Understanding the Bar Exam Character and Fitness Process

By Hemant Chauhan, Legal Coordinator, BARBRI International

If you are thinking about sitting a U.S. bar exam to qualify as an attorney in the United States with your current legal credentials or after obtaining your LL.M. degree from a U.S. law school, you should know that there is something that will test your character and fitness (beyond the bar exam itself). No, you won’t be required to prove you can run a mile without collapsing or debate your ability to exercise good judgment. However, you will be expected to show by clear and convincing evidence that you should be admitted to practise law in any U.S. jurisdiction.

The bar exam can differ greatly from state to state, but one common thread is that all applicants to the bar are required to complete an attorney application―as it is a privilege to practise law. For California, you will need to also complete a moral character application after sitting the bar exam and prior to becoming sworn in as a fully licensed U.S. attorney. These requirements are designed to protect the public from individuals whose past conduct demonstrates they may not be sound lawyers and to protect the legal profession’s reputation of integrity and trustworthiness.

When it comes to the character and fitness process, New York doesn’t begin the inquiry until after the bar exam is taken. Other states, such as California, begin the character and fitness screening when the applicant signs up to take the bar exam, usually at the end of law school.

The free BARBRI International Bar Exam Digest can give you all you need to know about every bar exam in every state. Here, we’ll focus on what to expect and how to best approach your character and fitness portion of the exam.

Candor is Critical

It is often said that honesty is the best policy, but I would emphasise that honesty is the only policy when it comes to answering the character and fitness questions. I’ve had attorneys within BARBRI tell me they’ve had to go so far as to list every credit card they’ve ever had and the current balance on each of those cards.

Suffice it to say that the character and fitness questionnaire can vary by jurisdiction, but the typical questionnaire will ask about:

  • Criminal and civil violations, including everything from convictions down to traffic tickets that led to fines or a suspension of your driver’s license
  • Academic attendance records
  • Exact addresses of where you have lived
  • Compliance with court orders
  • Mental health or substance abuse issues
  • Financial irregularities with regard to student loans, past due accounts, and more
  • Disciplinary actions during employment or in other professional situations

What you included in your law school application addendums will be scrutinised against what is found in your bar application and independent review. Nothing will send up a red flag to a character and fitness committee more than discovering you failed to disclose any past misconduct in your application.

If the character and fitness questionnaire raises concerns about your character, the bar admissions board may decide to conduct a more in-depth investigation. Usually, this is a face-to-face interview during which you will be required to produce evidence demonstrating current good moral character.

Don’t panic if you have something to report. If you are candid during the character and fitness process, can show that you have accepted responsibility for your actions, and have no immediate issues pending, then past missteps should not be a barrier to admission. If you have questions about whether or not to include something in your character and fitness application, the BARBRI International team can help guide you. You can also contact the bar examiners in the state in which you plan to sit the bar.

Project a Positive Presence

This probably goes without saying, but your social behavior—the image you convey online―is extremely important. Before entering the bar application process, or law school for that matter, make sure nothing you present publicly would call your character into question. Your social media presence should not raise any concerns about your character, professionalism, integrity, or overall fitness to join the legal community. To the extent there are any red flags, such as an ill-advised photograph or a misguided comment, now is the time to clean up your act.

The character and fitness process can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be a hurdle in qualifying as a U.S. attorney. By being open and honest on the character and fitness questionnaire, you can show that you are poised to become a respected and valuable member of the U.S. legal profession.

California Bar Exam: Trouble Spots and How to Conquer Them

By Steve Levin, BARBRI Senior Director of Essay Testing

Unless you’ve already taken a different U.S. bar exam, the California Bar Exam probably is unlike any exam you’ve ever taken in your life. It’s certainly more expansive than any exam you faced in law school and makes finals week look like child’s play.

Imagine preparing for finals in about 18 subjects (technically 16, but you have to know both the California rules and the federal rules for two of them). Challenging? You bet, but not impossible. I’d like to go over some of the details of the exam to make you more comfortable and to help improve your outcome.

The Exam at a Glance

The California Bar Exam is a two-day exam (breathe a sigh of relief—until recently, it was a three-day exam) comprised of three pieces:

  • The MBE (Multistate Bar Exam): A 200-question multiple choice test given in 2 three-hour sessions
  • The PT (Performance Test): A 90-minute practical exercise in which you will be asked to do something a first-year lawyer might be asked to do using a file and library containing all the information you’ll need to respond
  • The California Essays: Five essay questions designed to be answered in one hour each (three in the morning and two in the afternoon, along with the PT) on any one or more of the following subjects:
    • Civil Procedure
    • Agency
    • Constitutional Law
    • California Civil Procedure
    • Contracts (including Sales)
    • California Evidence
    • Criminal Law
    • Community Property
    • Criminal Procedure
    • Corporations
    • Evidence
    • Partnerships & LLCs
    • Real Property
    • Professional Responsibility
    • Torts
    • Trusts
    • Wills

Issue Spotting

The essays present a few trouble spots for many students. The first involves issue spotting. Most of the questions are short—less than a page long, including the interrogatories at the end of the stories. But they are packed, and I mean packed, with issues. And while some exams hand you the issues “on a silver platter”, in many California questions you have to work just to figure out what the issues are.

For example, the following two interrogatories were in a February 2018 question:

  1. What challenges under the United States Constitution, if any, could Ivan reasonably raise to the dining hall quotations, and what is the likely outcome? Discuss.
  2. What challenges under the United States Constitution, if any, could Ivan reasonably raise to the denial of his requests for the book and the tea, and what is the likely outcome? Discuss.

Do you have any idea what is at issue? Also, note how the interrogatories say “what challenges”—as in, there could be (and on the California Bar, likely are) more than one. And, how much should you write; how many issues should you be looking for? When is enough, enough?

How will you know what issues to look for? Look at questions from previous exams and review answers addressing them. The California Bar Exam has been around a long time and there is not much new under the sun. What has been tested in the past is a pretty good indicator of what is likely to be tested in the future.

Formatting

The second stumbling block is formatting ―how should answers be formatted? This is a trick question to some degree. Many students (and some instructors, too) think there is a magic formula, but there really isn’t. If you check out the California Bar Examination instructions website, you’ll see a lot of gobbledygook about this.

The important thing to note is that the examiners want answers written in a “lawyer-like manner.” This is a logically written answer that sets out a conclusion and supports it by discussing the applicable law and the facts that lead to the conclusion.

Now you know issue spotting is important for your score, and analysis counts too. Be prepared to note what the issues are, tell the examiner what law controls, and state what facts are important in reaching whatever conclusion you reach. And, yes, you should reach a conclusion. All of these things are important.

Timing

Another stumbling block for some students on the essay portion of the exam is timing. Students often run out of time. Despite how it may seem, each question is worth the same number of points. So you really should be spending no more than one hour on any particular question and should avoid skipping questions of which you are unsure. This will keep time on your side.

Keep BARBRI in Mind

To help you in your preparation, BARBRI selects California essays for practice that cover the issues most likely to arise on the bar exam. If you prepare with BARBRI and work through the practice essays assigned, you will have seen a majority of the issues that will appear on your essay exam and will be ready to conquer them.

About the author: Steve Levin has passed the bar exam in 10 U.S. jurisdictions with scores in the top 1% of the exam takers.

How to Succeed on the MBE

By Roger Meslar, BARBRI Senior Director, Assessments and MBE Content

What are three things we know about the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)?

Well, with 200 questions to answer over a period of six hours, we know it’s a demanding test. With seven major areas of substantive law tested, we also know there are questions on a wide range of issues and sub-issues within those areas of law. And with each multiple-choice question drafted by a committee of law professors, we know your reading comprehension skills will be tested like never before.

That may be a lot to take in but know that BARBRI has you covered. With our expertise and guidance, you will be ready when the MBE time comes. Here are some ways to prepare for success on the exam.

Practice to the Clock

To help you build up the physical and mental endurance you will need for the MBE, BARBRI provides you with thousands of MBE practice questions, including two complete 200-question practice exams and three complete 100-question half exams. The secret to success here is to do practice exams under timed conditions to replicate, as much as possible, the actual bar exam experience.

BARBRI’s 200-question simulated MBE provides you with a detailed score analysis comparing your performance to every other BARBRI student taking the exam. This score report highlights how you are performing on every topic and subtopic, so you can adjust how you are studying based on this report. So, make sure you take this exam when you see it on the schedule.

Focus Where It Matters Most

A smart study strategy is to focus on the areas of law most heavily tested on the MBE. BARBRI’s MBE subject matter experts have analyzed the MBE for decades and have identified the most important areas to target. Don’t try to master every single one of the thousands of rules and concepts that could be tested, or you may find yourself overwhelmed and anxious about your preparation.

BARBRI’s adaptive Personal Study Plan (PSP) focuses your assignments on the core areas that are most heavily tested to help you allocate your time most efficiently. And when you read the Conviser Mini Review, you will see a host of charts and exam tips that zero in on the issues that come up regularly on the exam. Also, just like with the simulated MBE, the percentile rank information you get on all of your online MBE assignments tells you where your weak areas are. Use this information to study smarter, not harder.

Learn from Each Question

Learn how to read and analyze MBE multiple-choice questions. MBE success is not about how many questions you answer each day or throughout your preparation; it’s about how much you learn from each question you answer. BARBRI’s MBE Workshops teach you a systematic problem-solving strategy you can use on any question you encounter on the bar exam. This strategy helps you quickly identify the issue being tested and the key facts that point you to the correct answer.

For each question you work, you should also determine whether you got the question right or wrong, whether your analysis of the question was on-point, and whether you identified and understood the narrow rule being tested in the question. Reading through the explanatory answer for each question is vital to your success.

One more thing we know about the MBE: BARBRI has decades of experience helping students all over the world pass it. Trust us to help you do the same!

Unraveling the Mystery of the MPT

By Marta Young, BARBRI Institutional Programs Course Instructor

If just the thought of the Multistate Performance Test (lovingly called the MPT) is raising your blood pressure, trust me, you are not alone. Each bar review session, I hear from students with high levels of anxiety over this test. If you fall into this category, keep reading… Let me help unravel some of the mystery and anxiety for you.

First, what exactly is the MPT?

According to the examiners, the MPT is a writing assignment designed to test how well you can perform an everyday lawyer-like task, such as writing a memo or letter. Essentially, can you help the client solve a legal problem that a beginning attorney might be asked to handle? Sounds easy enough, but there is a catch: you only have 90 minutes to read through the materials and draft your answer.

You read that right. Only 90 minutes (and if you are taking the bar exam in a Uniform Bar Exam jurisdiction, you will have two 90-minute MPTs back to back). But, wait, there is an upside.

The test is an entirely closed-universe and takes place in a fictional jurisdiction called Franklin, which I like to picture as a beautiful, magical, tropical place despite the fact there is so much urgent litigation. This means that everything you need to draft your answer is included in the packet: a memo regarding your task, the client’s facts, and all of the applicable Franklin law. Happily, this is the one component of the bar exam that doesn’t require any rule memorization.

Second, how should I approach this test?

Often, the easiest way to tackle a seemingly difficult problem is to break it apart into manageable pieces. The same is true for the MPT. One of the first things I ask a student who is struggling with the MPT is, “Tell me how you went through the packet.”

Usually, the student will admit that he or she simply read the packet from beginning to the end with no clear strategy in mind. A better approach is to begin with the task memo, skip over the remaining documents in the client file (for now), and go directly to the library to review the law.

Why? Because it is so important to gain a basic understanding of the Franklin law before you start digging into the facts in the file. This will not only help you pull out the legally significant facts on your first read, but it will also save you precious time by reducing the number of instances you move back and forth between documents in the packet.

Another helpful time-saving strategy is to begin working on your answer as you move through the MPT documents. Instead of creating a separate outline after reading through everything, start working on an outline that can become your answer.

For example, after leaving the task memo you can set-up your document (as a memo, letter, brief, etc.) and frame some of the issue headings based on your supervisor’s instructions. Of course, your outline must be flexible, as not all of the nuances to the client’s problem will be revealed in the task memo. Rather, issues will appear after reading the law and the client’s facts.

Third, what structure should I use to write my answer?

Sometimes, the examiners will be generous and provide you with specific drafting guidelines for your answer, particularly for a more unusual type of task. If you are not provided with drafting guidelines, however, do not panic. You can almost always default to IRAC regardless of the type of document you are drafting.

Your goal is to set forth the issues pertaining to the client’s legal problem, discuss the applicable Franklin law, and then apply that law to the client’s facts. Even in a letter or brief, though your tone may be different, you are still ultimately analyzing issues by applying rules to facts.

Your answer will not look perfect. In fact, you do not have time for perfection. Your mission is to set forth the core of an answer in the time that you do have. This means that you should spend your time where it really counts — on your legal analysis — rather than on the “look” of your response. If you have time at the end, you can always come back and polish.

Finally, the biggest key to success on the MPT is practice, practice, practice. It takes time to refine your strategy, so start early and embrace the MPT. And remember, BARBRI will provide you with specific guidance during the MPT workshop as well as detailed feedback on your MPT submission. We are here to help you own the MPT!

New York Bar Exam: How to Apply for Eligibility without a 3-Year Law Degree

By Aoife Keenan, LL.B., LL.M.
Legal Advisor, BARBRI International

I started working with BARBRI in 2015. At the time, I was not aware of the U.S. route to qualification. Naturally, as a law student, I was intrigued. The thought of qualifying in two jurisdictions was really appealing to me. I had always been interested in working at an international level. A qualification from one of the most influential countries in the world was something I thought would increase my employability outside of my home jurisdiction of Ireland.

Upon further research into the eligibility requirements, I was disappointed to discover I did not meet the criteria set out by the New York State Board of Law Examiners. Despite this fact, I was determined to apply anyway.

What I Had vs. What I Needed

A standard, full-time three-year common law degree is required to meet the eligibility requirement set out by the New York Board. I completed my undergraduate degree through law and business so I did not have enough credits in law modules. At first glance, this meant I did not meet the necessary criteria to take the New York Bar Exam.

Combining qualifications to cross the line: I wanted to find out if the New York Board was strict on the three-year law degree, so I began talking with BARBRI students (and there were some) who were deemed eligible even though they didn’t exactly meet the criteria set out by The Board. What I found was whilst my undergraduate degree did not meet the criteria outright, I might be considered eligible if I added my postgraduate law degree to the exam application. This can work for various reasons, but it appears consideration may come on a case-by-case basis.

My application at a glance

Documentation: Feeling a bit more optimistic, I submitted my dual-modular undergraduate degree and my postgraduate law degree to the New York Board, along with evidence that I was studying for my FE1s (Irish solicitor exams).

Employer references: I included two references with my application. The first was an academic reference. This was from my university lecturer and intern advisor. The letter referred to my grades in university and indicated that I was capable of passing the exam. Further, it referred to my legal experience at the law office based in Seattle in which I had interned. The second reference was from my current employer and referenced my legal experience, work ethic, and future ambitions.

Final touches: I submitted my own letter, along with my qualifications and references, and included the following points.

  1. A list of the criteria set by The Board, followed by details of how I met each of the criteria. Here I referenced my qualifications and experience.
  2. All of my legal experience, in particular, my work on U.S.-based cases.
  3. My future ambitions and how I planned to use the qualification upon admittance.
  4. My assumption that I could pass the bar based on my results to date.
  5. Finally, I politely requested that the New York Board grant my eligibility based on the information provided, which evidenced that I did in fact meet the criteria. I emphasised that an affirmative decision would greatly enhance my career opportunities.

I sent off this documentation in one package to ensure my information would be available at once, rather than received at intervals.

The Waiting Game

After nearly six months of waiting, I finally heard back from the New York Board. My eligibility to take the bar exam was confirmed.

As I look back, I can safely say that the extra paperwork I added to my application was certainly worth the effort. I would advise any student in a similar position to get in touch with BARBRI. We can advise on the best route for applying to the New York Board if you lack the exact criteria. A positive result can open many doors for law graduates and qualified practitioners alike.

Just remember, you may have to wait until you hear back from the New York Board of Law Examiners to start studying. So if you want to qualify sooner rather than later, make sure you give yourself plenty of time for the eligibility application.

Making it in Manhattan

Aoife Moore Kavanagh,
Associate Attorney, Law Office of James G. McCarney

Making It In Manhattan

Following on from the brilliant news that I had passed the New York Bar exam, I channeled all my excited energy into the next obstacle I had to overcome: Getting a job in New York City. There is no quick fix for landing an attorney role in the Big Apple. It’s fiercely competitive, hugely oversaturated and as a non-U.S citizen, there is the whole visa process to consider. I spent 5 months applying for jobs on every jobs website I could find. When I ran out of vacancies to apply for, I googled “litigation firms in New York City” and started sending my resume and cover letter to every single firm on the list, from A-Z. I was offered an associate position quite early on in my search which I decided to turn down after much deliberation. I wanted to be a lawyer in New York so badly it felt wrong to not take the offer but I knew I wouldn’t have been happy there. The firm was located outside of the city and I really wanted to be in Manhattan. If I had ignored my gut feeling I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today! I probably sent over 1,000 applications and had around 12 interviews before I finally landed my dream job.

Currently, I am a practising associate at the renowned insurance defense firm of Maroney O’Connor LLP in Manhattan’s Wall Street District. I spend most of my days in the courtroom, engaging in settlement deliberations with judges and my adversaries, arguing motions and attending conferences. I have an amazing case list that is varied and keeps my work exciting, from construction accidents to property damage, product liability to motor vehicle accidents, I handle it all. I am lucky to be a member of a firm that gives me free rein on my cases and allows me to steer them completely independently, from the initial stages of discovery right through to settlement. I am looking forward to future accomplishments at the firm, particularly trying my first ever case.

International Student Sits New York Bar: A Personal Insight

Hemant Chauhan,
Legal Coordinator — BARBRI International

Having recently sat the New York Bar exam in July 2018, I can certainly tell you that was the most difficult legal examination I have sat to date.

International Student Sits New York Bar

Having arrived at JFK Airport from London Heathrow a week before the exam, I felt it important to be in a relaxed mind-frame before sitting the bar examination, having prepared 10 months of U.S. law beforehand. I spent some quality time in Brooklyn, New York, and explored the city for all it was to exhibit. New York City is truly the city that never sleeps!

There is certainly a buzz and a positive vibe that transcends throughout, and it is reflected in the people. Seeing the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Central Park and other attractions all made me realise why I was preparing for the New York Bar Exam. It certainly put things into perspective, drawing law to fact patterns, and to the practice of life.

Passing the U.S. Bar Exam is about your competency to practice law, and knowledge of the law with all its nuances and complexities; being able to deal with people from all walks of life. Those are the key ingredients of a successful attorney.

That being said, the New York Bar Exam was difficult. There were hundreds of students packed in my particular exam centre in Albany, New York. A mixture of international and domestic JD candidates. Security was tight, ensuring fairness and equality.

The first day comprised of the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). A number of examinees found that it took them longer than the allotted 90 minutes to complete the persuasive brief. And many examinees found the uncommon task to be especially tricky. Taking the MPT is about preparing for the unknown.

On the whole, the issues tested on the essays were slightly more challenging those on the February 2018 exam. The Examiners certainly favoured the MBE subjects on the essays this time around, continuing the trend from February 2018.

The second day was the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). The crucial day of 200 multiple-choice questions. It was difficult to sleep; I had a restless night. I knew I had revised constant amounts, but knew it was impossible to remember everything. I had to trust my preparation.

It was an exhausting day. The proctors constantly walking down the centre, the clock ticking away, all heads down into complex fact patterns, spending no more than 1.8 minutes per question. I had prepared well with BARBRI International, having spent numerous amounts practicing MBE questions for an entire 10 months. I was disciplined and kept within the time limits.

It is difficult to ascertain how I scored.  At this stage, it is too early to tell, or predict. I am just glad to be on the other side of the exam. For now, I am enjoying my work within the New York offices and enjoying the city. I am preparing for other admission examinations in the meantime, and glad I had thoroughly prepared with BARBRI International. Practice makes perfect!

The New York Bar Exam: A Guide for Foreign Applicants

Hemant Chauhan,
Legal Coordinator — BARBRI International

So you want to be a US Qualified, State of New York Attorney?

Want to add a glamorous qualification to your CV? Thinking of emigrating to the States? Perhaps want to practice in New York?  You have arrived at the right place. This article will provide you an overview of the New York Bar Exam, and tips for those seeking to take this prestigious qualification.

Eligibility

Before selecting a Bar Review provider, you need to establish whether you are, indeed, eligible to undertake the examination.  If you do this straight away, you will be minimising the fundamental risk as to whether you will be confirmed eligible, as the examination arrives nearer. I have selected a reputable, fantastic course provider, BARBRI International, that stresses upon this element, first and foremost. You should allow up to 6 months for confirmation of eligibility. It is the student’s responsibility to make a timely application.

Foreign applicants are required to send supporting documents to the New York State Board of Law Examiners. The New York Board of Law Examiners will request that you supply the following documents:

1.  University Transcripts

  • Request a copy from your University in a sealed stamped envelope.
  • Some Universities will send the documents directly to New York, others will send them out to you and you will need to forward them to New York. NB. Do not open the transcripts before you send them to NY.
  • Transcripts must be in English/ translated into English. Ensure credits are listed on the transcripts.
  • It may be useful to request two sets of transcripts from the University. This way you can check that you are sending the correct document.
  • If your university uses an electronic transcript system, print a copy of the transcripts, and ask your university to stamp them as a true copy. Send them in a stamped sealed envelope.

2.  Copy of your Degree Certificate

3.  Practicing Certificate OR

4.  Letter from the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority/Law Society of the applicable country

Once eligibility has been confirmed, foreign applicants will need to register for the exam. To sit the July exam, register between April 1st- 30th. To sit the February exam, register between November 1st–30th. There are no exceptions/late filing deadlines. There is a fee of $750. There is an option to defer your registration fee to the next sitting of the exam. You need to contact New York directly to discuss this, in the event you have applied for eligibility less than 6 months before registering to sit the exam. You may not have your eligibility confirmed before registration.

Structure & Layout of the Bar Exam

The Bar exam is a gruelling, two-day examination: 6 hours each day.  Stamina and endurance under timed pressure will be crucial elements to passing the exams. There are three different components to the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE):

  • Multistate Essay Exam topics include:
    Business Association; Agency & Partnership, Corporation, Limited Liability Companies, Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Trust & Estates; Wills & Trusts, Future Interests, Uniform Commercial Code. These are tested on Day 1 only (+ MBE subjects listed below)
  • Multistate Performance Test
    Practical element of being a lawyer. All information needed to complete question is supplied in the question.
  • Multistate Bar Exam Topics Include:
    Federal Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts/ Sales, Criminal Law & Procedure, Evidence, Real Property & Torts. These are tested on Day 1 & 2.  200 multiple choice questions across 8 subjects. They are mixed. No labels for the question. Your mind will need to be racing through all the laws to issue-spot which area the examiners are testing.

Uniform Bar Exam Marking

The Multistate Bar Exam is worth 50%, the Multistate Essay Exam is worth 30% & the Multistate Performance Test is worth 20%. The total score is 400. New York has set the passing score at 266. Aim to get over 60% in all parts. The % pass rate varies from year to year.

On a further note, it is crucial to note that the pass rate has been reducing every year.  Statistics drop even more for foreign candidates.  In fact, pass rates are now at the very lowest in approximately 20 years.  Do not be scared.  This is just a warning that you need to be disciplined to master the material and practice, practice, practice.  Practice makes perfect.  BARBRI’s statistical evidence that 76% of students who complete 80%+ of the Personal Study Plan pass.

Admission Requirements

You will need to complete the following to fulfil the requirements for admission as a NY Attorney:

(i) New York Law Examination (NYLE):
It comprises of 50 multiple choice questions. It is a 2-hour open book test and can be completed online. You can sit this exam four times annually. The New York Law Course prepares you for the exam and can be found free of charge on the New York Bar website (www.nybarexam.org). It can be completed one year before the bar exam or three years’ after. The pass mark is 30/50. Subjects tested include; Administrative Law, Business Relationships, Civil Practice & Procedure, Evidence, Matrimonial & Family Law, Professional Responsibility, Real Property, Torts & Tort Damages and Trusts, Wills & Estates.

(ii) The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE):
This exam is 2 hours’ long and includes 60 questions. It is administered 3 times a year. It is required for admission to all state bars, apart from Maryland & Wisconsin. Passing scores are on a scale of 50-150. NY requires a scaled score of 85.

(iii) Pro Bono Requirement:
The final requirement for admission is 50 hours of Pro Bono Work. The work should be legal in nature and must be unpaid. You should look for work involving legal research/ advice. The work must be signed off by a practicing lawyer, in the jurisdiction the work is completed in.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of effort, hard work, and discipline required to pass the Bar exam, and to fulfil the admission requirements in order to become a licensed attorney. But if you want to pursue this qualification, as I am in the midst of doing so, the rewards are great.

For further support visit BARBRI International, who can offer tailored advice on the New York Bar process.

New York Bar… The Advantages and Disadvantages for UK students

Hemant Chauhan,
Legal Coordinator — BARBRI International

The search for that elusive training contract or pupillage remains as competitive as ever.

The law market is saturated with law students who have completed their respective qualifications, but unable to secure a position within a law firm or chambers. Many have impressive CVs, stellar academics, and have varied experiences that set them apart from the competition, but even then it is not enough.

The New York Bar appears to be an impressive qualification to add to your belt. London hosts over 100 U.S. law firms, servicing both UK and international clients. I, too, have decided to study for this U.S. qualification because I have always had an interest in qualifying in the Big Apple, as opposed to the domestic UK route. There appear to be merits and weaknesses to the qualification, but it is contended that for students, the merits do outweigh the weaknesses.  The New York Bar is a highly prized asset, not least because you can immediately be billed out as a qualified Attorney-at-Law, rather than just a UK Trainee Solicitor.

There are several attractions to the New York Bar.

Having the qualification will enable you to be admitted to practice in New York State, as long as you have fulfilled the other requirements the New York State Board of Law Examiners have set. The US qualification process is very different to the UK. There is no training contract requirement.  For those who want to practice international commercial law, this U.S. qualification ‘fits the bill’ so to speak. It is based on common law, and New York law underpins a lot of contractual cross-border transactional deals, alongside England & Wales.

It is a shame that the majority of the careers departments at the UK Universities only advertise the traditional UK route: pursuing the standard Legal Practice Course (LPC) after the LLB undergraduate degree; the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for those who want to become barristers.  The LPC is incredibly expensive, now ranged between approximately £10,000 – £15,000.

There is a dilemma here. Many law firms, except the City firms, that offer training contracts do not sponsor students to undertake the LPC, but expect you to undertake it to be considered for a traineeship, working on a substantially lower salary, considering the expense.  The search for an alternative is imperative for those who can not afford to maintain the traditions of the UK legal profession.

The cost of the New York Bar suddenly becomes more appealing.  It is significantly cheaper than the LPC, so it makes sense economically. You are eligible to take it upon graduation from a three-year, face-to-face, LLB degree, with no requirement to be qualified.  The route, it is argued, is a better alternative to qualification for those who are unable to follow standard routes. Here’s the kicker… you are further eligible to dual-qualify in England & Wales as a qualified solicitor! And not only that… by taking the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme… there is no training contract requirement!

So what are the downsides here…I have spoken to several lawyers in the profession who are dubious about the New York Bar. One disadvantage, they argue, is utility. We practice English law, so why qualify into a foreign jurisdiction where there is no relevance. A further disadvantage is that many prefer people to have undertaken a traditional route because it is far more familiar. Some may argue that it leads to the makings of a better, equipped lawyer. I, however, disagree.  If there is a cheaper alternative to qualification, why is this not advertised more? Further, with the new Solicitor Super Exam looming, which will replace the LPC in 2020, now more students will be seriously considering their routes into qualification.

It is not just the ability to qualify in the UK… let’s not forget the potential prospects of plan B! Working in Manhattan, an iconic city, living the American Dream, is just too good an opportunity to turn down. I have been fortunate to have selected the Bar Review programme with BARBRI International, priced at $5995.00, a leading provider for US Bar programmes. They have a stellar reputation and ensure you stick to their tested methods and expertise, in order to pass this gruelling examination. There are other recognised suppliers of the Bar Exams so consider wisely with their reputations.

Of course, I acknowledge that many will have mixed reviews.  However, UK law students need to be aware of this so they have all the options before them, before deciding which course would best serve their career paths. As the corporate world becomes ever more globalised and focused on international transactions, this qualification would certainly be of benefit.

MAKING THE MOST OF BARBRI

Guest Blog by Tiffany Khoo, LLB,
London School of Economics and Political Science graduate

When I first signed on for the BARBRI 10-month Home Study Program, 10 months felt far away yet it went so much faster than I expected.

Almost silently, the last few months passed one after another and the New York Bar Exam had suddenly arrived. It’s truly been a wonderful journey, learning law from a different jurisdiction, especially one as influential as the United States.

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Throughout the 10 months of bar study, I found myself getting involved in situations where my (limited) knowledge of U.S. law helped me out. For example, in work, I’ve had to look at Secured Transactions, one of the subjects tested on the New York Bar Exam. I was assigned to conduct research on Article 9, which thanks to my bar preparations through BARBRI, I already had some knowledge about. In my personal life, I had a relative going through some legal issues while residing in the United States. When she hired a U.S. attorney, it was so reassuring to know that I recognized the legalese he was using and I could really offer some helpful advice to a family member.

As this is my final BARBRI blog post, I leave you with some tips on making the most of BARBRI:

Use the BARBRI Network

I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again: BARBRI sets up a WhatsApp group chat for those interested to communicate with other BARBRI students. This network has been a wonderful support system as you’re joined by others from around the world that are going through the same struggles. People share tips, encourage each other, remind each other about important deadlines and, of course, share a relatable meme every so often. It is a great resource and a wonderful way to feel less alone in the bar prep journey.

Email the lecturers

Although you have the vast BARBRI Network of students to lean on, sometimes that just means there’s many confused students all at a time. A lot of the BARBRI lecturers give out their number and email addresses for those who have questions. I’ve emailed the lecturers before and they have been exceptionally helpful and kind.

Practice and start early

BARBRI comes with an abundance of practice questions and it would be a huge shame to not take advantage of them. My advice: as much as possible, start practicing and start practicing early.

Build up endurance

A big part of the New York Bar Exam requires endurance – 12 hours of testing over two days. I remember when I first started attempting the 18 Multistate Practice Questions (MPQs) that BARBRI provided. It would take me well over an hour to complete, which was definitely much too long. But over time, I could do it more quickly. Build up your endurance and speed slowly – it will get better over time.

With that, all the best! I’ve had a blast writing here and I wish everyone the best of luck!