XVII and XIX of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas. The changes became effective Oct. 1, 2014, and the rules (Rule XIII) governing the eligibility of foreign lawyers to sit the Texas Bar are now similar to the rules of the New York Bar; the Texas Bar is now one of the most accessible U.S. Bars for foreign lawyers who are either licensed to practice in their own country or have a first degree of law from a Common Law system. Texas Law is excited about this significant step forward in the globalization of legal education in the State of Texas. Starting February 2021, the Texas Bar will be part of the UBE.
New York Bar
The LL.M. Program at Texas Law has aligned its curricular programming with the curricular requirements of the New York Bar (and the Texas Bar), and all of the courses that foreign lawyers need to qualify for the New York Bar can be completed at Texas Law. Information for qualifying for the New York Bar can be found on the New York Law Examiners website. Additionally, LL.M. students have the opportunity to participate in our Pro Bono Program and to begin to accumulate the necessary 50 Pro Bono hours needed for eligibility to the New York Bar.
Under Rule 520.18, all LL.M. students admitted starting August 2018 will have to comply with the Skills Competency and Professional Values Bar Admission Requirement for admissions to the New York Bar. Our LL.M. students can fulfill this requirement following either of the following pathways: (1) LL.M.s have practiced law full-time for a year or more before starting the LL.M. degree (520.18(a)(5)) or (2) LL.M.s have completed a 6-month legal apprenticeship within 3 years after taking the New York Bar exam (520.18(a)(4)). The New York Bar exam is UBE.
LL.M. students who are admitted to practice law in jurisdictions outside the U.S. qualify for the general California Bar examination without any further study of law. LL.M. students with a first degree in law who are not admitted to practice law in jurisdictions outside the U.S. must complete certain curriculum requirements listed in Title 4, Chapter 2, Rule 4.30. The LL.M. program must contain four separate subjects tested on the California Bar examination of not less than a total of 12 semester or equivalent units. One of the four courses must be Professional Responsibility that covers the California Rules of Professional Conduct, relevant sections of the California Business and Professions Code, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and leading federal and state case law on the subject. Additional information about qualifying for the California Bar is available on the State Bar of California website.