Law Society pushes NY bar to change qualifying rules

The Law Society is calling on the bar associations of New York to support it in a bid to relax the rules for UK lawyers trying to requalify to practise there.

New York currently makes a distinction between solicitors who qualified with degrees in law and those who did non-law degrees. The former are allowed to take the New York bar exam immediately whereas the latter have to complete a year at law school.

The Law Society has sent a paper to the New York State Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York asking that all UK lawyers be treated alike and the extra education requirement be dropped.

The Law Society hopes that the two associations will back it in the next stage of its campaign, when it will send the paper to the Court of Appeal, which has regulatory powers.

The paper claims that the rules unfairly look behind the title of solicitor, and says that it is harder for UK lawyers to qualify in New York than it is for US lawyers to qualify in the UK.

It says: “It should be noted that US lawyers are more liberally treated if they wish to requalify as solicitors in England and Wales than vice versa. No distinction is made by the Law Society between attorneys from different states.

“No jurisdiction outside of the United States (to our knowledge) distinguishes between solicitors with law degrees and those with non-law degrees. Instead, they usually look at the title of solicitor, and they recognise it as a suitable title.”

One source at the Law Society says: “We are waiting to hear back from these two bar associations before we move on to the Court of Appeal. We have really stepped up our campaign on this because there are so many solicitors out there who are desperate for the rules to be changed.”