Admission to practice law
A British lawyer at the tribunal, 19th century
|Names||Attorney at law|
|see professional requirements|
An admission to practice law is acquired when a lawyer receives a license to practice law. In jurisdictions with two types of lawyer, as with solicitors and barristers in some jurisdictions, there are distinct practising certificates for solicitors and admission to the bar for barristers.
Becoming a lawyer is a widely varied process around the world. Common to all jurisdictions are requirements of age and competence; some jurisdictions also require documentation of citizenship or immigration status. However, the most varied requirements are those surrounding the preparation for the license, whether it includes obtaining a law degree, passing an exam, or serving in an apprenticeship. In English, admission is also called a law license. Basic requirements vary from country to country:
- 1 Africa
- 2 Asia and Pacific Islands
- 3 Europe
- 4 The Americas
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Legal practice in Kenya is governed by the Advocates Act, Chapter 16 of the Laws of Kenya. Only lawyers admitted to the Bar, known as Advocates of the High Court of Kenya, have the right of audience before Kenyan courts. To be an advocate, (which is concurrent with being a member of the Law Society of Kenya) one must first complete a law degree from a recognised university in the Commonwealth, then attend the Kenya School of Law for a postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice for training in more practical legal subjects such as conveyancing and evidence, and complete a mandatory one year articles of pupillage under a lawyer of five years standing.
Upon completion of the requisite academic and practical training, one must 'petition' the Chief Justice of the Judiciary for admission to the Bar by filing the requisite documents, including the petition in a prescribed format under the Advocates Act and an accompanying affidavit, a certificate of completion of pupillage and two certificates of moral fitness by practising lawyers of five years standing, one of which must be from the petitioner's supervisor in chambers (referred to as 'pupil master') and pay a fee.
The petition is addressed to both the Registrar of the High Court on behalf of the Chief Justice and the Secretary/ CEO of the Law Society of Kenya, and upon approval by the Council of the Law Society, one is 'called to the Bar.' The call is made in open court by taking an oath before the Chief Justice who pronounces the admission. Usually, several lawyers are admitted to the Bar at the same session.
To maintain eligibility to practice before courts, one must pay an annual fee for a 'practising certificate' to the Law Society of Kenya, although the certificate is issued by the Court Registrar. Non-payment renders one ineligible to appear before courts. Lawyers who do not wish to appear before courts need not take out a certificate, but in practice most lawyers do so as it is generally required by most employers hiring the services of a lawyer, since only advocates can sign any documents in such capacity.
Advocates who wish to administer oaths - usually in affidavit format - must apply to the Chief Justice to be appointed Commissioners for Oaths, whereas those who wish to perform functions similar to notaries public in the United Kingdom must have been advocates for five years, and formally apply to be a notary public to the Chief Justice through the Court Registrar. To appear before the Supreme Court, one must be an advocate of seven years standing.
Asia and Pacific Islands
In Australia, prospective lawyers must complete an undergraduate LLB or graduate JD and complete the practical training requirement which is met by completing an approved practical legal training course or articles of clerkship.
Admission to practice is a matter for each State. However, a person holding a practising certificate in any Australian jurisdiction is entitled to practise from time to time in another Australian jurisdiction without gaining admission in that jurisdiction.
New Zealand practitioners may apply for admission pursuant to Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997 (Cth).
- New South Wales
A person is admitted as a legal practitioner after completing the required academic and practical training requirements. These matters are dealt with in the Legal Profession Act 2004. The applicant applies to the Legal Profession Admission Board who assesses applications (both local and foreign), and is ultimately admitted as a lawyer by the Supreme Court of New South Wales (s31 of the Legal profession Act 2004).
After admission, a person is then entitled to apply for a practising certificate from the Law Society of New South Wales (if they wish to practice as a solicitor), or the NSW Bar Association (if they wish to practice as a barrister). The practising certificate requires the payment of fees, insurance and a contribution to the fidelity fund (which compensates clients in some circumstances).
Under the Legal Profession Act 2004 (Vic), an individual may practise law, as a legal practitioner, in the state of Victoria if he or she has been admitted to the legal profession in any Australian jurisdiction and holds a current local or interstate practising certificate. Furthermore, the Legal Profession (Admission) Rules 2008 (Vic) replace articles of clerkship with supervised workplace training and make changes to the process of admission to practice. Under these new rules, upon completion of an approved training course and attainment of an accredited law degree, a law graduate needs to complete either a Practical Legal Training (PLT) program or Supervised Workplace Training (SWT) to be admitted to practise law in Victoria.
In the People's Republic of China, one must first obtain a recognized degree (a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree), pass the National Judicial Examination, and complete a one-year apprenticeship.
Fiji requires a Bachelor of Law degree (four years of study) as well as the successful completion of either the Professional Diploma in Legal Practice offered by the University of the South Pacific or Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice offered at Fiji National University, or an equivalent Law Degree and bar admission course from abroad.
Hong Kong makes a distinction between barristers and solicitors. Admission to either profession requires a law degree (either the four-year LL.B. or the two-year Juris Doctor) and a Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (which requires nine months). The apprenticeship to become a barrister is only one year, while a solicitor must apprentice for two years.
Foreign lawyers (from any jurisdiction) may be admitted as solicitors by passing the Overseas Qualified Lawyers Examination and satisfying a three months residence requirement. Foreign lawyers may also be admitted as barristers by passing the Barristers Qualification Examination.
In India, prospective lawyers must complete an undergraduate law degree (B.A., LL.B., which lasts five years) or a graduate law degree (LL.B. which lasts three years). India also requires all law graduates to appear for an All-India Bar Exam conducted by Bar Council of India graduating from 2009-10 onwards, without which they shall not be admitted to practice.
Israel requires an undergraduate law degree (LL.B., which is a three-and-a-half-year program), a one-year apprenticeship, and the passing of the bar examination.
Japan requires an undergraduate degree in any field (which requires 4 years of study), a Juris Doctor (which lasts 2 or 3 years), the passing of the national bar exam, a 12-month apprenticeship which incorporates additional coursework and passing the graduation examination of apprenticeship.
Jordan has a developed and restricted rules for admission to practice law. It requires academic and practical exams for enrolment in its national bar association. The probationer must hold a bachelor degree or equivalent and to have a clear history in the police's records.
The Bar Association requires a minimum two years of training under supervision. The Bar grants the probationer special permission to appear in front some courts.
After two years of the practical training, the probationer submits a written request to be enrolled in the written exams that the Bar held 4 times year. If he mastered the exam within (15/25) then the probationer will be eligible to admit to the verbal exams by the legal committee elected from judges, Professors and senior lawyers. If he/she passed the verbal exam, then it comes to essay stage. Each probationer must write in legal subject and discussed before a committee from senior lawyers which if he/she passed it will lead the probationer to swear the oath before the Minister of Justice. Usually the process takes not less than two and a half and above to accomplish the Bar Association’s requirement to practice law.
In South Korea, currently there are two types of admission to practice law: (i)until 2017, one can be admitted to practice law by passing the exam called 사법시험 (roughly translated as "Judicial Examination") which requires, as a pre-requisite to apply for the exam, 35 credits of legal education in undergraduate level and certain level of English qualification. Passers should go through two-year training course at the Judicial Research and Training Institute, a national institution, before they are admitted to practice law; and (ii) from 2012, one can be admitted to practice law by passing the exam called 변호사시험 (roughly translated as "Attorney Examination") which requires prior completion of three-year law school course with the degree called 법무석사 (roughly translated as "Master of Practical Law" and it is equivalent to Juris Doctor in the United States).
Lawyers in Kazakhstan must complete an undergraduate law degree and pass the state examination.
Malaysia requires advocates and solicitors to be admitted to the Malaysian Bar. The prerequisite is either a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) degree (an LL.B (Hons)., which requires four years of study) from the local law faculties or a call as a Barrister in the UK or a Certificate in Legal Practice and a nine-month pupillage.
New Zealand requires an undergraduate law degree (LL.B., which lasts four years), and completion of the Professional Legal Studies Course (which lasts five months).
Lawyers in Pakistan are called Advocates. To enjoy rights of audience in the Courts in Pakistan, a prospective lawyer/advocate must obtain a Bachelor's/equivalent degree followed by a Qualifying Law Degree (LL.B of three years) from a recognized Pakistani or common law jurisdiction country's university. All legal education in Pakistan is taught in the English language. After that, they must undertake a one year of training under a senior lawyer (called Pupillage/ Apprenticeship/ Intern-ship /Training) at the conclusion of which, they have to take a Bar exam consisting of multiple choice question paper( or in some cases a professional exam) and an interview with a committee of lawyers. After that the respective Provincial Bar Council may grant him or her the rights of audience in the lower courts (i.e. courts lower than the High Court).
An advocate enrolled with Provincial Bar Council can practice anywhere in the country except the High Courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan. He she will earn rights of audience in the High Courts after a further two years of practice in lower courts, at the end of which (in some Provincial Bar Council's) the advocate has to sit another professional exam and an interview with a judge of a High Court.
After a further 10 years practice in the High Courts, the candidate has to sit another professional exam and an interview with a judge of the Supreme Court to be given the rights of audience in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The exams are usually conducted to ensure that the quality of lawyers being produced is maintained to a certain level. The interview is then another opportunity for a senior judge and members of the provincial Bar Council to meet the candidate and see if he or she is fit to be admitted as an advocate of the lower courts/ High Courts or the Supreme Court.
To practice law in the Philippines, one must have fulfilled the non-academic and academic requirements. For non-academic requirements, one must be a Filipino, be at least 21 years old, be a resident of the Philippines, and have the moral and other non-academic qualifications needed. In terms of academic requirements, one must have obtained an undergraduate degree (with major, focus or concentration in any of the subjects of History, Economics, Political Science, Logic, English or Spanish), has obtained a Bachelor of Laws degree (or equivalent such as Juris Doctor) from a law school recognized by the Secretary of Education. They must have also taken and passed (75% general average, with no subject falling below 50%) the Bar Exam, taken the Attorney's Oath before the Supreme Court, signed the Roll of Attorneys, remain in good standing with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and continually participates in the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education.
Persons seeking admission to the Singapore Bar must obtain an approved law degree through completing a course of study of at least three academic years leading to that degree as a full-time internal candidate from an approved university. The degree is typically a LL.B. or a LL.B. (Honours), depending on the university, or a J.D. (from one of only four approved US universities or the Singapore Management University). They are then required to sit for the Singapore Bar Examinations, which is divided into Part A (for overseas graduates from approved overseas universities only) and Part B (a five-month practical course, compulsory for both local and overseas graduates). They are further required to complete a six-month Practice Training Contract before they can be called to the Bar as Advocates and Solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore. Advocates and Solicitors are entitled to appear before courts or perform solicitors' work, as the legal profession in Singapore is fused without any distinction between barristers and solicitors.
Sri Lanka requires an attorney to be admitted and enrolled as an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. One must pass the required law exams at the Sri Lanka Law College, and then spend one year in apprenticeship to a practicing attorney. To sit for the exams, students must graduate from the Sri Lanka Law College, or be qualified by gaining a LL.B. from a local or foreign university.
Among European Union members, the Diplomas Directive (Directive no. 89/48/EEC) states that those who have obtained a license or diploma in one state can pursue the profession in another state. Thus, it is not difficult for a law degree in one jurisdiction to be used as a qualifying degree in another jurisdiction within the European Union.
In Belgium, a prospective lawyer ("advocaat" in Dutch, "avocat"/"avocate" in French) must complete a Bachelor in Law (which requires three years of study), a Master in Law (which requires two years of study), a three-year apprenticeship, the CAPA course of study, and must pass the final bar exam.
- full capacity
- Master degree in law acquired at a Czech law school or analogous education acquired at a foreign university, if such an education is officially acknowledged as equivalent by an international treaty, by which the Czech republic is bound, or if a particular enactment acknowledges such a foreign education, or if it is acknowledged due to its content and extent from the point of view of knowledge and skill as sufficient for practicing law by the Advocacy Enactment
- at least three years of legal apprenticeship
- personal integrity (absence of conviction for deliberate crime)
- absence of disciplinary punishment of prohibition of law practice (if a person was already a law practitioner)
- absence of being stricken from the list of law practitioners because of personal bankruptcy
- absence of labour engagement or officiary engagement, except of engagement:
- to the Bar Association or to similar organisation in other EU state
- to a law practitioner or to a legal personality established in order to provide legal services
- to a University as a lecturer
- as a scientific worker of Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
- passing the bar exam
- taking the pledge
In Denmark, to use the title of advokat one must complete an LL.B. (three years of study) and a LL.M. (which awards the academic title of Candidata Juris, and requires two years of study), followed by a three-year apprenticeship, one year as an assistant lawyer, and an exam which has a moot court element.
To become a French lawyer, an "avocat" (male) or "avocate" (female), one must:
- obtain an undergraduate degree (three years for a "licence") and complete a first year of Masters of Laws (diplôme de maîtrise en droit) so a total of 4 years of study in a law at university
- take the exam to enter one of the CRFPA (Centres Régional de Formation à la Profession d'Avocat) where one completes an eighteen month course and obtains an award of the requisite Certificat d'aptitude à la profession d'avocat (CAPA).
Anyone can practice law in Finland, not just lawyers. However, only those licensed by the bar association may use the title asianajaja, which requires the completion of a Bachelor of Laws (or oikeusnotaari, which takes three years), a Master of Laws (or oikeustieteen maisteri), which takes two years, a four-year apprenticeship, and the passing of a bar exam which also requires the demonstration of practical skills.
In Germany, a lawyer (Rechtsanwalt) must be a member of a local bar association. Until now, the subject of law has not been changed to the Bachelor/Master system and is subject to state examinations (in contrast to university examinations). The justification lies in the national interest of admitting high-quality lawyers. The requirement for membership in the local bar association is the passing of two state examinations. The First State Exam (Erstes Staatesexamen or Erste juristische Prüfung) is usually taken after four and a half years of undergraduate law study. A university degree (Diplm.-jur. or Magister Jur.) may be granted by the university after completion of the exam, but this depends on the individual university's practice. Some prominent universities like the Law School of the University of Heidelberg do not grant a degree after completion of the exam.
The First State Exam is followed by a two-year practical phase that includes work at various institutions, including law firms, courts and public institutions. Upon completion of this two-year training period, a trainee can take the Second State Exam (Zweites Staatsexamen or Assesorprüfung). After successful completion of the second state exam, admission to the bar is completed, and the individual is authorized to practice as a lawyer, judge or state prosecutor.
Foreign degrees are not regarded as equivalent in Germany, but membership in a local bar association may be granted to individuals with foreign law degrees after several years of practicing law and is subject to individual examination.
Greece requires that a lawyer (δικηγόρος) be a member of a local bar association. Requirements include an undergraduate law degree, which lasts at least four years, an eighteen month apprenticeship, and the passing of the bar examination. Candidates should normally be under thirty - five years of age.
Following the English tradition, Ireland has both barristers and solicitors. To become a solicitor, one must complete an undergraduate degree or pass the Preliminary Examination. One must then pass the Final Examination, complete a two-year apprenticeship, and finish the concurrent Professional Practice Courses. To become a barrister, one must complete an undergraduate law degree (BCL, which lasts three years or LL.B. which last four years) or the Kings Inns Diploma in Legal Studies which lasts two years, obtain the Degree of Barrister-at-Law from the Honorable Society of King's Inns, and finish a one year pupillage (known as devilling).
Italy mandates membership in an Italian bar association, which requires completion of an undergraduate law degree (Laurea in Scienze Giuridiche, three years), a graduate law degree (Laurea Specialistica in Giurisprudenza (a two years program which confers the title of Dottore Magistrale in Giurisprudenza), or simply the one-cicle five years master degree (Laurea a ciclo unico Magistrale in Giurisprudenza)), an 18 month apprenticeship, and passing of the professional exam.
Malta's legal practice is fused and legal practice is regulated by the Chamber of Advocates. Licence to practice law is granted by way of a warrant issued on completion of the Doctorate of Laws (LLD) programme from Malta University (or a comparable international programme) and an admission exam in English and Maltese. Lawyers holding rights to practice in other jurisdictions can apply for an exemption from local practice prohibitions allowing them to offer services under their foreign title though permission is issued by discretion and requires three years local legal practice and a comparable licence elsewhere.
Moldova requires an undergraduate law degree and passage of the state examination.
In the Netherlands, to be a licensed lawyer (Advocaat), one must complete an undergraduate law degree (Bacheloropleiding or LL.B, which is three years of study), the master of law degree (doctorandus in law before implementation of the Bologna Process and conferring the meester title, which is a one year LL.M. program), and a three-year apprenticeship.
Lawyers (advokat) have to be licensed in Norway, they are licensed by the authorities provided they have a LL.M (master of law)(before 2008- cand. jur.-- candidatus juris), and two years practice as assisting lawyer (advokatfullmektig) or two years practice as a police prosecutor (politiadvokat or politifullmektig) or deputy judge (dommerfullmektig) and some minor formalities. Whilst the earlier cand. juris was normally a 6 year degree, the LL.M. is a 5 year degree. Membership of the bar association (Advokatforeningen) is optional.
In Poland, a lawyer (adwokat or radca prawny) must complete a magister's degree in law (which lasts five years) and be admitted to a bar association (The Polish Bar Council or National Chamber of Legal Advisors). There are several ways to gain admission to the bar, including: three years of training followed by the bar exam; five years of legal professional experience followed by the bar exam; a Ph.D. in law followed by either the bar exam or 3 years of legal professional experience; or possession of high academic qualifications in legal sciences (e.g., habilitated doctor or professor). Once admitted to the bar association of one occupation, a lawyer can move to another occupation with little hassle.
It is not necessary to have a license to practice law in Russia as a legal consultant, but only the members of the Russian bar associations (advocates) are permitted to appear in court on criminal matters. In Russia, an advocate must obtain an undergraduate degree in law (four years) and a Specialist in Law or Jurist degree (one year), then pass oral examinations.
In Spain, a lawyer uses the title of Licenciado/Abogado(male) or Licenciada/Abogada(female), and must be a member of a local bar association, such as the bar association of Madrid. Membership requirements for all bar associations are the same. The only requirement is a graduate law degree, the Titulo de Licenciado en Derecho, which requires five years of study.
In Sweden, membership in the bar association is required to use the title of advokat or lawyer, but not to practice law. Membership in the bar association requires an LL.M. degree (jur. kandidatexamen, which lasts four and a half years); three years of legal work which must be in a law office (either an established firm or one's own firm), and the passing of an oral examination.
In Switzerland, lawyers must complete a Bachelor of Law (BLaw, which lasts 3 years), a Master of Law (MLaw, which lasts three terms), a one year to two years apprenticeship (depending on the Canton), and pass the bar examination.
The United Kingdom comprises three distinct legal jurisdictions:
As such, admission to practice law requires different qualifications in each country of the UK.
England and Wales
In England and Wales, one does not have to be admitted to the bar to practice law, but qualifications are required to become a solicitor or barrister, who have special rights of audience in Court. There are also other types of lawyer, including Chartered Legal Executives. For both the solicitor and barrister professions, one must either obtain an undergraduate law degree (LL.B., which typically lasts three years), or complete the Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law (which lasts one year after completing an undergraduate degree). Potential solicitors are then required to complete the Legal Practice Course which lasts one year, then a two-year apprenticeship under a training contract, during which the trainee solicitor has to complete a Professional Skills Course. Potential barristers must usually complete the one year Bar Professional Training Course (formerly Bar Vocational Course), followed by a year of vocational training known as a pupillage. Potential Chartered Legal Executives may or may not have a law degree (LL.B). Their regulatory body, The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) sets a vocational route to qualification. On top of that, Chartered Legal Executives need to have 5 years of qualifying work experience to become lawyers. This is in place of a training contract or pupilage. However Chartered Legal Executives can then go on to become partners in law firms, judges or advocates (with further training).
Scotland requires an undergraduate law degree (LL.B., which lasts four years if taken as a first degree (with honours) three if taken as an Ordinary Degree and two years if taken as a graduate entry degree), a Diploma in Legal Practice (one year), and completion of a two-year apprenticeship together with the Professional Competence Course (which lasts seven days).
Canadian applicants to the bar must obtain admission (referred to as the "call to the bar") to one of the provincial or territorial Law Societies in the various jurisdictions of Canada. As an example, in order to sit for the bar exam, the Law Society of British Columbia requires that a student complete an undergraduate degree in any discipline (B.A. of four years), and an undergraduate law degree (LL.B. and/or B.C.L., three to four years) or Juris Doctor (three years). Upon obtaining his or her law degree, the applicant must then successfully complete the bar exam for that jurisdiction and/or complete course work as required by that jurisdiction's Law Society, such as the Professional Legal Training Course. As well, the applicant must complete an apprenticeship referred to as "articling" (nine to fifteen months depending on the jurisdiction and nature of the articling process).
Lawyers in Mexico are required to complete a law degree (Licenciado en Derecho, a five-year program), and obtain a practice certificate (cedula professional) from the Bureau of Professions of the Ministry of Education (Direction General de Profesiones), which officially certifies the license by virtue of the law degree.
Regulation of the legal profession is a power reserved to the states pursuant to the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Each state, territory and the District of Columbia has its own rules. Unlike many other countries, US jurisdictions do not license legal practitioners as solicitors and barristers, but all licensed attorneys are qualified to practice as both.
All jurisdictions require applicants to pass a moral character evaluation and to pass an ethics examination, which some states administer as part of their bar examinations. Most require applicants to achieve a particular score on the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination.
All jurisdictions except Wisconsin and New Hampshire require successful completion of a bar exam for admission. Diploma privilege is available in those states for graduates of certain law schools whose degree programmes meet certain requirements.
Educational requirements vary but most states require a baccalaureate degree (with any major concentration, or in general studies), followed by a professional doctorate in law - specifically a (Juris Doctor or Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. Some states accept foreign law degrees and a very small number of states accept US law degrees from unaccredited law schools.
At least one state, California, requires no general degree and no law degree. It is technically possible to become an attorney in California by completing two years of college coursework, or the equivalent as demonstrated by examination; and to meet the legal education requirement by studying law diligently in a lawyer's office or judge's chambers for not less that 864 hours over not less than four years. Hours spent as an employee of an attorney or judge do not count as "study."
In Argentina, prospective lawyers must complete an undergraduate law degree (Abogado, which lasts five to six years depending on the University), and then become a member of one of the jurisdictional associations.
Brazil requires an undergraduate law degree (Bacharel em Direito, which lasts five years) and the passing of the bar examination.
Chile requires a law degree (Licenciado en Ciencias Jurídicas: five years, and to approve a degree exam comprising all studied civil and procedural law that usually can takes one or two years more). It's required also a six-month apprenticeship to finally be able to oath in Supreme Court as a lawyer.
Lawyers (Abogados) in Peru must be members of a local bar association, which requires an undergraduate law degree (Bachiller en Derecho, a five-year program) and a diploma (Titulo de Abogado), the latter requiring one year of apprenticeship and passing of the bar exam.
- The term is more prevalent in U.S. English and to a lesser extent in Canadian English (where it is more usually spelled law licence) similar to other Commonwealth Realms.
— Examples from the U.S. court side include: "Respondent used his law license to commit crimes [...]. Accordingly, we conclude that respondent should be disbarred" (NYCourts.gov, "Appellate Division Decisions of November 15, 2002") and "ordered to surrender his law license and resign from the practice of law" (USDOJ.gov, "EOIR Announces Disciplinary Actions Against 11 Immigration Practitioners", 2001).
— Examples from the U.S. bar side include: "A North Carolina judge who lost his law license based on accusations he took money [...]" and "Scooter Libby Loses Law License" (American Bar Association Journal, both in 2008, from more than 300 instances in the ABA Journal).
— Examples from Canadian medias include: "Disbarred lawyer [...] says he'll fight to get back his law licence." (The Brantford Expositor) and "Convicted murderer wants law licence back" (CBC.ca).
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