Do You Want to Practice in a Foreign Jurisdiction?

Vol. 16 No. 7


Alma Zuniga is a staff attorney with Northwest Justice Project in Yakima, WA.

Have you ever considered practicing in a foreign jurisdiction? You must first perform research to determine whether it is a possibility. Begin your research at The Law Society of England and Wales. There you can obtain general information about a particular foreign jurisdiction. You will also find links to foreign jurisdiction admissions offices, if applicable.

If you do not have the time or resources to devote to getting fully licensed in a foreign jurisdiction, you may still be able to practice abroad with limitations. A select number of foreign bars or law societies will allow foreign lawyers to practice, but they may limit who the lawyer may represent, the matters they may handle, or the time the lawyer may practice in the jurisdiction. The bar may also require you to associate with local counsel.

Some nations have individual state or provincial bars; but, international applicants will have to have their credentials assessed by a national organization for compliance with the nation's standards for legal education. For example, applicants to Australian or Canadian bars will need to have their credentials assessed by such a national organization. These organizations state on their websites that applicants will likely need to apply to local law schools because most applicants' coursework does not satisfy national requirements.

After your coursework is completed, apply to your state or province of interest. While the background checks are similar to bars in the United States, you may have to take a bar course or serve an apprenticeship for up to a year. However, many jurisdictions have exemptions for lawyers with foreign bars and practice experience. You may have to provide your academic transcript and proof of experience.

One aspect of the process that may accelerate or decelerate your application time are the jurisdictions involved in your licensing request. Applicants applying from similar jurisdictions (e.g., Common Law to Common Law or Civil Law to Civil Law) may have greater success receiving exemptions from mandatory requirements than applicants trying to transition to a different type of jurisdiction. Many jurisdictions practice civil law, while several other jurisdictions practice common law. Others practice religious law, and yet another group practices a hybrid of civil, common, or religious laws.

Foreign jurisdiction practice is attainable; but, you must be diligent about your research and carefully meet the particular requirements of the jurisdiction.



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