As an American, it always made sense for me to qualify as an attorney in the United States, particularly in New York State, where most cross-border legal business is conducted. So about 20 years after my call to the Bar of England and Wales, I was admitted as an attorney in New York.

I will mention the benefits before addressing the problems. It is extremely rewarding to have professional experience in a different jurisdiction. Rather than a single-minded focus on English and Welsh legal life, dual qualification enables the practitioner to understand and appreciate different approaches to resolving legal issues and, in turn, to become more flexible in providing legal services. It also enhances your understanding of the needs and expectations of clients, especially those who are foreign based. It can vastly expand a practitioner’s potential client base, and the range of their competence.

The immediate problem facing newly qualified NY attorneys is obtaining practical professional experience in their chosen area of law. Without hands-on experience as an attorney, the qualification will be little more than an interesting theoretical diversion. Simply maintaining a NY qualification will be a costly nuisance, as registration as an attorney in New York must be renewed every two years with payment of a fee (currently US$375).

Most newly qualified attorneys in the US seek employment as associates with established firms, and many firms are happy to engage foreign qualified lawyers. These positions require associates to have the requisite immigration status (which can be obtained but must not be ignored) and are usually full-time positions. Nevertheless, arrangements can be made for the equivalent of internships or secondments, or flexible employment combined with English work. Some newly qualified attorneys can work for non-profit groups under arrangements that permit frequent travel back to the UK and the continued conduct of one’s home-based practice.

In my case, I completed an LLM at New York University School of Law, on a part-time basis, which allowed me to continue my practice at the Bar. Through the people I met in law school I was introduced to practising attorneys who gave generously of their time and allowed me to shadow them, as a sort of elder pupil. I went through paperwork, attended court, joined client conferences. I was eventually entrusted with work in my own right, under the always helpful supervision of my colleagues.

It seemed important to me, and I would suggest, that a dual qualified lawyer should limit their foreign practice to areas that directly concern cross-border issues. It isn’t practically possible to act as both an English barrister (or solicitor) as well as a full-service attorney in the US. In my case, as a barrister, I focused on contentious business and advocacy, in particular involving jurisdiction and discovery. I was able to attract work from English-based clients embroiled in US commercial business and disputes. I acted in jurisdictional challenges in litigation, as advocate in US-based arbitrations, and in all manner of negotiations, settlement discussions and mediations. I act for English clients seeking discovery from US sources. My involvement often proves more useful, and certainly more cost-effective, than engaging a New York firm.

On the US side, I act for professional and lay clients in similar areas. I assist in applications for evidence and testimony from UK sources, and advise and assist on jurisdictional issues. As a Chancery practitioner, I act for US clients on probate, inheritance and court of protection matters.

Although I can speak only of my UK-US experience, I would recommend without hesitation the enriching experience of combining practice in England and Wales with that of another jurisdiction.

Teresa Rosen Peacocke

How the NY Bar qualification works in practice

There is some confusion about the New York Bar exam format, how long it takes, and what order to take it in, especially since the 2015 and 2016 changes. This is because it isn’t simply a one-off exam; there are several parts to it. Below is a guide to help you navigate what is required.

The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)

Adopted by the majority of US states, the UBE is the bulk of the New York Bar qualification. It consists of a two-day exam that applicants sit in February or July each year and can only be taken in New York State:

  • Day 1: two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions in the morning and six 30-minute Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) questions in the afternoon. This equates to eight essay-type questions in six hours; and
  • Day 2: the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), a 200-question multiple choice exam, three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. This equates to 200 questions in six hours.

The MBE is weighted 50%, the MEE 30% and the MPT 20%. The scores are combined to determine if the applicant has achieved a passing score of 266. When people speak about the New York Bar exam, the UBE is usually what they mean. There are, however, more requirements (see below). The fee for the UBE is US$250 for domestically educated applicants and US$750 for candidates educated in a foreign country (there is an additional fee of US$100 if the applicant wishes to sit the exam on a laptop which I recommend). Note: there are a number of complicated requirements to satisfy before a candidate is eligible to sit the New York Bar exam in the first place (see at: and

Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)

All applicants who pass the UBE must also take and pass the MPRE (the equivalent of an ethics exam), administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The MPRE is administered three times each year in New York State (March, August and November) and the passing score is 85. The MPRE may be taken before or after the main bar examination. The fee for the MPRE is US$250.

New York Law Course (NYLC) and New York Law Exam (NYLE)

Now that you have passed the UBE and MPRE, you have achieved approximately 95% in terms of time, effort and costs (including flights and accommodation). Given the Federal system in the US, it is to be expected that you must learn about specific New York State law. Applicants must take and complete an online course in New York State-specific law (NYLC) and must take and pass an online exam known as the NYLE. The NYLC is online and on demand, totaling 15 hours. The NYLE is offered four times a year and is a 50-item, two hour, open book, multiple choice test. You do not need to travel to New York for the NYLC and NYLE; there is no fee for the NYLC but there is a fee of US$27 for the NYLE which is payable to Examsoft.

Pro bono service requirement

All applicants must satisfy the 50-hour pro bono service requirement and thereafter complete the Form Affidavit of Compliance for each pro bono project they rely on to satisfy the pro bono requirement.

Skills competency requirement

Applicants seeking admission in New York must establish that they have acquired skills and professional values necessary to competently practise law. Applicants may satisfy this requirement by completing one of five separate pathways. Pathway 5 is most likely to apply to a barrister seeking New York qualification and provides that an applicant who has been authorised to practise law in a country outside the US, and has practised in that jurisdiction full-time for one year, or part-time for two years, will meet the skills competency and professional values requirement (see: for more details).

Alex Haines