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sarahjane90's avatar

What sort of benefits do you think a law degree studied internationally will provide, compared to studying at a domestic institution?

Asked by sarahjane90 (1805points) November 22nd, 2010

I am interested in finding out how future potential employers may perceive my degree, and the life experience I have gained from it.

Originally, I am from the US. I have always been keen to travel, and interested in the world, part of which inspired me to become a lawyer. Luckily, I have parents which are quite liberal and bestowed upon me enough trust to hop across the pond at such a young age. At sixteen, I travelled to the UK to finish my high school level studies. After that, I went on to University, where I am in my first year of my law degree.

Because I had always known that I had wanted to study the law from a young age, the system in which UK Universities work was a blessing to me. I have never been very keen for math, science, and all that jazz. I did excel at any sort of subject which allowed me to write, especially critically and analytically. In the UK, you are able to focus on the primary subject you wish to study, from the beginning. After graduating my undergraduate law degree, I plan to go onto take the LPC, which is essentially the solicitors’ qualifying course. Finally, to get to the basis of my question, it is important to point out that I also wish to return to the States after that, and become licensed to practice in the US as well. This will involve some extra studying, however CA and NY seem to only require you to pass the bar exam if you hold a British degree.

That being said, I thought it appropriate to give the readers here a bit of background on the circumstances before discussing the question.

Will being qualified in both countries, provide me with an edge when I begin to make entry into a career? Will an employer in the US view me as having more to offer, over someone who has only studied domestically?

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11 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

It will absolutely offer you an advantage, especially at firms with clients around the world.

lillycoyote's avatar

I’m no expert but if you can get yourself licensed to practice in one or more U.S. states and in Britain it I would think it would give you a distinct advantage in finding a corporate position with a multinational, particularly if you were to specialize in patents, copyrights, trademarks, intellectual property, that sort of thing. Or contracts maybe.

And like I said, I’m no expert, but would it be easier to transfer the British degree to the U.S. than the other way around? All I know is that I had a Brazilian friend who was trained and licensed there and when she came to the U.S. she had to get what I think was a Master of Laws and LL.M and then pass the state bar. The LL.M. was a 2 year program, I think.

sarahjane90's avatar

That would be great. I am definitely interested in going further into the civil side of law, contract, tort, intellectual property etc.

lillycoyote's avatar

@sarahjane90 I edited my post above and added a little about a Brazilian lawyer friend. I’m just throwing out some ideas here. Hopefully you will do your “due diligence.” I just can’t imagine being licensed to practice law in two different countries, in a global economy, could possibly be anything but an advantage but I don’t know enough to be able to say you should study in Britain and then get licensed in the states or the other way around. There are fifty US. State and you need to be licensed to practice in each one of them individually. I don’t know how it works in the U.K. And here comes @iamthemob weighing in, thank goodness, he’s actually a real lawyer. :-)

iamthemob's avatar

It seems that, @lillycoyote, that the OP is right about NY. CA doesn’t require a degree from an ABA law school in order to sit for the bar exam…and it seems that if you provide an application one year before you want to sit for the bar, NY will review whether or not your foreign education qualifies you to sit for the state bar there.

Generally, though, you need to do the LLM to be qualified to sit for the bar.

@sarahjane90 – if you don’t have to get additional education in the U.S., investing in getting barred in the U.S. is minimal in comparison with the potential benefits. Even if you pay for a full bar review course, with the flight over and time, etc., at full price you’re probably looking at $5,000 to $6,000 or thereabout – much better than what the rest of us pay. ;-)

P.S. – If you want to go all out, you can get barred in either state and, in addition, D.C. – you can waive automatically into the D.C. bar.

sarahjane90's avatar

@lillycoyote Thank you for your input. As for the LLM, I am not opposed at all to further studying in the US after my degree in the UK. From just some brief research on UK degree > US practicing, I believe every state other than CA and NY does require further study. However, my aim is to work internationally so I am thinking as long as I have some “roots” to practice in each area (UK, with opens up more access to wider EU law) and the US, which of course is important to me as well. Being able to work around both places would also allow me to maintain a closer relationship with my family. As it is very early on in my studies I am just starting to do a little road mapping to see where I can end up with it all.

@iamthemob Thank you, those are some interesting things to think about. It appears that even though CA and NY do not require the LLM, it may be worthwhile to do it anyway. Although both the UK and US have their legal roots in common law, it would be difficult to become familiar with all the different authorities and principles in the US without having further studies. The bar review course also sounds interesting, providing it does cover enough for me to be knowledgable enough to actually practice in the US without having done an LLM. I like your point about being able to waive automatically into the D.C. bar. That sounds pretty outstanding!

lillycoyote's avatar

@iamthemob Thanks! Once again rescuing someone like @sarahjane90 from @lillycoyote‘s “a little knowledge may or may not be a dangerous thing” approach. :-) There’s actually an online law school, one online law school, but they’re at least honest enough to make it pretty clear that if you finish their program the only thing you will be able to do with it is sit for the CA bar so California’s standards do seem a little loose to me. But maybe their bar is very hard to pass, I don’t know. From my understanding my state’s bar exam is one of the most difficult in the country so I guess they can vary quite a bit, I guess.

iamthemob's avatar

CA is brutal rumor has it. It’s a day longer than most.

But both NY and CA have low passage rates in comparison with other states for significant reasons other than the difficulty. For NY, it’s a state where many non-native English speakers take the bar that contributes. California, it’s the large percentage of non-ABA grads that contributes.

Law is fun to learn!

lillycoyote's avatar

@iamthemob But apparently not quite so fun to learn not quite well enough, at least in CA and NY.

lillycoyote's avatar

And, finally, it also looks like Washington State has a little wiggle room for foreign-educated attorneys, at least in the common law countries.

The following is from the Wikipedia entry on Admission to the bar in the United States:

Admission of foreign-educated lawyers

Many states allow some foreign-educated lawyers to take the bar examination. For example:

• New York allows individuals with at least three years of formal education in the common law (such as English or Australian law) to take the bar exam. Individuals with two years of common law training or three years of civil law training may take the bar exam after completing a one-year Master of Laws (LL.M.) program at an American institution.

• Washington allows individuals admitted “to the practice of law by examination, together with current good standing, in… any jurisdiction where the common law of England is the basis of its jurisprudence, and active legal experience for at least 3 of the 5 years immediately preceding the filing of the application.” See Admission to Practice Rule 3 of the Washington Court Rules

I included the information on NY even though that’s already been addressed.

Bagardbilla's avatar

A much better and broader International prespective for starters.
Also a much more of a cooperative and conciliatory approach to matters then a top-down, heavy handed one.

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