Scope of Indian lawyers in the USA

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This article is written by Vanya Verma pursuing B.B.A.LL.B.(Hons.) from Alliance University, Bangalore. This article talks about how an Indian lawyer or any other foreign-trained lawyer can practice in the United States and what are the various legal career options available.


Law is one of the most competitive professions in the United States as well as one of the most difficult competitions to clear for most of the foreign-trained lawyers. The foreign-trained lawyers are at a certain level of disadvantage compared to the students who have attained a law degree in the United States especially at the time of taking state bar admission.

There are several options for foreign-trained lawyers who do not want to have full admission to the bar, including jobs as foreign legal consultants etc. If anyone is planning to become a lawyer in the United States then there are certain steps which he/she has to go through like law schools, the bar exams and there are certain other requirements which are required to be fulfilled for one to become a lawyer. Though it may sound easy but it includes hard work of several years.

This article aims at analyzing how an Indian or any foreign lawyer can practice in the United States without pursuing an undergrad law degree i.e. the Juris Doctor in the US College and also how a lawyer with a foreign degree can practice in the United States.

Eligibility criteria for the Bar Exam in the US

For the admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law, according to the rule of the Court of Appeals, the lawyers who have qualified from a common law country and have an experience of more than two years are entitled to submit their law degree for analysis and review and if it is successful then there is no need for them to give the bar exam. This rule is applicable only to the Indian students.

Another thing that an Indian student can do is to pursue an LLM degree in the US before being eligible to take the bar exam.
Each of the US states have different criteria for recruitment, some states require that the person should earn the Juris Doctor (JD) degree that is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), while the other states may allow the candidates to appear for the bar exam without earning it. There is no general license to practice law in the United States.

Many international students choose to pursue an LLM in the US so that they can take a US bar exam. If the candidates appearing for the bar exam qualify the exam, then they will be allowed to practice law as a fully admitted lawyer in the state where the candidate has cleared the exam.

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It can be extremely difficult for the foreign-trained lawyers to sit the bar exam in the US. Most states do require a JD degree to sit in the bar exam. But there are some states that allow the foreign law graduates to sit for the bar exam. The requirements that are needed to give the bar exam in various states of the US are discussed as follows-  

New York

It is a popular place for the people who are foreign-trained attorneys and want to practice in the US and adding to that the regulations of this state facilitate this process. The New York Bar Exam is administered by the New York Board of Law Examiners, they have a certain set of requirements that are needed to be fulfilled by the foreign-trained lawyers in order to practice in New York.

If a foreign-trained lawyer has completed a program that was at least of a duration of three years and focused on English common law then these attorneys can appear for the bar (after they receive an Advance Evaluation of Eligibility from the Board).

All other foreign-trained attorneys are required to complete a Master of Laws (LLM) degree program that should meet certain qualifications before they are allowed to sit for the bar exam.


California is another good option that a foreign-trained lawyer can consider for practice. The procedures of California are similar to that of New York, in fact, compared to New York, California’s admission requirements for foreign lawyers are relatively liberal. If one meets the requirements of the state it becomes easier to sit for bar exams in California which is comparatively easier compared to New York. Even the foreign-trained lawyers, who admit to practising law outside the jurisdiction of the United States are also eligible to take the bar exam in California without any additional requirements or inconveniences.

The foreign-trained attorneys who have not been admitted to practice outside the U.S. are still eligible to take the bar exam after completing their LLM degree program. It is essential that the program must be covering four separate subjects that are tested on the California Bar Exam.

Out of these four courses, one of them must be the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Professional Responsibility course that covers the California Business and Professions Code and leading relevant federal and state case law.
A provision is offered in California for an additional one year’s schooling at a law school that is approved by the ABA or accredited in California. This year should be dedicated to the subject material of bar examination.

Other States

There are thirty-four jurisdictions out of the fifty states in the US where the foreign-trained lawyers have an opportunity to gain admission to the bar, all with varying rules. 

In almost all the cases, the foreign law degree of the candidate must be reviewed and approved by the ABA, this process can take almost a year and sometimes even more than that. 

The candidate can sit for that state’s bar exam only if the ABA gives him a nod of approval and the person meets the state’s other requirements.


This state requires that the law school that is chosen by a candidate for his/her LLM degree must be approved by the Board of Governors. The degree must include at least 12,000 minutes on the principals of the U.S. domestic law and 18,200 minutes of instruction.


This state has given permission to the foreign-trained students who have LLM degrees to sit for the bar exam since 2012. This degree must include at least 700 minutes of instruction per semester credit hour and the degree must be completed in no less than two 13-week semesters.


Only this state recognizes foreign law degrees with any regularity. Vermont has an apprenticeship program in place in order to help the foreign-trained attorneys to prepare for the bar exam there.


This state has two requirements: firstly, one must have received his education from a school that was sanctioned or recognized by their foreign government, secondly, he must also be admitted to practice law there.

In other states of the US, there are additional requirements but those requirements aren’t limited to additional ABA-approved education, the practice of law in a foreign jurisdiction and legal education in English common law. As we have already discussed above, how each state has its own laws for a foreign-trained lawyer who can qualify to practice in the US. 

Apart from New York and California, an LLM degree would also allow a foreign-trained lawyer to give the bar exam in the state of Washington and Wisconsin. The twenty-nine remaining states where foreign-trained lawyers are eligible to take the bar exam establish a variety of requirements that are needed to be fulfilled in order to appear in the bar exam. Each state’s requirements shall be listed on the website of the state-specific bar exam website according to the Bar Exam Guide.

There are many states where only LLM is required to sit for the bar exam and once he/she qualifies the Bar exam in the US, it is just an initial step towards becoming an accredited lawyer in the United States. There are still other requirements that are required to be fulfilled at this point (such as taking the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination) and passing the fitness and character requirements for the state’s bar exam).

Top 10 legal careers in the US

The legal services in the US have mostly appeared at the top whether it be for ranking or for high paying jobs, therefore legal careers in the US attract many. Following the criteria such as job satisfaction, remuneration and popularity, to 10 legal careers in US are as follows-

Litigation and trial lawyers

The Lawyers in the litigation field concerning civil and criminal cases are in high demand in the US. If they are able to establish themselves well, they are paid well if they win the cases of their clients. The initial salary differs from the kind of experience one is having and from place to place and even what kind of cases they are dealing with. 

General counsels

The General Counsels are the head corporation’s law department. They generally earn the salary of executive-level and there are more chances of them earning through stocks or options.


Attaining a job as a faculty in a law school that includes a teaching assistant, can be very competitive in the US. In order to secure that position, the candidates should possess qualifications such as law degree from a top school, high grades, publication in scholarly journals, good work experience in the legal field etc. Requiring these qualifications makes teaching in the US law school rank among its top-paying jobs. Salary may depend on the type of institution one is working in, location of the institution, education level and years of experience. 

Mediators, arbitrators or conciliators

Mediators are the ones who help people in resolving the disputes. They try to settle the battle outside the court, that saves parties from the long litigation process, thus, saving their time and money. Arbitrators are generally attorneys or people with specific industry knowledge. They help the parties by hearing and deciding their disputes as an impartial third party. Conciliators are also like mediators who help the parties to come to a settlement. People nowadays generally prefer to settle the matter outside the court, it’s a good opportunity for the people who want to practice in this field and they earn well. The most important thing is that they should be good advisers.


There are multiple benefits that a Judge enjoys like health benefits, contribution to the retirement plan, expense accounts that are made on their behalf and thus increasing their size of compensation package along with retirement benefits to lead a secure life after work.

Litigation Support Roles

The purpose of litigation support is to examine, organize and present the case materials through computer systems. The legal professionals who want to work as litigation support roles should possess a law degree or advanced degree in finance, business and technology. They earn good salaries in professing this role. As today’s world is working on technology and technology has acquired over database management, it therefore controls legal practice through handling processes, administrative activities and legal research, thus there is an increase in legal professionals who want to opt for these roles.

Law firm consultant/Legal recruiter

Law firm consultants are able to enjoy a varied work environment, flexibility, attend meetings, travel and meet people. Top law firms in the US depend heavily upon legal recruiters for fresh entrants. 

Legal recruiters have to recognize bright law graduates, review their CVs and help in arranging interviews. Having some experience in recruitment can give better possibilities at this job.

Legal Specialist Roles

In specific industry areas, legal specialist roles are also achieving rapid popularity. The role of a legal specialist involves editing presentations, obtaining equipment and help in supporting in making schedules. They are also required to prepare notes and do editing, drafting and also update legal documents and examining them for precision. Most of the work pertains to being a part of the process of organisation and to develop, enforce and analyze the management of documents, arrangement processes and discovery processes.


Law Firm Administration

Law firm administration is an incredible career option for the legal professionals who want to work in a regular working hour job in the legal industry. Generally in bigger firms, the law firm administrators are proficient and have to work for regular hours to earn a good pay. The law firm administrators are mostly required to supervise the business and managerial aspects of an operating law firm. They also perform non-legal aspects of law such as business development, financial reporting, financial management and human resources management, marketing, facilities management, practice management and technology.

International organisations

Candidates often consider a career with an international organisation although it’s not among the top-paying jobs. International organizations include the UN, campaigning organisations and international charities. The students and graduates, especially the ones with the law background who have an interest in international relations can consider a career in international organizations. There are few opportunities that are available for new graduates to work in the international field rather than working as an intern or a volunteer. The benefit of this field is that the people get exposure and if they do well, they get various well paying job offers. 


If anyone is planning to practice law in the United States with a foreign degree, then the most important thing that he/she needs to keep in their mind is that each state in the US has different requirements. Before going for practice in a particular state, one must do some research in the state he/she is planning to practice. There are various other options one can opt for other than going into litigation. Various fields have come up with a lot of demand for lawyers and they are a good career option.


Diganth Raj Sehgal :