Many foreign-educated LL.M. students choose to sit for a bar examination in the United States upon completion of their Master of Laws studies. Each state has its own bar examination and its own bar admission rules. Most states require a U.S. J.D. degree to sit for the bar examination, however a few states, including New York and California, allow applicants to sit for the bar examination if they hold a foreign law degree and meet certain other requirements. If you are interested in sitting for the bar examination of any state, you should consult the bar examiners of that state to determine your eligibility.
Many of our foreign-trained LL.M. graduates choose to sit for the New York Bar Examination. If you are considering taking this exam, you should carefully read the information on the official website of the New York Board of Law Examiners of the State of New York (BOLE). In particular, note the link to "Foreign Legal Education" on the menu on the homepage of the BOLE website.
Please note that admission to our LL.M. program does not guarantee or in any way suggest eligibility to sit for the bar examination of New York or any other state. Additionally, while we endeavor to provide accurate and up-to-date information regarding bar examination requirements, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that your program of study fulfills all requirements for the New York bar.
The New York Court of Appeals sets forth the rules for admission of foreign-trained attorneys. Generally speaking, a foreign-trained attorney may qualify to sit for the New York Bar Examination if the following conditions are met:
(1) The applicant must hold a "Qualifying Degree." This means that the applicant must have "fulfilled the educational requirements for admission to the practice of law" in the foreign country. The "Qualifying Degree" must be in law and must be from a school that is accredited by the competent authority in the foreign country.
(2) The applicant's period of law study must be substantially and durationally equivalent to the legal education provided by an ABA-approved school in the U.S.
Most foreign-trained attorneys meet the first condition, but not the second. However, the Court of Appeals provides a way to "cure" a deficiency by way of a U.S. LL.M. degree (this provision is known as the "Cure" provision). The LL.M. degree can cure either a substantial or a durational deficiency (but not both), provided that the program of study meets certain requirements. Fordham Law School works closely with the New York Court of Appeals and the New York Board of Law Examiners to ensure that our program of study allows otherwise qualified students to fulfill these requirements.
It is important to note that the vast majority of applicants who are denied eligibility to sit for the New York Bar Examination are denied on the basis of their education in their home country, and not on the basis of their U.S. LL.M. degree (e.g., the applicant has not fulfilled some educational requirement for admission to the bar of their home country, or the applicant's program of study is both substantially and durationally insufficient, and thus cannot be remedied by the "Cure" provision). For this reason, if admission to the New York bar is important to you, you are advised to submit your Advance Evaluation of Eligibility (discussed below) well in advance of applying to the LL.M. program.
For additional information about the bar examination, please review the information below.
The "Cure" provision in Rule 520.6 requires that students take certain courses in their LL.M. degree program, as follows:
Note: The above table refers to the "Cure" provision in the new rules. LL.M. students who began their LL.M. studies prior to Fall 2012 should click on the "Previous NY Bar Rules" link to the left to view the course requirements applicable under the previous rules.
Prior to sitting for the New York bar examination, the BOLE must undergo an evaluation of your credentials to determine your eligibility for admission to the bar. The BOLE strongly encourages foreign students to submit this documentation one year in advance of the application period for the examination they wish to take. In order to apply to sit for the bar examination, the BOLE must have received both your online foreign evaluation form and all supporting documentation at least six months prior to the first day of the application filing period for the exam you wish to take. The bar examination is offered twice each year, in February and July. For applicants who wish to sit for the July bar examination, the online foreign evaluation and all related documentation must be received by the Board of Law Examiners no later than the previous October 1; for applicants who wish to sit for the February bar examination, the online foreign evaluation and all related documentation must be received by the Board of Law Examiners no later than May 1.
Please note that this is a lengthy and tedious process—do not wait until the last minute! If you have any questions about the process or the required documentation, you should contact the Board of Law Examiners directly at (518) 452-5729.
Although students generally do not begin formally studying for the bar examination until after graduation, Fordham Law School has arranged for two courses, Perspectives in U.S. Law (4 credits; typically offered every spring semester) and Fundamental Principles of New York Law (2 credits; typically offered in the fall semester), which are designed to assist foreign-trained law graduates planning to sit for the New York State Bar Examination. These courses are not a substitute for the commercial bar examination preparatory courses that students (J.D. and LL.M.) take in the months prior to the bar examination. However, we believe that they will be very helpful in familiarizing you with many areas of U.S. law that are tested heavily on the New York Bar Examination and that may not otherwise be part of your LL.M. studies. Foreign-trained students who plan to take the New York Bar Examination are encouraged to register for one or both of these courses. The courses cover different material and are designed to complement each other.
Following graduation, virtually all students who plan to sit for the bar examination (including both J.D. and LL.M. students) will take a commercial bar preparation course. The various companies that offer such courses will introduce themselves to you throughout your time here at Fordham. These courses typically begin a few days after the end of finals and continue until just before the bar examination.
The New York Bar Examination is offered twice a year, in February and July, on the final Tuesday and Wednesday of the month. The Application Filing Periods for the examinations are as follows:
Your Advance Evaluation of Eligibility must be APPROVED before you can submit an application to sit for the bar examination.
In addition to the Bar Examination, applicants wishing to be admitted to the New York bar must also take and pass the MPRE. Information regarding the MPRE is available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
The New York Court of Appeals recently approved a rule requiring that all applicants to the New York State Bar complete 50 hours of pro bono legal work. This rule goes into effect for all applicants who seek admission after January 1, 2015. Because of the lag time between sitting for the bar exam and acheiving admission to the bar, it is safe to assume that all applicants who sit for and pass the July 2014 bar exam or later will need to meet this requirement. Note that you need not have completed the 50 hours in order to sit for the bar exam; however, you must have completed the 50 hours in order to seek admission after passing both the bar exam and the MPRE.
The Court of Appeals has said that it will allow work performed in another country in fulfillment of the 50-hour pro bono requirement and that for foreign LL.M. students such work may be completed up to one year before beginning the LL.M. program. Therefore, we strongly encourage all students coming from abroad to reach out to public interest organizations engaged in legal work in their home countries to establish a relationship that will allow students to fulfill this requirement in due course (either before they begin the LL.M. program, during school breaks, or following the bar exam). We believe that this will provide the most abundant opportunities for LL.M. students to fulfill this obligation.
The law school is trying to find opportunities for LL.M. students to meet this requirement, however it will likely be impossible for us to find pro bono opportunities for all, or even most, of the LL.M. students who will sit for the New York bar exam. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to seek out and identify such opportunities.
For additional information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions document issued by the New York Court of Appeals. We advise you to review this document carefully so that you will understand completely the nature of the work you must perform and the supervision and reporting required. If you have any questions, you may contact the Board of Law Examiners directly.
Our program is not intended to meet the requirements to sit for the California Bar Examination and our course offerings may not satisfy the academic requirements of the California Bar. If you are considering applying to the California Bar, you should visit the website of the California bar examiners and review their requirements for foreign-educated applicants. Please note that Fordham does not offer any courses that cover California law to any significant extent.