5 easiest states for foreign-trained attorneys to take the bar exam

While there are 28 states where foreign-trained attorneys could potentially take the bar exam, only five jurisdictions make it easy for U.S. LL.M. graduates. California, New York, Washington and Wisconsin make it easy, but each state still has specific requirements. Georgia changed its rules earlier this year to join the list.

California

The California State Bar grants foreign law school graduates eligibility to take the bar exam if they have earned an LL.M. degree or an additional one-year of study at an ABA-approved or California-accredited law school in bar examination subject matter. LL.M. degrees or the additional year of study must be completed with a minimum of 20 units with a course in four sections tested on the California bar exam. One of the four courses must be in areas of professional responsibility, California Business and Professions Code, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct or case law studies. Click here for more detailed rules.

New York

In most cases, foreign law graduates with an LL.M. earned at an ABA-approved law school qualify to sit for the bar exam in New York state. The student’s foreign law degree must be based on the principles of English Common Law and must be the “substantial” equivalent of a legal education earned by an ABA-approved law school in America. Accelerated or summer programs are not recognized. Students must seek an Advance Evaluation of Eligibility from the Board. The process can take up to six months so students are advised to seek evaluation one year before taking the bar exam. Students must be awarded their LL.M. degree within 24 months of matriculation. LL.M. programs must consist of a minimum of 24 semester hours of credits with a minimum of 700 minutes of instruction time per credit. Click here for more detailed rules.

Washington

Foreign law graduates with an LL.M. degree for the practice of law in the United States must complete specific types of instruction to qualify for admission to the Washington State Bar. LL.M. degrees must be earned at a law school approved by the Board of Governors with a minimum of 18,200 minutes of instruction and at least 12,000 minutes of instruction on principles of domestic U.S. law. Those 12,000 minutes are broken up into four areas of instruction including U.S. constitutional law, civil procedure of state and federal courts, legal writing and research. Click here for more detailed rules.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin granted bar exam eligibility to foreign law graduates with an American LL.M. degree in 2012. Students must complete an LL.M. program at an American law school with a minimum of 700 minutes of instruction for one semester hour of credit. The program must be completed within 24 months of matriculation and be no less than two semesters of at least 13 weeks each. Students must take a minimum of two credit hours in ethics, legal research and writing, and American legal studies. Additionally, students must complete six semester hours in fundamental substantive courses. Click here for more detailed rules.

Georgia

There are three requirements before a foreign-trained attorney can take the state bar exam. First, they received their legal education from a foreign law school that is government sanctioned or recognized; or that is recognized by an evaluation body; or is chartered to award the first professional degree in law by the appropriate authority within the country. 

Second, the applicant is authorized to practice law in a foreign jurisdiction. Third, the applicant received an LL.M degree for the practice of law in the U.S. The program should prepare students for admission to the bar and for effective and responsible participation in the U.S. legal profession.