If you want to practice law in the US, you must have a legal license.
Each state maintains its own licensing board — commonly called “the bar” — that establishes professional licensure requirements specific to that state. Prior to receiving a legal license, all applicants must pass a bar exam.
The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is an extensive, 200-question test covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, evidence and real property. Its purpose is to measure an applicant’s legal knowledge and competence to practice law professionally in the US. The exam is administered on the last Wednesday in July and February.
In addition to the MBE, many states also require the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). This evaluates an applicant’s understanding of the ethics and professional conduct pertaining to legal practice in the US.
International graduates who want a US legal license must meet special qualifications.
While each state board has its own specifications, nearly all require applicants to submit proof of having earned a law degree from a program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
The ABA is the largest organization of lawyers and law students in the US and is responsible for regulating legal education and licensing standards.
Applicants who did not graduate from an ABA-approved program are still permitted to take the bar exam in some states. In such cases, applicants must have practiced law in their home country for a specific period of time or have completed courses at an American law school. International applicants educated in the commonwealth legal system of Britain claim a particular advantage.
To register for the Bar exam, students must submit English translations of academic records and transcripts to the board of the state in which they wish to practice law.
Another option for graduates of international legal programs is becoming a Foreign Legal Consultant (FLC).
This position does not require a US legal license, although most states do issue Certificates of Registration. To qualify as a FLA, you must be licensed to practice law in a country other than the US and have experience practicing law in that country.
A FLC can only offer legal advice regarding the laws of his or her home country. This is a limited legal service, but nonetheless valuable.
Obtaining a US legal license is a long and rigorous process, but one that ultimately entitles you to provide critical services to your community.