Admission to the bar in the United States

Admission to the bar in the United States

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Encyclopedia
In the United States, admission to the bar is the granting of permission by a particular court system to a lawyer
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 to practice law
Practice of law
In its most general sense, the practice of law involves giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal documents for clients, and representing clients in legal negotiations and court proceedings such as lawsuits, and is applied to the professional services of a lawyer or attorney at law, barrister,...

 in that system. Each U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 and similar jurisdiction (e.g. territories under federal control
United States territory
United States territory is any extent of region under the jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters including all U.S. Naval carriers. The United States has traditionally proclaimed the sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its...

) has its own court system and sets its own rules for bar admission (or privilege to practice law), which can lead to different admission standards among states. In most cases, a person who is "admitted" to the bar is thereby a "member" of the particular bar.

In the canonical case, lawyers seeking admission must earn a Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 degree from a law school
Law school
A law school is an institution specializing in legal education.- Law degrees :- Canada :...

 approved by the jurisdiction, and then pass a bar exam administered by it. Typically, there is also a character and fitness evaluation, which includes a background check
Background check
A background check or background investigation is the process of looking up and compiling criminal records, commercial records and financial records of an individual....

. However there are exceptions to each of these requirements.

A lawyer who is admitted in one state is not automatically allowed to practice in any other. Some states have reciprocal agreements that allow attorneys from other states to practice without sitting for another full bar exam; such agreements differ significantly among the states.

Terminology



The use of the term "bar
Bar (law)
Bar in a legal context has three possible meanings: the division of a courtroom between its working and public areas; the process of qualifying to practice law; and the legal profession.-Courtroom division:...

" to mean "the whole body of lawyers, the legal profession" comes ultimately from English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 custom. In the early 16th century, a railing divided the hall in the Inns of Court
Inns of Court
The Inns of Court in London are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales. All such barristers must belong to one such association. They have supervisory and disciplinary functions over their members. The Inns also provide libraries, dining facilities and professional...

, with students occupying the body of the hall and readers or Bencher
Bencher
A bencher or Master of the Bench is a senior member of an Inn of Court in England and Wales. Benchers hold office for life once elected. A bencher can be elected while still a barrister , in recognition of the contribution that the barrister has made to the life of the Inn or to the law...

s on the other side. Students who officially became lawyers crossed the symbolic physical barrier and were "admitted to the bar". Later, this was popularly assumed to mean the wooden railing marking off the area around the judge's seat in a courtroom, where prisoners stood for arraignment and where a barrister
Barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

 stood to plead. In modern courtrooms, a railing may still be in place to enclose the space which is occupied by legal counsel
Counsel
A counsel or a counselor gives advice, more particularly in legal matters.-U.K. and Ireland:The legal system in England uses the term counsel as an approximate synonym for a barrister-at-law, and may apply it to mean either a single person who pleads a cause, or collectively, the body of barristers...

 as well as the criminal
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

 defendant
Defendant
A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute...

s and civil
Civil law (common law)
Civil law, as opposed to criminal law, is the branch of law dealing with disputes between individuals or organizations, in which compensation may be awarded to the victim...

 litigants who have business pending before the court.

General requirements for admission



The first bar exam in what is now the United States was instituted by Delaware Colony
Delaware Colony
Delaware Colony in the North American Middle Colonies was a region of the Province of Pennsylvania although never legally a separate colony. From 1682 until 1776 it was part of the Penn proprietorship and was known as the lower counties...

 in 1763, as an oral examination before a judge. The other American colonies soon followed suit. By the late 19th century, the examinations were administered by committees of attorneys, and eventually changed from a oral examination to a written one.

Today, each state has its own rules which are the ultimate authority concerning admission to its bar. Generally, admission to a bar requires that the candidate do the following:
  • In most situations, earn a Juris Doctor from a law school approved by that state (often, but not always, this means accredited by the American Bar Association) (indeed, in certain states, e.g., Arizona, one may not actually take the bar exam unless one's law school is ABA accredited, and this requirement has withstood constitutional attack); or, where permitted, participate in an approved Law Clerk program ("reading the law").
  • In all United States jurisdictions except Maryland
    Maryland
    Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

    , Puerto Rico
    Puerto Rico
    Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

    , Wisconsin
    Wisconsin
    Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

    , and Washington, pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
    Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
    The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination is a one hundred twenty five minute, sixty question, multiple-choice examination designed to measure the knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer's professional conduct...

     (MPRE), an examination covering the professional responsibility
    Professional responsibility
    Professional responsibility is the area of legal practice that encompasses the duties of attorneys to act in a professional manner, obey the law, avoid conflicts of interest, and put the interests of clients ahead of their own interests....

     rules governing lawyers. This test is not administered at the same time as any U.S. bar exam. Most candidates take the MPRE while still in law school; indeed, some states require that a candidate pass the MPRE before being allowed to sit for the bar exam. Connecticut
    Connecticut
    Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

     and New Jersey
    New Jersey
    New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

     waive the MPRE for candidates who have received a grade of C or better in a law school professional ethics class.
  • Pass a bar examination, usually administered by the state bar association
    State bar association
    A state bar association is a bar association that represents or seeks to represent all of the attorneys in a specific U.S. state. Membership in such an association may be voluntary or mandatory for practitioners in that state. State bar associations may be tasked with the administration of the...

     or under the authority of the supreme court
    State supreme court
    In the United States, the state supreme court is the highest state court in the state court system ....

     of the particular state. Typically the exam consists of several parts administered over two or three days, typically including:
    • Pass the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), in all states/territories except Louisiana
      Louisiana
      Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

      , Washington and Puerto Rico. This standardized test
      Standardized test
      A standardized test is a test that is administered and scored in a consistent, or "standard", manner. Standardized tests are designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are administered and scored in a...

       consists of 200 multiple-choice questions.
    • In jurisdictions that do not use the MPRE, pass a professional responsibility ("ethics") exam included as part of the main bar exam. Some states, such as New York
      New York
      New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

       employ the MPRE and include ethics questions in their main exam.
    • Pass any state-specific examinations, such as essays in Washington, Minnesota
      Minnesota
      Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

       and Massachusetts
      Massachusetts
      The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

      . Some states, such as Florida
      Florida
      Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

       and New York, include both essays and multiple-choice questions in their state-specific sections; Virginia
      Virginia
      The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

       uses full essays and short-answer questions in its state-specific section.
  • Be certified (usually by the state bar association) as having the good moral character
    Good moral character
    Good moral character is a defined legal concept in United States law that details requirements for consideration for certain benefits or positions. The term is chiefly used by the federal government in immigration law, but it can also be a requirement for a particular position of employment or...

     and fitness to practice law.
  • Apply to that state's authority responsible for licensing lawyers and pay required fees. Upon approval by that authority, the admittee takes an oath to comply with the rules governing the practice of law in that state, and receives a certificate of admission.
  • In some jurisdictions, e.g., New Jersey, satisfy additional educational requirements; however, Continuing Legal Education
    Continuing Legal Education
    Continuing legal education is professional education of lawyers that takes place after their initial admission to the bar. In many states in the United States, CLE participation is required of attorneys to maintain their license to practice law...

     (CLE) is generally a matter of license renewal, not admission.

Law schools not accredited by the ABA


Alabama
Alabama State Bar
The Alabama State Bar is the integrated bar association of the U.S. state of Alabama.The Alabama State Bar was established in 1923 and is part of the 1975 Alabama Code, §§ 34-3-1 to 34-3-89....

, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, West Virginia and Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 allow individuals to take the bar exam upon graduation from law schools approved by state bodies but not accredited by the American Bar Association.

On the other hand, in certain states, e.g., Arizona, one may not be allowed to actually take the bar exam unless one's law school is ABA accredited, and this requirement has withstood constitutional attack. Thus, a graduate of a law school without ABA accreditation may not sit for the Arizona bar
State Bar of Arizona
The State Bar of Arizona regulates the practice of law in Arizona. It licenses lawyers and establishes procedures for the discipline of misconduct by lawyers....

, although they may take the bar in other states.

California "Registered" law schools


In California certain law schools are registered with the Committee of Bar Examiners of The State Bar of California. Such schools are authorized to grant the Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 (J.D.) law degree
Law degree
A Law degree is an academic degree conferred for studies in law. Such degrees are generally preparation for legal careers; but while their curricula may be reviewed by legal authority, they do not themselves confer a license...

. Students at these schools must take and pass the First-Year Law Students' Examination (commonly referred to as the "Baby Bar") administered by the CBE. Upon successful passing of the "Baby Bar" those students may continue with their law studies to obtain their J.D. degree.

Admission without law school


In California, Vermont
Vermont
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

, Virginia, and Washington, an applicant who has not attended law school may take the bar exam after study under a judge or practicing attorney for an extended period of time. This method is known as "reading law
Reading law
Reading law is the method by which persons in common law countries, particularly the United States, entered the legal profession before the advent of law schools. This usage specifically refers to a means of entering the profession . A small number of U.S...

" or "reading the law".

New York requires that applicants who are reading the law must have at least one year of law school study (Rule 520.4 for the Admission of Attorneys).

Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

 allows students with two years of law school to serve an apprenticeship in lieu of completing their third year.

Pro se litigants


In Adams v. United States ex rel. McCann (317 US 269) the United States Supreme Court upheld the individual's right to represent him or herself without being admitted to a bar (pro se).

Waiver


Minnesota, North Dakota
North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

 and the District of Columbia allow attorneys who recently passed the bar exam of another state, and who were subsequently admitted to the bar of that state while scoring a certain minimum score on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), to "waive" into admission rather than sitting for that jurisdiction's exam. They must also satisfy other formalities before they may practice in the jurisdiction. Attorneys who passed the bars of Louisiana, Washington, and Puerto Rico cannot "waive in" using this method, since these are the three jurisdictions in the United States that do not use the Multistate Bar Examination.

Diploma privilege


Once used by as many as 32 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Wisconsin is currently the only state that offers a broad diploma privilege
Diploma privilege
In the United States, the diploma privilege is a method for lawyers to be admitted to the bar without taking a bar examination. Once used by as many as 32 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Wisconsin is currently the only state that offers a broad diploma privilege for admission to its state...

 for admission to its state bar. New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

 began offering diploma privilege to a limited number of law graduates in 2008. Most recently, West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

 did away with the rule in 1988, Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

 in 1983 and Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 in 1981.

In Wisconsin, graduates of the two ABA-accredited law schools in the state—currently, the Marquette University Law School
Marquette University Law School
Marquette University Law School is the professional school for the study of law at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and one of only two law schools in Wisconsin. With 45 full-time professors and approximately 760 J.D. students, the law school is ranked in the top tier among American...

 and the University of Wisconsin Law School
University of Wisconsin Law School
The University of Wisconsin Law School is the professional school for the study of law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison, Wisconsin. The law school was founded in 1868.-Facilities:...

—may obtain admission to the bar of Wisconsin through the diploma privilege without taking any examination. Graduates of out-of-state law schools, even if they are Wisconsin residents, must still take the Wisconsin bar exam to be admitted in Wisconsin. To qualify for the diploma privilege, the graduate must have met certain criteria with regard to the courses taken in law school and the graduate's performance in those courses. Law graduates seeking the diploma privilege must still meet the state bar's character and fitness requirements.

In 2005, New Hampshire launched the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, an alternative bar certification program, at the state's only law school, the University of New Hampshire School of Law (then known as Franklin Pierce Law Center). Students who graduate from the program are exempt from taking the New Hampshire bar examination, although they must still pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination and also meet character and fitness requirements. Students apply to the program during the spring of their 1L (first) year, and only 25 are accepted annually. Webster Scholars go through a self-described intensive, practice-based program under the supervision of New Hampshire judges, attorneys, and bar examiners. The first class of Webster Scholars graduated in 2008.

A number of U.S. states do not grant reciprocal admission for attorneys who obtained their bar admission through the diploma privilege, requiring those attorneys to take that state's bar exam, regardless of the length of that attorney's practice.

Reciprocity



Many states allow for reciprocal admission
Admission on motion
In the context of the United States legal system, admission on motion refers to a type of reciprocal agreement between two U.S. states to allow members of the bar association from each state to practice in the other. Thus, lawyers who wish to practice in two states do not have to take the bar...

 to the bar of that state if an individual is licensed to practice in another state which also permits reciprocal admission. Additionally, most states require that the reciprocal admittee has actively practiced law for a number of years (often three of the last five years, or five of the last seven years). For example, New York permits admission on motion to applicants who have practiced five of the last seven years in one of 34 jurisdictions that allow reciprocal admission to applicants from New York. Depending on the state, there may be limitations on reciprocity, such as requiring a minimum score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), or even that the applicant have taken a bar examination in the previous jurisdiction. For example, Rule XIII of the Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 Board of Law Examiners allows attorneys practicing full-time 5 of the last 7 years in another state and who meet minimum scores on the MPRE to be admitted to the Texas bar
State Bar of Texas
The State Bar of Texas is an agency of the judiciary under the administrative control of the Texas Supreme Court. The Texas Bar is responsible for assisting the Texas Supreme Court in overseeing all attorneys licensed to practice law in Texas...

 without having to sit for the Texas Bar Examination.

Most states that allow reciprocal admission define "full-time practice" to include not only attorneys working in law firms or solo practice, but also law teachers in accredited U.S. law schools; military JAG
Judge Advocate General's Corps
Judge Advocate General's Corps, also known as JAG or JAG Corps, refers to the legal branch or specialty of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy. Officers serving in the JAG Corps are typically called Judge Advocates. The Marine Corps and Coast Guard do not maintain separate JAG Corps...

 attorneys; federal and state government attorneys; judges, magistrates, administrative law judges, and similar officials; and in-house corporate counsel. Some states, however, have their own quirks — for example, the definition of "practice of law" in West Virginia does not explicitly include in-house counsel within its scope. Assuming that in-house counsel are not included, this means that a lawyer who has worked exclusively as in-house counsel is ineligible for reciprocal admission in West Virginia, and a West Virginia in-house c
ounsel is ineligible for reciprocal admission in those jurisdictions that tie eligibility to the requirements of the lawyer's original jurisdiction.

Limited license to practice law


A number of jurisdictions will issue, without examination, a limited license to practice law to attorneys already admitted in another jurisdiction under specified conditions. The most common limited licenses are:
  • Legal services attorneys: Attorneys who practice exclusively in legal aid
    Legal aid
    Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial.A number of...

     centers that service mainly low-income clients, or in public defender
    Public defender
    The term public defender is primarily used to refer to a criminal defense lawyer appointed to represent people charged with a crime but who cannot afford to hire an attorney in the United States and Brazil. The term is also applied to some ombudsman offices, for example in Jamaica, and is one way...

     offices serving indigent criminal defendants. Depending on the jurisdiction, attorneys who work in one or both of the named entities may be eligible for such a license.
  • In-house counsel: Attorneys who are employed by a corporation or other business entity that is not in the business of practicing law, and who perform legal services solely for their employer.
  • Foreign legal consultant: A person with formal legal training from a country other than the United States, who is permitted to engage in activities that would otherwise constitute the practice of law on the basis of that training. Common designation for attorneys who are "seconded" to American law firms to learn American law and to cement cross-firm ties.
  • Paralegals and other paraprofessionals: A small number of states license paralegals or "legal document assistants," but these persons must always practice under the supervision of a licensed attorney. In other words, they cannot open independent private practices to the public and they cannot appear in a representative capacity in a court of law, though they are sometimes allowed to appear as representatives in certain administrative hearings.

Admission pro hac vice


An attorney who is not licensed in a particular state or before a certain court, but who wishes to represent a client in a particular matter in that court, may petition the court to provide direct representation pro hac vice
Pro hac vice
Pro hac vice , Latin: "for this occasion" or "for this event", is a legal term usually referring to a lawyer who has not been admitted to practice in a certain jurisdiction but has been allowed to participate in a particular case in that jurisdiction.The right to appear pro hac vice is not...

(Latin: "for this one case") for that particular matter. A number of jurisdictions require that the attorney partner with local counsel for purposes of service of process, attendance at court and assumption of responsibility. Lawyers who practice under pro hac vice rules are usually also bound by that state's Rule of Professional Conduct and discipline.

Some federal courts do not admit pro hac vice. For example, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is the Federal district court with jurisdiction over of the eastern portion of the state of Michigan. The Court is based in Detroit, with courthouses also located in Ann Arbor, Bay City, Flint, and Port Huron...

 specifically states in its local rules, "Pro hac vice admission is not permitted." However, it offers full admission to all attorneys who are licensed and in good standing in any U.S. jurisdiction.

Military lawyers


Lawyers who are full-time active duty military Judge Advocate officers may represent the government (and certain individual service members) in all states even if they are not members of the particular state bar where they are stationed or working.

Admission of foreign-educated lawyers


Many states allow some foreign-educated lawyers to take the bar examination. For example:
  • New York allows individuals with at least three years of formal education in the common law
    Common law
    Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

     (such as English
    English law
    English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

     or Australian
    Law of Australia
    The law of Australia consists of the Australian common law , federal laws enacted by the Parliament of Australia, and laws enacted by the Parliaments of the Australian states and territories...

     law) to take the bar exam. Individuals with two years of common law training or three years of civil law training may take the bar exam after completing a one-year Master of Laws
    Master of Laws
    The Master of Laws is an advanced academic degree, pursued by those holding a professional law degree, and is commonly abbreviated LL.M. from its Latin name, Legum Magister. The University of Oxford names its taught masters of laws B.C.L...

     (LL.M.) program at an American institution.
  • Washington allows individuals admitted "to the practice of law by examination, together with current good standing, in ... any jurisdiction where the common law of England is the basis of its jurisprudence, and active legal experience for at least 3 of the 5 years immediately preceding the filing of the application."Admission to Practice Rule 3 of the Washington Court Rules

Such procedures, where allowed, differ from state to state.

Tactical considerations regarding admission in multiple states


Most attorneys seek and obtain admission only to the bar of one state, and then rely upon pro hac vice admissions for the occasional out-of-state matter. However, many new attorneys do seek admission in multiple states, either by taking multiple bar exams or applying for reciprocity. This is common whenever a metro area
United States metropolitan area
In the United States a metropolitan statistical area is a geographical region with a relatively high population density at its core and close economic ties throughout the area. Such regions are not legally incorporated as a city or town would be, nor are they legal administrative divisions like...

 sprawls into multiple states, like Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 and New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. Attorneys based in predominantly rural states or rural areas near state borders frequently seek admission in multiple states in order to enlarge their client base.

Note that in states that allow reciprocity, admission on motion may have conditions that do not apply to those admitted by examination. For example, attorneys admitted on motion in Virginia are required to show evidence of the intent to practice full-time in Virginia and are prohibited from maintaining an office in any other jurisdiction. Also, their licenses automatically expire when they no longer maintain an office in Virginia.

Types of state bar associations


Admission to a state's bar is not necessarily the same as membership in that state's bar association. There are two kinds of state bar associations:

Mandatory (integrated) bar


Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia require membership in the state's bar association to practice law there. This practice is called a having a Mandatory, Unified or Integrated Bar.

In Texas, for example, the "State Bar of Texas
State Bar of Texas
The State Bar of Texas is an agency of the judiciary under the administrative control of the Texas Supreme Court. The Texas Bar is responsible for assisting the Texas Supreme Court in overseeing all attorneys licensed to practice law in Texas...

" is an agency of the judiciary and is under the administrative control of the Texas Supreme Court
Texas Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Texas is the court of last resort for non-criminal matters in the state of Texas. A different court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is the court of last resort for criminal matters.The Court is composed of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices...

. The State Bar of Texas is composed of those persons licensed to practice law in Texas, and each such person is required by law to join the State Bar by registering with the clerk of the Texas Supreme Court. See also State Bar of California
State Bar of California
The State Bar of California is California's official bar association. It is responsible for managing the admission of lawyers to the practice of law, investigating complaints of professional misconduct, and prescribing appropriate discipline...

.

Voluntary and private bar associations


A voluntary
Voluntary association
A voluntary association or union is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement as volunteers to form a body to accomplish a purpose.Strictly speaking, in many jurisdictions no formalities are necessary to start an association...

 bar association is a private organization of lawyers. Each may have social, educational, and lobbying functions, but does not regulate the practice of law or admit lawyers to practice or discipline lawyers. An example of this is the New York State Bar Association
New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association , with 77,000 members, is the largest voluntary bar association in the United States.-History:The State Bar was founded with a constitution that dates to 1877...

.

There is a statewide voluntary bar association in each of the eighteen states that have no mandatory or integrated bar association. There are also many voluntary bar associations organized by city, county, or by other community, such as the Hispanic National Bar Association. The American Bar Association is the voluntary bar association with the largest membership. After the American Bar Association denied membership to African-American lawyers, the National Bar Association
National Bar Association
The National Bar Association was established in 1925 as the "Negro Bar Association" after Gertrude Rush, George H. Woodson, S. Joe Brown, James B. Morris, and Charles P. Howard, Sr. were denied membership in the American Bar Association. It represents the interests of African-American attorneys in...

 was formed in 1925, and the two racially segregated groups continued for decades. Now both groups are open to attorneys without regard to race.

Federal district courts, circuit courts, and Supreme Court


Admission to a state bar does not automatically entitle practice in federal courts, such as the United States district court
United States district court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...

s or United States court of appeals
United States court of appeals
The United States courts of appeals are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system...

. In general, an attorney is admitted to the bar of these courts upon payment of a fee and taking an oath of admission.
Attorneys who appear before federal courts on behalf of the United States federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

, such as Assistant United States Attorneys
United States Attorney
United States Attorneys represent the United States federal government in United States district court and United States court of appeals. There are 93 U.S. Attorneys stationed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands...

, may encounter looser requirements, such as a waiver of the fee.

An attorney must apply to each district separately. For instance, a Texas attorney who practices in federal courts throughout the state would have to get admitted separately to the Northern District of Texas
United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas is a United States district court. Its first judge, Andrew Phelps McCormick, was appointed to the court on April 10, 1879. The court convenes in Dallas, Texas with divisions in Fort Worth, Amarillo, Abilene, Lubbock, San Angelo...

, the Eastern District
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas is the Federal district court with jurisdiction over the eastern part of Texas and is a part of the Fifth Circuit. The court's headquarters are in Tyler, Texas and has five subdivision offices in Beaumont, Lufkin, Marshall,...

, the Southern District
United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas is the Federal district court with jurisdiction over the southern part of Texas...

, and the Western District
United States District Court for the Western District of Texas
The United States District Court For the Western District Of Texas is a Federal district court. The court convenes in San Antonio with divisions in Austin, Del Rio, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, and Waco. It has jurisdiction in over 50 Trans-Pecos, Permian Basin and Hill Country counties of the U.S....

. To handle a federal appeal the attorney would also be required to be admitted separately to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* Eastern District of Louisiana* Middle District of Louisiana...

 for general appeals and to the Federal Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
-Vacancies and pending nominations:-List of former judges:-Chief judges:Notwithstanding the foregoing, when the court was initially created, Congress had to resolve which chief judge of the predecessor courts would become the first chief judge...

 for appeals that fall within that court's jurisdiction. As the United States Bankruptcy Court
United States bankruptcy court
United States bankruptcy courts are courts created under Article I of the United States Constitution. They function as units of the district courts and have subject-matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases. The federal district courts have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all cases arising...

s are divisions of the District Courts, admission to a particular U.S. District Court usually includes automatic admission to the corresponding Bankruptcy Court. However, the Bankruptcy Courts require attorneys attend training on electronic filing before they may file motions.

Some federal district courts have extra admission requirements. For instance:
  • The Southern District of Texas requires attorneys seeking admission to attend a class on that District's practice and procedures;
  • The Southern District of Florida
    United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
    The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida is the federal United States district court with jurisdiction over the southern part of the state of Florida....

     administers an entrance exam;
  • The United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
    United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
    The United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island is the Federal district court whose jurisdiction is the state of Rhode Island. The District Court was created in 1790 when Rhode Island ratified the Constitution...

     requires candidates to both attend classes and pass an examination.


Many federal district courts require attorneys to be members of the state bar where the court sits. This is not necessarily consistent within a state; for example, in Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, the Southern District
United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio is one of two United States district courts in Ohio and includes forty-eight of the state's eighty-eight counties. Appeals from the court are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit at Cincinnati The...

 generally requires membership in the Ohio state bar for full admission, while full admission to the Northern District
United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio is the federal trial court for the northern half of Ohio...

 is open to all attorneys in good standing with any U.S. jurisdiction.

An attorney wishing to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 must apply to do so, be admitted to the bar of the highest court of a state, be sponsored by two attorneys already admitted to the Supreme Court bar, pay a fee and take either a spoken or written oath.

Courts of special subject-matter jurisdiction



While the federal district courts are of general jurisdiction, there are a number of federal courts with subject-matter jurisdiction
Subject-matter jurisdiction
Subject-matter jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to a specific subject matter. For instance, bankruptcy court only has the authority to hear bankruptcy cases....

. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
-Vacancies and pending nominations:-List of former judges:-Chief judges:Notwithstanding the foregoing, when the court was initially created, Congress had to resolve which chief judge of the predecessor courts would become the first chief judge...

 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review
United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review
The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review is a U.S. federal court authorized under and established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978...

 are Article III courts
Article I and Article III tribunals
In the United States, the American legal system includes both state courts and United States federal courts. The federal tribunals may be an Article III tribunal or another adjudicative body classified as an Article I or an Article IV tribunal...

 that hear cases from lower courts but do not have general jurisdiction. The Court of International Trade
United States Court of International Trade
The United States Court of International Trade is an Article III court, with full powers in law and equity. The Customs Court Act of 1980 replaced the old United States Customs Court with the United States Court of International Trade. The Court has nine sitting Judges, as well as Senior Judges...

 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are lower Article III courts that also do not have general jurisdiction. The Court of Federal Claims
United States Court of Federal Claims
The United States Court of Federal Claims is a United States federal court that hears monetary claims against the U.S. government. The court is established pursuant to Congress's authority under Article One of the United States Constitution...

, Tax Court
United States Tax Court
The United States Tax Court is a federal trial court of record established by Congress under Article I of the U.S. Constitution, section 8 of which provides that the Congress has the power to "constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court"...

, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is a federal court of record that was established under Article I of the United States Constitution...

, Alien Terrorist Removal Court, Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces or CAAF is an Article I court that exercises worldwide appellate jurisdiction over members of the United States armed forces on active duty and other persons subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice...

, and the four military courts of criminal appeals for each military branch (Air Force
Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals
The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals is an independent appellate judicial body authorized by Congress and established by the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force pursuant to the exclusive authority under . The Court hears and decides appeals of United States Air Force court-martial...

, Army
Army Court of Criminal Appeals
In the United States military, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals is an appellate court that reviews certain court martial convictions of Army personnel.-Jurisdiction:...

, Navy-Marine Corps, and Coast Guard
Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals
The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals is the intermediate appellate court for criminal convictions in the U.S. Coast Guard. It is located in Arlington, Virginia....

), are all Article I courts
Article I and Article III tribunals
In the United States, the American legal system includes both state courts and United States federal courts. The federal tribunals may be an Article III tribunal or another adjudicative body classified as an Article I or an Article IV tribunal...

 with limited jurisdiction.

Admission to the Federal Circuit is open to any attorney in good standing with the U.S. Supreme Court, any of the other federal courts of appeal, any federal district court, the highest court of any state, the Court of International Trade, the Court of Federal Claims, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, or the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. An oath and fee are required.

Various specialized courts, including the Tax Court, have separate admission requirements. The Tax Court is unusual in that a non-attorney may be admitted to practice. However, the non-attorney must take and pass an examination administered by the Court to be admitted, while attorneys are not required to take the exam. Most members of the Tax Court bar are attorneys.

Patent practice


Persons wishing to "prosecute" patents (i.e., represent clients in the process of obtaining a patent) must first pass the USPTO registration examination
USPTO registration examination
In order to be registered as a patent agent or patent attorney in the United States, one must pass the United States Patent and Trademark Office registration examination, officially called the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases Before the United States Patent and Trademark...

, frequently referred to as the "patent bar." Detailed information about applying for the registration examination is available in the USPTO's General Requirements Bulletin. Although only registered patent attorneys or patent agents can prosecute patents in the USPTO, passing the patent bar is not necessary to advise clients on patent infringement, to litigate patent issues in court or to prosecute trademark
Trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

s.

A J.D. degree is not required to sit for the patent bar. Lawyers who pass the patent bar exam may refer to themselves as a patent attorney
Patent attorney
A patent attorney is an attorney who has the specialized qualifications necessary for representing clients in obtaining patents and acting in all matters and procedures relating to patent law and practice, such as filing an opposition...

 (rules of legal ethics
Legal ethics
Legal ethics encompasses an ethical code governing the conduct of persons engaged in the practice of law and persons more generally in the legal sector.-In the United States:...

 prohibit lawyers from using the title "patent attorney" unless they are admitted to practice before the USPTO). While patent lawyers have a relevant four-year degree and many have graduate technical degrees, patent litigation attorneys do not have to be patent attorneys, although some are.

Non-lawyers who pass the patent bar are referred to as "patent agents." Patent agents may not hold themselves out as licensed attorneys. Applicants must have U.S. citizenship
Citizenship in the United States
Citizenship in the United States is a status given to individuals that entails specific rights, duties, privileges, and benefits between the United States and the individual...

, permanent residency (a Green Card), or a valid work visa for a patent-related job. An applicant on a work visa, upon passing the exam, is only given "limited recognition" to perform work for the employer listed on the work visa. Only U.S. citizens can maintain their registration in the patent bar while they are working outside the United States.

The USPTO requires that applicants to the patent bar have earned a bachelor's degree
Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

. Applicants are categorized as having earned an accredited "bachelor's degree in a recognized technical subject" (category A), having earned a "bachelor's degree in another subject" with sufficient credits to qualify for the exam (category B), or having "practical engineering
Engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

 or scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 experience" (category C).

Applicants in "category A" must have an engineering
Engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

 or "hard science
Hard and soft science
Hard science and soft science are colloquial terms often used when comparing scientific fields of academic research or scholarship, with hard meaning perceived as being more scientific, rigorous, or accurate...

" degree in a field listed in the General Requirements Bulletin. Note that the degree field as shown on the diploma must be exactly as it appears on the list; for example, "aerospace engineering
Aerospace engineering
Aerospace engineering is the primary branch of engineering concerned with the design, construction and science of aircraft and spacecraft. It is divided into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering...

" does not qualify under category A, while "aeronautical engineering" does. A computer science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

 degree is accepted under "category A" as long as it is received from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, is a non-profit organization that accredits post-secondary education programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology...

 (ABET)-accredited or CSAB
CSAB (professional organization)
CSAB, Inc., formerly called the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board, Inc., is a non-profit professional organization in the United States, focused on the quality of education in computing disciplines...

-accredited program.

Applicants in "category B" must have earned a bachelor's degree, and must have sufficient credits in science and engineering courses to meet the USPTO's requirements; the number of credits depends on the specific discipline. The coursework must include a minimum of eight credit-hours of acceptable classes in either chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 or physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

. Each course being relied upon by the applicant for credit is evaluated by the USPTO's Office of Enrollment and Discipline for suitability; see the General Requirements Bulletin for the horrific details. Engineering and Computer Science majors whose degree programs do not meet "category A" requirements (typically due to the named field of the degree or, especially in computer science, lack of program accreditation) can apply under "category B."

Applicants in "category C" may present evidence of passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam
Fundamentals of Engineering exam
The Fundamentals of Engineering exam, also referred to as the Engineer in Training exam, and formerly in some states as the Engineering Intern exam, is the first of two examinations that engineers must pass in order to be licensed as a Professional Engineer in the United States...

 as proof of technical education. They must also have a bachelor's degree. Although the admission requirements allow applicants to substitute proof of technical experience for technical education, this is rarely done in practice.

Military law


Service as a member of a military service's Judge Advocate General's Corps
Judge Advocate General's Corps
Judge Advocate General's Corps, also known as JAG or JAG Corps, refers to the legal branch or specialty of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy. Officers serving in the JAG Corps are typically called Judge Advocates. The Marine Corps and Coast Guard do not maintain separate JAG Corps...

 requires graduation from an American Bar Association-approved law school, a license to practice law in any state or territory of the United States, and training at the specialized law school of one of the three military services (The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School
The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School
The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School educates military, civilian, and international personnel in legal and leadership skills. The center is operated by the United States Army and is located in Charlottesville, Virginia...

 for the Army, the Naval Justice School
Naval Justice School
The Naval Justice School is an educational institution of the United States Navy whose mission is to instruct Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard officers and enlisted personnel in the fundamental principles of military justice, civil and administrative law, and procedure...

 for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, and the Air Force Judge Advocate General School for the Air Force).

In a court-martial, the accused is also entitled to retain counsel at their own expense. (They are provided JAG Corps defense counsel at no expense to them). Such civilian retained counsel need not be a JAG Corps members. Civilian counsel must be a member of a state bar and is administered an oath at the beginning of each court-martial, swearing or affirming to perform the duties of defense counsel.

Criminal appeals for each branch of the military are heard by the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, Army Court of Criminal Appeals, Navy-Marine Court of Criminal Appeals, and Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. Appeals from these courts are heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Apprenticeship issue


The American legal system is unusual in that, with few exceptions, it has no formal apprenticeship or clinical training requirements between the period of academic legal training and the bar exam, or even after the bar exam. Two exceptions are Delaware
Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

 and Vermont, which require that candidates for admission serve a full-time clerkship of at least five months (Delaware) or three months (Vermont) in the office of a lawyer previously admitted in that state before being eligible to take the oath of admission. New Jersey has a similar requirement, with the addition of training and instruction.

On October 12, 2005, the Washington State Supreme Court adopted amendments to Admission to Practice Rule 5 and 18, mandating that, prior to admission, Bar applicants must complete a minimum of four hours of approved pre-admission education.

Some law schools have tried to rectify this lack of experience by requiring supervised "Public Service Requirements" of all graduates. States that encourage law students to undergo clinical training or perform public service in the form of pro bono representation may allow students to appear and practice in limited court settings under the supervision of an admitted attorney. For example, in New York's Third Appellate Department, "Any officer or agency of the state ... or any legal aid organization ... may make application to the presiding justice of this court for an order authorizing the employment or utilization of law students who have completed at least two semesters of law school and eligible law school graduates as law interns to render and perform legal services ... which the officer, agency or organization making the application is authorized to perform." Similarly, New York's state Department of Labor allows law students to practice in unemployment benefits hearings before the agency.

As a result, in most jurisdictions anyone with a J.D. (or equivalent experience in the states that allow it) may take the bar exam and be admitted to the bar, and then may immediately seek out clients and start filing papers with a court. The current system has been criticized on the grounds that clients often end up subsidizing the apprenticeship of young lawyers.

Character and fitness


In addition to the educational and bar examination requirements, most states also require an applicant to demonstrate good moral character. This has resulted in a variety of subjective factors being used to prevent applicants who are otherwise qualified from being admitted. For example, until the policy was reversed by the Supreme Court of Virginia in 1979, female applicants who were cohabiting out of wedlock were denied admission to the bar. In early 2009, a person who had passed the New York bar and had over $400,000 in unpaid student loans was denied admission by the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division is the intermediate appellate court in New York State. The Appellate Division is composed of four departments .*The First Department covers the Bronx The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division is the intermediate...

 due to excessive indebtedness, despite being recommended for admission by the state's character and fitness committee. He moved to void the denial, but the court upheld its original decision in November 2009, by which time his debt had accumulated to nearly $500,000.

For example, in Virginia, each applicant must complete a 24-page questionnaire and may appear before a committee for an interview if the committee initially rejects their application.

Admission formalities


Once all prerequisites has been satisfied, an attorney must actually be admitted. The mechanics of this vary widely. For example, in California, the admittee simply takes an oath before any state judge or notary public, who then co-signs the admission form. The admittee returns the form to the State Bar of California, which updates the official roll of attorneys. The State Bar also holds large-scale formal admission ceremonies in conjunction with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the federal district courts, usually in the same convention centers where new admittees took the bar examination, but these are optional.

In other jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia, new admittees must attend a special session of court in person to take the oath of admission in open court; they cannot take the oath before any available judge or notary public.

Incidents of admission


A successful applicant is permitted to practice law after being sworn in as an officer of the Court; in most states, that means they may begin filing pleadings and appearing as counsel of record in any trial or appellate court in the state. Upon admission, a new lawyer is issued a certificate of admission, usually from the state's highest court, and a membership card attesting to admission.

Two states are exceptions to the general rule of admission by the state's highest court:
  • In New York, admission is granted by one of the state's four intermediate appellate courts corresponding generally to the Department of residence of the applicant; once admitted, however, the applicant can practice in any court in the state.
  • In Georgia, each new attorney is admitted to practice by the local trial court of the county in which he or she resides or desires to practice. The new attorney, although licensed to practice in any local trial court in the state, must separately seek admission to the Georgia Courts of Appeals as well as the Georgia Supreme Court.


In most states, lawyers are also issued a unique bar identification number. In many states where unauthorized practice of law is a problem, the state bar number must appear on all documents submitted by a lawyer.

External links