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LLMs and the New York Bar
Every year, however, YLS has a few LLM students who decide to become licensed to practice law in the State of New York. These students typically pursue admission to the New York Bar for one of two reasons: either they believe that the credential will generally assist them in their future career endeavors, or they have or hope to obtain a position with a New York legal employer. Note that not all New York employers will require that LLMs be admitted to the New York Bar —for example, employers offering short-term internships or Visiting Associateships 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 or believe will be useful to you.
Given the rapidness with which bar examination and admissions Rules can change, particularly in light of the relatively new addition of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) to New York among other jurisdictions, we encourage you to consult the particular website of the New York State Board of Law Examiners in addition to the websites of any other U.S. bar jurisdictions in which you are particularly interested in order to be sure that you have the most accurate and up-to-date information.
In particular, students entering the YLS LLM program as of August 2018 should note the additional requirements for admission to the New York Bar found in Rule 520.18 of the Rules of the New York State Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law. (These new requirements are in addition to the 50-hour pro bono requirement found in Rule 520.16.) It is recommended that YLS LLM students interested in admission to the New York Bar who commence the LLM program on or after August 2018 consider Pathways Four and Five of Rule 520.18, which concern the fulfilment of the Rule’s eligibility requirement through legal apprenticeship and/or legal practice in another jurisdiction.
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
New York is now a Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) jurisdiction, which means that it administers the UBE, rather than a New York-specific bar examination. New York administers the UBE two times each year, in July and February, on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of those months.
The UBE consists of three components: the Multistate Bar Exam; the Multistate Performance Test; and the Multistate Essay Examination. A more detailed description of each is below. You can also visit the New York State Board of Law Examiners website for a complete description of the UBE and the New York-bar specific testing process and requirements.
- The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)—a six-hour, 200 multiple-choice question exam covering constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property and torts.
- The Multistate Essay Exam (MEE)—a three-hour, six-question essay exam, which may include questions about business associations, conflict of laws, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, family law, federal civil procedure, real property, torts, trusts and estates, and the Uniform Commercial Code.
- The Multistate Performance Test (MPT)-two 90-minute skills questions covering legal analysis, factual analysis, problem solving, identification and resolution of ethical dilemmas, organization and management of lawyering tasks, and written communication.
An applicant to the New York Bar who achieves a score of 266 or higher on the UBE may qualify for admission to the New York Bar if that applicant has also met other pertinent course- and exam-related requirements, including: completing an online course on New York-specific law (known as the New York Law Course, or NYLC); passing an examination on that New York-specific material (known as the New York Law Exam, or NYLE); and achieving a score of 85 or higher on the MPRE (the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam). The former two are discussed immediately below; the MPRE is also discussed infra.
As noted in the New York State Board of Law Examiners’ New York Bar Information Guide, the NYLC is an online and on-demand course which reviews what have been deemed important and unique aspects of New York law. It consists of approximately 15 hours of recorded lectures with embedded questions that must be answered correctly before an applicant can continue viewing the lecture.
The NYLC may be completed up to one year prior to, or three years subsequent to, passing the UBE. It is necessary for you to have completed the NYLC prior to your applying to the NYLE.
As also noted in the New York State Board of Law Examiners’ New York Bar Information Guide, the NYLE is a 50-item, two-hour, open-book, multiple choice test that is administered online in order to test knowledge of New York rules and law.
The NYLE is offered four times a year, and its registration deadlines tend to fall approximately a month prior to the exam dates. You can view the dates and times of upcoming NYLE administrations on the New York State Board of Law Examiners’ Dates of Exams webpage. According to this webpage, the four 2017 administration dates selected for the NYLE are:
- Thursday, March 16, 2017 (with a registration deadline of February 14, 2017)
- Thursday, June 15, 2017 (with a registration deadline of May 16, 2017)
- Thursday, September 14, 2017 (with a registration deadline of August 15, 2017)
- Thursday, December 14, 2017 (with a registration deadline of November 14, 2017)
The New York State Board of Law Examiners provides an overview of the requirements for foreign JD graduates on its website. 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 (see the link at Section 4 of the Modes of Qualifying for New York Bar Examination of the website of the New York Board of Law Examiners):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)(1).
- 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.
Applicants may cure durational or substantive deficiencies (but not both) by obtaining an LLM degree (Master of Law) at an ABA-approved law school in the United States.
- LLM degree. Applicants must successfully complete the requirements of and be awarded an LLM degree within 24 months of matriculation. A completed transcript showing that a qualifying LLM degree was awarded will be required before an applicant is qualified to sit for the bar exam.
- Minimum of 24 Semester Hours of Credit. The LLM 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.
- Period of Instruction. The LLM 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.
- Approved Law School. Approved law school means a United States law school approved by the ABA.
- 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 LLM degree. No credit is allowed for distance, correspondence or external study or for any DVD or online program or course.
- Required Coursework. The LLM degree program must include the below.
- at least two semester hours of credit in professional responsibility;
- 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);
- 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;
- at least six credits in subjects tested on the NYLE.
- Permissible Coursework. The LLM degree program may include:
- 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);
- 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 LLM or an affiliate school and the course is completed at a campus in the United States).
To ensure that your LLM coursework meets the requirements above, be sure to confer with the Graduate Programs Office. Please also note that, as mentioned above, admission to the New York bar also requires that applicants have accrued 24 units of classroom hours. You can review the Law School Registrar’s discussion of what sorts of courses go toward this classroom hour count.
Please consult the Graduate Programs Office’s memorandum concerning the particular YLS courses that satisfy the requirements laid out above, including, e.g., legal writing and analysis; American legal studies and the American legal system; and subjects tested on the NYLE. This will allow you to ensure that you are registering for courses that will enable you to sit for the New York Bar Exam. You should also feel free to speak with the Graduate Programs Office about your course schedule and the New York bar’s academic requirements.
As noted above, in addition to the classroom hour requirement, applicants to the New York bar must meet a special professional responsibility course requirement. The New York Court of Appeals has approved a number of Yale Law School courses as satisfying this 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 2017-2018 academic year, there are six courses offered at YLS that meet the special New York Professional Responsibility requirement.
Three such courses are offered in Fall 2017:
- Ethics Bureau at Yale: Pro Bono Professional Responsibility Advice and Advocacy (30166)
- History of the Common Law: Procedure and Institutions (20010)
- Legal Profession: Traversing the Ethical Minefield (20522)
Three such courses are offered in Spring 2018:
- Ethics Bureau at Yale: Pro Bono Professional Responsibility Advice and Advocacy (30166)
- Professional Responsibility (21382)
- Military Justice (21678)
Step 3: Complete Online Request for Foreign Evaluation of Academic Credentials (by October 1 if you wish to sit for the July Bar Examination)
New York requires you to request a review of your credentials to determine if you are in fact eligible to sit for the bar. This is done by completing an Advance Evaluation of Eligibility form (also termed an Evaluation of Foreign Academic Credentials form) for the New York Board of Law Examiners, and by submitting all required supporting documentation. More information about this requirement and relevant deadlines can be found on the New York State Board of Law Examiners website’s Foreign Legal Education webpage.
Because of the volume of these requests and their complexity, it can take up to six months from the date of the New York State Board of Law Examiners’s receipt of all required documentation for an eligibility determination to be made. The Board thus requires that applicants planning to sit for the February bar examination must have submitted this form and all required documentation by May 1 of the preceding calendar year; and applicants planning to sit for the July bar examination must examination must have submitted this form and all required documentation by October 1 of the preceding calendar year.
As described in more detail in the request and in Section 520.6, the following documents must accompany your request:
- Official transcripts from every law school attended
- Degree certificate
- Admission Certificate or other Alternative Documentation
- Written statement from the accrediting agency of your foreign government
- Proof of durationally equivalent legal education
- 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. Decisions will be sent by email.
Please see the website containing the Evaluation of Foreign Academic Credentials form, as well as New York State Board of Law Examiners website’s Foreign Legal Education webpage for details and information about how this documentation must be submitted, as well as for other further pertinent instructions.
Pursuant to Section 520.16 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law, applicants for admission to the New York State bar must perform 50 hours of pro bono services.
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 pro bono 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.
Please note that since Yale Law School is not the administrator of this 50-hour New York pro bono requirement, neither it nor its employees can officially verify or confirm that any particular activity will count toward the requirement’s fulfilment. Instead, you should direct any such inquiries to the New York State bar administrators, at ProBonoRule@nycourts.gov.
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 an exam consisting of 60 multiple choice questions that test your knowledge and understanding of the ethical standards of the legal profession. The passing score for New York is 85. The MPRE is offered three times per year, in March, August and November. Many students who plan to take the July bar examination choose to take the MPRE in March.
Further information about the MPRE and its registration deadlines is available on the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.
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, LLM students are strongly encouraged to enroll in a review course to help them prepare. A list of review courses is available on the FindLaw for Legal Professionals website. BAR/BRI and Themis Bar Review 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.
All applications to take the New York Bar must be sent no more than 120 days nor less than 90 days prior to the day of the examination. (As noted above, 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 New York State Board of Law Examiners website. The application fee, set by statute, is $750 for foreign-trained attorneys.
You are strongly encouraged to obtain a determination on your an Advance Evaluation of Eligibility Request 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.
Most LLM students taking the New York Bar study for the exam at YLS immediately after spring semester 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 New York bar 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 the New York State Board of Law Examiners website for a complete description of the bar exam and testing process.
A note about the UBE and foreign-trained attorneys: While generally recent UBE scores are transferable across jurisdictions (meaning that many bar applicants have the ability of sitting for the UBE in one UBE-administering jurisdiction and then transfer that score to another UBE-administering jurisdiction), the rules for whether a foreign-educated attorney may sit for any specific jurisdiction’s bar exam, whether or not that exam is the UBE, are jurisdiction-specific. Accordingly, while New York will in general accept an otherwise eligible UBE score that has been achieved in a jurisdiction other than New York, as a foreign-educated attorney, you may nonetheless not be eligible to actually sit for the UBE in that jurisdiction. It is also possible that your sitting for the UBE outside of New York would alter or complicate your admission process with the New York Bar.
Accordingly, at this time CDO recommends that LLM students who wish to be admitted to the New York Bar sit for the UBE in New York.
However, if you are interested in sitting for the UBE outside of New York, you should do two things: (1) research and then contact that jurisdiction’s Board of Law Examiners to determine your eligibility to do so; and (2) confer with the New York State Board of Law Examiners about your decision, confirm that your score will be transferable, and clarify how your taking the UBE outside of New York will impact, if at all, your eligibility for admission to the New York Bar, along with your required application and pre-application materials, including but not limited to the application for determination of foreign academic credentials with the New York State Board of Law Examiners.
Bar admission involves not only, e.g., passing the UBE, MPRE, and NYLE, and meeting the required LLM coursework and pro bono requirements, but also meeting the New York character and fitness requirement. New York 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 sitting for the UBE, 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 applications forms is available on the website of the New York State Board of Law Examiners.
Finally, you will be asked to appear for a personal interview by a member of the Committee on Character and Fitness.
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.
Updated August 2017