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VI.1 Foreign law school graduates - Requirements for examination and admission by motion

Graduates of law schools in foreign countries may be permitted to petition for admission by sitting for the written bar examination in Massachusetts or a concurrent written exam in another Uniform Bar Examination jurisdiction, petition for admission by transfer of a previously earned Uniform Bar Examination score, or petition for admission by motion upon obtaining a prior determination of their education sufficiency from the Board of Bar Examiners. (See VI.7 below for a special rule on Canadian law schools) 

VI.2 Request for advanced determination on education

Except for those qualified by VI. 7, at least four months prior to making petition all foreign educated attorneys who wish to obtain a determination of their eligibility to petition for admission either by written examination in Massachusetts or a concurrent written exam in another Uniform Bar Examination jurisdiction, petition for admission by transfer of a previously earned Uniform Bar Examination score, or petition for admission by motion must submit a cover letter that describes the action sought from the Board of Bar Examiners, the reason for the request, and the following documentation: 

Documentation Required 

In order for the Board of Bar Examiners to determine sufficiency, each foreign educated attorney shall supply the Board of Bar Examiners with the following documents written in or translated into English: 

  1. Official Transcripts: An official transcript from every college, university and law school (foreign or American) attended; this must include the courses taken, the grade for each course, the degree and date awarded, and the dates of attendance;
  2. Diploma: Copies of all diplomas or degree certificates;
  3. Course Descriptions: Descriptions of all courses, if not included in the transcripts, along with the method of study, i.e. classroom or long distance learning, etc.;
  4. Certificate(s) of Admission: An official Certificate of Admission and Certificate of Good Standing from each jurisdiction to which the attorney is admitted; and
  5. resume: A resume detailing work history.

This documentation will not be returned to the petitioner.

VI.3 Determination of educational sufficiency

VI.3.1 In general

In making a determination of educational sufficiency, the Board of Bar Examiners takes into consideration the following:

  • The jurisprudence in the country of the foreign law school
  • The course of study that was completed at the foreign law school as compared to that offered in a law school approved by the American Bar Association
  • (ABA)
  • The attorney's pre-legal education as compared to that offered in a US college or university
  • The attorney's license to practice law in either a foreign or American jurisdiction
  • The length and nature of prior legal practice or teaching, if any
  • The petitioner's familiarity with the American constitutional, common-law and statutory legal systems
  • The petitioner's successful completion of additional legal studies.

VI.3.2 Safe harbor

A graduate of a foreign law school who meets the standards set forth below will be deemed to have satisfied the educational sufficiency requirement of Rule VI. l above, and will not be required to take further legal studies. For purposes of this section VI.3.2, "foreign law school" does not include an institution whose program of study consists primarily of distance study, correspondence study or an on-line program. 

i). Standards for graduates of law schools in countries with common-law tradition

  1. The petitioner is admitted to the practice of law in a foreign country;
  2. The petitioner is in good standing at the bar in all jurisdictions where he or she is admitted; and
  3. The petitioner has successfully completed fifteen credit hours of courses in the categories listed below in Section VI.3.2.iii at a law school that is ABA accredited or authorized by a Massachusetts statute to grant the degree of bachelor of laws or juris doctor. The required credit hours must include a course in basic constitutional law and a course in professional responsibility. Distance study, correspondence study and on-line programs are not acceptable.

ii). Standards for graduates of law schools in countries with civil-law tradition

  1. The petitioner is admitted to the practice of law in a foreign country;
  2. The petitioner is in good standing at the bar in all jurisdictions where he or she is admitted; and
  3. The petitioner has successfully completed an LLM program of at least twenty four credit hours at a law school that is ABA accredited or authorized by a Massachusetts statute to grant the degree of LLM, which program includes a course in basic constitutional law, a course in professional responsibility, and a minimum of one course from at least three of the other categories listed below in Section VI.3 .2.iii. Distance study, correspondence study and on-line programs are not acceptable. 

iii). List of categories for additional courses

The categories listed below represent a consolidation of the subjects tested on the bar examination. They encompass a range of courses falling within the category.

  1. Business Organization: including, for example, Agency, Business Organizations
  2. Commercial Law: including, for example, Contracts and Uniform Commercial Code (articles 1-9)
  3. Constitutional Law
  4. Criminal Justice: including, for example, Criminal Law
  5. Property and Estate Planning: including, for example, Estates, Real Property, Trusts and Wills
  6. Domestic Relations
  7. Procedural Law: including, for example, Federal Rules of Evidence, Federal Jurisdiction, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
  8. Professional Responsibility
  9. Torts

VI.4 Method of evaluation

Each file is reviewed individually on its own merits. Upon completion of its review, the Board of Bar Examiners issues a determination that the foreign educated attorney a) must take further legal studies as the Board of Bar Examiners may designate at a law school accredited by the ABA or authorized by a Massachusetts statute to grant the degree of bachelor of laws or juris doctor; or b) is eligible to petition to sit for the bar examination; or c) is eligible to petition for admission by motion provided all other requirements are met. 

VI.5 Burden of proof

The petitioner has the burden to demonstrate that he or she has obtained an education similar in nature and quality to that of a graduate of a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. 

VI.6 Appeals

Petitioners who are dissatisfied with the Board of Bar Examiners' determination concerning their petition may write a letter to the Board of Bar Examiners requesting a reconsideration of its decision. 

Information regarding the process of appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court may be obtained by contacting an assistant clerk in the Clerk's Office of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County. 

VI.7 Canadian law schools

Graduates of common law studies at Canadian law schools that are members of the Law School Admissions Council shall be permitted to petition for admission by sitting for the written bar examination in Massachusetts, or a concurrent written exam in another Uniform Bar Examination jurisdiction, petition for admission by transfer of a previously earned Uniform Bar Examination score, or petition for admission by motion on the same basis as graduates of law schools approved by the American Bar Association. A list of such law schools appears below: 

  • Dalhousie University 
  • McGill University 
  • Queen's University
  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Calgary
  • University of Manitoba
  • University of New Brunswick
  • University of Ottawa 
  • University of Saskatchewan 
  • University of Toronto 
  • University of Victoria 
  • University of Western Ontario 
  • University of Windsor Faculty of Law
  • York University- Osgoode Hall Law School

 

Downloads for Board of Bar Examiners Rule VI: Foreign law school graduates

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The following are Supreme Judicial Court decisions concerning foreign education equivalency:

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