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LLMs and the New York Bar

Every year YLS has a few LLM students who decide to become licensed to practice law in the State of New York. These students typically take the NY Bar Exam for one of two reasons: either they have or hope to obtain a position with a New York legal employer or they believe that the credential will generally assist them in their future career endeavors. Not all New York employers will require that LLMs be admitted —for example, employers offering short-term internships do not typically require bar admission. So before jumping into this process, be sure you have a clear understanding of whether this is a credential that you truly need.

Table of Contents
Overview of the Exam
Step 1: Determine your Eligibility
Step 2: Select Courses that Meet the Requirements Set Forth in Section 520.6
Step 3: Complete Online Request for Foreign Evaluation of Academic Credentials
Step 4: Be Aware of the New Pro Bono Requirement
Step 5: Decide When to Take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
Step 6: Sign up for a Bar Review Course
Step 7: Complete a Bar Exam Application
Step 8: Study and Take the Exam
Step 9: Complete Application for Admission/Character and Fitness Investigation
Step 10: Attend Swearing In Ceremony


Overview of the Exam

The New York bar exam is offered twice each year, in July and February and is given over a two-day period. It is always offered on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of those months. The first day of the exam consists of five essay questions, 50 multiple-choice questions, and one Multistate Performance Test (MPT) question. The second day is the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), a six-hour, 200-question multiple choice exam covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, and real property. Visit www.nybarexam.org/TheBar/TheBar.htm for a complete description of the bar exam and testing process.

Step 1: Determine your Eligibility

Determine whether you qualify to sit for the NY State Bar by visiting the Board of Law Examiners website (www.nybarexam.org) and clicking the links to “foreign legal education” and “Court Rules –Sect. 520”. In summary, according to Section 520.6 of the Rules of the New York State Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law, foreign JD graduates must meet the following requirements to be eligible to sit for the bar:

1. Qualifying Degree – Section 520.6(b)(1). The foreign-educated applicant must have fulfilled the educational requirements for admission to the practice of law in a foreign country other than the United States. The applicant must have a qualifying degree, which must be a degree in law.
2. Accreditation – Section 520.6(b)(1). The qualifying degree must be from a law school or schools recognized by a competent accrediting agency of the government of the foreign country and must be deemed qualified and approved.
3. Durational Equivalence – Section 520.6(b)(1)(i)(a). The applicant’s period of law study must be successfully completed. The program of study must also be “substantially” equivalent in duration to a full-time or part-time program required at a law school in the United States approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and in substantial compliance with the instructional and academic calendar requirements of Sections 520.3(c)(1)(i) and (ii) and 520.3(d)(2).
4. Substantial Equivalence – Section 520.6(b)(1)(i)(b). The foreign country’s jurisprudence must be based upon the principles of the English Common Law, and the “program and course of law study” successfully completed by the applicant must be the “substantial” equivalent of the legal education provided by an ABA-approved law school in the United States.

Cure Provision: Applicants may cure durational or substantive deficiencies (but not both) by obtaining an LL.M. degree (Master of Law) at an ABA-approved law school in the United States.

1. LL.M degree. Applicants must successfully complete the requirements of and be awarded an LL.M. degree within 24 months of matriculation. A completed transcript showing that a qualifying LL.M degree was awarded will be required before an applicant is qualified to sit for the bar exam.
2. Minimum of 24 Semester Hours of Credit. The LL.M. degree program must consist of a minimum of 24 semester hours of credit or the equivalent thereof if the law school is on an academic schedule other than a conventional semester system. All 24 credits (except as otherwise permitted) must be in courses requiring classroom instruction with a minimum of 700 minutes of instruction time per credit, exclusive of examination time.
3. Period of Instruction. The LL.M degree program must take place over at least two semesters of at least 13 calendar weeks each, or the equivalent, exclusive of reading periods, examinations and breaks. The program cannot be completed exclusively during summer semesters; however, a maximum of four credits may be earned in summer courses. The program must be completed within 24 months of matriculation.
4. Approved Law School. Approved law school means a United States law school approved by the ABA.
5. All coursework to be completed in the United States. All coursework must be physically completed at the campus of the ABA-approved law school in the United States. ANY class taken at a law school’s campus in a foreign country does NOT qualify toward the 24-credit requirement for the LL.M. degree. No credit is allowed for distance, correspondence or external study or for any DVD or online program or course.
6. Required Coursework. The LL.M degree program must include:
i. at least two semester hours of credit in professional responsibility;
ii. at least two credits in a legal research, writing and analysis course (which may NOT be satisfied by a research and writing requirement in a substantive course);
iii. at least two credits in a course on American legal studies, the American legal system or a similar course designed to introduce students to U.S. law;
iv. at least six credits in subjects tested on the New York bar examination (business relationships including agency, business corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships and joint ventures; civil practice and procedure (New York, except as noted); conflict of laws; New York and federal constitutional law; contracts and contract remedies; criminal law and procedure; evidence; matrimonial and family law; professional responsibility; real property; torts and tort damages; trusts, wills and estates; administrative law; and UCC Articles 2 and 9). The principal focus of the course shall include material contained in the Content Outline published by the Board.
7. Permissible Coursework. The LL.M. degree program may include:
i. a maximum of four credits in clinical courses (so long as the clinic course has a classroom component, any clinical work is performed under direct supervision of a non-adjunct faculty member and the educational benefit is commensurate with credit awarded);
ii. a maximum of six credits in other courses related to legal training (so long as the course is taught by a faculty member at law school awarding the LL.M. or an affiliate school and the course is completed at a campus in the United States).

Step 2: Select Courses that Meet the Requirements Set Forth in Section 520.6

To ensure that your LLM coursework meets the requirements above, be sure to confer with the Graduate Programs Office. With regard to the Professional Responsibility requirement in particular, The New York Court of Appeals has approved a number of Yale Law School courses as satisfying the professional responsibility requirement. Please note that while courses which satisfy the New York Board of Law Examiners’ professional responsibility requirement will also satisfy the Yale Law School professional responsibility requirement, not all classes which satisfy the Yale Law School professional responsibility requirement will also satisfy the New York Board of Law Examiners’ requirement.

For the 2014-2015 academic year, there are eight courses offered at YLS that meet the special New York Professional Responsibility requirement. Three such courses are offered in fall 2014: [The] American Profession (20439); Ethics Bureau at Yale: Pro Bono Professional Responsibility Advice (20604); and Legal Profession: Traversing the Ethical Minefield (20522). Five such courses are offered in spring 2015: Challenges of a General Counsel: Lawyer as Leader (21664); Ethics Bureau at Yale: Pro Bono Professional Responsibility Advice (21653); History of the common Law: Procedure and Institutions (21531); Military Justice (21678); and Professional Responsibility (21297).

Step 3: Complete Online Request for Foreign Evaluation of Academic Credentials

Applicants relying on the “cure” provision of 520.6 must complete an Online Request for Foreign Evaluation of Academic Credentials. It is recommended that this occur before commencement of the LL.M. program and at least one year in advance of applying to sit for the bar examination. The online evaluation is available at www.nybarapply.org/feval/. As described in more detail in the Request, the following documents must accompany your Request:

1. Official transcripts from every law school attended
2. Degree certificate
3. Admission Certificate or other Alternative Documentation
4. Written statement from the accrediting agency of your foreign government
5. Proof of durationally equivalent legal education
6. English translation

These supporting documents must consist of originals or copies certified directly from the issuing institution. Therefore, you must obtain these documents from the law schools where you studied as well as from the relevant bar offices abroad that may have admitted you to the practice of law. Requests will only be reviewed after all supporting documentation is received and will take 10-12 weeks. Decisions will be sent by email.

Step 4: Be Aware of the New Pro Bono Requirement

In September of 2012, the New York State Court of Appeals adopted a new rule, Section 520.16 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law, which requires applicants for admission to the New York State bar to perform 50 hours of pro bono services. This rule applies to every applicant admitted to the New York State Bar on or after January 1, 2015. The required pro bono work may be completed within or outside the United States at any time after the commencement of an applicant’s legal studies and prior to an applicant’s filing of an application for admission to the New York State bar. (Thus you may elect to determine if you have passed the New York bar examination before you engage in qualifying pro bono work, but the 50-hour requirement must be completed before applying for admission.) The qualifying work must be performed under the supervision of a faculty member of law school instructor; an attorney admitted to practice and in good standing; or, in the case of an internship with a court, under a judge or attorney employed by the court system. Every applicant for admission will be required to file an Affidavit of Compliance with this pro bono requirement, describing the nature and dates of pro bono service and the number of hours completed. For more information about the Pro Bono requirement please visit www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf.

Step 5: Decide When to Take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

In addition to taking the Bar Exam, before you can be sworn into the New York state bar you also have to take and pass the professional responsibility test, known as the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). You are NOT required to take the MPRE prior to sitting for the New York bar exam. The MPRE is a test consisting of 60 multiple choice questions that tests your knowledge and understanding of the ethical standards of the legal profession. The passing score for New York is 85. The test is offered three times per year, in March, August and November. Many students choose to take the exam in March. Information about the exam and registration deadlines is available at www.ncbex.org by clicking the link to the MPRE.

Step 6: Sign up for a Bar Review Course

Most students who sit for the bar take a review course in the summer prior to the exam. Because the bar examination is very rigorous, LL.M. students are strongly encouraged to enroll in a review course to help them prepare. A list of review courses is available at http://stu.findlaw.com/thebar/barreview.html. BAR/BRI (www.barbri.com) and Themis Bar Review (www.themisbar.com) are popular courses at YLS. Some programs offer review courses specifically for foreign attorneys. Although these services are expensive, some employers (typically larger law firms) will pay for their recruits to take a bar review course. These review programs can also assist you in preparing for the MPRE exam.

Step 7: Complete a Bar Exam Application

All applications to take the New York Bar must be postmarked no more than 120 days nor less than 90 days prior to the day of the examination. Most students sit for the July exam, although there is also an exam offered each February. The application is made available in the spring semester and may be completed online at the Board’s website (www.nybarexam.org) by clicking “Bar Exam Applications and Forms”. You are strongly encouraged to obtain a determination on your Request for Evaluation prior to submitting an application to sit for the bar exam. Should you receive confirmation of your eligibility, you should attach that information to your application. If you have not heard back from the Board, provide that information in your cover letter. However, if you apply to the bar prior to receiving a determination on eligibility, you will not be refunded or credited if the determination cannot be made in time or you are deemed ineligible.

Step 8: Study and Take the Exam

Most LL.M. students taking the NY Bar study for the exam at the law school immediately after finals are finished until the date of the exam. Some students opt to study in the privacy of their own homes, while others watch videotaped courses with other students at the law school.

The exam is always held in Albany, New York City and Buffalo, NY. The address that you provide for your legal residence on the Bar Exam Application will, in most instances, determine the location of the testing center to which you will be assigned. Visit www.nybarexam.org/TheBar/TheBar.htm for a complete description of the bar exam and testing process.

Step 9: Complete Application for Admission/Character and Fitness Investigation

Bar admission involves not only passing the bar exam, but also meeting the character and fitness requirement. The state’s Board of Law Examiners must be satisfied that your background meets certain standards of conduct. To assess these qualities, you will be required to provide detailed information about your background. If the bar examiners believe that the information you provide reflects poorly on your character or fitness, they will require additional investigation.

Shortly after the bar examination, you will receive admission application forms from the Supreme Court, Appellate Division. These application forms serve as the basis for inquiry by the Committees on Character and Fitness into your character and fitness to be a member of the Bar. The Application for Admission Questionnaire seeks information on the following topics: education and employment history; bar admissions; U.S. military record; criminal record; civil matters; child support; financial defaults; licenses; prior oaths or codes of professional responsibility. In addition, you will be required to submit: two good moral character affidavits from persons who have been known to you for not less than two years; a form affidavit for each law-related employment or period of solo practice completed by your employer(s); and a form law school certificate complete by YLS.

A link to these application forms is available at www.nybarexam.org/Admission/Admission.htm by clicking on the “Multi-Department Admission Packet” tab.

Finally, you will be asked to appear for a personal interview by a member of the Committee on Character and Fitness.

Step 10: Attend Swearing In Ceremony

Congratulations! After successfully navigating Steps 1–9 you are now eligible to be sworn in before the court at a special ceremony, the date of which will be determined by the New York State of Law Examiners.

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-Updated June 2014