There are federal rules which require all schools to disclose information to admitted students about their degree programs if the degree is advertised as leading to a professional license. Each school must disclose to a student if the degree they were admitted to will not (or might not) qualify them to sit for the bar exam in the state the student lists as their residence. These rules apply to schools that train people to become a member of any state-licensed profession, ranging from doctors, plumbers, hairdressers, to lawyers. The intent of these rules is to allow admitted students to educate themselves about whether a degree program will enable them to obtain professional licensure in the state of their residence.
At Albany Law School, law licensure is the only state professional licensure that we prepare students for. Law licensure is regulated separately by each state, district, and territory within the US. Broadly, if one gains licensure in a state jurisdiction, that license only allows one to practice law in that jurisdiction. Many of our students take the New York State bar exam and hope to practice in New York State, but as we place our graduates both nationally and internationally, we have students who wish to practice in many jurisdictions within the U.S. (Our programs are not designed to qualify one to practice law in other countries; this page will only address law licensure within the United States.)
We offer several degrees and certificates at Albany Law School. For example, a JD (Juris Doctor) degree from Albany Law School can fulfill the legal education requirements to sit for any US state's bar exam. The JD degree is the main legal educational credential in the US.
However, some of our other degrees and certificates cannot or might not qualify one to sit for the bar exam.
For some of our other degree programs, such as the LLM (Master of Laws), we may have a blend of students who already have a law degree; either a U.S. JD degree or a law degree from another country. An LLM student who earned a JD degree from an ABA-accredited law school in the US is likely to be able to sit for the bar exam on that basis and ultimately become licensed to practice law, but the answer for foreign-trained attorneys is much more complex and far fewer states might allow them to sit for their bar exams.
For each degree we offer which might lead to a law license, we must look at the laws of each state. If there are any students who would not be able to use that degree to qualify for their home state's bar exam and earn a law licensure, then the law requires us to notify all students in that program (based on residence). We cannot categorically state that every LLM student can use their LLM degree to become a member of the New York bar, and thus we must notify every LLM student who lists an address in New York State of this. If you have been sent this link, feel free to read on for more information and to also reach out to your academic advisor with any questions about bar exam eligibility in a given state.
Generally, law licensure can be broken down into these steps:
Qualify to sit for a state's bar exam by:
- Completing any pre-legal education required by a state, such as an undergraduate degree.
- For JD programs: Take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) Gain admission to an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school and complete a law degree which a state recognizes as meeting degree requirements. Most commonly this would be the JD degree. This often requires taking specific coursework.
- Take and Pass the State's bar exam.
- Take and Pass a Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
- Be reviewed by the state bar examiners for character and fitness issues. Some states require this review prior to the bar exam, while most perform this after the bar exam has been passed.
- Fulfill any additional requirements to become admitted to a state bar, such as pro bono work, state-specific law courses, and exams, skills and competency requirements, etc.
- Complete ongoing Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and abide by all rules of the state bar. Some continuing education may be required prior to admission and CLE is commonly required each year after admission.
There are some exceptions, however. For example, in fewer than 10 states, one may qualify to sit or a state bar exam on an apprenticeship model, by studying law while working in a law office, or some combination of legal education and legal work. Some states allow for a JD from a non-ABA accredited or online school to be used to qualify to sit for their bar exam, while many do not. Some states allow lawyers licensed in other jurisdictions to gain "admission on motion" after a number of years of practice. Many states do not recognize foreign legal education credentials, but some recognize "English" common law degrees or a combination of a civil law degree and an LLM from an ABA-accredited law school in very limited circumstances. Some states allow for temporary practice orders in some circumstances, to allow law school graduates to practice under the supervision of an attorney pending passing the bar exam. Some states allow for spouses of active-duty military to practice temporarily, and there may be special rules for foreign legal consultants, corporate counsel, Legal services, or pro bono lawyers.
Which of Albany Law School law degrees meet a state's law licensure degree requirements?
Juris Doctor (JD)
All bar examiners accept this credential to qualify to sit for the bar exam, but restrictions apply and there are additional requirements to gain licensure. You must check the rules for the specific jurisdiction in which you intend to take the bar examination to determine what other requirements are needed for admission to the bar in that jurisdiction. Albany Law School's JD program is ABA accredited and our JD degree will generally serve to fulfill the legal education requirement of state bar examiners. We also offer dual and joint degree programs which include the JD, such as a JD/MBA. Only the JD portion of these joint/dual degrees would qualify one to sit for the bar exam.
This is a master's degree for lawyers who already have a degree in law. LLM students who have earned a JD from an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school can fulfill all state's bar exam educational requirements on that basis and do not need an LLM to do so. However, many of our LLM students have law degrees from other countries or from schools that are not ABA-approved. These students may be able to use an LLM to qualify to sit for the bar exam, but due to the many factors each state takes into account, we cannot categorically state that an LLM will work for this purpose for all students.
We have a number of different LLM degrees in different subjects as well as online offerings. For those with a law degree from outside the US, a few jurisdictions might accept an LLM degree earned on-campus inside the US to enable one to sit for the bar exam, subject to many conditions. Most jurisdictions do not allow LLM graduates to sit for their bar exam, so a JD degree does provide more flexibility as to where one can sit for the bar exam and work within the U.S. Online LLM degree programs cannot qualify one to sit for any state bar exam, so the use of an LLM to qualify for a state bar exam is limited to on-campus LLM programs (and is subject to many restrictions listed below).
Bar examiners think differently about each non-US jurisdiction and about each type of degree earned in those jurisdictions. Other countries' domestic legal systems can be broadly broken down into several categories: common law, civil law, customary or traditional law, religious law, or a mix of these. Some countries may vary regionally, and thus bar examiners may allow graduates of certain schools to sit for the bar exam without an LLM, while they may require graduates of different law schools in that country to earn an LLM to become eligible to sit for the bar exam.
The U.S. is deemed a common law system, and our legal system derives from our history as a former British colony. Many countries that were part of the British empire share some elements of this common law system. Approximately 10 state bar examiners may allow those who studied law in a jurisdiction which is deemed to be fully based on "English common law" to examine in their jurisdiction on the basis on their first degree in law, though only the bar examiners can make this determination and they may also require that the degree be equivalent in duration to a 3-year US JD degree. Thus, some two-year or online LLB degrees from common law countries may not work for this purpose.
If a bar applicant studied law in a system that is not deemed to be "English Common Law" then a handful of state bar examiners (notably including New York) may allow an LLM to "cure" their prior law degree in terms of difference in the substance provided the applicant's foreign law degree meet's specific requirements.
While the majority of our foreign-trained attorneys do qualify to sit for the bar exam, we cannot categorically state that an LLM degree can qualify one to sit for New York or any other state's bar exam. Only the state bar examiners can review a student's academic credentials to make that determination.
There are additional requirements to gain licensure and significant restrictions apply. Please review the rules and regulations in place in the jurisdiction in which you seek admission.
Again, online LLM degrees cannot be used to qualify to sit for the bar exam in any U.S. state. That said, our on-campus programs can be structured in a way to potentially qualify one for the bar exam (depending on many other factors, including prior legal education.)
Master of Science degree
This degree is for non-lawyers and may not be used to qualify for law licensure.
Certificates: Albany Law School has several Certificate programs. A certificate may not be used to qualify for law licensure.
The bar exam
In many states, the bar exam is 2-3 days in duration. Many states use a closed-book Uniform Bar Exam which may consist of multiple-choice, essay, and skills tests. The multiple-choice multistate bar exam (MBE) commonly tests subjects that are covered in the required first-year curriculum of many law schools: torts, civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, constitutional law, contracts, real property, and evidence. The multistate essay examination (MEE) may cover those same topics plus additional topics such as family law, trusts and estates, or business associations. The multistate performance test is used by many jurisdictions to test lawyering skills and supplies legal research and legal problems to test how applicants analyze and solve these problems by writing a will, memo, contract provision, etc. Many bar applicants take an optional bar exam preparation course offered by commercial enterprises, though this is not required by any jurisdiction.
The bar exam is one major step towards obtaining a license to practice law in that jurisdiction. There are many other requirements to becoming licensed to practice law, however.
For example, the national conference of bar examiners, a group that offers guidance to state bar examiners, lists many categories of qualifications necessary to practice law and also lists categories of issues that can prevent an applicant from becoming licensed. Bar examiners generally investigate each applicant thoroughly and require an exhaustive list of disclosures of every known address, phone number, employer, and educational experience. Law schools and bar exam applications often both ask for information on past infractions, and any discrepancies between the two applications can cause issues when applying to the bar exam.
The categories of issues noted by the national conference of bar examiners in their 2020 Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements include:
- unlawful conduct
- academic misconduct
- making of false statements, including omissions
- misconduct in employment
- acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation
- abuse of legal process
- neglect of financial responsibilities
- neglect of professional obligations
- violation of an order of a court
- evidence of mental or emotional instability
- evidence of drug or alcohol dependency
- denial of admission to the bar in another jurisdiction on character and fitness grounds
- disciplinary action by a lawyer disciplinary agency or other professional disciplinary agency of any jurisdiction
Each state may have different items it focuses on.
The following chart details whether the Albany Law School JD degree, or any joint or dual JD degree option will meet each state law licensure educational requirements. An underlying assumption is that all Albany Law School JD students possess a "baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university or its international equivalent," as is required in our admission criteria. This chart is based on information provided by the states to the national conference of bar examiners in the 2020 edition of their Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements, pages 1-2.
The chart below fulfills a legal requirement that we list for each U.S. state if the LLM degree satisfies the educational requirements for law licensure for any student admitted to that program regardless of their prior legal education. Again, the federal rule requiring this disclosure is very broadly aimed at all professions and does not take into account the complexities of law licensure and non-US degrees. Additionally, aside from the COVID-19 exception in place for the fall 2020 semester, any online degree cannot qualify one to sit for the bar exam in any US state.
Because our LLM programs contain both US and foreign-trained attorneys we cannot categorically state that any or all students in a given LLM program will be able to sit for any given state's bar exam. Some of our LLM programs are intended mainly for foreign-trained attorneys, while other programs have a majority of US-educated students enrolled. These US-educated LLM students generally can take any state's bar exam. However, they would be doing so on the basis of their JD degree without regard to their LLM degree. LLM students who earned their law degree outside of the US may be able to take the bar exam in some US states, such as New York, but this requires an individual determination by that state's board of bar examiners about their prior legal education and LLM course of study. For example, an LLM student educated in a civil law country can ask the New York Board of Law Examiners to evaluate their foreign educational credentials to see if they can sit of the bar exam without the LLM or if they can instead use the LLM to cure either a durational or substantive difference between their law degree and a US JD degree. If an LLM is required to "cure" this difference, students must take 12 credits of on-campus coursework during their LLM which meets 4 different requirements of the New York bar examiners. For this purpose, the LLM must be completed within two years and completing no more than four credits in summer sessions.
Only the bar examiners can make the determination of which students are able to sit for the bar exam in New York. Please see pages 13-17 of the National Conference of Bar Examiner's 2020 edition of their Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements for more details on each state.
For example, while some states may not allow a graduate of a non-US law school to sit for the bar exam on the basis of an LLM, they may allow one to practice on several other basis, such as: having practiced law for a period of time in another jurisdiction; being admitted in another US jurisdiction, or the non-US law degree being grounded entirely in "English common law." For one example, California does allow licensed attorneys in good standing who are admitted to the active practice of law in other countries to sit for their bar exam without an LLM.