New York Bar Exam Requirements Foreign Lawyers

New York Bar Exam Complete Guide for Foreign Lawyers
Before delving into the specifics, it’s important for you to understand what the bar exam is, and how it differs from comparable exams in other countries. Each state in the United States (US) regulates the practice of law within the state. If you are licensed to practice law in New York, you will not automatically be licensed to practice law in California or any other state. Every state administers a bar exam as the main method of obtaining admission to the state bar (becoming licensed to practice law). Therefore, the bar exam is a licensing test for legal professionals seeking admission into a state bar. If you pass a bar exam in a state, such as New York, then you can continue the process of obtaining a license to practice law.   
Bar examination
After admission to the bar, an 18-month apprenticeship begins which is highly regulated under the auspices of Bar Syndicate Rules and supervision of an assigned First Degree Attorney. Trainees or apprentices must attend designated courts for designated weeks to hear cases and write case summaries. A logbook signed by the judge on the bench has to certify their weekly attendance. By the end of the eighteenth month, they are eligible to apply to take the Final Bar Exam by submitting their case summaries, the logbook and a research work pre-approved by the Bar. It is noteworthy, however, that during these 18 months, Trainees are eligible to have a limited practice of law under the supervision of their supervising Attorney. This practice does not include Supreme Court eligible cases and certain criminal and civil cases. Candidates will be tested on Civil law, Civil Procedure, Criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Commercial Law, Notary (including rules pertaining Official Documents, Land & Real Estate registrations and regulations etc.). Each exam takes two days, a day on oral examination in front of a judge or an attorney, and a day of essay examination, in which they will be tested on hypothetical cases submitted to them. Successful applicants will be honoured with the title of “First Degree Attorney”, after they take the oath and can practice in all courts of the country including the Supreme Court. Those who fail must redo the program in full or in part before re-taking the Final Bar Exam.
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Bar Admissions and Preparation Information for Foreign-Trained Lawyers
New York is a commonly selected jurisdiction which does permit foreign applications with only an LL.M. degree. Each year a group of University of Miami LL.M. graduates sit for the New York Bar Exam. The requirements for foreign-educated LL.M. students to seek admission to the New York Bar are complex, and depend upon the particular background and circumstances of each applicant. Additionally, a student’s course of study in the LL.M. program must adhere to certain guidelines (i.e., one must earn a specified minimum number of credits, and take particular courses while in the LL.M program). If an international student intends to seek admission to the New York bar following completion of an LL.M program, he or she should carefully read the New York State Board of Law Examiners Guide for Foreign Educated Students. Also required is completion of New York State’s online Foreign Evaluation Form.  
The New York Bar Exam: A Guide for Foreign Applicants
(i) New York Law Examination (NYLE): It comprises of 50 multiple choice questions. It is a 2-hour open book test and can be completed online. You can sit this exam four times annually. The New York Law Course prepares you for the exam and can be found free of charge on the New York Bar website ( It can be completed one year before the bar exam or three years’ after. The pass mark is 30/50. Subjects tested include; Administrative Law, Business Relationships, Civil Practice & Procedure, Evidence, Matrimonial & Family Law, Professional Responsibility, Real Property, Torts & Tort Damages and Trusts, Wills & Estates.
NY State Bar Exam for Foreigners
Anyone who has received a first degree in law from a foreign country and wishes to sit for the New York Bar Exam should first understand the rules for Bar Exam eligibility for foreign-educated attorneys and obtain an evaluation of his/her foreign credentials directly from the Board of Law Examiners. 
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Taking the New York Bar as a Foreign Lawyer
You’re sent an invitation in the mail which also includes a green sheet containing ‘tickets’ to the ceremony for you and two guests. On entering the venue, they did not rigorously check tickets and I understand it’s just an insurance policy against having an overwhelming turnout if people decide to bring the full extent of their family or if a large number of candidates are being sworn in that day and the building reaches capacity. Aside from those attending with their parents in tow, most people attended with maybe just one guest, if any (there was definitely a greater number of ‘newly minted lawyers’ in attendance in comparison to the number of guests). Although the guests had to be there early and it seemed like probably a boring process for them, the ceremony has a lot of gravitas to it. You get a perfectly composed speech by an Appellate Court judge and some unusual pomp thrown in there too. Everyone, including the court bailiffs are in high spirits and rise to the occasion. My ‘guest’ enjoyed it. This was the first and only time he’d set foot in a courtroom and I think he found it an enriching opportunity. It was also a nice way to share the milestone with him, especially considering how indebted I am to him for helping me pass the exam.
The New York Bar Examination is the most popular bar examination for foreign trained attorneys. The New York Board of Law Examiners is the only entity that can deem an individual qualified to sit for the New York Bar Exam. Some individuals from common law countries may be found eligible to sit for the New York Bar Exam based solely on their first law degree. Most individuals, however, will need to finish the requirements of the LLM degree and plan their curriculum carefully to meet the coursework required to be eligible to sit for the exam. If you wish to sit for the New York Bar Exam, it is your responsibility to review the state’s eligibility rules for foreign trained attorneys (see §520.6 of the Rules of the Court of appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law 22 NYCRR §520.6)).
Bar Examination for Foreign-Trained Lawyers
To review information about the New York bar exam, eligibility of foreign-trained lawyers for the Exam, and requirements for New York bar admission please visit the Law School’s Records and Registration site.
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Taking the bar as a Foreign Lawyer
Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult for foreign-trained lawyers to sit the bar exam in the US. Completion of the LL.M. degree in itself does not guarantee eligibility to take the bar exam. Most states do require a J.D. degree for a US law school in order to sit for the bar exam. There are some states which do allow foreign law graduates to sit for the bar exam, including New York, California, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Virginia. In this case, however, foreign-educated lawyers must begin the process by getting their law degree reviewed and analyzed by the American Bar Association, and it can take up to a year to before the foreign law credentials are even assessed. Once reviewed, the application is either accepted or deferred. If accepted, foreign lawyers are allowed to sit for that state’s bar exam in much the same way a domestic applicant would. In New York, one of the jurisdictions most open to foreign lawyers, this would allow foreign lawyers to sit for the bar without being forced to complete any further law school study in the US.
Bar Exam Requirements
The MBE portion of the exam is reported on a scale ranging from 0 to 2,000. The written portion of the exam is graded out of 1,000 possible points (100 points for each of the 6 essays + 200 points for each of the 2 performance tests), which is then converted to a 2,000-point scale comparable to the MBE portion. Each 2,000-point portion of the exam is weighted as follows: MBE (35%) Written (65%). A final score of 1440 or higher is a passing score. If an applicant’s score falls just short of a 1440, their exam will go through a second reading by different graders just to make sure they receive an accurate score.
New York Bar Exam for Foreign Attorneys
For practitioners from countries in which civil law is the prevailing legal system, deep study of the common law system in the U.S. is a must. In civil law systems, laws are codified, and code is the primary source of legal authority. In the U.S., on the other hand, a common law system adds judicial opinions as a major source of authority, in addition to some codified law. Understanding how to research and provide guidance in a common law framework is critical to practicing law in American jurisdictions such as New York, and can be helpful in structuring the written portion of the NYSBE. This is because, while much of bar study involves rote memorization of legal standards, written applicant responses on the exam itself require rhetorical devices and structuring that one will find repeated throughout many judicial opinions.
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Foreign Lawyer Bar Program
You can take the courses you need to meet this bar exam requirement through New England Law’s Foreign Lawyer Bar Program. These courses include topics such as constitutional law, criminal law, and commercial law. Our knowledgeable and supportive faculty and staff will ensure you are prepared for this critical exam.
US Bar Exam FAQ
The courses must be in “professional law” subjects, rather than independent study or non-law subjects. At least two courses must be in subjects that are tested on the New York bar exam (known under the New York Rules as “basic courses in American law”). Under New York Board of Law Examiners rules, these subjects are: business relationships; conflict of laws; constitutional law (New York and federal); contracts; criminal law and procedure; evidence; family law; New York and federal civil jurisdiction and procedure; professional responsibility; real property; remedies; torts (including statutory no-fault provisions); trusts, wills and estates; and Uniform Commercial Code articles 2, 3 and 9. To determine exactly which courses are acceptable, you may want to check with your university.
New York Bar Exam Reciprocity
In practice, reciprocity is more complex than described in the example because jurisdictions having “reciprocity” typically impose certain conditions in addition to the attorney being licensed in the other jurisdiction.  A common condition requires that the attorney have practiced law in the other jurisdiction for a specified number of years.
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Using the LL.M. to Take the American Bar Exam
Of course, it can be difficult for students to parse all of these requirements, as well as study for the bar, all by themselves, especially when J.D. students have three years to prepare compared to the one year granted to most LL.M. students. That’s why many schools offer specific resources for LL.M. students to prepare to qualify for and take the bar. Boston University distributes a memo to its LL.M. students about how they can gain eligibility for and pass the New York Bar. Schools such as Penn State Law and Columbia Law School post detailed information about qualifying for the bar on their websites. In Georgia, a state where foreign lawyers must have already gained eligibility to practice law in their home country before sitting the bar exam in the US, Georgia State Law offers an LL.M. with a special bar preparation track. And law prep companies Kaplan and Barbri offer bar review courses specifically geared towards LL.M. students.