how to become a lawyer without law school in new york

Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by Omoyeni Adeniyi

A lawyer is a person who practices law and includes other legal practitioners, including British solicitors or chartered legal executives. Lawyers can only be called “barristers” if they were “called to the Bar.”

The bar exam is a test that every aspiring lawyer must take to practice law. Although this is a requirement for working as a lawyer, some wonder whether completing law school is also a requirement. In law school, students take courses and earn a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) before taking the bar exam.

In this article, we discuss whether you can take the bar exam without going to law school, u s bar exam for foreign lawyers, how to become a lawyer without law school in california, how to become a lawyer in texas without law school, new york bar exam requirements and potential ways to become a lawyer that do not involve completing the J.D. degree.

Now Become a Lawyer Without Law School - Legodesk

What is the bar exam?

The Uniform Bar Examination, also called the bar exam, is a standardized test issued by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The test helps to test the skills and knowledge lawyers need before becoming licensed to practice law. This exam includes three main components:

  • Multistate Bar Examination: 200 multiple-choice questions
  • Multistate Essay Examination: Six 30-minute essay questions
  • Multistate Performance Test: Two 90-minute exams

The UBE is administered twice per year and takes two days to complete. Only 27 states in the U.S. currently accept the UBE as the standardized test for becoming a practicing lawyer. The other 23 states issue their own bar exams, although they are similar in content and format to the UBE.

Some of the key content areas covered on the bar exam include:

  • Conflict of laws
  • Real property
  • Family law
  • Contractors
  • Business associations (Partnerships, limited liability companies and corporations)
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Torts
  • Uniform Commercial Code, Article 9 (Secured Transactions)
  • Evidence
  • Trusts and estates

To become licensed to practice law, you must apply for admission to the state bar by passing the examination. By passing this test, you are demonstrating your knowledge in crucial areas of the law.

Can you take the bar exam without going to law school?

In some states, you can take the bar exam without going to law school. In the early days of the United States, people who were interested in pursuing a career in law often worked as apprentices under established lawyers. In the time since, lawyers have mainly gone through law school to gain the education needed to practice law, but this is not necessarily a requirement for pursuing a career as a lawyer.

A Story on Legal Education

When Chris Tittle meets new people and the topic turns to his work, he sometimes fishes in his pockets and produces a business card that reads “Abraham Lincoln.” Below the 16th president’s name in smaller type the card reads, “Just kidding, but I hope to follow in some of his footsteps.”

Mr. Tittle, who sports the kind of full beard more often associated with folk-rock bands than future junior partners, is working toward becoming a lawyer under an obscure California rule that allows people to “read law” much as Lincoln did, studying at the elbow of a seasoned lawyer.

“There is very little that would entice me to go $100,000 or more into debt for a credential,” said Mr. Tittle, who is in his first year of a four-year program of practical study.

California is one of a handful of states that allow apprenticeships like Mr. Tittle’s in lieu of a law degree as a prerequisite to taking the bar and practicing as a licensed lawyer. In Virginia, Vermont, Washington and California, aspiring lawyers can study for the bar without ever setting foot into or paying a law school. New York, Maine and Wyoming require a combination of law school and apprenticeship.

The programs remain underpopulated. Of the 83,986 people who took state or multistate bar exams last year, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, only 60 were law office readers (so-called for the practice of reading legal texts as preparation). But at a time when many in legal education — including the president, a former law professor — are questioning the value of three years of law study and the staggering debt that saddles many graduates, proponents see apprenticeships as an alternative that makes legal education available and affordable to a more diverse population and could be a boon to underserved communities.

“Attorneys have carved out a place that is high income and inaccessible,” says Janelle Orsi, co-founder of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, a nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., that focuses on legal aspects of the “sharing economy.”

To Ms. Orsi, a graduate of the highly ranked Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, apprenticeships are a way to reorder the economics of law school and law work. Without loans to pay back, she argues, lawyers won’t have to chase big paychecks or prestige with corporate clients and could instead work in nonprofit, environmental and community law.

“Attorneys trained in this way will be able to be average people,” Ms. Orsi said, “not just because they don’t have debt, but because law school tells us that we’re really special.”

Ms. Orsi and two other lawyers are mentors to four apprentices, who are chronicling their experiences on a blog curated by the center ( Mr. Tittle is director of organizational resilience at the center, where he spends six hours a week in his supervising lawyer’s office “helping her do client work or small research assignments, or it might turn into a mini-lecture on that particular kind of law that she’s working in.” Fridays often find him and the other apprentices in the county law library, studying.

Ms. Orsi and the cohort of “apprenti,” as they jokingly refer to themselves, hope their experience will serve as a model for other nonprofit organizations to cultivate their own lawyers. “The mission is not to create more lawyers,” said Ms. Orsi. “It’s to serve the community.”

This is not entirely untrod ground. The United Farm Workers, the California-based agricultural union founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, has been training lawyers through apprenticeships for decades, said Mary L. Mecartney, the managing attorney for the union’s legal department, who studied for and passed the bar in 1993 through apprenticeship. She’s helping to train two new apprentices, both the children of farm workers.

Before the prevalence of law schools in the 1870s, apprenticeships were the primary way to become a lawyer. “Stop and think of some of the great lawyers in American history,” said Daniel R. Coquillette, a law professor at Boston College who teaches and writes in the areas of legal history and professional responsibility. “John Adams, Chief Justice Marshall, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson. They didn’t go to law school at all.”

The earliest law schools, Mr. Coquillette said, worked in tandem with apprenticeships, a practice he noted is returning as many law schools move toward externships for third-year students.

But there are obstacles. None of the states help prospective law readers locate a supervising lawyer, and finding one willing to take on the responsibility of educating a new lawyer can be difficult. Bar passage rates for law office students are also dismal. Last year only 17 passed — or 28 percent, compared with 73 percent for students who attended schools approved by the American Bar Association.

“The A.B.A. takes the position that the most appropriate process for becoming a lawyer should include obtaining a J.D. degree from a law school approved by the A.B.A. and passing a bar examination,” said Barry A. Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education for the group.

Robert E. Glenn, president of the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, was less circumspect. “It’s a cruel hoax,” he said of apprenticeships. “It’s such a waste of time for someone to spend three years in this program but not have anything at the end.”

One former apprentice, speaking on the condition of anonymity, dropped out after her third year of study. The stumbling block, she said, was the first-year exam, the so-called baby bar required of all those in California who study outside of law schools accredited by the A.B.A or state’s Committee of Bar Examiners.

“It was the writing,” she said. After two attempts and stumped by legalese, she decided law might not be her path. “I’m over it now, but it was disappointing that I couldn’t pass it,” she said. Still, she doesn’t regret her apprenticeship — the lessons, she says, have been useful in her current work in state government.

Isabell Wong Flores knows well the feeling of bar exam defeat. After completing her law office study, it took five attempts over two and a half years before she passed the bar exam. “There were times when I wanted to give up so much,” said Ms. Flores, now a Sacramento criminal defense lawyer who draws on her perseverance in her side work as a motivational speaker. The exam is torturous, she said, but “you have to find ways to conquer it.” Ms. Flores bought study tapes and enrolled in bar prep courses at local law schools before passing in 2007 — seven years after starting down this road. “I wanted to give myself an education,” she said. “It took a little longer than I thought it would.”

The lack of a J.D. can also be cause for concern to clients.

“I do have some clients who look up on my wall and say, ‘Where did you go to law school?’ and aren’t too happy with the answer,” said Ivan Fehrenbach, who recently passed the Virginia bar after three years of reading law. Unburdened by school loan debt, he said, he has been able to become “a country lawyer,” taking on work like speeding tickets, divorce and wills.

For most, the lack of class rankings put clerkships with judges and plum gigs at big firms out of reach. There are exceptions: Jeffrey L. Smoot, a law reader, was recently made partner at one of Seattle’s oldest firms, Oles Morrison Rinker & Baker. “It’s a validation of the program,” he said.

Washington’s program for apprentices — called law clerks there — stands out for the extent of support from the state bar association. A volunteer board sets study standards and assigns a liaison to each lawyer-apprentice duo to monitor their progress. Students must also be employed by the office in which they study. Of law clerks who took the Washington bar last year, 67 percent passed.

Talia Clever, who coordinates the program for the state bar, says she routinely fields calls from people who want to know how hard it is to become a lawyer without law school. Her answer: very. “It’s a lot of work. It’s four years and you don’t get summers off. You’re on the line working with a lawyer every day.”

Investment Banking vs. Law: What's the Difference?

For some, that’s the appeal. Instead of spending years in lecture halls, time is spent in courtrooms or with clients — experience most traditional law school students might only get during a semester of clinical practice. For paralegals, the method makes it possible to hold down a job or keep paying off a mortgage while earning an advanced credential. “I didn’t just want to up and quit my job and go to law school and become a student again,” said Megumi C. Hackett, a paralegal in Vancouver, Wash., who is studying under the tutelage of Jon J. McMullen, a criminal defense lawyer.

“It has been a hell of a lot of work,” said Mr. McMullen of his new role as teacher. “I’ve had to reacquaint myself with stuff I wish to God I didn’t have to think about again.” Rules vary from state to state, but supervising lawyers are expected to instruct their students in all areas of law covered by their state’s bar exam, and administer and grade tests.

“It does take a lot of time and effort,” said D.R. Dansby, the Virginia lawyer supervising Mr. Fehrenbach. Mr. Dansby, who read law in the late 1970s, has mentored three lawyers through the state’s program, each passing the bar on the first attempt.

Most supervisors just want to give back. “It’s worth it,” Mr. Dansby said. “We have plenty of lawyers, but not enough good ones.” But make no mistake, he stressed, these programs are not for everyone. He has turned away nearly two dozen people who he didn’t think had the motivation to take on a readership. An added deterrent is that Virginia strictly forbids employing, and paying, apprentices.

Robert Galbraith took a leave from the University at Buffalo Law School with hopes of completing his education by clerking while working full time for a local nonprofit. He knocked on a dozen doors, all with the same answer: no. “It’s tough to find people who even know it exists,” said Mr. Galbraith, referring to the New York rule that permits law-office study after the successful completion of one year of law school. Mr. Galbraith headed back to law school part time but didn’t finish in the five years mandated by the New York Bar Examiners. He now works for a watchdog group, the Public Accountability Initiative. “It’s very stimulating and engaging work,” he said, “but if an opportunity arises to clerk at a law office in order to take the bar, I would consider it.”

Ms. Orsi and the apprentices in her office are trying to spread the word, giving talks at law schools and seeking endorsement from professional groups like the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Perhaps most important, they are building an informal list of California lawyers willing to take on apprentices or mentor in specific areas of law.

Looking to the future, Ms. Orsi hopes that her current students will take on apprentices of their own someday, and that law office study will gain recognition as a viable alternative.

“I hope,” she said, “people will have a more creative outlook toward legal education.”

How to take the bar exam without going to law school

If you want to take the bar exam without completing law school, follow these steps:

1. Choose your location

Before you can practice law, you will need to choose a state that will allow you to complete the bar exam without completing law school. Currently, Washington, Vermont, California and Virginia are the only four states that allow this process. Wyoming, New York and Maine allow lawyers to practice without earning a J.D. degree, although they must have at least some law school experience. A legal apprenticeship may be able to substitute for one or two years or school. If you plan to live in any other state, you will have to complete law school to practice as a lawyer.

2. Find a legal apprenticeship

The next step is working as a legal apprentice, which will help you gain hands-on experience in the field. Apprentices typically must work a certain number of hours every week for a set period, working under the supervision of a practicing lawyer. This type of apprenticeship also usually requires participants to complete a set number of study hours. The supervising lawyer must have a specific level of experience, which varies by state, but could be between three and 10 years.

3. Pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination

If you live and plan to practice in California, you must pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination as part of your legal apprenticeship. This exam, also called the “Baby Bar” is also required for first-year law students who attend unaccredited law schools. California is currently the only state that requires the completion of this exam, which is because the state’s bar exam is the most difficult, with the lowest pass rate of all 50 states between 1995 and 2014.

The First-Year Law Students’ Examination is a single-day exam that covers:

  • Community property
  • Business associations
  • Contracts
  • Professional responsibility
  • Civil procedure
  • Evidence
  • Remedies
  • Wills
  • Torts
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Real property
  • Trusts
  • The first two articles of the Uniform Commercial Code

4. Prepare for the bar exam

After you complete the requirements of your legal apprenticeship, you will need to prepare to take the bar exam. The exam varies by state, as does the average pass rate. The pass rate for legal apprentices is approximately one-third the rate of those who have completed law school, so it is important to prepare as much as possible. Use online resources, including study materials and practice tests, limit other activities and adhere to a study schedule to increase your chances of passing.

Cost of law apprenticeship vs. cost of law school

The average cost of law school in the U.S. is between $27,591 and $49,095 per year, which includes tuition and fees. Public law schools are less expensive than private schools, in general, and in-state versus out-of-state tuition factors into the averages as well. These costs do not include room and board, books or other costs associated with attending a full-time J.D. program.

A legal apprenticeship program does not have any costs associated with it, although participants do have to pay for any study materials, books and registration fees related to preparing to take the bar exam. Everyone who takes the bar exam must also pay the fee to do so, as well as the registration fee required to practice law in their state.

Advantages of taking the bar exam without going to law school

One of the main advantages of choosing to forego law school is the cost savings. Law school is an expensive educational program that is often financed through student loans, which must be paid back upon completion of the degree. Another advantage of taking this route to become a lawyer is the ability to gain hands-on experience in the community in which you plan to work. In some areas, such as rural parts of the country, legal apprenticeship programs help encourage local students to remain in their communities and give back through legal service.

Legal apprentices are more likely to graduate with extensive experience because they work alongside practicing lawyers and see a wide range of cases. They often prepare legal documents and research cases to aid the lawyers for whom they work, giving them valuable experience that law students often will not get through the educational experience alone.

Disadvantages of taking the bar exam without going to law school

One of the drawbacks of taking the bar exam without completing law school is the risk of not passing. The bar exam is difficult, so it is not easy to pass without at least some experience. Working as a legal apprentice may give you some knowledge you need to be able to pass, but you will probably have to study the materials provided, which can take a lot of time. Law school professors often provide their students with coursework and exams related to what is covered on the bar exam, leaving graduates from these programs potentially more qualified and prepared to take it.

Some clients may be hesitant to hire a lawyer who has not attended law school, which could make it more difficult to find a job. Additionally, since only a few states allow lawyers to practice without completing law school, those who choose this route will only be able to work in a limited area of the country. A lawyer who has not graduated with a J.D. will not be admitted to practice in any state where this degree is a requirement.

10 Lawyers-Turned-Entrepreneurs Creating a Revolution in Law

u s bar exam for foreign lawyers

New York and California specifically operate a relatively open policy in permitting foreign law graduates or lawyers to sit their bar examination and do not impose restrictions to admission on grounds of nationality or residence.

Candidates are not required to learn and recite case law or statutory provisions, which is a real advantage for candidates who did not get a J.D. in the United States. Exams are designed to test the candidate’s ability to think like a lawyer. Candidates are required to know the legal rule and how it should be properly applied to a hypothetical problem situation.

Why Should I Take the Bar in the US?

If you have chosen to study law in the US, you probably already have plenty of reasons for taking the bar exam. In fact, many international students choose to pursue an LL.M. in the US because they want to take a US bar exam. For international students studying in the US for other reasons, there are still several reasons to take the bar.

Taking the bar looks great on your resume or CV, both to US and foreign employers. By passing the bar, you can demonstrate your understanding of US law—an impressive and difficult accomplishment. Finally, passing a state’s bar exam will allow you to practice law in that state as a fully admitted lawyer, offering better prospects than working as a law clerk or foreign legal consultant.

Where Should I Take the Bar Exam?

The decision on which state in which to take the bar is highly personal and depends on a variety of factors. When making your decision, remember that (with very limited exceptions), you will only be permitted to practice law in the state in which you take your exam. So, if you are planning on practicing law in the US after taking the exam, it is a good idea to take the exam in a state in which you would like to live or work.

On the other hand, if you are not planning on practicing law in the US, you might instead base your decision on the simplicity of the state’s requirements. For example, New York is popular among international students, while California is considered to be one of the more difficult states in which international students can obtain a qualification.

What to Expect in the Exam

The bar exam is taken in several parts over at least two days. Most states will dedicate one day to the Multistate Bar Examination, a multiple choice exam covering topics not specific to the law of any one state, such as Contracts, Torts, Property, Constitutional Law, and Evidence.

Another day would cover the law of the specific state in which you are taking the exam. This might be a multiple choice exam, an essay exam, or both. Additionally, the exam may include the Multistate Performance Test, which is designed to evaluate lawyering skills rather than substantive law.

Finally, you will need to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, which tests your knowledge of professional ethics. This exam is administered on a separate occasion from the regular bar exam.

Taking the Bar as a Foreign-Trained Lawyer

Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult for foreign-trained lawyers to sit the bar exam in the US. Completion of the LL.M. degree in itself does not guarantee eligibility to take the bar exam. Most states do require a J.D. degree for a US law school in order to sit for the bar exam. There are some states which do allow foreign law graduates to sit for the bar exam, including New York, California, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Virginia. In this case, however, foreign-educated lawyers must begin the process by getting their law degree reviewed and analyzed by the American Bar Association, and it can take up to a year to before the foreign law credentials are even assessed. Once reviewed, the application is either accepted or deferred. If accepted, foreign lawyers are allowed to sit for that state’s bar exam in much the same way a domestic applicant would. In New York, one of the jurisdictions most open to foreign lawyers, this would allow foreign lawyers to sit for the bar without being forced to complete any further law school study in the US.

Fortunately for anyone taking the bar as a foreign lawyer, preparing for the bar exam is a typical—if daunting— challenge. Many American law students spend months preparing to sit for the bar exam by taking bar review courses and classes and foreign-educated lawyers should consider doing the same. Regardless of their backgrounds, so many applicants take these review courses that the model answer the examiners are looking for is invariably in the style taught by these courses. Such classes can be time consuming and expensive but well-recommended ones are generally worth it. After all, the goal of taking the bar as a foreign lawyer is well within sight!

New York Bar Exam eligibility

In general, foreign-trained attorneys with a 3 year on-site undergraduate law degree from most common law countries may be eligible to take the bar examination in New York without completing additional coursework at a U.S. law school.

Foreign-trained attorneys from civil law jurisdictions, or those from common law countries with degrees that do not meet the educational requirements, may be eligible after completing an LL.M. program at a U.S. ABA accredited law school.

To learn more about the New York Bar Examination and the eligibility requirements for foreign-trained attorneys, please visit the official website of the New York Board of Law Examiners of the State of New York (BOLE) and the ”Foreign Legal Education” section of the NY BOLE website.

Foreign Evaluation of Credentials

Complete the Online Request for Foreign Evaluation of Academic Credentials and arrange for the BOLE to receive the proper supporting documents. This evaluation must be completed to obtain a decision on your eligibility to take the NY Bar Exam. Deadlines to submit this form and supporting documents varies depending on the exam you wish to take.

The BOLE will not consider your Request for an Evaluation to be “complete” until it receives all supporting documents in one envelope and will not review your application until it is complete. Ensure that you submit all your supporting documentation by the deadline, so that the BOLE may act on your eligibility in time for you to apply for the examination.

The documents required in support of your Request for an Evaluation are outlined by the BOLE on their website. Carefully read through the document descriptions and pay attention to rules related to providing English translations and submitting documents directly from the issuing institutions and/or government agencies in your home country. These documents take time to gather – you must start early in order to ensure you can sit for the exam you wish to take.

California Bar Exam eligibility

If you are a qualified lawyer in your home jurisdiction, you can sit for the California Bar Exam. You still have some other requirements to fulfill, but your foreign license is a shortcut in the application process. If you have a law degree but are not licensed, you may qualify to sit for the bar if you complete an LL.M. with at least 20 credits at an ABA or California accredited school.

As part of those 20 credits, you must take a California professional responsibility class and at least 3 classes must be in subjects that appear on the bar exam.

You will be asked to provide a social security number when applying for the California Bar Exam. If you do not have a U.S. social security number, you will simply need to complete and submit a social security exemption form when submitting your bar exam registration forms.

To learn more about the CA Bar Examination and the eligibility requirements for foreign-trained attorneys, please visit the official website of the State Bar of California.

Other U.S. jurisdiction exam eligibility

Many states in the U.S. allow foreign-trained attorneys with (or without) a U.S. LL.M. degree to sit for the bar exam combined with other requirements. These states include Texas, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.

For a complete list and to learn more about the requirements for these states, consult the full National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.

Bar Exam Eligibility


Section 520 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law provides four routes for an applicant to qualify to take the New York bar examination, all of which require at least some form of classroom study in a law school.

1. ABA Approved Law School Study (JD graduates) – Applicant attended and was graduated with a first degree in law from a law school or law schools in the United States which at all times during the period of applicant’s attendance was or were approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). (Section 520.3 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals)
List of ABA Approved Law Schools

2. Law Office Study/Clerkship – A combination of law school study at an ABA approved law school and law office study  (520.4 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals).

3. Unapproved Law School Study – Graduation from an unapproved law school in the United States with a Juris Doctor degree and practice in a jurisdiction where the applicant has been admitted for 5 of the 7 years immediately preceding application to sit for the New York bar examination. (Section 520.5 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals)

4. Foreign Law School Study – Successful completion of a program of study at a law school outside of the United States that is both durationally and substantively equivalent to a program of study at an approved law school in the United States, and if required, successful completion of an additional program of study at an approved law school in the United States. (Section 520.6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals) (See also, “Foreign Legal Education” section of this website)

5. Pro Bono Scholars Program – Students in their final year of their Juris Doctor degree program at an ABA approved law school may qualify to sit for the February bar examination in return for devoting their last semester of study to performing pro bono legal services through an approved program. Interested students should consult Section 520.17 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals. More detailed information is available at

Applicants are strongly encouraged to carefully review the eligibility requirements in Section 520 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law before applying to sit for the bar examination. It is the responsibility of each applicant to be aware of the eligibility requirements and to demonstrate their compliance with the requirements of the Court Rules.


Prospective applicants for the New York bar examination who are pursuing a Juris Doctor degree at a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) should be aware that the requirements of Rule 520.3 may be more restrictive than the ABA standards. Graduation from an ABA approved law school does not automatically qualify an applicant to sit for the New York bar examination.

Approved Law Schools. The law school which the applicant attended must have been approved by the ABA during all periods of the applicant’s attendance and must be located in the United States or its territories. Provisional ABA approval is acceptable provided that the law school had provisional status during all periods of the applicant’s attendance. If the law school did not have ABA approval during all periods of the applicant’s attendance, it will be necessary for the applicant to petition the Court of Appeals under Section 520.14 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals, for a waiver of strict compliance with the provisions of Section 520.3 of the Court Rules. Applicants who will need to petition the Court of Appeals for a waiver should do so as early as possible and preferably no later than 60 days prior to the date of the bar examination.

Overview of Instructional, Credit Hour and Course of Study Requirements (Applicants should read Rule 520.3 in its entirety for all requirements):

  • Program and course of study at ABA approved law school must be completed no earlier than 24 months and no later than 60 months after the student commenced of all law study at the law school or a law school from which the school has accepted transfer credit.
  • At least 83 credits hours must be required for graduation.
  • At least 64 of the 83 credit hours must be earned in classroom study.
  • At least 2 credit hours must be earned in a course in professional responsibility.
  • A minimum of 700 minutes of instruction time, exclusive of examination time, must be required for the granting of one credit hour.
  • Credit may be granted toward the 83 credit hours for clinical courses and such credit may be counted toward the 64 classroom credit hours provided the credits meet the requirements in Court Rule 520.3(c)(2).
  • Credit may be granted toward the 83 credit hours for externships and field placements but such credit may not be counted toward the 64 classroom hours except that credit separately awarded for a classroom instructional component of a field placement program or externship may be counted toward the 64 classroom credit hour requirement.
  • There is no limit on the total number of credits granted for clinical courses, field placements, externships and other experiential learning courses.
  • Up to 12 credit hours may be awarded toward the 83 credit hours (but not the 64 classroom credit hours) for joint degree or other courses taught at another school within the university or at a school affiliated with law school.
  • Up to 15 credit hours of distance education courses, within defined parameters, may be included in the 83 credit hours and the 64 classroom credit hours.See 520.3(c)(6).
  • No more than one-third of total credits required for graduation may come from study in a foreign country.

Waiver Petition and Cure. The Board has no authority to waive any of the requirements of the Court Rules, such power being vested solely in the Court itself. Should you wish to petition the Court, under 22 NYCRR § 520.14, for a waiver of strict compliance with Court Rule 520.3 and for an order admitting you to the examination, your verified petition, in duplicate, should be addressed to the Clerk of the Court, Court of Appeals Hall, 20 Eagle Street, Albany, NY 12207. Should you have any questions concerning the petition process, you should visit the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the Court’s website at

 Applicants who have not satisfied the two-credit Professional Responsibility course requirement may, in lieu of petitioning the Court of Appeals for a waiver, make take a two-credit professional responsibility course on a non-degree basis at an ABA approved law school in the United States, either in a classroom course or via distance education (provided that the student has not already exceeded the 15 credit limit of distance education credits).

Proof of Compliance Required for Graduates of ABA Approved Law Schools. Applicants qualifying to sit for the bar examination under Section 520.3 must file with the Board a completed Certificate of Law School Attendance Form, together with the completed Specimen of Applicant’s Handwriting Form, no later than February 1st for the February exam and no later than June 15th for the July exam. The Law School Certificate of Attendance Form and the handwriting form that must be completed will be emailed to applicants after the application filing period has closed.


Law degrees obtained by way of correspondence, external, internet or self-study do not qualify an individual to take the New York bar examination.


New York is one of only a few jurisdictions that permits an applicant to qualify to take the bar examination on the basis of some law school study combined with law office study or clerkship. Section 520.4 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals sets forth the eligibility requirements for law office study. Interested applicants are urged to carefully review the requirements of Section 520.3 To qualify to take the bar examination on the basis of law office study under Section 520.4, the applicant must demonstrate:

  1.  that applicant commenced the study of law after applicant’s 18th birthday; and
  2. the applicant successfully completed the prescribed requirements of the first year of full-time study in a first degree in law program at an ABA approved law school, whether attending full-time or part-time, earning a minimum of 28 credit hours (the threshold period);
  3. that applicant thereafter studied law in a law office or offices located within New York State under the supervision of one or more attorneys admitted to practice law in New York State, for such a period of time as, together with the credit allowed pursuant to this section for attendance in an approved law school, shall aggregate four years.

After carefully reviewing rule, the applicant should submit a written request for an evaluation of eligibility to the Board office. In addition to making this written request, an applicant must have his or her law school or schools submit the following directly to the board:

  1. an original and official transcript; and
  2. a written statement from an authorized official which includes verification that the applicant was in good standing, not on academic probation and was eligible to continue in its degree program at the conclusion of the threshold period and also at the conclusion of all subsequent semesters.

Upon receipt of the request for an evaluation together with the required supporting documentation, the Board will determine whether the applicant meets the threshold criteria under Section 520.4 and issue a written determination in due course.
 If an applicant meets the threshold criteria, the Board will then determine how much credit toward the four year requirement the applicant should receive for their law school study, and notify the applicant how many weeks of law office study must be completed before the applicant may apply for the bar examination. Next, the applicant must obtain a position as a law clerk/student in a law office, and have the attorney with whom he or she is working complete and file a Certificate of Commencement of Law Office Study with the Court of Appeals.

The Court’s Address:
Court of Appeals
20 Eagle Street
Albany, NY 12207

Please note: NO credit is given for any law office work that was engaged in PRIOR to the applicant’s completion of the threshold period at law school OR the filing of the Certificate of Commencement.
The applicant must study law in the law office for a period of four years under the supervision of an attorney who is admitted to practice law in New York . (Credit toward this four year requirement is given for successfully completed semesters in an ABA approved law school.) Once the required period of law office study is completed, the applicant is eligible to apply for the New York State bar examination. When applying for the bar examination, the applicant and the attorney or attorneys responsible for the law office study both must complete affidavits.


Graduates of non-ABA Approved law schools located in the United States who have also actively practiced law in a U.S. jurisdiction for 5 of the 7 years preceding application to the New York bar examination may qualify to sit for the bar examination under Section 520.5 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals. Rule 520.5 sets forth the following requirements which must be met by graduates of non-ABA approved law schools seeking to take the New York bar examination:

(1) applicant has studied law in any law school in any other state or territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia, other than a law school which grants credit for correspondence courses; and

(2) the applicant has received a degree from such law school which qualifies such applicant to practice law in such state, territory or in the District of Columbia; and

(3) the applicant’s course of study complies with the instructional and program requirement of section 520.3(c) through (e) of the Rules of the Court of Appeals; and

(4) that while admitted to the bar in the highest court in any other state or territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia, applicant has actually practiced therein for at least five years of the seven years immediately preceding the application to sit for the bar examination.
Proof of compliance required for Graduates of non-ABA Approved law schools. Applicants qualifying to sit for the bar examination under Section 520.5 must file the following proof in the Board office no later than February 1st for the February exam and no later than June 15 for the July exam:

(a) Your law school must file the Law School Certificate of Attendance form, a copy of which will be emailed to you after you apply for the exam;

(b) Proof of admission to practice in another jurisdiction or jurisdictions in the form of a Certificate of Good Standing;

(c) An affidavit from the applicant setting forth the periods and places of law practice including the dates and names of employers;

(d) Affidavits from supervising attorneys, partners, judges, confirming proof of practice for five of the seven years preceding application to the New York bar exam;

(e) Your completed handwriting sample certified by an authorized official at your law school or by a Notary Public.


Section 520.6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law contains the eligibility requirements for applicants who wish to qualify for the New York State bar examination based on the study of law in a foreign country. Compliance with the requirements of the Rules of the Court of Appeals must be proved to the satisfaction of the Board before an applicant may be permitted to sit for the bar examination. For more detailed information concerning the eligibility requirements for foreign educated attorneys, individuals should carefully review Rule 520.6 and the information located in the Foreign Legal Education section of this website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *