Pennsylvania Lawyer Reciprocity

What States Have Reciprocity for Lawyers and Allow You to Waive into the Bar
Learn what states allow you to waive into the bar in this article.One of the biggest mistakes attorneys make in their job search is to not look at multiple markets in their search. For most attorneys, we recommend you look at multiple markets when you are doing a job search—there are lifestyle, prestige, compensation and other considerations that make looking at other markets worth your while.
You graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and met all other requirements for admission in a given state. Congratulations! You can begin practicing law in that state.
But what if you have not yet passed the bar exam? Or 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 need to overcome?
This article answers these questions. It provides an overview of the bar admission process – which is complicated and 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 and how to make use of your J.D. degree without actually practicing law. This article also discusses the recent trend towards “portability” of bar exam results through state adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam.
You Passed!
Passing the bar is a HUGE accomplishment. All your hard work has paid off – getting the 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 fulfill the few remaining steps for admission in the state where you passed the bar, such as the character and fitness determination, and 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, prestige, happiness and other considerations. You may be the perfect fit for a market and job you have not even considered and you may be able to land that job without even taking another bar exam. We cover concepts like multiple bar admissions and reciprocity below.

What kind of job markets are you considering? Let us know in the comments.
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 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 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 or your family for the rest of your life.
Because it is such a wise idea 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 when 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, 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 and 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). New York and Vermont are the latest states to adopt at least part of the UBE. Those states join Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
Missouri and North Dakota were the first states to administer the UBE in February 2011 followed by Alabama in July 2011. New York and Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico and Vermont began administering the UBE in 2016.
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.
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 you will need to sit for the bar exam or find another way to get admitted if you apply outside the window of time wherein 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, and if you want to practice in those states you 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 “attorney’s exam”). The California bar exam currently is three days and consists of six essays, two performance tests, and the 200 multiple-choice MBE. The exam covers 13 subjects, including the MBE “multistate” subjects plus state subjects like community property and remedies. The California State Bar Board of Trustees recently voted to revamp the format and as of July 2017 the California bar exam will become a two-day test consisting of one day of essays and one day of the MBE.
What state do you plan to take the bar exam in?
Multiple State Admissions
In order to maximize employability and have the ability to take clients in different states, many attorneys opt to take multiple bar exams right away after law school. This is particularly useful for attorneys who live in metropolitan areas that sprawl into different states (such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut).
Multiple state admission also is 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
Still more varied are 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 and for becoming a member of the “patent bar” who can prosecute patents before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
See the following articles for more information:
Admission on Motion and Reciprocity
Some states allow an attorney admitted in one state to “waive” into the bars of their states, which is known as getting “admitted on motion.” Not all states 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 in some cases 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 a trend towards greater access.
Take a look at the following charts that cover reciprocity, comity, and attorneys’ exams in all 50 states and the US 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
Yes No
District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia
Offers an Attorneys’ Exam Attorneys must be from an ABA-approved school to qualify for the Attorneys’ Exam
Northern Mariana Islands
Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands

Additional Information about Reciprocity and Attorneys’ Exams
Certain Jurisdictions Have Unique Features When It Comes to Admission on Motion Based on Reciprocity
Connecticut provides for reciprocal jurisdiction and also allows an attorney to waive in if the applicant is a full-time faculty member or full-time clinical fellow at an accredited Connecticut law school and admitted in a reciprocal or nonreciprocal jurisdiction. In the case of Georgia, if an applicant’s “sending” jurisdiction’s waiver rule is more restrictive than Georgia’s, then the applicant’s admission in Georgia is governed by the requirements that apply to an applicant from Georgia seeking admission in the applicant’s jurisdiction. Mississippi has reciprocal jurisdiction so long as the laws from the state from which the applicant comes grant similar privileges to Mississippi attorney applicants.
Oregon provides for reciprocal jurisdiction so long as the laws from the state from which the applicant comes grant similar privileges to Oregon attorney applicants and the applicant has practiced for 5-7 years.

Virginia provides for reciprocal jurisdiction so long as admission to bar of reciprocal jurisdiction was by examination. In Wyoming, admission on motion is limited to jurisdictions that would allow a Wyoming attorney to waive in without any additional examination.
Certain Jurisdictions Have Unique Features with Regard to Whether an Attorney Initially Admitted by Diploma Privilege is Eligible for Admission on Motion.
Arkansas allows this so long as the applicant is a graduate of an ABA-approved law school. Connecticut allows it so 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 so long as the laws from the state from which the applicant comes grant similar privileges to Mississippi attorney applicants.


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