Disclosures about State Licensure for the Practice of Law

There are federal rules which require all schools to disclose information to admitted students about their degree programs if the degree is advertised as leading to a professional license.  Each school must disclose to a student if the degree they were admitted to will not (or might not) qualify them to sit for the bar exam in the state the student lists as their residence.  These rules apply to schools which train people to become a member of any state-licensed profession, ranging from doctors, plumbers, hairdressers, to lawyers.  The intent of these rules is to allow admitted students to educate themselves about whether a degree program will enable them to obtain professional licensure in the state of their residence.

At NYU School of Law, law licensure is the only state professional licensure which we prepare students for. Law licensure is regulated separately by each state, district, and territory within the US. Broadly, if one gains licensure in a state jurisdiction, that license only allows one to practice law in that jurisdiction.  Many of our students take the New York State bar exam and hope to practice in New York State, but as we place our graduates both nationally and internationally, we have students who wish to practice in many jurisdictions within the U.S. (Our programs are not designed to qualify one to practice law in other countries; this page will only address law licensure within the United States.)

We offer several degrees and certificates at NYU School of Law.  For example, a JD (Juris Doctor) degree from NYU School of Law can fulfill the legal education requirements to sit for any US state’s bar exam. The JD degree is the main legal educational credential in the US.

However, some of our other degrees and certificates cannot or might not qualify one to sit for the bar exam.  For example, the Master of Studies in Law in Taxation degree is intended for CPAs and other non-lawyers. It cannot be used to qualify one to practice law in any US jurisdiction.

For some of our other degree programs, such as the LLM (Master of Laws), we may have a blend of students who already have a law degree; either a U.S. JD degree or a law degree from another country.  An LLM student who earned a JD degree from an ABA accredited law school in the US is likely to be able to sit for the bar exam on that basis and ultimately become licensed to practice law, but the answer for foreign-trained attorneys is much more complex and far fewer states might allow them to sit for their bar exams.  We explore this topic in more detail below.

For each degree we offer which might lead to a law license, we must look at the laws of each state.  If there are any students who would not be able to use that degree to qualify for their home state’s bar exam and earn a law licensure, then the law requires us to notify all students in that program (based on residence).  For example, while over 200 NYU LLM graduates sit for the New York bar exam each year, we cannot categorically state that every LLM student can use their LLM degree to become a member of the New York bar, and thus we must notify every LLM student who lists an address in New York State of this.  If you have been sent this link, feel free to read on for more information and to also reach out to your academic advisor with any questions about bar exam eligibility in a given state. We maintain a website which details the requirements in New York State for attorneys whose first degree in law was earned outside the US.

Generally, law licensure can be broken down into these steps:

  • Qualify to sit for a state’s bar exam by:
    • Completing any pre-legal education required by a state, such as an undergraduate degree.
    • For JD programs: pass a Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) or a Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
    • Gain admission to an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school and complete a law degree which a state recognizes as meeting degree requirements. Most commonly this would be the JD degree. This often requires taking specific coursework.
  • Take and Pass the State’s bar exam.
  • Take and Pass a Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
  • Be reviewed by the state bar examiners for character and fitness issues. Some states require this review prior to the bar exam, while most perform this after the bar exam has been passed.
  • Fulfill any additional requirements to become admitted to a state bar, such as pro bono work, state-specific law courses and exams, skills and competency requirements, etc.
  • Complete ongoing Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and abide by all rules of the state bar. Some continuing education may be required prior to admission and CLE is commonly required each year after admission.

Exceptions: There are some exceptions, however. For example, in fewer than 10 states, one may qualify to sit or a state bar exam on an apprenticeship model, by studying law while working in a law office, or some combination of legal education and legal work.  Some states allow for a JD from a non-ABA accredited or online school to be used to qualify to sit for their bar exam, while many do not. Some states allow lawyers licensed in other jurisdictions to gain “admission on motion” after a number of years of practice. Many states do not recognize foreign legal education credentials, but some recognize “English” common law degrees or a combination of a civil law degree and an LLM from an ABA accredited law school in very limited circumstances.  Some states allow for temporary practice orders in some circumstances, to allow law school graduates to practice under the supervision of an attorney pending their passing the bar exam.  Some states allow for spouses of active duty military to practice temporarily, and there may be special rules for foreign legal consultants, corporate counsel, Legal services, or pro bono lawyers.

 

In more detail:

Which of NYU’s law degrees meet a state’s law licensure degree requirements?

Juris Doctor (JD): All bar examiners accept this credential to qualify to sit for the bar exam, but restrictions apply and there are additional requirements to gain licensure. Please review the discussion and chart below.

NYU School of Law’s JD program is ABA accredited and our JD degree will generally serve to fulfill the legal education requirement of state bar examiners. We also offer dual and joint degree programs which include the JD, such as a JD/MBA. Only the JD portion of these joint/dual degrees would qualify one to sit for the bar exam.

Legum Magister (LLM): This is a master’s degree for lawyers who already have a degree in law. LLM students who have earned a JD from an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school can fulfill all state’s bar exam educational requirements on that basis and do not need an LLM to do so.  However, many of our LLM students have law degrees from other countries or from schools which are not ABA approved. These students may be able to use an LLM to qualify to sit for the bar exam, but due to the many factors each state takes into account, we cannot categorically state that an LLM will work for this purpose for all students.

We have a number of different LLM degrees in different subjects as well as an online Executive LLM in Taxation degree.  For those with a law degree from outside the US, a few jurisdictions might accept an LLM degree earned on-campus inside the US to enable one to sit for the bar exam, subject to many conditions.  Most jurisdictions do not allow LLM graduates to sit for their bar exam, so a JD degree does provide more flexibility as to where one can sit for the bar exam and work within the U.S. Online LLM degree programs cannot qualify one to sit for any state bar exam, so the use of an LLM to qualify for a state bar exam is limited to on campus LLM programs (and is subject to many restrictions listed below).

 The only exception to this is that in the Spring, Summer, and Fall semesters of 2020 many US law schools switched to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state bar examiners are being flexible as to online coursework done because of state-mandated bans on in-person meetings. 

Bar examiners think differently about each non-US jurisdiction and about each type of degree earned in those jurisdictions. Other countries’ domestic legal systems can be broadly broken down into several categories: common law, civil law, customary or traditional law, religious law, or a mix of these.  Some countries may vary regionally, and thus bar examiners may allow graduates of certain schools to sit for the bar exam without an LLM, while they may require graduates of different law schools in that country to earn an LLM to become eligible to sit for the bar exam.

The U.S. is deemed a common law system, and our legal system derives from our history as a former British colony. Many countries who were part of the British empire share some elements of this common law system.  Approximately 10 state bar examiners may allow those who studied law in a jurisdiction which is deemed to be fully based on “English common law” to examine in their jurisdiction on the basis on their first degree in law, though only the bar examiners can make this determination and they may also require that the degree be equivalent in duration to a 3 year US JD degree.  Thus, some two-year or online LLB degrees from common law countries may not work for this purpose.

If a bar applicant studied law in a system which is not deemed to be “English Common Law” then a handful of state bar examiners (notably including New York) may allow an LLM to “cure” their prior law degree in terms of difference in the substance provided the applicant’s foreign law degree  meet’s specific requirements.

In a typical year, approximately 200 NYU LLM graduates (with a non-US first degree in law) sit for the New York State bar exam. Still, while the majority of our foreign trained attorneys do qualify to sit for the bar exam, we cannot categorically state that an LLM degree can qualify one to sit for New York or any other state’s bar exam.  Only the state bar examiners can review a student’s academic credentials to make that determination.

There are additional requirements to gain licensure and significant restrictions apply. Please review the discussion and chart below.

Again, online LLM degrees cannot be used to qualify to sit for the bar exam in any U.S. state, e.g., the Executive LLM in Taxation cannot be used to qualify for any state’s bar exam.  That said, our on-campus Taxation LLM or International Taxation LLM programs can be structured in a way to potentially qualify one for the bar exam (depending on many other factors, including prior legal education.)

Doctorate of Law (JSD): This advanced degree is not used to qualify for law licensure.

Certificates in Law and Business or Advanced Professional Certificates in Tax Law: These may not be used to qualify for law licensure.

Master of Studies in Law (MSL): This degree for CPAs and other non-lawyers may not be used to qualify for law licensure.

Master of Science in Cybersecurity Risk and Strategy: This degree may not be used to qualify for law licensure.

The bar exam: In many states the bar exam is 2 or sometimes three days in duration. Many states use a closed-book Uniform Bar Exam which may consist of multiple choice, essay, and skills tests. The multiple-choice multistate bar exam (MBE) commonly tests subjects which are covered in the required first year curriculum of many law schools: torts, civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, constitutional law, contracts, real property, and evidence. The multistate essay examination (MEE) may cover those same topics plus additional topics such as family law, trusts and estates, or business associations. The multistate performance test is used by many jurisdictions to test lawyering skills and supplies legal research and legal problems to test how applicants analyze and solve these problems by writing a will, memo, contract provision, etc. Many bar applicants take an optional bar exam preparation course offered by commercial enterprises, though this is not required by any jurisdiction.

Other requirements: The bar exam is one major step towards obtaining a license to practice law in that jurisdiction. There are many other requirements to becoming licensed to practice law, however.

For example, the national conference of bar examiners, a group which offers guidance to state bar examiners, lists many categories of qualifications necessary to practice law and also lists categories of issues which can prevent an applicant from becoming licensed. Bar examiners generally investigate each applicant thoroughly and require an exhaustive list of disclosures of every known address, phone number, employer, and educational experience. Law schools and bar exam applications often both ask for information on past infractions, and any discrepancies between the two applications can cause issues when applying to the bar exam.

The categories of issues noted by the national conference of bar examiners in their 2020 Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements include:

  • unlawful conduct
  • academic misconduct
  • making of false statements, including omissions
  • misconduct in employment
  • acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation
  • abuse of legal process
  • neglect of financial responsibilities
  • neglect of professional obligations
  • violation of an order of a court
  • evidence of mental or emotional instability
  • evidence of drug or alcohol dependency
  • denial of admission to the bar in another jurisdiction on character and fitness grounds
  • disciplinary action by a lawyer disciplinary agency or other professional disciplinary agency of any jurisdiction

Each state may have different items it focuses on.

JD degree:

The following chart details whether the NYU JD degree, or any joint or dual JD degree option will meet each state law licensure educational requirements. An underlying assumption is that all NYU JD students possess a “baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university or its international equivalent,” as is required in our admission criteria. This chart is based on information provided by the states to the national conference of bar examiners in the 2020 edition of their Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements, pages 1-2. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, states may temporarily change their requirements. For example, state bar examiners are generally allowing online coursework to count towards their requirements during any state mandated restrictions on in person meetings.

State

Does the NYU JD degree satisfy the education requirements for licensure?

Pre-legal or other educational requirements:

Alabama

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.”

Alaska

Yes

 

Arizona

Yes

 

Arkansas

Yes

 

California

Yes

“2 years of college; total of 60 semester or 90 quarter units of college credit with an average grade at least equal to that required for graduation, or attain specific minimum scores on selected general exams administered by College Level Examination Program (CLEP).”

Colorado

Yes

 

Connecticut

Yes

 

Delaware

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree.”

Washington, DC

Yes

 

Florida

Yes

 

Georgia

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.”

Hawaii

Yes

 

Idaho

Yes

 

Illinois

Yes

 

Indiana

Yes

 

Iowa

Yes

 

Kansas

Yes

“Baccalaureate degree.”

Kentucky

Yes

 

Louisiana

Yes

 

Maine

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree.”

Maryland

Yes

“Applicant must have completed prelegal education necessary to meet the minimum requirements for admission to an ABA-approved law school.”

Massachusetts

Yes

“Completion of work acceptable for a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.”

Michigan

Yes

“2 years college; total of 60 semester or 90 quarter hours.”

Minnesota

Yes

 

Mississippi

Yes

“3 years college if on a 3-3 program, or bachelor’s degree.”

Missouri

Yes

 

Montana

Yes

 

Nebraska

Yes

 

Nevada

Yes

“Successful completion of at least 3/4 of work acceptable for baccalaureate degree at an accredited college or university.”

New Hampshire

Yes

“3 years’ work required for a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or the equivalent.”

New Jersey

Yes

 

New Mexico

Yes

 

New York

Yes, there is also an “additional requirement” of taking a “New York Law Course” and “New York Law Exam” which are administered by the NY BOLE.

 

North Carolina

Yes

“Completion of academic work required for admission to a law school approved by the Council of the North Carolina State Bar.”

North Dakota

Yes

 

Ohio

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree.”

Oklahoma

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree.”

Oregon

Yes

 

Pennsylvania

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree or equivalent education.”

Rhode Island

Yes

 

South Carolina

Yes

 

South Dakota

Yes

 

Tennessee

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college prior to taking the examination; combined degree programs may meet this requirement.”

Texas

Yes

Texas has a “Texas Law Course” which is required for anyone passing the Texas bar exam starting on Feb. 2021.

Utah

Yes

 

Vermont

Yes

“There is no specific prelegal education requirement for applicants for admission in general, although applicants for the law office study program are required to have a bachelor’s degree.”

Virginia

Yes

 

Washington

Yes

 

West Virginia

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree or equivalent.”

Wisconsin

Yes

 

Wyoming

Yes

 

Guam

Yes

“2 years college.”

Northern Mariana Islands

Yes

 

Palau

Yes

 

Puerto Rico

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree or equivalent education.”

Virgin Islands

Yes

“Bachelor’s degree.”

 

LLM degrees

The chart below fulfils a legal requirement that we list for each U.S. state if the LLM degree satisfies the educational requirements for law licensure for any student admitted to that program regardless of their prior legal education. Again, the federal rule requiring this disclosure is very broadly aimed at all professions and does not take into account the complexities of law licensure and non-US degrees. Additionally, aside from the COVID-19 exception in place for the fall 2020 semester, any online degree such as our Executive LLM in Taxation cannot qualify one to sit for the bar exam in any US state.

Because our LLM programs contain both US and foreign-trained attorneys we cannot categorically state that any or all students in a given LLM program will be able to sit for any given state’s bar exam.  Some of our LLM programs are intended mainly for foreign-trained attorneys, while other programs have a majority of US-educated students enrolled, such as the Taxation LLM program.  These US-educated LLM students generally can take any state’s bar exam. However, they would be doing so on the basis of their JD degree without regard to their LLM degree.  LLM students who earned their law degree outside of the US may be able to take the bar exam in some US states, such as New York, but this require an individual determination by that state’s board of bar examiners about their prior legal education and LLM course of study.  For example, an LLM student educated in a civil law country can ask the New York Board of Law Examiners to evaluate their foreign educational credentials to see if they can sit of the bar exam without the LLM or if they can instead use the LLM to cure either a durational or substantive difference between their law degree and a US JD degree.  If an LLM is required to “cure” this difference, students must take 12 credits of on-campus coursework during their LLM which meets 4 different requirements of the New York bar examiners. For this purpose, the LLM must be completed within two years and completing no more than four credits in summer sessions.

 

In a typical year over 200 NYU LLM graduates with non-US law degrees take the New York bar exam.  Many of our students are able to do this in New York, but only the bar examiners can make the determination of which students are able to sit for the bar exam in New York. In California, for another example, the bar examiners allow foreign-educated lawyers who are admitted to practice in their home jurisdiction and are in good standing to examine without obtaining an LLM.  Please see pages 13-17 of the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s 2020 edition of their Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements for more details on each state.

 

For example, while some states may not allow a graduate of a non-US law school sit for the bar exam on the basis of an LLM, they may allow one to practice on several other basis, such as: having practiced law for a period of time in another jurisdiction;  being admitted in another US jurisdiction; or the non-US law degree being grounded entirely in “English common law.”  For one example, California does allow licensed attorneys in good standing who are admitted to the active practice of law in other countries to sit for their bar exam without an LLM.

All NYU School of Law on-campus LLM programs (not including the Executive LLM in Taxation)

State

Can a foreign-trained attorney use an on-campus NYU LLM degree to qualify for the educational requirements of state bar exam eligibility and state law licensure?

Alabama

No, not categorically.

Alaska

No, not categorically.

Arizona

No

Arkansas

No

California

No, not categorically.

Colorado

No.

Connecticut

No, not categorically.

Delaware

No.

Washington, DC

No, not categorically.

Florida

No.

Georgia

No, not categorically.

Hawaii

No.

Idaho

No.

Illinois

No.

Indiana

No.

Iowa

No.

Kansas

No.

Kentucky

No.

Louisiana

No, not categorically.

Maine

No.

Maryland

No, not categorically.

Massachusetts

No, not categorically.

Michigan

No.

Minnesota

No.

Mississippi

No.

Missouri

No, not categorically.

Montana

No.

Nebraska

No, not categorically.

Nevada

No.

New Hampshire

No.

New Jersey

No.

New Mexico

No.

New York

No, not categorically.

North Carolina

No.

North Dakota

No.

Ohio

No, not categorically.

Oklahoma

No.

Oregon

No.

Pennsylvania

No, not categorically.

Rhode Island

No.

South Carolina

No.

South Dakota

No.

Tennessee

No, not categorically.

Texas

No, not categorically.

Utah

No, not categorically.

Vermont

No.

Virginia

No.

Washington

No, not categorically.

West Virginia

No, not categorically.

Wisconsin

No, not categorically.

Wyoming

No.

Guam

No.

Northern Mariana Islands

No.

Palau

No.

Puerto Rico

No.

Virgin Islands

No.

 

Executive LLM in Taxation

The majority of students in our Executive LLM program hold a JD from an ABA accredited law school and can satisfy any state’s bar examiner’s educational requirements on that basis.  However, for students in this program whose first degree in law was not a JD from an ABA accredited law school, we are not aware of any US state which will accept an entirely online LLM to be used to qualify to sit for the bar exam. The only exception to this statement is that some states which might allow a foreign-educated attorney to use the LLM to qualify to sit for the bar exam, such as New York State, are being flexible in allowing online courses to be used in the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19.

State

Can a foreign-trained attorney use an entirely online NYU Executive LLM in Taxation degree to qualify for the educational requirements of state bar exam eligibility and state law licensure?

All 50 states and territories

No