Author: Hemant Chauhan
The search for that elusive training contract or pupillage remains as competitive as ever. The law market is saturated with law students who have completed their respective qualifications, but unable to secure a position within a law firm or chambers. Many have impressive CVs, stellar academics, and have varied experiences that sets them apart from the competition, but even then it is not enough.
The New York Bar appears to be an impressive qualification to add to your belt. London hosts over 100 U.S. law firms, servicing both UK and international clients. I, too, have decided to study for this U.S. qualification because I have always had an interest in qualifying in the Big Apple, as opposed to the domestic UK route. There appear to be merits and weaknesses to the qualification, but it is contended that for students, the merits do outweigh the weaknesses. The New York Bar is a highly prized asset, not least because you can immediately be billed out as a qualified Attorney-at-Law, rather than just a UK Trainee Solicitor.
There are several attractions to the New York Bar. Having the qualification will enable you to be admitted to practice in New York State, as long as you have fulfilled the other requirements the New York State Board of Law Examiners have set. The US qualification process is very different to the UK. There is no training contract requirement. For those who want to practice international commercial law, this U.S. qualification ‘fits the bill’ so to speak. It is based on common law, and New York law underpins a lot of contractual cross-border transactional deals, alongside England & Wales.
It is a shame that the majority of the careers departments at the UK Universities only advertise the traditional UK route: pursuing the standard Legal Practice Course (LPC) after the LLB undergraduate degree; the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for those who want to become barristers. The LPC is incredibly expensive, now ranged between approximately £10,000 – £15,000.
There is a dilemma here. Many law firms, except the City firms, that offer training contracts do not sponsor students to undertake the LPC, but expect you to undertake it to be considered for a traineeship, working on a substantially lower salary, considering the expense. The search for an alternative is imperative for those who can not afford to maintain the traditions of the UK legal profession.
The cost of the New York Bar suddenly becomes more appealing. It is significantly cheaper than the LPC, so it makes sense economically. You are eligible to take it upon graduation from a three-year, face-to-face, LLB degree, with no requirement to be qualified. The route, it is argued, is a better alternative to qualification for those who are unable to follow standard routes. Here’s the kicker… you are further eligible to dual-qualify in England & Wales as a qualified solicitor! And not only that… by taking the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme… there is no training contract requirement!
So what are the downsides here…I have spoken to several lawyers in the profession who are dubious about the New York Bar. One disadvantage, they argue, is utility. We practice English law, so why qualify into a foreign jurisdiction where there is no relevance. A further disadvantage is that many prefer people to have undertaken a traditional route because it is far more familiar. Some may argue that it leads to the makings of a better, equipped lawyer. I, however, disagree. If there is a cheaper alternative to qualification, why is this not advertised more? Further, with the new Solicitor Super Exam looming, which will replace the LPC in 2020, now more students will be seriously considering their routes into qualification.
It is not just the ability to qualify in the UK… let’s not forget the potential prospects of plan B! Working in Manhattan, an iconic city, living the American Dream, is just too good an opportunity to turn down. I have been fortunate to have selected the Bar Review programme with Barbri International, priced at $5995.00, a leading provider for US Bar programmes. They have a stellar reputation, and ensure you stick to their tested methods and expertise, in order to pass this gruelling examination. There are other recognised suppliers of the Bar Exams so consider wisely with their reputations.
Of course I acknowledge that many will have mixed reviews. However, UK law students need to be aware of this so they have all the options before them, before deciding which course would best serve their career paths. As the corporate world becomes ever more globalised and focused on international transactions, this qualification would certainly be of benefit.
Produced by Legal Eagle, this article is brought to you as part of the legal career options section, read our other articles to gain a full insight into legal qualifications to find the right one for you.