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Bar Exam Information & Study Aids: International Examinees

Resources to help you study for the bar exam, including links to study guides, sample exams, and practical information on applying to take the exam.  

Foreign Trained Lawyers & Students


It may be difficult for foreign-trained lawyers to sit the bar exam in the US, even an LL.M. degree in itself does not guarantee eligibility to take the bar exam.

Most states require a J.D. degree from a US law school in order to sit for the bar exam.

There are some states which do allow foreign law graduates to sit for the bar exam, including New York, California, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Virginia. In this case, however, foreign-educated lawyers must begin the process by getting their law degree reviewed and analyzed by the American Bar Association. It can take up to a year before the foreign law credentials are even assessed. Once reviewed, the application is either accepted or deferred. If accepted, foreign lawyers are allowed to sit for that state’s bar exam in much the same way a domestic applicant would. In New York, one of the jurisdictions most open to foreign lawyers, this would allow foreign lawyers to sit for the bar without being forced to complete any further law school study in the US.


Foreign attorneys and students interested in taking a US bar exam to look at the “Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements,” which lists the bar eligibility requirements of the 50 states plus Washington DC. The publication is available on the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.

Books from the Catalog

New York Bar Exam

Specific information about the NY bar can be found here. Foreign students should pay particular attention to Rule 520.6 of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law. Foreign-trained attorneys must submit an evaluation of their foreign credentials up to one year in advance of sitting for the NY bar exam. The NY bar exam is offered twice a year in February and July. If you plan to sit for the exam in July, you must submit the evaluation form by October 1 of the year before. If you plan to sit for the exam in February, you must submit the evaluation form by May 1 of the year before. Because of these requirements, students who are opting to sit for the NY bar exam will be limited in their course options and may not be able to specialize. 


Foreign-trained lawyers who wish to take the NY bar exam will have to complete at least 12 credits of required classes including Legal Research and Writing, American Legal Institutions, Legal Ethics, and 2 courses in subjects tested on the bar exam. U.S. Business Law, U.S. Contracts, U.S. Constitutional Law, and U.S. Criminal Law will meet this requirement. 

California Bar Exam

With some limitations, California is another jurisdiction that allows foreign students to sit for the exam. There are similar limitations and difference for foreign trained attorneys and those who have been admitted to practice in other international jurisdictions. LL.M. students with foreign bar membership to sit for the bar. While New York requires an LL.M. with a number of American law courses for many candidates. Lawyers admitted to practice law in other jurisdictions outside the U.S. might be able to sit for the California bar as well.

If you have not been admitted to practice in another country, you must first get an LL.M in the U.S. and at least 12 credits covering 4 distinct subjects tested on the CA bar in addition to a course on Professional Responsibility that covers relevant sections of the California Business and Professions Code, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and leading federal and state case law on the subject. 

For more information, visit The State Bar of California's pages on "Foreign Education" and "Guidelines for Applicants with a Foreign Law Degree"

District of Columbia Bar Exam

Eligibility for the D.C. Bar is much stricter than New York for all foreign-educated law graduates.

  • Foreign-educated law graduates must take 26 credits of subjects tested on the bar exam at an ABA accredited law school. Rule 46 (b)(4). See list below.
  • You cannot immediately waive into the D.C. Bar after passing the New York bar exam. To waive into D.C., a foreign lawyer must be a member “in good standing” of another U.S. bar for the 5 years immediately preceding your application.
  • The D.C. Bar offers a “special legal consultant” status for a foreign-educated lawyer who has been admitted to practice in another country and is at least 26 years of age. Rule 46 (c)(4).
  • See D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 46 Admission to the Bar