Exceptions to general rules of admission

Exception to rules of admission


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.

Minnesota, North Dakota and the District of Columbia permit lawyers who recently passed the bar exam of another state, and who were consequently 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 examination.

Diploma privilege

Wisconsin offers the diploma privilege for admission to the state bar. Graduates of ABA-accredited law schools in the state—currently, the Marquette University Law School and the University of Wisconsin Law School—may take admission to the bar of Wisconsin through the diploma privilege without taking any exam. To classify 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's character and fitness requirements.
Graduates of Wisconsin law schools must take the bar exam for other states in which they are going to practice (unless a candidate meets the state's waiver requirements).

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.

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

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

Limited license to practice law

a number of jurisdictions will issue, without exam, a limited certify to practice law to attorneys already admitted in another jurisdiction under specified situations. The most common limited licenses are:
  • Legal services attorneys: Attorneys who practice exclusively in legal aid centers that service principally low-income clients, or in public defender 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 council: Attorneys who are employed by a company or other business company that is not in the business of practicing law, and who perform legal services exclusively for their employer.
  • Foreign legal consultant: A person with formal legal workout 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 workout. Common designation for attorneys who are "seconded" to American law firms to learn American law and to cement cross-firm ties.
  • Legal professional: A small number of states license paralegals and others who habitually organize legal documentation.

Admission Without Law School

In California, Washington, Vermont, and Virginia, an aspirant who has not attended law school may take the bar exam after study under a judge or practicing lawyer for an extended period of time. This method is known as "reading law" or "reading the law".
New York requires that candidates who are reading the law must have at least one year of law school study.

Law schools not accredited by the ABA

Some states, such as Alabama, California, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Tennessee, allow individuals to obtain the bar exam upon graduation from law schools approved by state bodies but not accredited by the American Bar Association.

Military Lawyers

Lawyers who are full-time active duty military officers may practice in some states, if they are stationed there and fulfill administrative requirements.

Admission Pro Hac Vice

An lawyer who is not licensed in a particular state and before a certain court, but who wishes to represent a client in a particular matter in that state, may appeal the court to provide direct performance Pro hac vice, (Latin "For This One Case"). A number of jurisdictions need that the lawyer partner with local counsel for purposes of service of process, assistance at court and assumption of responsibility. Lawyers who exercise under pro hac vice rules are generally also bound by that state's Rule of Professional Conduct and discipline.

Admission of foreign-educated lawyers

Many states allow some foreign-educated lawyers to take the bar examination. For example:
  • 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 directly preceding the filing of the application." See Admission to Practice Rule 3 of the Washington Court Rules
  • New York allows individuals with at least three years of formal education in the common law (such as English or Australian law) to take the bar exam. Individuals with two years of common law workout or three years of civil law workout may take the bar exam after completing a one-year Master of Laws (LL.M.) program at an American institution.