Future lawyers, welcome to Albany

By Akum Norder

bar exam If you see a lot of stressed-out lawyer types around downtown Albany this week, carrying their personal belongings in clear zip-lock bags, there's a reason for that: The New York state bar exam is being administered today and tomorrow at the Empire State Plaza.

People come to Albany from all over the country and the world to take the New York bar. The state's exam has a reputation as one of the toughest -- if not the toughest -- in the country. As a test-taker said in the ABA Journal a few years ago, "If you've passed the New York bar exam, you can probably pass any other state bar." One lawyer noted that California's exam is longer, "but in substance, it was easier than New York."

More than 4,000 people took the test last February at sites across the state. First-time takers from ABA-approved schools passed the state bar exam at a rate of 80.5 percent. But the rate for all candidates -- domestic and foreign educated, first-time and repeat takers -- was 50 percent.

Good luck, guys.


Thanks for the head's up. Last year the line for Starbucks at noon was out the door.

I'm confused. I've heard the opposite, I've indeed met people from other countries coming here to take the exam because it was *easy*. I mean, all things considered, why would you "come to Albany from all over the country and the world" to take one of the toughest state exam in the US? Love for pain and failure? What am I missing?

The general thinking is that if you can pass the New York bar, you can pass any of them - and everyone wants to work in New York City.

BTW, if you're a documentary junkie like me, look for "A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar" about taking the California bar exam.

Seb- Like Jess said, it's because layers want to work in NYC. I don't know why people you have encountered would take the exam in the US just because it's easier... there's no way that the certification would mean anything in their home country. They probably took it here because they wanted to work here :D

The NYS bar exam is not "difficult", its demanding, in that you need to do a tremendous amount of memorization, but the application of that memorization is not difficult. There are no trick questions or anythign liek that.

As to why people come from all over the country and the world, it's because most commercial contracts between national and international companies in this country are signed under NYS law, many international companies also choose NYS law.

This is because NYS courts have well-defined and understood rules. If it's happened between two businesses, its happened in NY law, and the courts have probably already ruled on it. This certainty of result is comforting.

There is a reason there are so many lawyers in New York City.

A couple is on the way their wedding rehearsal dinner when they are hit and killed by a falling piano (it happens). At Heaven's gate the couple asks St. Peter if they could be married before they officially enter heaven. St. Peter leaves the couple at the gate and is gone for quite a long time. During his absence, the couple starts to argue, questioning their choice to get married. When St. Peter returns with a priest in tow, the couple asks "St. Peter, now that we know we can get married before coming into heaven, we are having second thoughts. What if we decide to get divorced in Heaven?" St. Peter, exasperated by the request, responds "It took me all this time to fine a priest and NOW you want me to find a lawyer?!"

-S, I'm wondering where you heard that? Ask any lawyer or law student and they will tell you that NY and CA are neck-in-neck for difficult/demanding exams. After studying for 12 hours per day for 6-8 weeks, it didn't seem that bad, but it is much more demanding than most other states. Also the non-domiciliaries that take the exam are required, I believe, by the NYS Board of Law Examiners to sit for the exam in Albany.

Its was a fun times. The next 2 weeks of these "kids'" lives will be blank as they decompress and try to reintroduce themselves to the real world.

Lets hope things turn around or we're gonna have another 2,000 unemployed lawyers in NY.

@jess: So I take it you have to pass a bar exam for each state you want to work as a lawyer?
@Paul: there are, thank God, some equivalences going on with respect to diplomas. Otherwise I wouldn't have left my own country to work here :)
@Ike: Thanks, certainly makes more sense now.
@CAD: heard what? That it's harder than any other state? I was quoting the post above. That it is easy? By a couple French people I met years ago who had made the trip from France; to be honest they didn't elaborate much, but I suspected a loophole.

@CAD, you're right, non-domiciliaries are required to sit for the exam in Albany.

For people with lives, "non-domiciliary" can be loosely translated as "residents".

Seb- Yup. You have to pass the bar of the state in which you want to work, in general. There are a number of reciprocity agreements, but they all vary and there are different requirements for each. There are also some exceptions made that allow you to practice law in another state temporarily, under something called pro hace vice. There's also a multistate bar exam, but I am not sure of the exact restrictions that carries but I know it applies only to very specific situations.

On behalf of all the out of state bar takers in Albany I have a critical question - where's the after-bar party :) ? Are there any cool places/bars you can recommend near the convention centre in Albany for wed evening...

Franklin's Tower (Broadway)
Lion Heart (Maidson)
DeJohn's (Lark)
Justin's (Lark)
Hill Street Cafe (Maidson)
O'Keefe's (Washington)
El Mariachi (Hamilton Street)
depends on what you're in the mood for.

It's just a test. How hard can it be?

Albany is the capital of New York and is therefore the default location for out-of-state or foreign bar exam takers. Most people don't choose to take it here. And I can tell you from experience not to question a bar exam taker about the toughness of the exam - it's no laughing matter. Such questioning might even induce crying, yelling or both. The Bar was, by far, one of the hardest things I ever did.

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