Taking the Bar Exam
Most U.S. states require applicants to hold a JD degree to seek admission to the Bar. However, a few U.S. states have historically permitted graduates of an LL.M. program, who do not hold a JD degree, to sit for the bar examination if they meet other requirements related to both their prior degree and the types of credits earned during the LL.M. program. A separate Board of Law Examiners for each state establishes and periodically revises the requirements for admission. In addition to a bar examination, there are character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to the bar in every U.S. jurisdiction.
In determining your eligibility for admission to a Bar, a review of the brief summary below is inadequate. It is the responsibility of the LL.M. student to become familiarized with the requirements of the bar exam they wish to take. Eligibility to sit for a particular state bar exam varies state-to-state, and applicants must determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission by contacting the jurisdiction and carefully reviewing all materials provided by said jurisdiction.
The addresses for all relevant agencies are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners. Contact information for each jurisdiction is available in the Directory of State Bar Admission Agencies. Temple’s Office of Graduate and International Programs cannot give you advice regarding your eligibility, and it is your responsibility to ensure the courses you select comport with the requisites for whichever jurisdiction in which you are interested in seeking admission.
Students seeking information about eligibility may consult Chart 4 of the National Conference of Bar Examiners Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements for 2019. We encourage applicants to determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission and contact the jurisdiction with any questions as soon as you decide you may want to seek admission. Prospective LL.M. students should not rely on advice from friends or associates who qualified for admission in prior years because there are frequent and nuanced changes to the requirements for each state.
Temple graduates from the Philadelphia, Tokyo, and Beijing LL.M. programs have been eligible to take the California bar exam. For more information on the California bar exam, visit the State Bar of California website. Students are also strongly encouraged to review the Guidelines for Applicants with a Foreign Law Degree which provides an overview of the steps that students with a foreign law degree must take to establish eligibility to sit for the California bar exam.
LL.M. students with an international law degree awarded upon graduation from a foreign law school may be eligible for bar admission to Pennsylvania by examination if the student:
- Was in good standing at the bar of the foreign jurisdiction
- Undergoes additional education at an ABA-approved law school, completing 24 credit hours of course work taken in specified subjects
- Practiced law in the foreign jurisdiction for 5 out of the last 8 years
Prospective and admitted LL.M. students with an international law degree and an interest in seeking admission to the Pennsylvania Bar are encouraged to consult Chart 4 of the National Conference of Bar Examiners Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements for 2019 and review the Pennsylvania state-specific rules regarding bar admission of foreign attorneys and law graduates of foreign institutions.
Special Requirements for the New York Bar
Many of our Philadelphia LL.M. graduates have sought admission to the New York Bar. In order to qualify to take the New York Bar exam and apply for admission to the New York Bar, students must establish they have acquired skills and professional values necessary to practice law. As a practical matter, if there is a chance you will want to seek admission to the New York Bar, you will need to make that assessment early, or even before starting your LL.M. degree, as it will guide your decisions regarding courses.
The following is a summary of the steps required of foreign-trained lawyers seeking admission to the New York Bar. Although listed consecutively, note that some of the requirements may be fulfilled in a different order depending on your education and experiences. Applicants must familiarize themselves with the primary sources referenced herein and all relevant information posted by the New York Board of Law Examiners on their website, particularly the sections on Foreign Legal Education.
The summary below was posted by Temple on December 15, 2022 and is current only as of that date. This summary generally outlines the steps necessary to be admitted to practice in New York as a foreign student. Students may not rely solely on this general summary and must use the resources made available to them by the New York Board of Law Examiners. The following should not be construed as legal advice or otherwise relied upon. Rather, it is only a summary of the requirements disseminated by the New York Board of Law Examiners.
There are three major prongs to consider if your goal is to be admitted to the New York Bar: (1) Required Legal Education, (2) Skills Competency and (3) the Pro Bono requirement. The rules regarding Required Legal Education govern your eligibility to sit for the exam. The Skills Competency Requirement and Pro Bono Requirement must be satisfied to ensure eligibility for admission to the Bar. They may be satisfied before, during or after your LL.M. studies.
Given the breadth of these requirements, you must be deliberate about which courses you take during your program of study as you will want to take all the courses you need to allow you to take the bar examination and apply for admission once you pass the exam. Students should review the eligibility requirements as indicated on the New York Board of Law Examiners’ website, particularly the pages linked herein.
Summary of Steps Necessary for Foreign-Trained Lawyers to be Admitted to Practice in New York
1. Evaluation of Prior Legal Education: The first step is to complete a free, online form called the Foreign Evaluation of Academic Credentials. You should complete this form now, even before you even if you have not yet commenced your LL.M. studies.
2. Prove Prior Legal Education: Next, you will be required to send proofs regarding your prior legal education and professional experience in order to establish eligibility to take the Bar exam. The deadline for completing the application for the July Bar examination is October 1, the year before you want to take the exam. You can always decide not to take the examination even if it is determined that you qualify. Any questions regarding your credentials should be directed to the New York Board of Law Examiners.
3. Cure Defects: If your prior legal education does not satisfy the requirements for Foreign Legal Study set forth in Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22, § 520.6(b)(1), you may be able to utilize the code’s “Cure” provision, which is set forth more fully at § 520.6(b)(3)(vi) and requires:
- 2 credit hours of professional responsibility;
- 2 credit hours in legal research, writing and analysis;
- 2 credit hours in American legal studies; and
- At least 6 credit hours in “courses that principally focus on subject matter tested on the New York State bar examination or the New York Law Examination prescribed in section 520.9(a)(3).”
For LL.M. students who wish to establish eligibility to sit for the New York Bar, enrolling in courses which meet the abovementioned New York state requirements is crucial. The courses offered to Temple University LL.M. students that have been approved by the New York Court of Appeals in satisfying bar eligibility include the following:
- Introduction to the American Legal System (International LL.M.)
- Legal Research & Writing (International LL.M.)
To ensure that your courses meet the requirements set forth above, be sure to confer with the New York Board of Law Examiners.
4. Skills Competency: Plan to satisfy the Skills Competency Requirement. In addition to the doctrinal courses required as indicated above, there is also a separate Skills Competency Requirement for Admission to the Bar set forth in Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22, § 520.18. This requirement may be satisfied before, during or after your LL.M. studies but must occur in advance of your applying to be admitted to the New York Bar. Applicants may satisfy this requirement by completing one of five separate pathways described in section 520.18(a)(1)-(5).
- Some LL.M. graduates may qualify under Pathway 5 which provides that an applicant who has practiced in a jurisdiction full-time for a year or part-time for two years will meet the skills competency and professional values requirement.
- Others may qualify under Pathway 4, which requires a student to complete a six-month full-time paid or unpaid apprenticeship in a law office in the United States, supervised by a licensed attorney in good standing, who has been in practice for more than two years.
- For foreign-educated LL.M. students seeking to qualify based on courses taken during the LL.M. to become eligible under Pathway 2, Temple law school offers experiential courses and opportunities for non-credit-bearing summer employment. Given the breadth of the requirements, the number of credits and scheduling/time constraints, students seeking to qualify under Pathway 2 may have difficulty taking enough credits in the span of only two semesters and thus should carefully consider enrolling for a summer semester and/or a third semester.
5. 50 Hour Pro Bono Requirement: Pursuant to Rule 520.16, applicants who successfully pass the bar examination in New York State must demonstrate that they have performed 50 hours of qualifying pro bono service before applying for admission to practice. M. students may count qualifying pro bono work performed outside of the U.S. during the year before beginning their LL.M. course of study so long as the other criteria for qualifying pro bono work are met. If your pro bono work is performed, in whole or in part, outside the United States, you will be required to explain in detail the nature and circumstances of your work as part of your application for admission.
You may be able to satisfy this requirement by working at a qualifying law school clinic for which you also receive academic credit.
Your qualifying pro bono work must be completed before you submit your Application for Admission to the appropriate Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court.
Following conclusion of the last semester of LL.M. coursework, students should complete the personal information on the LL.M. Certificate of Attendance Form and submit it to the Law School Academic Records Office in Barrack Hall as soon after graduation as possible, along with the State Bar form(s). The Academic Records Office after certifying to a student’s degree completion, will provide the form to the Assistant Dean for signature. The Assistant Dean sends the completed and signed form directly to the NY Board of Law Examiners.
In conclusion, each student must make their own efforts to ensure that their selected coursework qualifies them to take the New York Bar. The dynamic nature of these requirements calls for a careful study of how the requirements apply to your situation.
To the extent any information herein is inconsistent with materials published by the New York Board of Law Examiners, you should rely upon the latter. Students enrolled in the LL.M. program must consult the New York Board of Law Examiners to ensure their eligibility.
 Please note because of the short duration of the LL.M. program, our LL.M. students do not meet the requirements of section 520.18 (1) (also known as “Pathway 1”) via coursework alone.
Temple University Beasley School of Law has not made a determination with regard to whether its LL.M. education program satisfies the educational requirements for licensure in any U.S. state or territory. However, both prospective and admitted LL.M. students are invited to consult the relevant licensing authorities to confirm whether the Temple University LL.M. program meets the specific criteria for Bar Exam eligibility and licensure in the state(s) in which they seek to be professionally licensed.
If you would like to learn more about your own Bar Eligibility, whether you should take the Bar Exam, and which state’s Bar Exam you should take, please schedule a call with the Office of Graduate & International Programs.