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Practicing Law in USA

 
 
Reply Sat 9 Apr, 2005 07:09 pm
I am from a common law country (Australia) and I am doing my legal education there. Now USA is a common law country as well (or so my lecturers have been telling me) but I know that each state of the USA has their own laws - their own jurisdiction. Can anyone give me a general idea of what practicing law there would be like, for one who was not educated there? Qualifications shouldn't be a problem should it? But the bar course apparently has its own exams for each jurisdiction? And they are very very difficult, according to one lecturer.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 25,635 • Replies: 9
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2005 05:14 pm
Each state has its own Bar Examination, and it is not uncommon for an assumptively well-qualified, prestiously educated applicant to fail one or more attempts before passin' - the late John F. Kennedy Jr comes immediately to mind, as does that star-crossed young man's uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy.

Trial attorneys typically confine the bulk of their practice to one or at most just a few states. Further complicatin' things is that particular requirements may apply to specific Circuits or Jurisdictions within a state - and then there are the Federal Courts.

If you figure on practicin' law in the US, you prolly oughtta figure on doin' some fairly intensive US study. There are "Cram Courses" available, which purport to prepare one for specific exams. They're pretty pricey - and ya still gotta pass the exam involved to gain the desired acredidation. Good luck.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2005 11:38 pm
By and large, timber is correct: each state has its own bar exam. In order to practice law in the US, a lawyer must take a bar exam somewhere. Some states permit lawyers who have practiced a certain number of years (I think it's five) in another state to waive the bar exam requirement, but many states don't allow this.

Bar exams differ from state to state both in content and pass rates. When I took the Illinois bar exam, the pass rate was around 90% (it has gotten tougher, so I'm told). California's bar (reputedly the toughest bar exam in the country) has a pass rate in the 50% range. In 2002, the five toughest and five easiest state bar exams were:
    [u]Most Difficult[/u] California 45% Alaska 54% Alabama 55% D.C. 55% Rhode Island 57% [u]Easiest[/u] Kansas 82% (t) Minnesota 82% (t) Utah 84% North Dakota 85% New Mexico 86% South Dakota 93%
There is no separate federal bar exam. Anyone admitted to practice in a state is permitted to practice in the federal courts in that state. Likewise, I've never heard of any special exam to practice in certain courts, with one exception: patent law.

As for what it's like actually practicing law, that question is too broad to be answered. There are thousands of lawyers in the US, all with different practice areas, in different jurisdictions, with different firms. Perhaps if you narrow your question, pragmatic, to focus on some area in which you are particularly interested.
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pragmatic
 
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Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2005 05:42 pm
Yes, I have heard about the difficulty of the bar prac course and exam - the NY bar association Australian delegate had come to our uni and talked about it. This is the impression I have had from reading Timber and Joefromchicago's posts (BTW, thank you both for your time and information) is that you must be both a solictor and barrister to practice in the USA. Is that right or did I miss something?

Joefromchicago (can I call you JFC?) - sorry, I should have elaborated on what I wanted to say. For the moment, family law and discrimination law are my main interests. What do you say?
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pragmatic
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2005 05:50 pm
Timber (on the assumption you too are a part of the legal community) what is you're opinion?

PS - I understand this is general information and not expert advice. I understand that the authors take no responsibility for any liability arising from this advice Laughing Laughing
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Debra Law
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2005 04:22 am
joefromchicago wrote:
California's bar (reputedly the toughest bar exam in the country) has a pass rate in the 50% range. In 2002, the five toughest and five easiest state bar exams were:
    [u]Most Difficult[/u] California 45% Alaska 54% Alabama 55% D.C. 55% Rhode Island 57% [u]Easiest[/u] Kansas 82% (t) Minnesota 82% (t) Utah 84% North Dakota 85% New Mexico 86%


I challenge the concept that bar examinations are "easier" to pass in some states simply because they have a higher pass rate. I think the quality of the applicants and their educational backgrounds are just better in some states than in other states.

Most states require the applicant to write a essay examination (usually six essay questions) and pass both the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).

Any law student with average intelligence and an appropriate educational background should be able to pass the bar examination the first time they take the test regardless of the state in which it is taken.

My uncle (now deceased) was a Doctor of Education and served as a principal at air force base schools for many years. The school, of course, consisted of students who came from all over the United States. One thing he noted over his many years: Students who came from the State of California were consistently poor academic performers. They may have been "A" or "B" students in the CA school system -- but became "D" and "F" students when challenged with educational materials appropriate for their age and grade. On the other hand, students from North Dakota, Minnesota, and other midwestern states were consistently high academic performers.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2005 08:52 am
Debra_Law wrote:
I challenge the concept that bar examinations are "easier" to pass in some states simply because they have a higher pass rate. I think the quality of the applicants and their educational backgrounds are just better in some states than in other states.

I think that's probably true in the case of the California bar, which allows graduates from non-accredited law schools to take the exam. Indeed, on a website I've linked to elsewhere (you can find it here), the argument is made that the California bar exam is easy. Having never taken the California bar exam, I can offer no first-hand opinion.

Pass rates are, admittedly, flawed indicators for a test's ease or difficulty; unfortunately, it is about the only indicator that we have (test scores are typically not released). It is not clear, for instance, if a low pass rate indicates a tough exam or merely a very high minimum passing score. I know, however, that the tests themselves can be made more or less difficult; in Illinois, the bar examiners made a concerted effort to make the bar exam (which once had one of the highest pass rates in the nation) tougher. Fortunately, by that time I had already taken and passed the exam.

Debra_Law wrote:
Any law student with average intelligence and an appropriate educational background should be able to pass the bar examination the first time they take the test regardless of the state in which it is taken.

Ideally.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2005 08:59 am
pragmatic wrote:
Yes, I have heard about the difficulty of the bar prac course and exam - the NY bar association Australian delegate had come to our uni and talked about it. This is the impression I have had from reading Timber and Joefromchicago's posts (BTW, thank you both for your time and information) is that you must be both a solictor and barrister to practice in the USA. Is that right or did I miss something?

Joefromchicago (can I call you JFC?) - sorry, I should have elaborated on what I wanted to say. For the moment, family law and discrimination law are my main interests. What do you say?

Sorry, pragmatic, I missed this question. Yes, in the US attorneys combine the tasks of solicitor and barrister: that division of labor is entirely absent from US legal practice.

Attorneys who practice family law are typically in small firms. Large firms (100+ attorneys) won't handle family law -- not enough money and no continuity of business. Many lawyers specialize in family law, including many lawyers who do only matrimonial work.

Discrimination law is different depending on which side you'd represent. If you're working for plaintiffs, then you're either a small-firm practitioner or you are working for a government agency. If you're working for defendants, then you could very well be working for a big firm representing large corporations.
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timberlandko
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2005 10:29 am
Pragmatic, sorry - lost track of this thread (not hard for me to do - I have a few to keep track of Rolling Eyes ); I wasn't ignorin' ya. I'm not a member of the legal community, though I have family members who are and I've had some law school (a long, long time ago). Mostly I just have some workin' knowledge of legal proceedin's - for which havin' family members in the field turns out to be of significant economic benefit. I don't so much "hire" an attorney, I have 'em over for dinner once in a while, exchange holiday cards with 'em, and see to it their kids are on my gift list Mr. Green
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pragmatic
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Apr, 2005 08:58 pm
that's ok Timber! :wink: No need to apologise for that! And I must say, shouting the attorneys out to dinner and all is a better idea than giving them money! Its a realistic world, my good...uh *checking your profile* curmudgeon.

Ok, well, thank you everyone for your comments...I will ponder over them and any other questions - I will ask, if you don't mind answering it. Very Happy
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