Girling moves on ABA barriers

Law Society president Tony Girling has invited the American Bar Association to visit the UK to assess the quality of legal education here in a bid to end the deadlock over the requalification rights for English lawyers in New York.

Girling extended the invitation to the ABA committee on legal education and admissions last month during his visit to New York to attend the International Bar Association's 50th anniversary celebrations.

During his visit he met with the ABA and the New York State Bar to discuss the obstructions UK lawyers face when attempting to requalify in New York.

At the moment the New York Bar does not allow UK solicitors who do not hold a law degree to sit the local bar exams.

Girling said the issue of admission was particularly sensitive for the ABA, because it was facing litigation over the accreditation of a number of American law schools whose graduates' qualifications were also not being recognised by some local bars. He added that this put the ABA in a difficult position when it came to recognising foreign law qualifications.

Girling said: “I understand there are clearly obstacles, but there is steady pressure mounting on the US from the World Trade Organisation, the EU and the Law Society, on the issues of globalisation of lawyers and reciprocity.”

However, there is no guarantee that the ABA will accept Girling's invitation, which will be repeated at the ABA's annual conference in San Francisco later this month.

Don Rivkin, a new New York-based ABA committee chair, said that part of the problem was that the ABA was a voluntary organisation with absolutely no regulatory powers over the state Bars.