NYS Board of Law Examiners

 
office (518) 453-5990
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Bar Exam Eligibility

Modes of Qualifying for New York Bar Examination
Juris Doctor Graduates of ABA Approved Law Schools
Approved Law Schools
Overview of Requirements
Correspondence Study, Self-Study, On-Line Law Degrees
Law Office Study/Clerkship
Unapproved Law School
Foreign Law School Study

MODES OF QUALIFYING FOR NEW YORK BAR EXAMINATION

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)

Applicants are strongly encouraged to carefully review the eligibility rules in Section 520.6 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.

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JURIS DOCTOR GRADUATES OF ABA APPROVED LAW SCHOOLS

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 commencement of all law study.
  • A student is not permitted to be enrolled at any time in coursework that, if successfully completed, would exceed 20% of total coursework required for graduation.
  • 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.
  • Up to 30 credits hours may be granted for clinical courses, field placements programs and externships (including classroom components), within defined parameters, toward the 83 credit hours.
  • 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 12 credit hours of synchronous distance education courses, within defined parameters, may be included in the 83 credit hours and the 64 classroom credit hours.
  • No more than one-third of total credits required for graduation may come from study in a foreign country.

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.

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CORRESPONDENCE STUDY, SELF-STUDY, ON-LINE LAW DEGREES

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

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LAW OFFICE STUDY/CLERKSHIP

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:
Clerk
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 under the supervision of an attorney who is admitted to practice law in New York for a period of four years. (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.

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UNAPPROVED LAW SCHOOL STUDY

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 (i) of the Rules of the Court of Appeals, including the residency requirements of subdivision (d) or (e) [See Residency Requirements above]; 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.

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FOREIGN LAW SCHOOL STUDY

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

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