Alternative Careers for Lawyers

American Bar

Between 4,000 & 5,000 foreign-trained law graduates take the US Bar exam every year.

Because America has a federal system you can practise law in any one state if you have passed that state's bar exam or have reciprocity having passed another, usually neighbouring, state's bar exam.

There is no need to serve a training contract - once you are sworn in you can put a plaque outside your office.

Each state has different eligibility requirements and you need to check with the state's Bar Association what those requirements are before applying for that 'Bar Review Course', as it's called.

For example, an LLB may be all that's required (e.g. New York - NB conversion course qualifieds are not eligible to sit the NY Bar), or existing professional qualification in a common-law jurisdiction (e.g. California), or a certain number of years PQE in a common law jurisdiction (e.g. Washington State).

The Bar Review Course can be supplied by a number of organisations within a state, and the courses are geared solely to getting you through the exam. ('IRAC' = spot the Issue, lay down the Rule, give your Analysis, come to a Conclusion!).

Typically, a State Bar course is 4 or 5 months and covers around 24 areas of Federal and State law including for example Constitutional and Administrative Law, Commercial Paper, Secured Transactions, Criminal Law and Procedure, Civil Law and Procedure and Property etc.

Anyone who has done the CPE or GDL in England and Wales will recall doing something like 8 to 10 subjects spread over a year. It's obviously a more intensive workload over a shorter period of time.

The plus side is that you can be qualified in the USA very quickly, with State Bar exams held twice a year in February and July.

It's also an excellent grounding in many areas of US law and can provide an interesting contrast between the different jurisdictions, particularly in criminal law for example, which in the US is very compartmentalised with the strictly defined degrees of each crime, thus sending clear messages to criminals where sentencing will lie for each level of each crime.

All students are also required to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) ethics paper, for which sittings are in March, August and November.

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