Girling fights for rights of UK lawyers Stateside

The President of the Law Society, Tony Girling, will attempt to end a long-running dispute over requalification rights for English lawyers in New York, when he visits the US city to attend the International Bar Association's 50th anniversary celebrations.

Girling intends to take advantage of the visit this week to open a “direct line of negotiations” with the New York State Bar over the obstructions UK lawyers face when attempting to requalify there.

The Law Society had been negotiating directly with a special working party set up by the American Bar Association, but so far the talks have yielded few results and it is understood communications between the two have almost broken down.

Jonathan Goldsmith, the Law Society's international director, said it was “keeping its options open” by speaking directly to the New York State Bar.

The Law Society is attempting to secure some form of recognition for the estimated 40 per cent of UK solicitors who do not hold a law degree, and are, therefore, not eligible to sit the New York Bar exam under New York bar rules.

There have also been complaints that even solicitors who have qualified to sit the exam face a series of obstacles, including obtaining a visa to go to New York to sit the exam.

One UK law graduate, Kojo Jantuah, who works as a legal executive for Westminster Council, has given up his attempts to sit the exam after he was denied a visa.

He claimed there was a “policy” to control the numbers of foreign lawyers entering the New York Bar. He was told that he simply would not be able to obtain a visa to go to New York to sit the Bar exam. Others in the same situation as Jantuah have travelled to New York as visitors and then taken the exam.

Jantuah's lawyer, Kofi Akainyah of Akainyah & Co, said students should be allowed to take the exam in the UK.

Partner at Baker McKenzie, Clive Cook, who has New York qualifications, said: “New York state has 17 million people and 100,000 lawyers, so perhaps they would try to control the numbers coming in.”