Law Society makes strides towards US bar admissions

Law Society president Phillip Sycamore has hailed a meeting last week with senior figures at the New York State Bar as a “significant” milestone towards the goal of setting up a consistent admissions policy for UK lawyers in New York.

Currently only UK-qualified lawyers with a law degree can move straight to taking the New York bar exams, while solicitors with a non-law degree must undertake additional legal education.

The meeting between Sycamore, Chief Judge Judith Kaye and Associate Judge Howard Levine, the two people responsible for deciding whether to relax the rules, was the first time the Law Society had met directly with representatives of the state bar.

Sycamore said he felt the judges' response was constructive and that they suggested UK solicitors with a non-law degree make use of the “waiver approach”, where individual cases are judged on their merits.

But he added: “While this may be OK as an initial vehicle my quest is to obtain consistent treatment for all UK-qualified solicitors. I think it is an unfair and unnecessary distinction.”

The Law Society is looking to New York state as a bridgehead in liberalising rights of admission across the US.

Most of the other US states have tighter restrictions on admission.