Among the possible pieces of information to include on your resume, your bar admissions status (and/or USPTO admission status if you are a patent agent or IP attorney) is something you should absolutely include. At the most basic level, a law firm will always, without fail, want to know if you are licensed to practice in the state where you are applying for a lateral position. Since the question is going to be asked anyway, why not include it upfront (also, you don’t want to run the risk of not including it and having a hiring partner assume it is not there because you aren’t licensed and tossing your resume immediately in the reject pile).
In fact, as I have mentioned in previous articles, I work with a significant number of law firms in California who will not consider any lateral candidate who is not already licensed in California. There are a number of reasons for this, including but not limited to: 1) the firm does not want to pay the expense of bar exam fees, not to mention having an associate unavailable for a couple weeks post-hire in order to study for and take the exam; 2) for any litigators, you will not be able to represent clients in court without being locally licensed, and this creates logistical hassles for the partners; 3) becoming licensed locally is an indication you have seriously invested in the local legal market, and are more likely to stick around (this is especially true of lateral moves involving a change in geography); and 4) it looks better to the firm’s clients, and at the end of the day, everything comes down to the clients.
There are some nuances and exceptions in terms of what information bar admissions information to include, and here is a general breakdown of the rules I like to follow:
1 – You should always include the states you are currently licensed in.
3 – You should only include prospective states if you have actually taken concrete steps towards becoming licensed in that state (e.g., registered for the exam, sat for the exam and awaiting results, passed and admission pending, submitted application for admission on motion, etc.). It is not necessary to indicate that you simply *plan* to take a state bar exam if you have not taken any steps to do so. That being said, you should definitely indicate steps you *have* taken, as firms will be interested in how soon you are likely to become licensed.
4 – It is not necessary to indicate more local admissions, e.g., the Northern District of California. I always leave this at the discretion of the attorney, but typically I try to avoid cluttering a resume with information that is not compelling or relevant. An example of a relevant localized admission might be a Court of Appeals if you have actually handled an appeal, in which case the information serves as an additional reminder of that part of your experience (that is hopefully also detailed elsewhere on your resume).
Including the relevant bar admissions status on your resume upfront will give you the best chance at being considered by a firm, and will cut down on the legwork a recruiting coordinator or hiring partner has to do to consider your candidacy. And the easier you make things for them, the easier it will be for them to say yes.