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Law Society president Phillip Sycamore is to meet next month with the judge responsible for admissions to the New York Bar, in a bid to convince him to open the way for English and Welsh solicitors to practise in the state.
Following private meetings at the ABA conference, the Law Society has also been invited by the New York Bar to submit a paper to an admissions consultation that is being undertaken in the state.
The moves follow years of wrangling over the difficulties UK lawyers face when seeking rights of establishment in the USA, particularly in New York, where UK lawyers are only allowed to sit the Bar exam if they have a law degree.
In recent years only a handful of UK lawyers have qualified to practise UK law in the States, but Sycamore said the Law Society was now making progress in its negotiations. However, he used the San Francisco conference as a platform from which to put pressure on the Americans to change their admissions regulations. He told an audience of international lawyers that 100 US attorneys had qualified to practise UK law in England and Wales since 1994. "We are mystified as to why we are not treated with reciprocacy," said Sycamore. "After all, we are natural allies."
Sycamore later said to The Lawyer that it was ironic that New York did not allow non-law degree solicitors to sit the local Bar exams, as a recent survey showed they were the very lawyers in demand from City firms in London. He said he sensed some underlying fear about the competition UK solicitors could bring, but said the London experience showed both countries benefited, with more work flowing into the legal community.