Where in the World to Take the Bar?

For non-lawyers out there, the bar exam seems like some ethereal exam that all lawyers take that is essentially torture. What the rest of the world doesn’t seem to know is that there is a LOT more to the bar exam than simply taking the test. And all that complication begins with one, seemingly simple, question: where in the world should I take the bar exam?

For 3Ls who have already been hired on for after the bar, have certain geographical ties, or simply have a strong desire to practice in a specific jurisdiction, deciding where to be barred is pretty straightforward. But when you’re a global nomad like me, the question is a lot more complicated. Taking the bar exam in one state does NOT mean you can necessarily be recognized to practice in all other states. For more on understanding that, go to one of the many bar exam info sessions BU hosts- they are seriously lifesavers. For me, I assumed I would take the bar exam in Massachusetts. I’m going to law school in Massachusetts, after all. And I’m also benefiting from a recent change in the MA Bar Exam… Massachusetts has moved over to the UBE (Uniform Bar Exam). The Class of 2018 will be the first to sit for the UBE in Massachusetts. In short, the UBE makes it much easier to waive into the bar in other states that also have the UBE. Notably, both New York and DC are UBE jurisdictions. Great, right? Take the bar in MA, be able to waive into NY or DC quite easily…. well, wrong.

The bar exam has more leverage than just being the exam that makes you a lawyer. Where you take the bar exam can indicate to employers how serious you are about practicing in a specific state or city. If you haven’t found a job yet, demonstrating to employers your dedication to their geographical area can be an essential tool in employment. The problem for me is- I know WHAT I want to do, but because of the international nature of that subject, and the fact that I have lived all over the world, WHERE I practice is much less important to me. And what’s more, most places I’m looking to work don’t have my chosen field located in just one office. For some firms, I’ve applied to the same or similar positions in four or five different cities, and from talking to attorneys there, teams from any combination of those offices could end up working on the same cases at any given time.

I also have the added factor of getting a degree in Europe. As an American, you can work for an international company or employer in Europe, but to do a substantive amount of work or to move beyond a “jurist” title , you should be barred somewhere in the EU. It is easier to be barred in an EU Member State when you are barred in the US, particularly in New York. But there are some routes that are just out of the question for me- like sitting the bar in France this year (I do NOT speak enough French to tackle that. No way, no how). But there are other routes to equivalency, all of which are complicated at face.

Which brings me back to the question I spent a lot of time pondering… where in the world should I take the bar. California was on the table early on because it is where my family is from, and it would be nice to know I could return to sunny CA if and when I wanted. But my desire to work on a more international scale, in a field that is mostly concentrated on the East Coast in the US, made me hesitate on limiting myself with the CA Bar. I decided UBE was the best route, either in Boston, New York, or DC. Boston and NY emerged as frontrunners because of my work experience in Boston and my realization of the international renown for the NY bar. I will be sitting the US bar either in MA or NY for sure. Which of those two I choose for certain depends on some avenues I’m pursing for equivalency in Europe. And figuring out equivalency in Europe means that, yes, I am sifting through the bar rules of 28 Member States to understand fully what, where, and how I can practice for an international employer with or without their bar exam. It is thirsty work my friends. Who knew the world could be so confusing!

But nonetheless, I will be taking the bar this July, and I know wherever I end up taking it and whether I end up practicing in the US, in Europe, or on the moon, I will be well-prepared and ready to kick butt thanks to my awesome education at BU Law.

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