What Exactly Is Bar Reciprocity?
For students preparing to select their bar location, there is one key question that must be addressed. Can you transfer your score from one state to another? This post will discuss bar reciprocity and how it works. As with most things, bar reciprocity is specific for each state. Therefore, make sure to research the rules for the state where you are taking the bar, and any states where you think you might want to practice in the future.
What Exactly Is Bar Reciprocity?
Bar Reciprocity Defined
Bar reciprocity is the ability to practice in a state where you did not take the bar exam. Often, this is called “waiving” into a state. Waiving into a state is beneficial for attorneys who have practiced for several years but must relocate for a new job or students who live in places on the east coast where several states are in close proximity and it may be a benefit to be barred in multiple neighboring states. There are two main groups to cover for waiver requirements, states that participate in the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and states that do not.
UBE states all issue the same bar exam. It is, after all, called the “Uniform Bar Exam.” Students receive the same test, on the same dates, at comparable times. Because students take the same exam, UBE states accept any lawyer who took a UBE test.
However, you should note:
- Students must still meet some state unique criteria. For example, to be licensed to practice law in New York you must still take the New York Law Exam after completing the New York Law Course. Learn more about that here.
- While many states accept UBE scores, the passing score is different among the UBE states. A passing UBE score for New York is 266 and a passing score in Washington State is 270. Therefore, if you passed the UBE in New York with a 267, you would still need to take the bar again and earn a higher score to practice law in Washington. Check out this post to see a full breakdown of passing UBE scores by state.
- Additionally, each state recognizes a bar score for a limited number of years. One state may recognize a score as valid for three years while another will only recognize it as valid for two. If you plan on waiving into a new state after taking the bar, it is vital that you pay attention to this deadline.
Non-UBE, such as Florida and California, require law students to sit for the bar in that state in order to be admitted. Generally, non-UBE states do not allow for an immediate waiver to practice from lawyers outside the state. However, some non-UBE states do allow attorneys who have practiced for several years to waive into the state.
For example, in Virginia, an attorney in good standing in his or her current state may waive into Virginia without a bar exam, providing that they practiced law for three of the five years prior to waiving into the state and did not fail a bar exam in any state or territory for two years prior to waving into the state. Additionally, UBE states have similar provisions for waiving in attorneys who have practiced law for an extended period of time.
In conclusion, many states offer reciprocity to attorneys to practice in their jurisdiction without having passed their state’s bar exam. However, requirements change state to state so be sure to check out each state’s rules before relying on being waived in.
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