How do Foreign Law Students Tackle the Bar Exam in the United States?


In this globalized world in which we live, more and more lawyer-to-bee’s from all over the world appear for the Bar Exam of some state in the United States. Whether you want to practice in the United States or manifest your skills in the international market, being admitted to practice law in the United States is an excellently valued cover letter in any legal market. But there are many more hurdles that arise for foreigners seeking to pass the tedious process of becoming an attorney. 

No all states are equal when it comes to the Bar Exam. Foreign law students usually choose California or New York for a very obvious reason: they can apply without having their Juris Doctor (the equivalent of a Law Degree). Unlike most states, both in California and New York, foreign lawyers can take the Bar Exam after completing a Master of Laws (LLM) at a university recognized by the American Bar Association. The master can deal with any area of ​​law but it must contain specific subjects to meet the requirements for the Bar Exam. 

In all states and territories, the exam is almost the same, the exam consists of two parts that take place on two consecutive days. The first day consists of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a multiple choice test of 200 questions where cases that deal with common subject in all the United States are raised. The second day is the state part of the exam, where you examine the laws of the state where you are doing the Bar. Some states include a second part a Performance Test (PT) where the applicant has to demonstrate her abilities as a future lawyer, they will prepare some type of legal document such as an agreement with the opposing party or an affidavit. The exam is administered twice a year, in February and in July, except in Puerto Rico where the calls are in March and in September. Many opt to study personal injury soon thereafter, since it can be a lucrative trade to engage in, especially early on in one’s career.

Due to the great demand that exists especially in New York, a large number of academies have emerged that are dedicated to preparing foreign lawyers, even so, many foreign students use the same preparation courses as American students with the same results. These courses or “bar review courses” are essential for both American and foreign students, since they synthesize all the material leaving aside all material not relevant for the exam.

Many foreigners debate which state they want to practice in. If their goal is to demonstrate skills in the international market, any state will serve this purpose. Even so, foreign lawyers who seek to access the legal profession via the LLM are limited, since they can only be presented in New York and California and between these two options, almost everyone chooses New York, since it is more “easy” and in addition it is the capital of the international practice of the law in the United States. Approximately 70% of American applicants pass the Bar Exam the first time, while for foreign applicants the percentage drops to 31%.

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