California Bar Exam Prep for Foreign Attorneys

Last Updated on December 22, 2022 by

You’re a lawyer. You’ve passed the bar exam. You’ve gotten your license to practice law in your home country and you’re ready to start your new career. But now you have to pass the California Bar Exam, too? This page reviews all you need to know about California Bar Exam Prep For Foreign Attorneys, California Bar Exam For Foreign Lawyers, easiest bar exam for foreign lawyers, california bar requirements for foreign lawyers, florida bar requirements for foreign lawyers and california bar exam for attorneys.

The California Bar Exam For Foreign Lawyers, California Bar Exam For Foreign Attorneys, california bar requirements for foreign lawyers and Florida Bar Requirements For Foreign Lawyers are all the same thing. They refer to the exam that attorneys who have not taken it in their home country must pass in order to become licensed to practice law in California or Florida.

The California Bar Exam For Foreign Attorneys is also referred to as the California Bar Exam For Foreign Attorneys, The California Bar Exam For Foreign Lawyers, The California Bar Exam For Foreign Attorneys And Law Firms and even The California Bar Exam For Foreign Law Firms. These are all just different ways of saying the same thing: an exam for foreign attorneys who have not taken it in their home country.

The easiest way to remember what this exam is called is by remembering that the word “foreign” precedes every word in the name of this test. That way when someone asks you what you’re studying for next month, you can tell them about your preparations for The California Bar Exam For Foreign Attorneys without having to think twice about it!

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California Bar Exam Prep For Foreign Attorneys

We begin with California Bar Exam Prep For Foreign Attorneys, then California Bar Exam For Foreign Lawyers, easiest bar exam for foreign lawyers, california bar requirements for foreign lawyers, florida bar requirements for foreign lawyers and california bar exam for attorneys.

Five California Bar Exam Tips For Foreign-Trained Lawyers

1. Be conscious of timing.

One of the biggest obstacles of the written portion of the exam for nearly every person (whether English is their first language or not) is timing.  It is crucial that everyone practice PTs and timed essays so as to get an understanding of how much time they will have.  Timing is a huge component of the Performance Test and it is essential that you practice under timed conditions to know how long each step in completing the PT will take.

Check out more California Bar Exam timing tips here.

2. Divide your time appropriately.

If English is not your first language, how you divide your time on essays and PTs may look a little different from someone for whom English is their first language.  First of all, don’t rush as you read through the questions.  Rushing through the materials can cause you to misread or misunderstand important information, which can, in turn, lead to an incorrect analysis.  In fact, rather than rushing, it may be a good idea to slow down while reading the essay questions, as well as the PT File and Library to ensure that you accurately understand the information presented.

Second, take the time to organize your answer.  Setting up an outline of an answer before you begin writing the text will allow you to see exactly how much you have to write.  If you spot the issues first and list them, you can then divide your time appropriately amongst those issues.  This will allow you to better manage your time as you are writing.

Third, be realistic about how much you can write.  As you are practicing, it is easy to become overwhelmed as you compare your answer to a sample answer and worry that you don’t have enough written down.  If you know that it will take you longer to write a response than a native-English speaker, be realistic about how much you will actually write.  Try to separate the essential points in the sample answers from the “fluff” and see if you covered what is essential for a passing score.  This will help ensure that you actually complete the essays, rather than running out of time as you are still in the middle of writing a response.

3. Memorize the common structures.

For essays, this means sticking to a very rigid IRAC.  Your essay answer does not have to be a work of art.  It can be very formulaic, which is where the IRAC comes in.  Use headings to separate the various issues.  Use a separate paragraph for the rule, analysis, and conclusion.  Not only does it help you organize the pieces of your response, but it also serves as a checklist to ensure that you covered all of the essential information!

For the PTs, you should review the common tasks and have a general format for each common task memorized.  There are several common tasks that are tested over and over: memos, briefs, and letters.  While we have seen some variations on each of these tasks (e.g., objective memorandum, persuasive memorandum, opinion letter, demand letter), the overall structure remains the same.  Having the overall structure memorized will allow you to immediately start setting up your answer as soon as you review the Task Memo and will help save time.

For additional help with the PT portion, check out these attack outlines explaining different types of tasks.

4. Utilize the Library for rule statements on the Performance Test

One of the key tasks of a PT is to figure out the structure of the argument.  Often the structure and the various arguments you need to make come from either a statute or a rule statement that can be found within one (or more) of the cases in the library.  As you review the library, be on the lookout for these rules that will guide the overall structure of your response.

Also, don’t spend an excessive amount of time trying to re-write the rules in your own words.  As you are going through the library, copy the relevant rule statement into your working document word-for-word (be sure to use quotation marks and include a citation!).  You will be accomplishing the goal of stating the rule without spending an excessive amount of time trying to craft a rule statement!  After you copy the rule statement into your document, you can add transition words and sentences to make the rule statements fit into the overall structure of your answer!

5. Start early and consider getting help!

The only way to get better at essays and PTs is to practice!  Even if you think you know how to write an essay or a memorandum, chances are that you are not usually under the time constraints provided by the bar exam!  Start practicing early to improve the quality of your writing and also to hone your timing strategy.

As you practice, take the time to carefully review the sample student answers.  Take note of anything they include that you did not include in your own answer.  Ask yourself why you missed that: did you misread the rule?  Did you not read the facts carefully enough?  Did you not know the rule being tested?  Take note of whatever went wrong so that you can try to improve in that area and not make the same mistake again!

Also, California essays and PTs can be difficult.  An experienced tutor can show foreign-trained lawyers tips and strategies for how to tackle these portions of the California Bar Exam.  Just like it is important to start practicing early, utilize the assistance of a tutor early on in bar prep!  A tutor can help set you on the right path and can help you improve your score!

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easiest bar exam for foreign lawyers

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Here’s the 5 easiest states for foreign attorneys to take the bar exam: 

State #1 – California

The California State Bar exam for foreign lawyers grants foreign law school graduates eligibility to take the California state bar exam, if they have earned an LL.M. degree or an additional one-year of study at an ABA-approved or California-accredited law school in bar examination subject matter. LL.M. degrees or the additional year of study must be completed with a minimum of 20 units with a course in four sections tested on the California bar exam. One of the four courses must be in areas of professional responsibility, California Business and Professions Code, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct or case law studies.

State #2 – New York

In most cases, foreign law graduates with an LL.M. earned at an ABA-approved law school qualify to sit for the bar exam in New York state. The student’s foreign law degree must be based on the principles of English Common Law and must be the “substantial” equivalent of a legal education earned by an ABA-approved law school in America. Accelerated or summer programs are not recognized. Students must seek an Advance Evaluation of Eligibility from the Board. The process can take up to six months so students are advised to seek evaluation one year before taking the bar exam. Students must be awarded their LL.M. degree within 24 months of matriculation. LL.M. programs must consist of a minimum of 24 semester hours of credits with a minimum of 700 minutes of instruction time per credit.

State #3 – Washington

Foreign law graduates with an LL.M. degree for the practice of law in the United States must complete specific types of instruction to qualify for admission to the Washington State Bar. LL.M. degrees must be earned at a law school approved by the Board of Governors with a minimum of 18,200 minutes of instruction and at least 12,000 minutes of instruction on principles of domestic U.S. law. Those 12,000 minutes are broken up into four areas of instruction including U.S. constitutional law, civil procedure of state and federal courts, legal writing and research.

State #4 – Wisconsin

Wisconsin state bar exam eligibility for foreign law graduates with an American LL.M. degree in 2012. Students must complete an LL.M. program at an American law school with a minimum of 700 minutes of instruction for one semester hour of credit. The program must be completed within 24 months of matriculation and be no less than two semesters of at least 13 weeks each. Students must take a minimum of two credit hours in ethics, legal research and writing, and American legal studies. Additionally, students must complete six semester hours in fundamental substantive courses.

State #5 – Georgia

Georgia state bar exam requirments are these three requirements before a foreign-trained attorney can take the state bar exam. First, they received their legal education from a foreign law school that is government sanctioned or recognized; or that is recognized by an evaluation body; or is chartered to award the first professional degree in law by the appropriate authority within the country. 

Second, the applicant is authorized to practice law in a foreign jurisdiction. Third, the applicant received an LL.M degree for the practice of law in the U.S. The program should prepare students for admission to the bar and for effective and responsible participation in the U.S. legal profession.  

california bar requirements for foreign lawyers

Now we focus on california bar requirements for foreign lawyers, florida bar requirements for foreign lawyers and california bar exam for attorneys.

A general applicant who has a first degree in law from a law school located in a foreign state or country must:

  1. Obtain from a credential evaluation service approved by the Committee of Bar Examiners (CBE), a certificate that the applicant’s first degree in law is substantially equivalent to a Juris Doctor degree awarded by a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) or accredited by the CBE; or
     
  2. Obtain from a credential evaluation service approved by the CBE, a certificate that the applicant’s first degree in law meets the educational requirements for admission to practice law in the foreign state or country in which it was obtained.
https://youtu.be/4HdNB_WPeM8

Applicants must submit these certificates to the State Bar Office of Admissions. They must also submit a certificate from a law school approved by the ABA or accredited by the CBE certifying that the applicant has either:

  1. Been awarded a Master of Law degree (LLM) based on a minimum of 20 semester or equivalent units of legal education. That education shall include no fewer than a total of 12 semesters or equivalent units with a minimum of one course in four separate subjects tested on the California Bar Examination. One of the four courses must be Professional Responsibility that covers the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and leading federal and state case law on the subject; or
     
  2. Successfully completed 20 semester or equivalent units of legal education, in a LLM program. That education shall include no fewer than a total of 12 semesters of equivalent units with a minimum of one course in four separate subjects tested on the California Bar Examination. One of the four courses must be Professional Responsibility that covers the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and leading federal and state case law on the subject.
     
  3. Prior to June 18, 2021, the guidelines required that foreign-educated applicants complete a Professional Responsibility course that included California-specific Professional Conduct Rules in addition to the ABA Model Rules. That requirement was removed in June 2021. Professional Responsibility courses taken prior to June 18, 2021, which did not meet the prior standard but do meet the above standards, may be used to satisfy the above requirements.
    1. All course work for the degree and for the legal education required by the guidelines must be graded using the standards the law school uses in grading course work of students in its JD degree program. An applicant must receive a passing grade in all courses.
       
    2. The degree or the course work required by the guidelines must be awarded or completed, as applicable, within three calendar years of the date the applicant began qualifying study at a law school, whether or not the LLM degree is awarded by or the course work is completed at that law school. An applicant begins study on the first day of their first semester or term of qualifying study.
llm students

florida bar requirements for foreign lawyers

Bar Preparation

The University of Miami School of Law offers seminars and workshops on bar preparation for all students including programs specifically designed for foreign-trained lawyers. In addition, Miami Law’s academic advisors meet one-on-one with students and advise them on everything from transferring to the J.D. to choosing the necessary courses to fulfil the requirements for admission to take their desired U.S. Bar Exam.

Practice in the U.S. – LL.M. Program or Transfer to a J.D. Degree Program

If an international law student or lawyer’s long-term goal is to practice law in Florida or the U.S, he or she should consider doing one of the joint LL.M. + J.D. programs at University of Miami School of Law. Options include:

J.D./LL.M. in International Law
J.D./LL.M. in Maritime Law
J.D./LL.M. in International Arbitration
J.D./LL.M.+ Intensive Legal English
J.D./LL.M. in Real Estate/Property Development
J.D./LL.M. in Taxation
J.D./LL.M. in Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law

As discussed below, some jurisdictions also permit foreign-trained attorneys to take a bar exam without a J.D. degree. The University of Miami School of Law offers its students individualized advice on these options in planning the best road to admission to practice in the United States.

Bar Admissions by State

In the United States, law graduates are required to take a bar exam in order to practice law. Bar admission is regulated by each of the 50 U.S. states, and each state has complete discretion in the process. Some states permit foreign lawyers with a LL.M. degree to take the bar exam and be admitted to practice.

New York

New York is a commonly selected jurisdiction which does permit foreign applications with only an LL.M. degree. Each year a group of University of Miami LL.M. graduates sit for the New York Bar Exam. The requirements for foreign-educated LL.M. students to seek admission to the New York Bar are complex, and depend upon the particular background and circumstances of each applicant. Additionally, a student’s course of study in the LL.M. program must adhere to certain guidelines (i.e., one must earn a specified minimum number of credits, and take particular courses while in the LL.M program). If an international student intends to seek admission to the New York bar following completion of an LL.M program, he or she should carefully read the New York State Board of Law Examiners Guide for Foreign Educated Students. Also required is completion of New York State’s online Foreign Evaluation Form.  

Florida

As part of a 2022 Florida Supreme Court rule change, attorneys with an LL.M. from a U.S. law school may be qualified to take the Florida Bar Exam. Individuals can qualify for this option if they: (1) complete a qualifying LL.M. at an ABA-accredited law school in the U.S., (2) are admitted to practice in another U.S. jurisdiction, (3) have practiced law for at least two years in a U.S. jurisdiction, and (4) meet other miscellaneous requirements. There are many complex factors to consider when choosing this route, and the University of Miami School of Law helps it students identify if this method of qualifying for the Florida exam is best.

Additionally, some foreign-trained lawyers become certified under a special Foreign Legal Consultancy (FLC) rule, which only allows them to counsel clients on the laws of their country of origin (and prior bar admission). However, the FLC rule does not seem to lead to broad job opportunities in Florida. If a foreign lawyer’s long-term goal is to practice law in Florida, he or she should consider Miami Law’s J.D. or LL.M. programs.  If interested, please visit the joint J.D./LL.M. page.

Other States

Other states such as Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and California may also permit foreign-educated attorneys to take the bar exam following completion of an LL.M. program in the United States. For a state-by-state analysis, please view the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission. 

california bar exam for attorneys

Applicants who are already licensed to practice law in another state or jurisdiction must register as an attorney applicant, complete a positive moral character determination and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as well as the California Bar Examination.

California’s Department of Social Services must also certify an applicant as compliant with any court order for child or family support.

If an applicant has an active license and has been certified as in good standing for at least four years before he or she takes the California Bar Exam, he or she may take the one-day Attorneys’ Examination. Applicants don’t have to provide proof of citizenship or residency, but if you are a foreign attorney, you may not take the Attorneys’ Examination.

Attorneys with less than four years of active status, who are inactive or not in good standing must take the full two-day California Bar Exam, which includes the Multistate Bar Examination.

  • Register with the State Bar

The State Bar of California
Office of Admissions
845 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017-2515

If you’re thinking about becoming a lawyer, then you probably already know that the California Bar Exam is one of the most challenging bar exams around. But what exactly makes it so hard?

The fact that California has traditionally had a high cut score has definitely factored into the overall consensus that the California Bar Exam is one of the most difficult in the country.

It’s also important to note that while there are many factors involved in determining your score, the three major ones are: your law school GPA; your performance on the MBE (Multistate Bar Examination), which accounts for 50 percent of your final score; and your performance on other parts of the exam like essays and multiple choice questions.


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