Can LL.M. students get admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court?

By Desiree Jaeger-Fine 

In the early 16th century, a railing divided the hall inside a courtroom, with students sitting in the body of the hall and readers or benchers on the other side. Those students who officially became lawyers were "called to the bar," thereby crossing the symbolic physical barrier. They were admitted to the bar.[1]

If you are an LL.M. student and would like to cross the physical barrier to a state bar, you must fulfill the requirements of each state’s bar admission rules. These rules vary from state to state, thanks to federalism. Only a handful of states allow LL.M. graduates who do not hold a U.S. J.D. degree to be admitted to the bar, the most popular among those being New York and California.

Admission to a state bar, however, does not automatically entitle an LL.M. graduate to practice in federal courts, such as the Supreme Court of the United States.

If you wish to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, you must apply to do so. You must fill out an application in which you certify that you have been admitted to the bar of the highest court of a state for at least three years immediately before the date of application, and that you are in good standing. To substantiate this claim, a certificate of good standing from the presiding judge, clerk, or other authorized official of the highest court of a State must be submitted. The application must further be sponsored by two attorneys who personally know but are not related to you, and who are already admitted to the Supreme Court bar.

On the application form, you can elect to be admitted on written oath or in open court. If you elect to be admitted on written oath, you do not need to come to the Court but instead sign the oath on the application. If you elect to be admitted in open court, you will have the honor of standing in the Supreme Court of the United States and say the following:

 

I, ______, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as an attorney and as a counselor of this Court, I will conduct myself uprightly and according to law, and that I will support the Constitution of the United States.

 

The fee for admission is $200. Upon admission, you will get a bar certificate evidencing admission to the Supreme Court.

Yes, as an LL.M. graduate you can be admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. But why would you want to be? The obvious reason is if you have business before the Court. Beyond that, public seating in the Supreme Court is extremely limited and available on a first-come, first-seated basis. Members of the public generally must begin standing in line hours before the arguments. Members of the Supreme Court bar, on the other hand, have their own section in the courtroom. The seating is also superior. According to the Court’s website, attorneys who are admitted as members of the Supreme Court Bar may be seated in the chairs just beyond the bronze railing, directly behind the arguing attorney. Additionally, members of the Court have access to the court’s library.

Finally, to be admitted to the highest court of the country, after only studying for about a year in this U.S., is an incomparable honor. Imagine yourself standing in the Supreme Court of the United States, saying the oath, and giving your LL.M. experience the final touch.

[1] https://www.etymonline.com/word/bar?ref=etymonline_crossreference#etymon...


Desiree Jaeger-Fine is principal of Jaeger-Fine Consulting, LLC, a career management firm for international attorneys in New York, and author of "A Short & Happy Guide to Networking" (West Academic Publishing) and "A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired" (West Academic Publishing).