Reciprocity: Guide to states where you can practice law

Reciprocity

Legal recruiters explore every best option when searching for a new firm for our attorneys. Looking out-of-state gives your search an edge, and opens up additional financial, lifestyle and several intangibles that are a good fit for you. There are several states where you may be able to practice law without having to retake the bar exam.

The bar admission process is complicated and varies from state to state. For those taking the bar, the Uniform Bar Exam gives lawyers the “portability” to practice in several states.

Uniform Bar Exam
Many states are unifying the process of bar admission through the use of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). New York is the latest state to adopt at least part of the UBE and joins Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Missouri and North Dakota were the first states to administer the UBE in February 2011 followed by Alabama in July 2011. New York, Iowa, Kansas and New Mexico will begin administering the UBE in 2016.

The UBE is a set of three testing devices prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The UBE concentrates on general legal concepts as opposed to intricacies of any particular state’s laws in an effort to provide a uniform way to measure performance across the country.

The UBE is comprised of the Multi-state Bar Exam (MBE), which is a set of 200 multiple-choice questions on Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Federal Civil Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts; the Multi-state Essay Examination; and the Multi-state Performance Test. States can utilize some or all portions of the UBE and set their own scoring criteria.

Every state except Louisiana currently administers the MBE portion of the UBE. Some states, like California, administer the MBE together with state specific essay and performance test features.

In theory, the UBE fosters portability of law licenses, especially with respect to states like Minnesota and Idaho that accept passing UBE scores from any state within a certain window of time (between two to five years).

But this practice is limited to a select group of states, and even in those states you will need to sit for the bar exam or find another way to get admitted if you apply outside the window of time wherein your UBE score still counts. Moreover, other states that administer or plan to administer the UBE (like New York) require applicants to take a separate course and test on state subjects for admittance.

Reciprocity By State —

Never assume that because a state has reciprocity means you should not contact that state to ensure you are qualified to practice law in that state. The information provided here is to be used directionally.

Please Note: The listing detailed below is up to date, however states may have changed their policies since this chart was last updated. Check with the reciprocity state bar to make sure you are licensed to practice law in any state.

Multiple State Admissions
In order to maximize employability and have the ability to take clients in different states, many attorneys opt to take multiple bar exams right away after law school. This is particularly useful for attorneys who live in metropolitan areas that sprawl into different states (such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut).

Federal Courts Bar Admissions
Still more varied are rules that govern whether someone can practice federal law in one of the 94 federal district courts spread across the country and U.S. territories. Admission requirements differ from district court to district court, but admission generally involves at the very least paying a fee and taking an oath. Many district courts require an attorney to be admitted to practice before the state courts of the state in which the federal court sits.

Reciprocity Agreements with New York State

NEW YORK: Has reciprocity with the following states: AK, CO, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.

Below details the reciprocity for each state for attorneys who may relocate to the New York from other states.

Reciprocity by State
By no means uniform, the following details what the states positions are regarding practicing law in their jurisdiction:

ALABAMA: The state does not offer reciprocity.

ALASKA: The state has reciprocity agreements with the following other states: CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WY.

ARIZONA: The state does not offer reciprocity.

ARKANSAS: Admission by motion went into effect in October 2004.

CALIFORNIA: The state does not offer reciprocity, but offers a shorter bar examination for attorneys licensed in other states with good standing for at least four years prior to application.

COLORADO: Other states have to reciprocate for Colorado lawyers

CONNECTICUT: Other states have to reciprocate for Connecticut lawyers.

DELAWARE: The state does not offer reciprocity.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Lawyers who have been admitted for five years in another jurisdiction immediately preceding application for admission in DC can be admitted without examination; other lawyers can be admitted without examination if they graduated from an ABA accredited law school and obtained certain minimum scores on the Multi-state Bar Examination and the Multi-state Professional Responsibility Examination.

FLORIDA: The state does not offer reciprocity.

GEORGIA: Georgia offers a shorter bar examination for lawyers admitted by examination and in good standing in another state for at least twelve months prior to taking its Attorneys’ Examination. Also offers admission without examination for lawyers from reciprocal states who have practiced at least five years.

HAWAII: The state does not offer reciprocity.

IDAHO: Offers reciprocity only to certain lawyers licensed in Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. However, lawyers who have actively practiced law for at least five of the last seven years immediately preceding their applications for admission do not have to take and pass the Multi-state Bar Examination, but must take and pass the remainder of the Idaho bar examination.

ILLINOIS: Has reciprocity agreements with the following states: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, GU, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NMI, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, USVI, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.

INDIANA: Has no formal reciprocity but provisionally admits lawyers who have practiced law for five years of the seven years immediately preceding their applications for admission without taking and passing the Indiana bar examination.

IOWA: Lawyers who have practiced law for five full years of the seven years immediately preceding their applications for admission to practice law in Iowa can be admitted to practice without taking and passing the Iowa bar examination.

KANSAS: Does not have reciprocity.

KENTUCKY: Kentucky has reciprocity agreements with the following states: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IA, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, WA, WV, WI, WY.

LOUISIANA: Has no express reciprocity agreements, but provisionally admits certain lawyers from other jurisdictions under special criteria.

MAINE: As of January 2005, the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont entered into a reciprocity agreement allowing attorneys to be admitted to one another’s bars without taking the bar examination for that state.

Shorter bar examination for lawyers in good standing in another state for at least three of the preceding five years prior to admission to practice law in Maine; shorter bar examination for lawyers in good standing in another state depending on passing score on MBE within sixty-one months of the current administration of the Maine bar examination.

MARYLAND: Has no formal reciprocity agreements, but offers shorter bar examination for lawyers in good standing in another state for at least five years of the ten years prior to application for admission in Maryland.

MASSACHUSETTS: To gain license in this state, an applicant must have been admitted to practice in another state, district or territory for at least five years prior to application for admission and be in good standing in each such state, district and territory.

An applicant must be a graduate of a law school which at the time of graduation was approved by the American Bar Association or was authorized by a state statute to grant the degree of bachelor of laws or juris doctor.

MICHIGAN: Lawyers who have actively practiced law for three of the five years preceding their applications for admission can be admitted to practice in Michigan without taking and passing the Michigan bar examination.

MINNESOTA: Lawyers who are 18 years of age or older in good character and fitness who have either;

(i) Graduation with a J.D. or LL.B. degree from a law school that is provisionally or fully approved by the American Bar Association;
(ii) a bachelor’s degree from an institution that is accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education or foreign equivalent;
(iii) a J.D. degree or equivalent from a law school attended following completion of undergraduate studies;
(iv) the applicant has been licensed to practice law in any state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia in 60 of the previous 84 months; and
(v) the applicant has been engaged, as principal occupation, in the practice of law for 60 of the previous 84 months and has either:
(a) been licensed to practice law in any state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia for at least 10 years.
(b) Passing score on the written examination under or a scaled score of 85 or higher on the Multi-state Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE); and
(c) Not currently suspended or disbarred from the practice of law in another jurisdiction or any foreign jurisdiction.

An applicant may be eligible for admission without examination if the applicant provides documentary evidence showing that for at least 36 of the 60 months immediately preceding the application, the applicant:

(a) Held a license to practice law in active status;
(b) Was in good standing before the highest court of all jurisdictions where admitted; and
(c) Was engaged in the lawful practice of law for at least 1000 hours per year as a:

i. Lawyer representing one or more clients, including on a pro bono basis;
ii. Lawyer in a law firm, professional corporation, or association;
iii. Judge in a court of law;
iv. Lawyer for any local or state governmental entity;
v. House counsel for a corporation, agency, association, or trust department;
vi. Lawyer with the federal government or a federal governmental agency including service as a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Department of one of the military branches of the United States;
vii. Full-time faculty member in any approved law school; and/or
viii. Judicial law clerk whose primary responsibility is legal research and writing.

Jurisdiction. The lawful practice of law must have been performed in a jurisdiction in which the applicant is admitted, or performed in a jurisdiction that permits the practice of law by a lawyer not admitted in that jurisdiction.

Eligibility for Admission by MBE Score. An applicant may be eligible for admission without examination if the applicant has received a scaled score of 145 or higher on the MBE taken as a part of and at the same time as the essay or other part of a written bar examination given by another jurisdiction, was successful on that bar examination, and was subsequently admitted in that jurisdiction. The applicant shall submit evidence of the score and a completed application to the Board within 36 months of the date of the qualifying examination being used as the basis for the admission.

Eligibility for Admission by UBE Score. An applicant may be eligible for admission without examination if the applicant has received a scaled score of 260 or higher earned in another jurisdiction on the UBE and the score is certified as a UBE score by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Application Deadline. The applicant shall submit evidence of the score and a complete application for admission to the Board within 36 months of the date of the qualifying examination being used as the basis for the admission.

Concurrent Application. An applicant may submit the application prior to obtaining the qualifying UBE score by enclosing with the application evidence that the applicant is registered for the next administration of the UBE or is awaiting examination results in a UBE jurisdiction. An applicant who has applied under this rule must submit evidence of a qualifying UBE score within 12 months of the date the application is received or the applicant will be deemed ineligible and the file closed.

Transfer of MBE or UBE Score. An applicant seeking to transfer a MBE or UBE score achieved in another jurisdiction to Minnesota shall submit a written request for transfer to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

MBE Score Advisory. Upon written request, the director will advise an applicant or potential applicant who took and passed a bar examination in another jurisdiction whether or not his or her MBE score satisfies the requirements.

Requests for score advisory shall include the following:

(1) Complete name and social security number of the examinee; and
(2) Month, year, and jurisdiction of test administration.

No Waiver of Time Requirements. The minimum time requirements and the timely filing requirements of this Rule shall be strictly enforced.

Eligibility After Unsuccessful Examination. An applicant may be eligible for admission without examination under this Rule notwithstanding a prior failure on the Minnesota Bar Examination.

MISSISSIPPI: Mississippi has a very limited reciprocity admission rule with states who will offer similar reciprocity to Mississippi lawyers. Lawyers from other states who have practiced at least five years may be admitted after taking and passing an attorney’s examination.

MISSOURI: Will admit lawyers from states that have similar reciprocity for Missouri lawyers.

MONTANA: The state does not offer reciprocity.

NEBRASKA: Lawyers who have graduated from an ABA accredited law school and who have passed a bar examination comparable to Nebraska’s, including the Multi-state Professional Responsibility Examination, or who have graduated from an ABA accredited law school and who have actively and substantially practiced law for five of the last seven years prior to application for admission can be admitted to the practice of law in Nebraska without having to take and pass a written bar examination.

NEVADA: Does not have formal reciprocity agreements with any states.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: As of January 2005, the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont entered into a reciprocity agreement allowing attorneys to be admitted to one another’s bars without taking the bar examination for that state. This state also has reciprocity with the following states: AK, CO, DC, GA, KY, MA, MN, MO, NB, NY, NC, ND, OK, PA, TX, UT, WA;

NEW JERSEY: The state does not offer reciprocity.

NEW MEXICO: The state does not offer reciprocity.

NEW YORK: Has reciprocity with the following states: AK, CO, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.

NORTH CAROLINA: Has reciprocity agreements with the following states: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY.

NORTH DAKOTA: Does not have formal reciprocity, but lawyers who have been admitted to the bar of another state or the District of Columbia for at least five years and who have been actively engaged in the practice of law for at least four of the last five years immediately preceding their applications for admission can be admitted on motion without examination.

Applicants receiving particular scores on the Multi-state Bar Examination and Multi-state Professional Responsibility Examination may also be admitted on motion if their applications are received by the North Dakota Bar Board within two years of the date of the MBE examination if they were admitted in the jurisdiction in which they took that test.

OHIO: This state does not have formal reciprocity agreements with other states. However, it provisionally admits (without examination) applicants who have taken and passed a bar examination and been admitted as a lawyer in the highest court of another state or in the District of Columbia, and who have practiced law, as defined in the rule, subsequent to that admission for at least five full years of the ten years prior to filing an application. Applicants also must demonstrate that they intend to engage in the practice of law in Ohio actively on a continuing basis.

OKLAHOMA: This state has formal reciprocity agreements with the following states: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.

OREGON: This state has formal reciprocity agreements with the following states: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IO, KS, KY, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NB, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.

PENNSYLVANIA: This state has reciprocity with the following states: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.

RHODE ISLAND: This state will provisionally admit persons admitted to the practice of law in another state, district or territory of the United States who have actively engaged in the practice law (including teaching law) there for at least five years of the last ten years immediately preceding application for admission to Rhode Island, and after taking and passing the essay portion of the Rhode Island bar examination.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Does not have formal reciprocity agreements with any states.

SOUTH DAKOTA: This state has a reciprocity agreement that went into effect in 2004. Applicants must show five years prior practice in prescribed areas.

TENNESSEE: This state will provisionally admit applicants who meet the educational requirements applicable to Tennessee bar examination applicants and have actively engaged in the practice of law in another jurisdiction for at least five years immediately preceding their applications for admission in Tennessee

TEXAS: This state has limited admission for certain lawyers to be admitted without examination and after passage of the full student examination.

UTAH: Has reciprocity agreements with the following states: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WY.

VERMONT: As of January 2005, the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont entered into a reciprocity agreement allowing attorneys to be admitted to one another’s bars without taking the bar examination for that state.

Otherwise, lawyers who have been admitted to the practice of law in another jurisdiction of the United States may be admitted upon motion and without examination provided that at the time of application they have been actively engaged in the practice of law for five of the preceding ten years in one or more jurisdictions of the United States, are currently licensed to practice in at least one such jurisdiction, and are not under suspension or revocation in any jurisdiction.

Any or all of the five-year admission requirement may be waived in certain circumstances. Additionally, each applicant who at the time of application has been admitted in another state and has engaged in the practice of law for less than five of the preceding ten years, and who is currently licensed to practice in at least one such jurisdiction, and is not under suspension or revocation in any jurisdiction may be admitted after examination as described in Vermont Admission Rule 6(a)-(e).

VIRGINIA: Virginia will provisionally admit lawyers from other states who reciprocate for Virginia lawyers.

WASHINGTON: This state has formal reciprocity agreements with the following states: AK, CO, CT, DC, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, WY.

WEST VIRGINIA: This state has reciprocity agreements with the following states: CO, CT, DC, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NY, NC, ND, OK, PA, TX, VT, VA, WA, WI.

WISCONSIN: Wisconsin will offer provisional admission to practicing lawyers from states that reciprocate for Wisconsin lawyers.

WYOMING: Wisconsin will offer provisional admission to practicing lawyers from states that reciprocate for Wyoming lawyer

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Please note that the content of this blog does not constitute legal advice and is only intended for the educational purpose of the reader. Please consult your legal counsel for specifics regarding your specific circumstances and the laws in your states pertaining to social media and any legal restrictions regarding the law.