Until recent years, most law schools focused on a legal education that catered to a highly localised legal industry, and few lawyers found it necessary to apply to gain admission to foreign bar associations.
However, the days of local lawyering are likely over. Lawyers now find themselves part of an increasingly interconnected world made up of diverse jurisdictions and legal systems where even relatively small clients have cross-border activities, making the demand for lawyers who can practise law on a global level much greater. As overseas operations continue to grow, dual-qualified lawyers are at the forefront of a movement that is dramatically changing the legal profession.
Who is Suitable for Dual Qualification?
The US offers dual qualification to those who have obtained law degrees in the UK, and also to qualified, practising lawyers from other civil law jurisdictions. In New York state, those who hold a minimum of a three-year law degree from a common law jurisdiction are eligible to apply, while the California bar compels that any non-US-educated applicant be a licensed lawyer from any other country.
In England and Wales, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) mandates that candidates pass the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) exam to qualify as a solicitor. To be entitled to take the exam, the candidate must be a qualified lawyer from an SRA-recognised jurisdiction.
How Does Someone Become Dual Qualified?
In the US, a candidate must be determined eligible to sit the exam—this can take up to six months. BARBRI International prepares candidates for the New York or California bar exams over a six- or 10 month period, and the student sits their exam at the end of this period. This allows the student the ability to qualify within a minimum of a year.
Under the QLTS scheme, candidates can choose to study the first part of the QLTS exam, the Multiple-Choice Test (MCT), for three to six months, and then focus on the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) over the next three months, provided they pass the MCT. The whole process can take approximately 11 months.
What are the Benefits of Dual Qualification?
Most lawyers who seek dual qualification are doing so to enhance their legal careers, and because clients respect the fact that their lawyer has an understanding of more than one legal system, being dual qualified allows lawyers to set themselves apart from the competition. As more cross-border transactions are taking place and more international clients require legal services, the need to be schooled in more than one legal system becomes more critical.
London is unquestionably at the centre of the global economy: Five of the world’s 10 largest law firms, 20% of Europe’s largest companies, and 75% of the Fortune 500 companies are based or have a presence in the city. Because English law is the principal choice of law for cross-border commerce, maritime law and dispute resolution, dual qualification in the US and the UK offers clients a global approach to fulfil their legal requirements.