Bar Admission

Many foreign-educated LLM students choose to sit for a bar examination in the United States upon completion of their Master of Laws studies. Each state has its own bar examination and its own bar admission rules. Most states require a U.S. JD degree to sit for the bar examination, however a few states, including New York and California, allow applicants to sit for the bar examination if they hold a foreign law degree and meet certain other requirements. If you are interested in sitting for the bar examination of any state, you should consult the bar examiners of that state to determine your eligibility.

Many of our foreign-trained LLM graduates choose to sit for the New York Bar Examination. If you are considering taking this exam, you should carefully read the information on the official website of the New York Board of Law Examiners of the State of New York (BOLE).

Visit BOLE website.

Please note that admission to our LLM program does not guarantee or in any way suggest eligibility to sit for the bar examination of New York or any other state.  Additionally, while we endeavor to provide accurate and up-to-date information regarding bar examination requirements, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that your program of study fulfills all requirements for the New York bar.

The New York Court of Appeals sets forth the rules for admission of foreign-trained attorneys.  Generally speaking, a foreign-trained attorney may qualify to sit for the New York Bar Examination if the following conditions are met:

  1. The applicant must hold a "Qualifying Degree."  This means that the applicant must have "fulfilled the educational requirements for admission to the practice of law" in the foreign country.  The "Qualifying Degree" must be in law and must be from a school that is accredited by the competent authority in the foreign country.
  2. The applicant's period of law study must be substantially and durationally equivalent to the legal education provided by an ABA-approved school in the U.S.

Most foreign-trained attorneys meet the first condition, but not the second. However, the Court of Appeals provides a way to "cure" a deficiency by way of a U.S. LLM degree (this provision is known as the "Cure" provision). The LLM degree can cure either a substantial or a durational deficiency (but not both), provided that the program of study meets certain requirements. Fordham Law School works closely with the New York Court of Appeals and the New York Board of Law Examiners to ensure that our program of study allows otherwise qualified students to fulfill these requirements.

It is important to note that the vast majority of applicants who are denied eligibility to sit for the New York Bar Examination are denied on the basis of their education in their home country, and not on the basis of their U.S. LLM degree (e.g., the applicant has not fulfilled some educational requirement for admission to the bar of their home country, or the applicant's program of study is both substantially and durationally insufficient, and thus cannot be remedied by the "Cure" provision). For this reason, if admission to the New York bar is important to you, you are advised to submit your Advance Evaluation of Eligibility (discussed below) well in advance of applying to the LLM program.

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Course Requirements

The "Cure" provision in Rule 520.6 requires that students take certain courses in their LLM degree program, as follows:

  1. At least two semester hours of credit in professional responsibility.

    Corresponding Fordham LLM Course: Introduction to the U.S. Legal Profession (students may, at their discretion, substitute a 3-credit Professional Responsibility course)

  2. At least two credits in a legal research, writing and analysis course.

    Corresponding Fordham LLM Course: Legal Writing and Research for LLM Students

  3. 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.

    Corresponding Fordham LLM Course: Introduction to the U.S. Legal System

  4. At least six credits in subjects tested on the New York bar examination (where a principal focus of the course includes material contained in the Content Outline published by the Board).

    Corresponding Fordham LLM Courses: Approved "Content Outline" Courses

Advance Evaluation of Eligibility

Prior to sitting for the New York bar examination, the BOLE must undergo an evaluation of your credentials to determine your eligibility for admission to the bar. In order to apply to sit for the bar examination, the BOLE must have received both your online foreign evaluation form and all supporting documentation at least six months prior to the first day of the application filing period for the exam you wish to take. However, students are encouraged to submit their documentation well in advance of this deadline.  

The bar examination is offered twice each year, in February and July. For applicants who wish to sit for the July bar examination, the online foreign evaluation and all related documentation must be received by the Board of Law Examiners no later than the previous October 1; for applicants who wish to sit for the February bar examination, the online foreign evaluation and all related documentation must be received by the Board of Law Examiners no later than May 1.

Please note that this is a lengthy and tedious process—do not wait until the last minute! If you have any questions about the process or the required documentation, you should contact the Board of Law Examiners directly at 518-452-5729.

Bar Preparation

Although students generally do not begin formally studying for the bar examination until after graduation, Fordham Law frequently offers courses that are designed to introduce subjects tested on the bar exam to international LLM students. These courses are not a substitute for the commercial bar examination preparatory courses that students (JD and LLM) take in the months prior to the bar examination. However, we believe that they are very helpful in familiarizing you with many areas of U.S. law that are tested heavily on the New York Bar Examination and that may not otherwise be part of your LLM studies. These courses may not be offered every semester; students will be notified about the availability of such courses in the registration memo distributed in advance of registration each semester.

Following graduation, virtually all students who plan to sit for the bar examination (including both JD and LLM students) will take a commercial bar preparation course. The various companies that offer such courses will introduce themselves to you throughout your time here at Fordham. These courses typically begin a few days after the end of finals and continue until just before the bar examination.

Examination Dates and Application Filing Periods

The New York Bar Examination is offered twice a year, in February and July, on the final Tuesday and Wednesday of the month. The Application Filing Periods for the examinations are as follows:

  • For the February Exam:  November 1-30 prior to the exam
  • For the July Exam: April 1-30 prior to the exam

Your Advance Evaluation of Eligibility must be approved before you can submit an application to sit for the bar examination.

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)

In addition to the Bar Examination, applicants wishing to be admitted to the New York bar must also take and pass the MPRE. Information regarding the MPRE is available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The 50-Hour Pro Bono Requirement

The New York Court of Appeals recently approved a rule requiring that all applicants to the New York State Bar complete 50 hours of pro bono legal work. This rule goes into effect for all applicants who seek admission after January 1, 2015. Because of the lag time between sitting for the bar exam and achieving admission to the bar, it is safe to assume that all applicants who sit for and pass the July 2014 bar exam or later will need to meet this requirement. Note that you need not have completed the 50 hours in order to sit for the bar exam; however, you must have completed the 50 hours in order to seek admission after passing both the bar exam and the MPRE.

The Court of Appeals has said that it will allow work performed in another country in fulfillment of the 50-hour pro bono requirement and that for foreign LLM students such work may be completed up to one year before beginning the LLM program. Therefore, we strongly encourage all students coming from abroad to reach out to public interest organizations engaged in legal work in their home countries to establish a relationship that will allow students to fulfill this requirement in due course (either before they begin the LLM program, during school breaks, or following the bar exam). We believe that this will provide the most abundant opportunities for LLM students to fulfill this obligation.

The law school is trying to find opportunities for LLM students to meet this requirement, however it will likely be impossible for us to find pro bono opportunities for all, or even most, of the LLM students who will sit for the New York bar exam. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to seek out and identify such opportunities.

For additional information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions document issued by the New York Court of Appeals. We advise you to review this document carefully so that you will understand completely the nature of the work you must perform and the supervision and reporting required. If you have any questions, you may contact the Board of Law Examiners directly.

A Note About the California Bar Examination

Our LLM program is not intended to meet the requirements to sit for the California Bar Examination and our course offerings may not satisfy the academic requirements of the California Bar. If you are considering applying to the California Bar, you should visit the California bar examiners website and review their requirements for foreign-educated applicants. Please note that Fordham does not offer any courses that cover California law to any significant extent.

Previous New York Bar Rules

For students who began their LLM studies prior to Fall 2012, the previous Section 520.6 will apply (with very narrow exceptions).

Compare the provisions of the old and new rules.

Basic Courses in American Law

Section 520.6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law requires that certain foreign students take at least two (2) basic courses in "American Law" as part of their LLM studies to qualify to sit for the New York Bar. We have been advised by the Court of Appeals that students completing the courses "Introduction to the U.S. Legal System" and "Legal Writing for LLM Students," will satisfy this requirement. The following courses could also be used to meet this requirement:

  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking Law
  • Commercial Transactions
  • Commercial Drafting Seminar for LLM Students
  • Copyright Litigation
  • Corporations
  • Cybercrimes
  • Entertainment Law
  • Mass Media and the Internet
  • Mass Media Law
  • New York Civil Practice for LLM Students
  • Old, Media, New Media and the First Amendment
  • Patent Litigation
  • Perspectives in U.S. Law
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Trade Secret law
  • U.S. Contract Law for LLM Students