One of the biggest mistakes attorneys make in their job search is not looking at multiple markets. For most attorneys, we recommend that you consider multiple markets when you are conducting a job search—there are lifestyle, prestige, compensation, and many other considerations that make looking at other markets worth your while.
But what if you have not yet passed the bar exam? Or if you want to explore legal opportunities in a state different from the one where you were admitted? Or practice federal law in federal district courts? Are there additional hurdles you will need to overcome?
Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more: This article provides an overview of the bar admission process—a complicated process that varies from state to state—and explores ways in which attorneys licensed in one state can practice in other states. It also covers what to do if you fail the bar exam, how to make use of your J.D. degree without actually practicing law, and the recent trend towards “portability” of bar exam results through state adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam.
Passing the bar is a HUGE accomplishment. All of your hard work has paid off: Getting excellent grades in college, acing the LSAT, churning out the law school applications, braving the Socratic method and final exams of law school, writing onto a journal, competing in moot court—and now the icing on the cake—a passing score on the bar exam!
All that is left is to do is fulfill the few remaining steps for admission in the state where you passed the bar, such as the character and fitness determination. Then you will be off and running in your new career as an attorney.
As you plan your job search, we encourage you to think about applying in several markets. As legal recruiters we always explore the benefits of applying in several markets with our clients who are serious about career strategy. Additional markets give you additional options in all kinds of ways including lifestyle, financial benefits, prestige, happiness and other considerations. You may be the perfect fit for a market or job you may not have even considered—and you may be able to land that job without even taking another bar exam. Read on to learn about bar reciprocity which allows you to pass the bar in one state and work in another, multiple bar admissions, and other related topics.
Passing the Bar Exam in at Least One State
Your future is not doomed if you never pass a bar exam, but your employment opportunities in the legal arena will increase exponentially if you pass the bar exam and get admitted in at least one state. We recommend that you make every effort to do so, even if it means taking the bar exam several times and/or in another jurisdiction with an “easier” bar exam in order to pass.
The reason is simple. Bar admission gives you the “Admitted to the Bar” stamp of approval, elevates your desirability in the eyes of employers, and gives you the ticket you need to make a living.
Without bar admission in at least one state, your resume can work against you. A potential employer will see that you are a J.D. but that you have not passed the bar and wonder why. Employers will often assume the worst—that you are not smart or diligent enough to pass the bar exam—and they will not want to hire you.
Putting aside how you will look to future employers, a bar admission also gives you the opportunity to be your own employer. You can hang a shingle, get clients, and if you are competent and industrious, you will have a means of supporting yourself and your family for the rest of your life.
Because it is so beneficial to pass the bar exam in at least one state, we recommend that people buckle down and take the test as soon as possible after they graduate from law school. You may be exhausted from final exams and want to lie on the beach or play basketball, but most people who take the bar exam after a long hiatus will tell you that they wish they had not done things that way. It is easier to pass the bar exam when you are still in “law student” mode and law school concepts are fresh in your mind.
Also, the longer a person waits to take the bar exam, the harder it might be to study because he or she may get married, have kids, and get into a full-time job where it is difficult to take time off from work to study.
Different State Bar Exams and the UBE Trend
The issue of bar admission is complicated because each state has its own set of laws, types of bar exams and bar admission requirements. In order to “practice law” in the courts of a particular state, someone must first be admitted to the bar of that state. An attorney who passed the New York bar exam and is admitted to practice in New York, for example, cannot practice law in California without first passing the California bar exam and being admitted in California. (Some states do allow attorneys to use bar admissions in other states to “waive” into the bar. We discuss that option below.)
Right now there is a trend among certain states to unify the process of bar admission through use of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). Massachusetts is the latest state to adopt at least part of the UBE. The other states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Missouri and North Dakota were the first states to administer the UBE in February 2011, followed by Alabama in July 2011 and New York, Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico, and Vermont in 2016. Massachusetts began administering the UBE in 2018.
The UBE is a set of three testing devices prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The UBE concentrates on general legal concepts as opposed to intricacies of any particular state’s laws in an effort to provide a uniform way to measure performance across the country.
The UBE is comprised of the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), which is a set of 200 multiple-choice questions on Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Federal Civil Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts; the Multistate Essay Examination; and the Multistate Performance Test. States can utilize some or all portions of the UBE and set their own scoring criteria. Every state except Louisiana currently administers the MBE portion of the UBE. Some states, like California, administer the MBE together with state-specific essay and performance test features. Policies vary among the state bar associations that allow the transfer of MBE scores from one jurisdiction to another.
In theory, the UBE fosters portability of law licenses, especially with respect to states like Minnesota and Idaho that accept passing UBE scores from any state within a certain window of time (between two to five years). But this practice is limited to a select group of states—and even in those states where you will need to sit for the bar exam or find another way to get admitted if you apply outside of the time frame when your UBE score still counts. Moreover, other states that administer the UBE require applicants to take a separate course and test on state subjects for admittance.
States like California—which has one of the most difficult bar exams in the country—do not use the UBE. If you want to practice in those states you will need to start from scratch (which means you take the whole test or, if you are an attorney who has practiced law in another state for a certain length of time, you take the more limited “attorneys’ exam”). The previous California bar exam was three days long and consisted of six essays, two performance tests, and 200 multiple-choice MBE questions. The exam covered 13 subjects including the MBE “multistate” subjects in addition to state subjects like community property and remedies. The California State Bar Board of Trustees voted to revamp the format and as of July 2017 the California bar exam is now a two-day test consisting of one day of essays and one day of the MBE.
Multiple State Admissions
In order to maximize employability and have the ability to take on clients in different states, many attorneys opt to take the bar in multiple states right after law school. This is particularly useful for attorneys who live in metropolitan areas that cover the tri state area of New York (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut).
Multiple state admission is also a useful strategy for attorneys who live in less populated rural states because it expands the attorney’s network of potential employers and clients. States in these clusters generally arrange their bar exam schedules so that people are able to take multiple bar exams around the same time.
Federal Courts Bar Admissions
Even more varied are the rules that govern whether someone can practice federal law in one of the 94 federal district courts spread across the country and U.S. territories. Admission requirements differ from district court to district court, but admission generally involves at the very least paying a fee and taking an oath. Many district courts require an attorney to be admitted to practice before the state courts of the state in which the federal court sits. For example, to apply for admission to the United States District Court for the Central District of California, an attorney must be an active member in good standing of the State Bar of California.
Other districts simply require that an attorney be admitted in any state, or, like the Eastern District of Wisconsin, get an affidavit in support of admission from an attorney admitted to practice before that district court.
Special rules apply for gaining admission to the United States Tax Court to become a tax attorney and for becoming a member of the “patent bar” to prosecute patents before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Admission on Motion and Reciprocity
Some states allow an attorney admitted in one state to “waive” into the bars of their state, which is known as getting “admitted on motion.” To effectively manage the waive-in process, it is important to know the waive-in requirements for each particular state.
Some states do not allow an attorney to “waive” into their state—no matter how much experience an attorney has—and states that do allow admission on motion have individual criteria, such as the need to be “sponsored” by a local attorney. The District of Columbia allows admission on motion based on criteria, whereas California does not allow it in any situations.
Some states allow admission on motion, but only for attorneys coming from states with “reciprocity” to that state. Therefore, if State A allows attorneys from State B to waive in, then attorneys from State B can “reciprocally” waive in to State A.
Federal district courts have their own rules about admission on motion and reciprocity. Attorneys admitted to practice in 25 of the nation’s 94 district courts are given reciprocity, but that may increase in the future in accordance with the trend towards greater access.
Take a look at the following charts that cover reciprocity, comity, and attorneys’ exams in all 50 states and the U.S. territories:
Reciprocity, Comity, and Attorneys’ Exams
|Jurisdiction||Admission on motion is based on reciprocity||Attorneys initially admitted by diploma privilege are eligible for admission on motion|
|District of Columbia||X||X|
|Jurisdiction||Offers an Attorneys’ Exam||Attorneys must be from an ABA-approved school to qualify for the Attorneys’ Exam|
|District of Columbia||X|
|Northern Mariana Islands||X||X|
† Texas has adopted the uniform bar examination to be administered beginning in February 2021
Additional Information about Reciprocity and Attorneys’ Exams
While the American Bar Association (ABA) promotes guidelines for reciprocity or admission on motion among U.S. states, each state is free to accept or disregard those suggestions and make their own rules.
Therefore, certain jurisdictions have unique requirements for reciprocity and attorneys’ exams, which are detailed below.
Admission on Motion Based on Reciprocity:
Colorado applicants from non-reciprocal jurisdictions and/or graduates from non-ABA-accredited law schools may petition for a waiver of the requirement under C.R.C.P. 206.
Connecticut provides for reciprocal jurisdiction in a process called "Admission Without Examination." Attorneys who would like to waive in must have practiced law in a reciprocal jurisdiction as the primary means of their living for 5-10 years immediately preceding the application for admission.
Georgia provides reciprocity in a process called "Admission on Motion Without Examination." Attorneys must have been admitted by examination in another United States jurisdiction that has reciprocity with Georgia and practiced law, for the most part, for 5-7 years immediately preceding application. If the reciprocal jurisdiction possesses stricter rules and limitations, the attorney will be governed by that reciprocal jurisdiction's rules. Georgia also offers the Georgia attorney's exam for those licensed in other jurisdictions who do not meet Georgia's bar reciprocity requirements.
Mississippi has reciprocal jurisdiction so long as the laws from the state from which the applicant comes grant similar privileges to Mississippi attorney applicants. The Board determines if the state in which the applicant is coming from grants “similar privileges.” Mississippi also requires the MPRE and the same passing score requirement as the attorney’s home jurisdiction.
Oregon provides for reciprocal jurisdiction in a process called “Reciprocity Admission/Alternative Admission.” Attorneys must have passed the bar exam in a reciprocal jurisdiction and be actively engaged in law for at least 5-7 years immediately preceding the application for admission. Oregon has special reciprocity with Alaska, Idaho, Utah, and Washington. If an attorney is licensed in one of the previously—stated jurisdictions, the practice of law is lowered to 3-5 years preceding the application for admission.
Virginia provides for reciprocal jurisdiction in a process called “Admission Without Examination.” Attorneys must have been admitted in a reciprocal jurisdiction for at least five years and actively practiced the law for the past three years. Attorneys from Virginia must be allowed without examination in the transferring jurisdiction.
In Wyoming, the process is called "Admission on Motion." Attorneys must have passed the written bar exam and practiced law actively in a reciprocal jurisdiction for five of the past seven years preceding application. Reciprocal jurisdictions must admit Wyoming attorneys without additional examination.
Admission on Motion for Attorneys Initially Admitted by Diploma Privilege:
Arkansas allows this as long as the applicant is a graduate of an ABA-approved law school.
Connecticut allows this as long as the applicant is a graduate of an ABA- or committee-approved law school.
The District of Columbia requires the applicant to have been in good standing of the bar for five years.
Mississippi allows it as long as the laws in the state from which the applicant comes grant similar privileges to Mississippi attorney applicants.
In Ohio, an applicant who has been admitted in another jurisdiction by diploma privilege is eligible for admission without examination only if applicant has also taken and passed the bar examination and been admitted as an attorney-at-law in the highest court of another state or the District of Columbia.
In Tennessee, the applicant must file a petition with the Board setting forth reasons for admission and a hearing is held in response.
Applying for the Attorneys’ Exam without Graduating from an ABA-Approved Law School:
In California, attorneys must have been admitted and in good standing for four years.
In Maine, if an applicant is not a graduate of an ABA-approved law school, then the applicant must have engaged in the practice of law for three years in the U.S. jurisdiction where admitted.
In Maryland, if the attorney applicant has practiced law for ten years (or five years in the immediate past ten years) following admission by examination in another jurisdiction, the applicant is eligible for the attorneys’ exam and need not be a graduate of an ABA-approved law school.
In Rhode Island, applicants who have not graduated from an ABA-approved law school may sit for the attorneys’ exam provided they have been engaged in the active full-time practice of law for five out of the ten years immediately preceding the filing of the bar application.
In Virginia,attorney applicants who hold an active license to practice law, are in good standing, and have taken and passed a bar exam in another jurisdiction, may sit for only the essay portion of the Virginia bar exam.
Admission Pro Hac Vice
An additional way that an attorney can practice law in another state—on a very limited basis—is by being admitted pro hac vice on a given matter. Pro hac vice is a legal term that means “for this one particular occasion” in Latin. States and courts have their own requirements for Pro hac vice admission, but normally a lawyer must be experienced as well as sponsored by a member of the local bar (or even have a local lawyer serve as co-counsel).
The jurisdiction of Puerto Rico allows attorneys from other jurisdictions to be admitted pro hac vice for specific matters with a fee of $150 per appearance, but Puerto Rico does not allow for admission on motion. In order to practice in Puerto Rico, an attorney must pass the “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s Bar Examination.” Attorneys can qualify for admission without examination; however, those standards are extremely high. The attorney must be admitted to practice in good standing before the highest court of a state or certain other jurisdictions and also has either passed the Puerto Rico Bar Exam or served in the district in various judicial capacities: District Judge, Magistrate Judge, Clerk or Chief Deputy Clerk, Law Clerk, U.S. Attorney or Assistant U.S. Attorney, Federal Public Defender or Assistant Federal Public Defender, General Court Justice for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as judge, or tenured professor at a law school for various lengths of time and under specified circumstances. The Puerto Rico Bar Exam tests Federal Civil Procedure, Federal Evidence, Federal Jurisdiction and Venue, Federal Criminal Procedure, Local Rules, Federal Appellate Procedure, Bankruptcy, and Ethics.
Working in a State without Being Admitted in That State
In most cases you must be admitted in a state to work there, but there is an exception for in-house corporate work. You do not necessarily have to be admitted to the bar in California to do transactional work for an in-house legal department.
Some corporate jobs require applicants to have a “legal background” such as a J.D. even if they will not actually be practicing law. For example, many banks hire people with legal knowledge to be trust officers. The legal background connotes—at the very least—an understanding of laws, contracts, and other subjects in that realm, whether the corporation wants to hire a full-fledged attorney or not.
Sometimes companies do not want to hire a licensed attorney because they have to pay more. These firms do not want to pay more when someone else, such as an unlicensed attorney, law school graduate, or paralegal, is able to complete the same tasks competently. Having a J.D. will definitely fulfill the legal background requirement on a job description, even if the person is not a practicing attorney.
Options for People Who Have Failed the Bar Exam
Bar admission is complicated, but useful. Bar admission is so useful that failing the bar exam (even more than once) should not deter you from giving it another try.
If you failed a bar exam, do not get unduly discouraged. Even top law students and attorneys sometimes fail the bar exam. In one notorious case, Kathleen Sullivan—the former Dean of Stanford Law School and a prominent United States Supreme Court litigator—failed the California bar exam the first time she took it. There are many ways to bounce back after failing the bar exam and pass on your next attempt.
The first way, of course, is to study harder and prepare yourself better for the next bar exam. You’re not the first person to fail the bar exam—nor will you be the last. There is absolutely no shame in having to take it more than once in order to pass.
The bar exam is a passable exam, and not as impossible as some people make it appear. If you have failed the bar exam, it is not the end of the world. One positive aspect about the bar exam in many jurisdictions is that it can be retaken as many times as necessary to pass. This is unlike some other professional exams where a person is allowed a limited number of attempts. Another positive is that the bar exam is given two times a year in most jurisdictions. This is unlike an Olympic athlete who must wait four years for another shot at the gold.
Besides studying harder after failing a bar exam, there is another way to avoid retaking the bar exam you failed and still get the “Admitted to the Bar stamp on your resume. The key is to take another state’s bar exam— a state with a much easier exam and a much higher pass rate.
You can do the research on states with high-pass bar exams. Compare it to your own state’s exam. You’ll have to study for that particular state’s exam and arrange for your own travel and accommodations, of course. With all of this extra work and expense, you could wonder: What are the benefits?
If you are in New York applying for a job and you have Admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar on your resume, for example, that looks infinitely better than just having J.D. in your education section. At an interview, you’ll doubtless be asked about this situation, and this too can work to your advantage.
You obviously don’t want to say, “I took the Pennsylvania Bar Exam because the New York exam was far too difficult” or “I took the Pennsylvania Exam just for the sake of having a Bar Admission on my resume,” even though that may be exactly what you did. Instead, you can come up with creative reasons. Perhaps you can say that you once aspired to practice law in Philadelphia but later opted against it. Or you can say that Pennsylvania law interested you in the past because you thought about living there.
This strategy may not work if you’re applying for a New York job that requires a New York license. Again, it is wise to review ABA guidelines for reciprocity or admission on motion for the state(s) in question. But for a corporate-type job where bar admission is not required, your resume will look more complete with a Bar Admission on it—from any state—as opposed to just a J.D. Competition is fierce for employment, especially for legal jobs. Many of your competitors will have Bar Admissions on their resumes, so you cannot afford to be without one.
So don’t just rest with your J.D.! Do what it takes to pass the bar in your state, or in another state. Emphasize these preparation tips to overcome failing the bar exam:
- Conduct a personal assessment
- Understand the law
- Memorize the law
- Read carefully
When people fail a bar exam, they usually receive a tally of their scores on each question and receive a copy of their actual answers. For instance, in California, the bar examiners return the graded essays and performance tests to the applicants who fail along with a scorecard showing their multiple choice raw and scaled scores. Find out the reasons you failed, and take action to redress these problems by speaking with a professor, former bar exam grader, or bar exam tutor who knows the law and how the bar exam works.
Try to pass a bar exam in any state. Get it on your resume. It is that important! From there, you will be able to explore practicing law in whatever state you choose.
When I graduated from law school, I started my career clerking for a judge in Michigan. I had worked in a New York City law firm during the summer after my second year and had every intention of returning there. The firm was serious, however, and the people I was working with seemed quite solemn, on edge, and there did not appear to be any opportunities at the firm for advancement.
On a whim, I decided to apply to a handful of California firms and I was glad I did. The firm I ended up going to work for had no dress code and the people seemed much happier than the firm in New York. Moreover, I did not have to sell my car, got to live in a nice climate most of the year and the firm paid just as much as New York law firms. It was a great decision for me in all respects but it would not have happened if I only wanted a New York lifestyle. Many people would never in a million years consider living in Los Angeles over New York. But people are different and being open to new experiences can often lead you exactly where you are meant to be. That is why every attorney should consider multiple markets.
When you look at other markets and use your qualifications to approach firms in other markets, you give yourself additional options—lifestyle, financial benefits, prestige, happiness and other considerations—that could be very worthwhile. Relocating to a different legal market is often a great way for an attorney to get ahead.
If you are working with us, please speak with your recruiter about applying to law firms in other markets. You may not even need the bar exam. I would estimate that 80% of the candidates I am working with look at markets outside of their home market for the following reasons:
- The economy varies depending on one region of the country to another. You may be very marketable in one area (and even to a better firm) and less marketable due to the concentration of highly-qualified candidates in another.
- You may be a better fit “culturally” in one area of the country and not another.
- Your skills and experience may be a “perfect fit” in one area of the country and not another.
- There may not be any jobs in the area of the country you are from and plenty of jobs in other areas.
By expanding your options, considering other markets, and never giving up when you are rejected, you have the best chance of finding a legal job that is ideal for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Bar Examination?
Known as the bar exam, the Uniform Bar Examination is a standardized test administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. To become licensed to practice law, lawyers must pass the test assessing their skills and knowledge. Three parts make up this exam:
- Multistate Bar Examination: 200 multiple-choice questions
- Multistate Essay Examination: Six 30-minute essay questions
- Multistate Performance Test: Two 90-minute exams
The written bar examination covers the following content areas:
- Conflict of laws
- Real property
- Family law
- Business associations (Partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations)
- Criminal law and procedure
- Uniform Commercial Code, Article 9 (Secured Transactions)
- Trusts and estates
What Is State Bar Reciprocity?
The bar exam may not have to be retaken if you pass the bar in one jurisdiction and wish to practice law in another. Bar reciprocity is offered in many states. It is possible to be admitted on motion (also known as "waiving") into your new jurisdiction if you have already passed the bar and have practiced law for a specified period. To be admitted on motion, you are required to apply to be admitted to the bar of the jurisdiction you intend to practice in, which often entails proving you have high moral character, taking the MPRE, or other requirements. Once you are approved for a license in your new state, you will be able to begin practicing.
A comprehensive guide to bar admissions is provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which is updated annually. The reciprocity rules of several jurisdictions may change over time. If you are moving from one state to another, make sure to review the reciprocity rules of the new state's bar before proceeding.
Having passed one bar, you may feel confident studying independently if you have to retake the bar in your new state.
The term "Bar reciprocity" includes several types of admissions on motion under the umbrella of bar reciprocity. A bar reciprocity agreement and an admission on motion agreement are both practices whereby attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions may be admitted to practice in that jurisdiction without being admitted through the bar. Generally, bar reciprocity requirements fall into one of the following categories:
- No Admission on Motion allowed
- Admission on Motion allowed based on Criteria (attorneys from any state may be admitted)
- Admission on Motion based on Reciprocity (Attorneys may be admitted if attorneys from the admitting jurisdiction can be admitted to the transferring jurisdiction under similar rules.)
- Semi-Pure Reciprocity (Attorneys may be admitted if attorneys from the admitting jurisdiction can be admitted to the transferring jurisdiction under similar rules, but applicants are subject to the more stringent rules, requirements, and fees of the transferring jurisdiction if applicable.)
- Pure Reciprocity (Attorneys may be admitted based on the rules of the transferring jurisdiction.)
Which State Bar Exam Have Reciprocity?
When looking for lawyers for a firm, recruiters explore every option. Your search for a home will have an edge if you search out of state. You will have more choices for finances, lifestyle, and a variety of intangibles. The bar may not need to be taken again in several states where you may be able to practice law.
State bar admission processes vary widely. The Uniform Bar Exam gives lawyers the ability to practice in multiple states upon passing the exam.
- Alabama Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- Alaska Reciprocity- Reciprocal agreements exist between Alaska and the following states: CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, and WY.
- Arizona Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- Arkansas Reciprocity- In October 2004, the motion-based admission process was implemented. Applicants admitted by motion must be admitted to the bar in at least one other state, possess a law degree, and practice law in the state where they are admitted as an attorney for at least 5 years.
- California Reciprocity- Although California does not offer reciprocity, it offers a shorter bar exam for attorneys admitted in other states and who have been in good standing as attorneys in those states for at least four years before their application.
- Colorado Reciprocity- Colorado reciprocity agreements are only available to residents of states or territories which have reciprocity agreements. These states and territories include: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, USVI, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- Connecticut Reciprocity- Attorneys from other states who reciprocate for Connecticut lawyers, will be provisionally admitted to Connecticut. Those states and territories include the following: AL, AK, AR, CO, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, USVI, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- Delaware Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- Florida Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- Georgia Reciprocity- The state of Georgia offers a shorter bar exam for lawyers who have already been admitted by examination and have been in good standing in another state for at least a year before taking the Georgia bar exam. Attorneys with a minimum of five years' experience in reciprocal states are eligible to apply without examination.
- Hawaii Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- Idaho Reciprocity- Reciprocity with Idaho is available only to law firms licensed in Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. If, however, a lawyer has practiced law within the last seven years immediately preceding their application for admission, they are not required to take and pass the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Those lawyers must pass the remaining portions of the Idaho bar examination.
- Illinois Reciprocity- Illinois has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, GU, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NMI, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, USVI, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- Indiana Reciprocity- There is no formal reciprocity in this state. If an applicant has practiced law in another state for five or more of the past seven years before applying for admission to the Indiana bar examination, it will provisionally admit them.
- Iowa Reciprocity- The Iowa bar examination is not required if you have practiced law for five out of the last seven years before applying for admission to practice law in Iowa.
- Kansas Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- Kentucky Reciprocity- Kentucky has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IA, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- Louisiana Reciprocity- The state does not have formal reciprocity agreements, but certain lawyers may be provisionally admitted.
- Maine Reciprocity- The reciprocity agreements were unveiled in 2005, allowing Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire attorneys to take each other's bar exams without taking the exam for their home state. A shorter exam is available for lawyers with at least three years of experience in another state before application. The Maine Bar Examination is expected to be shorter if you pass the Maine Bar Exam within 61 months after the present administration.
- Maryland Reciprocity- Maryland does not have formal reciprocity agreements with any other state, but it offers a shorter bar exam for lawyers in good standing in another state for at least five of the last 10 years before applying for admission.
- Massachusetts Reciprocity- To be admitted to practice in Massachusetts, you must have been admitted to practice in another state for at least five years before your application and have good standing in the previous state. It is required that you be a graduate of a law school that was approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) at the time of graduation or authorized by state statute to grant the bachelor of laws degree or Juris Doctor degree.
- Michigan Reciprocity- Michigan law school admissions do not require that you pass the bar exam if you have practiced law for three out of the last five years before applying.
- Minnesota Reciprocity- You can be admitted to practice in Minnesota without taking and passing the Minnesota bar exam if you have practiced law for five of the last seven years. Other lawyers can apply for admission based on a minimum passing score on the MBE if they pass the test in another jurisdiction within two years of applying.
- Mississippi Reciprocity- There are a few states that allow Mississippi lawyers to reciprocate with their state. After taking and passing an attorney's examination, lawyers from other states with at least five years' experience may be admitted.
- Missouri Reciprocity- Missouri reciprocity agreements must exist in the states you are coming from.
- Montana Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- Nebraska Reciprocity- A graduate of an ABA-accredited law school and a member of the MPRE can apply for admission without a bar examination. A lawyer who has graduated from a law school accredited by the ABA and has actively and substantially practiced law for five or more years is exempt from taking and passing the written bar exam.
- Nevada Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- New Hampshire Reciprocity- The reciprocity agreements were unveiled in 2005, allowing Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire attorneys to take each other's bar exams without taking the exam for their home state.
- New Jersey Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- New Mexico Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- New York Reciprocity- New York has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- North Carolina Reciprocity- North Carolina has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- North Dakota Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- Ohio Reciprocity- No reciprocity agreement exists between Ohio and other states. Provisional admission will be granted if the applicant has passed a bar exam and has been admitted to a court of higher authority in another state or the District of Columbia. Before the date of application, they must have practiced law for five years. To maintain their license to practice in Ohio, applicants must demonstrate they will practice law continuously.
- Oklahoma Reciprocity- Oklahoma has formal reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- Oregon Reciprocity- Oregon has formal reciprocity agreements with AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- Pennsylvania Reciprocity- This state has reciprocity with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
- Rhode Island Reciprocity- Rhode Island will provisionally admit anyone who has practiced or taught law in the United States for at least five out of the last ten years before the date of application. The Rhode Island bar exam includes an essay portion that a candidate must pass.
- South Carolina Reciprocity- This state does not offer reciprocity.
- South Dakota Reciprocity- South Dakota has been operating under a reciprocity agreement since 2004. A minimum of five years of experience in a prescribed area is required.
- Tennessee Reciprocity- The state will provisionally admit you if you meet the educational requirements for the Tennessee bar exam and have actively practiced law for at least five years before you apply for admission.
- Texas Reciprocity- In Texas, certain lawyers may be admitted without an examination and after passing the full student examination.
- Utah Reciprocity- Utah has reciprocity agreements with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, and WY.
- Vermont Reciprocity- The reciprocity agreements were unveiled in 2005, allowing Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire attorneys to take each other's bar exams without taking the exam for their home state. A person who has practiced in another jurisdiction must have held an active license in at least one US jurisdiction for five years of the past 10 years, without having been suspended in that jurisdiction. They can be admitted without examination if they meet those requirements.
- Virginia Reciprocity- In reciprocity with other states, Virginia will accept lawyers from those states.
- Washington Reciprocity- Washington has reciprocity with AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, and WY.
- Washington D.C. Reciprocity- If you are already admitted in another jurisdiction for five years before applying, you do not need to take the bar. An applicant who has graduated from an accredited law school and has achieved certain minimum MBE and MPRE scores may be admitted without taking the bar.
- West Virginia Reciprocity- West Virginia has reciprocity with CO, CT, DC, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NY, NC, ND, OK, PA, TX, VT, VA, WA, and WI.
- Wisconsin Reciprocity- A Wisconsin lawyer who reciprocates for another state's lawyer will be eligible to withdraw provisionally.
- Wyoming Reciprocity- Wyoming will provisionally admit lawyers from other states who reciprocate for Wyoming lawyers.
Can You Waive Into Florida Bar?
The watchword of late in the Florida legal community is reciprocity. If you are not a member of the Florida legal community, or if you are but have been ignoring it, here is a quick explanation:
Only attorneys licensed in Florida can practice law there. A Florida-licensed lawyer would need to apply for a state license, score well on the bar exam, as well as satisfy that state's character and fitness criteria to lawfully practice law in another state.
The Florida Bar does not have reciprocity with any other state bar association. Reciprocity means that two-state bar associations have agreed that lawyers from state A can practice in state B, and vice versa, as long as they fulfill the other state's bar exam requirements.
The Florida Bar has proposed making Florida a reciprocating state, and hearings on the issue have been scheduled. Statewide attorneys are flipping out, and the Florida Bar is asking citizens to remain calm. So what exactly is the problem?
Only 11 out of the 50 states do not have any reciprocity agreement. Protectionism has been blamed for Florida's lack of reciprocity with other states, but there are a few more factors to consider. By setting a high barrier to entry, the Florida Bar is defending its members from the out-of-state competition by requiring them to pass the Florida Bar exam and go through the bar admissions procedure.
The Florida Bar's rule against out-of-state lawyers practicing in the state of Florida is as follows:
A lawyer who is not admitted to practice in Florida shall not:
(1) except as authorized by other law, establish an office or other regular presence in Florida for the practice of law;
(2) hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in Florida; or
(3) appear in court, before an administrative agency, or before any other tribunal unless authorized to do so by the court, administrative agency, or tribunal pursuant to the applicable rules of the federal court, state court, administrative agency, or tribunal.
Attorneys are worried because they believe that out-of-state attorneys will swarm to Florida in the thousands to compete for clients. On the other hand, there are certain benefits to reciprocity. Here's why:
Why lawyer reciprocity is a good thing?
Without reciprocity, attorneys are like medieval serfs who are bound to the land and unable to work anywhere else. Florida's lawyers might be considerably more mobile if reciprocity is enacted. To start multi-state practices without having to hire attorneys from other states or pass another bar exam. To migrate to a more economically viable state and practice law there. To conduct business across state lines. These are all wonderful things to do.
Here are a few words about the Florida bar exam
“Aha,” you conclude, assuming that “we do not want attorneys who have not passed the Florida bar exam to practice in Florida because they would not have a sufficient knowledge of Florida law to practice effectively.” There is a widespread misconception that passing the Florida bar exam indicates that you are qualified to practice law in the state.
This is patently false. Passing a test simply implies that you obtained enough correct answers, either via knowing the proper solutions or through chance, to earn a passing grade. It does not imply that you are capable, capable, or informed enough to do anything different once you have passed the test.
Getting a license requires passing a state's bar exam. Having a degree does not mean you will be any good or know what you should be doing. As much (or perhaps more) as any lawyer in Florida, lawyers in other states who have passed their state's bar exams know about serving clients and how to competently represent them.
The real concern for Florida's lawyers
Potential clients should worry less about choosing another lawyer than about finding a more expedient way to solve their legal problems without consulting a lawyer.
Lawyers: do you add value to your client’s experience? Does hiring you really improve their outcome in a criminal case? In a civil claim? In preparing a will or trust? In filling out the blanks on a bankruptcy form?
Or are you simply counting on your Florida law license to make you money since, for right now, potential clients have nowhere else to go?
Many, if not most, aspects of modern law practice are redundant or rote and will soon be automated. This will happen sooner rather than later. Lawyers started to be replaced by computers for document review and discovery in 2011. Lawyers are no longer needed to sift through mountains of documents in search of relevant evidence. According to one report, by 2030, lawyers will be replaced by software.
Fundamental changes are coming, and if you are worried about a New York lawyer retiring to Florida and setting up shop, you are concerned about the wrong thing.
What States Have Bar Reciprocity With Texas?
Attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions are admission to the Texas Bar governed by Rule XIII of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas. This is known as Texas Admission Without Examination. For the seven years immediately preceding the application filing, attorneys must have been actively and substantially engaged in the practice of law in any state or elsewhere as their primary business or occupation. Rule XIII is strictly construed since it is an exception to the general rule that requires the Texas bar exam.
Texas has a limited reciprocity admission rule for certain lawyers to be admitted without examination and after the passage of the full student examination. Texas’s additional reciprocity requirements include:
- Law Degree: A law degree from an ABA-approved law school (determined at the time of enrollment or graduation and not at a later date).
- Character and Fitness: Attorneys must meet the applicable character and fitness standards.
- Good Standing and Prior Bar Exam: Attorneys must be in good standing and cannot have previously failed the Texas bar exam.
- Practice of Law: Attorneys must have been actively and substantially engaged in the practice of law in any state or elsewhere as his or her principal business or occupation for at least five of the past seven years immediately preceding the filing of the application. Active and substantial practice is demonstrated practice of at least 30 hours per week. The attorney has the burden of proof. “Practice of law” includes:
- Private Practice (sole practitioner, law firm, legal services office, legal clinic, public agency, or similar entity) (on behalf of an individual, corporation, partnership, or trust)
- Judges, Magistrates, or Referees (local, state, or federal) (position must only be open to licensed attorneys)
- Government Attorneys (local state, or federal) (primary duties of furnishing legal counsel and advice, drafting and interpreting legal documents and pleadings, interpreting and giving advice regarding the law, or preparing, trying, or presenting cases before courts and departments of government or administrative agencies)
- Judicial Clerkships and Exclusive Federal Practice*
- Military Attorneys
- Law Professors teaching at ABA-approved law schools
- Corporate Counsel (primary duties of furnishing legal counsel and advice, drafting and interpreting legal documents and pleadings, interpreting and giving advice regarding the law, or preparing, trying, or presenting cases before courts and departments of government or administrative agencies)
- Not specifically enumerated but included: Judicial Clerkships, Military Attorneys Does not include: Foreign Legal Consultants
Texas applicants should also consult the Texas Board of Law Examiners’ Policy Statement on Practice Requirements for Rule VIII for further guidance regarding qualifying practices in Texas and practices taking place outside of Texas.
For any work performed in a jurisdiction where the attorney is not licensed, the attorney must provide a written statement, including citation and court rule, statute, or binding authority in that jurisdiction, demonstrating to the Board’s satisfaction that the jurisdiction does not regard the activity or practice as unlawful.
CLICK HERE TO SEARCH JOBS IN OTHER STATES
A list of reciprocity guidelines is available on each U.S. individual state and territory bar website, provided below:
- Alabama State Bar Association
- Alaska Bar Association
- State Bar of Arizona
- Arkansas Bar Association
- State Bar of California
- Colorado Bar Association
- Connecticut Bar Association
- Delaware State Bar Association
- District of Columbia Bar
- The Florida Bar
- State Bar of Georgia
- Hawaii State Bar Association
- Idaho State Bar
- Illinois State Bar Association
- Indiana State Bar Association
- Iowa State Bar Association
- Kansas Bar Association
- Kentucky Bar Association
- Louisiana State Bar Association
- Maine State Bar Association
- Maryland State Bar Association
- Massachusetts Bar Association
- State Bar of Michigan
- Minnesota State Bar Association
- The Mississippi Bar
- The Missouri Bar
- State Bar of Montana
- Nebraska State Bar Association
- State Bar of Nevada
- New Hampshire Bar Association
- New Jersey State Bar Association
- State Bar of New Mexico
- New York State Bar Association
- North Carolina Bar Association
- State Bar Association of North Dakota
- Ohio State Bar Association
- Oklahoma Bar Association
- Oregon State Bar
- Pennsylvania Bar Association
- Rhode Island Law Center
- South Carolina Bar
- State Bar of South Dakota
- Tennessee Bar Association
- State Bar of Texas
- The Utah State Bar
- Vermont Bar Association
- Virginia State Bar
- Virgin Islands Bar Association
- Washington State Bar Association
- The West Virginia State Bar
- State Bar of Wisconsin
- Wyoming State Bar
Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. He is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.
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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
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