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Which States Accept Foreign Law Degrees

Last Updated on January 15, 2023 by Team College Learners

Details about new york bar exam for foreign lawyers, jobs for foreign trained lawyers in usa & california bar exam for foreign lawyers to receive the most updated information.

You will also discover related posts on how to become a lawyer in america with a uk degree & law school for foreign lawyers on collegelearners.

Law School for Foreign Lawyers

Most lawyers in the U.S. follow a typical path to practice: law school, then the bar exam, plus a few additional requirements. But some law professionals are trained abroad. It can sometimes be difficult to practice law in the U.S. as a foreign-trained lawyer, but it’s not impossible.

Each state has different requirements, so how you go about it can depend on where you live and want to work. Potential lawyers must sit for the bar exam in the state where they hope to practice. New York and California are popular destinations that offer the most flexible requirements.

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Best law schools in the U.S. in 2020

According to the U.S. News, these are the best law schools in America in 2020:

If you want to know what former students of these top law schools think about their experience, here are some of their reviews: 

How to get into the best law school in the United States

You should know that compared to Europe, law schools in the United States have different requirements. These are the steps you need to follow during the admission:

  • Complete a Bachelor’s degree – it can be related to Law studies, but that is not mandatory. Law schools accept all candidates that finished a Bachelor’s degree, regardless of their former fields of study.
  • Take the LSAT – an official exam that tests your critical and analytical abilities – necessary for further pursuing a Law degree.
  • Decide on two or three law schools and start applying.
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Types of Law degrees in the U.S.

Juris Doctor

All law schools in the US, both public and private, grant the J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree that is required to practice law in the country. A J.D program involves three years of study for full-time Law students and four years for part-time students.

Master of Laws (L.L.M.)

A Master of Laws degree is a one-year full-time study course after finishing a J.D. program. An L.L.M. is designated for those students that want to further improve the knowledge of a particular area of law or for foreign students that need to additionally adjust to the U.S. legal system.

Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)

The Doctor of Judicial Science degree is similar to a usual PhD program and it is the highest academic degree in the legal field. An S.J.D. lasts three years and is more often pursued by students who are interested in teaching Law. However, most law schools from the States provide a small number of S.J.D. programs.

Teaching style and curriculum at U.S. law schools

During the three or four years of studying Law, you will have classes that will cover topics such as administrative law, legal theory, analytical legal methods, bankruptcy, business law and ethics, civil rights, constitutional law and much more.

Between the 2nd and 3rd year, most local and international students in the United States engage in an internship program in order to gain practical experience that can sometimes lead to a future job after graduation.

Beginning with the 3rd year, you can choose elective courses tailored for the particular Law specialization that will define your future career.

Specializations in Law in the United States include:

Law degree studies use the Socratic method

A popular practice in terms of teaching and learning style in all law schools from the USA is called the Socrates method.

Following the premises of the antic philosopher that had the habit of asking and debating different people about various philosophical ideas, law teachers from the U.S. are known to challenge students to analyze and present arguments to various law issues, similar to stating a case in court.

Although this is not an easy task for students, American teachers consider it is the best tool to prepare future law professionals to be critical, analytical and quick problem-solvers.

You can also check out online Bachelors and Masters in Law and study a degree offered by an American university from the comfort of your home.

Passing the bar exam to become a lawyer in the U.S.

After successfully finishing Law school, you have to take one more step that will help you to become a genuine lawyer, and that is passing the bar exam.

You can take the bar exam in any state, but you have to select the exact state where you plan to practice law. Each state has its own rules for bar admission and once you are admitted in one state, most often you will only be allowed to work as a lawyer in that state only.

There are some exceptions, as some states have signed agreements in this sense, giving law professionals the right to practice without having to take another bar exam.

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Why become a lawyer in the U.S.?

You’ve probably heard a thousand reasons why being a lawyer in America is so intense and fascinating. To start with, the U.S. is a big country and that inevitably leads to numerous career possibilities. Second, the legal system of the States is by far the most transparent, challenging, surprising and straightforward – all at the same time.

Last, but not least, the lawyer profession is extremely rewarding from any point of view. Financially, the annual income of a “fresh” lawyer starts at around 160,000 USD. Morally speaking, you will get to be an every-day hero for many people and actually make a difference in their lives.

A U.S. law school may offer a two-year Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree program for prospective students who have earned a law degree from a foreign law school that is accredited in its own country. (J.D. degrees in the U.S. are generally three years in length.) Depending on the institution, a student may be granted a one-year credit in acknowledgment of their foreign law degree. Alternatively, a school may require a student to complete the first-year curriculum based on courses taken for his or her foreign degree.

They must also supply the school with proof that they are proficient in English. This may require submission of TOEFL scores. A program may ask that applicants have a minimum of one year of experience working in the legal field or business. Additionally, a school may stipulate that, in order to be accepted into the program, the foreign law degree’s requirements must be similar to the school’s requirements for its J.D. degree.

U.S. law students who are interested in studying international law and who wish to study abroad or participate in a foreign exchange program also typically earn a J.D. degree. Enrollees might study at foreign universities for up to a year. Centering on topics such as commercial and business law as well as civil and criminal law, programs may be customized to meet the needs of the students. In addition to specific educational requirements, students of these programs should, ideally, be able to speak a foreign language.


Juris Doctor (J.D.) for Foreign-Trained Lawyers

In some J.D. degree programs, students have the option of taking an orientation course before moving on to core classes. It is generally developed to give foreign-trained lawyers a broad overview of U.S. law, especially the distinctive facets of a legal education in the U.S. The primary goal of this course is to help students from foreign countries assimilate into the educational structure and system used in America as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Program coursework may fluctuate based on students’ level of education and experience; however, some of the common courses can include:

  • History of U.S. legal system
  • Jurisprudence: the philosophy or science of law
  • Economics for attorneys
  • Social science and economic analysis for lawyers
  • Psychology applications for lawyers
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J.D. Study Abroad & Foreign Exchange

U.S. students seeking immersion in foreign law or non-U.S. students seeking intensive studies in the U.S. legal system may find that a study abroad and foreign exchange degree program may meet their needs. In addition to the inherent learning challenges of studying in a foreign country, programs tend to feature expert faculty from a variety of countries and legal disciplines and mock legal proceedings as part of their curricula.

The American Bar Association (ABA) provides educational and professional criteria and standards to which most U.S. law schools adhere in order to gain the association’s approval. It’s imperative that students accepted into J.D. study abroad degree programs understand whether their chosen coursework conforms to the ABA’s approved criteria to receive proper credit toward their degree. The ABA (www.abanet.org) lists three types of foreign study programs for which it has developed criteria:

  • Foreign Summer and Intersession Programs
  • Student Study at Foreign Institutions
  • Foreign Semester and Year-Long Study Abroad Programs

While decisions made about the quality of study abroad programs rests with each individual law school’s administration and faculty, the ABA states that the selected foreign program must conform to their Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. This is the criterion set forth in the American Bar Association’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Master of Laws (LL.M.) for Foreign-Trained Lawyers

It typically takes about one year of full-time study for students to complete a Master of Laws (LL.M.) program. Attorneys who received their education and training in a country other than the United States can enroll in an LL.M. for Foreign Law Graduates to learn about international and U.S. legal issues. An institution may offer introductory courses in the U.S. legal system and legal writing.

In order to qualify for admittance to most LL.M. degree programs, students are normally required to hold a law degree (or its foreign counterpart). Foreign-trained law students who have not yet finished their law degree program may be accepted into an LL.M. degree program if they are admitted to the practice of law in their country. Additional requirements may include submission of TOEFL scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

Foreign students enrolled in a LL.M. program typically begin their studies with an introductory course or seminar in the fundamentals of U.S. law, designed to explain some of the distinguishing characteristics of the American legal system. It’s common for students in these upper-level programs to be allowed to tailor a curriculum to meet their individual goals.

LL.M. degree programs tend to offer basic legal education in a variety of subjects, such as environmental law, international and comparative law and constitutional law. In addition to these essential courses, students usually select at least one area in which to specialize. These tend to include:

  • Commercial and business law
  • Civil and criminal law
  • Conflict resolution strategies
  • Comparative and international law
  • Environmental law

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that from 2018 to 2028, the rate of employment growth for lawyers in the U.S. is expected to be 6%, about the same as the average for all jobs. The median annual salary for U.S. lawyers, according to the BLS in May 2018, is $120,910 (www.bls.gov)

Continuing Education Information

A student with a foreign law degree who completes an LL.M. for foreign-trained lawyers may be allowed to enroll in the school’s J.D. program or take the bar exam for the state in which he or she resides. Both options are dependent on the institution and the regulations of the state’s Board of Law Examiners.

Having an international background on your resume can be very useful to many practicing law. Those who have earned a law degree in a foreign country may pursue a Juris Doctor degree in the United States, generally in a reduced time frame as compared to the normal 3-year program, or pursue a Master of Laws degree, which can be earned in just one year. Citizens of the United States may choose to pursue their Juris Doctor degree while participating in a study abroad or foreign exchange program in order to broaden their international experience.

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