State Bar Associations

State Bar Associations

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

Mandatory (Integrated) Bar

Some states, including California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Washington, require membership in the state's bar association to practice law there. This is called a Mandatory, Unified or an Integrated Bar.

For example, in Texas, the "State Bar of Texas" is an agency of the judiciary and is under the administrative control of the Texas Supreme Court. See Tex. Gov’t Code section 81.011. 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.

Voluntary and Private Bar Associations

This is a private organization of lawyers. Each may have social, educational, and lobbying functions, but does not normalize the practice of law or admit lawyers to practice.

There is a state wide voluntary bar association in every state that has 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.

Federal courts

Federal district and appellate courts
Admission to a state bar does not allow the admitted attorney to appear and implore before the United States district courts or any United States Court of Appeals. As with State appellate courts, admission to the bar of a federal district or appellate court is conceded upon payment of a fee and taking an oath of admission. These requirements are often different for attorneys who appear before federal courts on behalf of the United States government, such as Assistant United States Attorneys.

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 accepted individually to the Northern District of Texas, the Eastern District, the Southern District, and the Western District. To handle a federal appeal the lawyer would also be required to be admitted individually to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Some federal district courts have extra admission requirements. For example, the Southern District of Texas needs attorneys seeking admission to attend a class on practice and procedures in that District, while the Southern District of Florida administers an admission test.

United States District Courts (Federal trial courts) condition their admissions policies on those of the state in which they are located. Usually speaking, a Federal District Court will admit a lawyer to practice provided that he or she is already admitted to practice in that state. For example, a lawyer admitted in California may automatically be admitted to the bar of a Federal court in California, but could likely not automatically gain admission to a Federal court in neighboring Oregon.

United States Supreme Court
A lawyer wishing to practice before the United States Supreme Court must apply to do so. The lawyer must have been admitted to a state bar for at least three years, and the application must be patronized by two lawyers already admitted to the Supreme Court bar. A fee and a written oath are also required.

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

Patent Practice

Persons wishing to "prosecute" patents before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)—i.e., represent clients in the process of obtaining a patent—must first pass the USPTO registration test, frequently referred to as the "patent bar."

A Juris Doctor degree is not required to sit for the patent bar. Lawyers who pass the patent bar examination may refer to themselves as Patent attorney; non-lawyers are referred to as "Patent agent". Patent agents may not hold themselves out as licensed attorneys. The USPTO needs that, to sit for the patent bar, each individual must have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in a "hard science" or engineering, or accrued a certain number of credits in undergraduate science courses; the number of credits depends on the specific discipline. A computer science degree is acceptable, so long as it is received from an ABET accredited program.

Most patent lawyers have a relevant four-year degree and many have graduate technical degrees. Legal ethics rules prohibit lawyers from using the title "patent attorney" unless they are admitted to practice before the USPTO.

Passing the patent bar is not necessary to advise clients on patent infringement, to litigate patent issues in court or to prosecute trademarks. However, only registered patent lawyers or patent agents can proceed patents in the USPTO.

Military law

Military law member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps needs a licence to exercise law in any state or territory of the United States, as well as workout at one of the 3 military services specialized law schools. In a general court martial the accused is also entitled to retain counsel at his own expense, and retained counsel need not be a JAG Corps member.