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November 13, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions about Bar Exam Admissions

by contributor

Autumn is always a special time of year in the Admissions department at the WSBA. Around this time, we release results and the pass list from the summer bar exam, and open up applications for the winter exam. We get a barrage of questions about every step of the admissions process, from applying to sit for the exam, to what happens after you pass or fail and how long it takes to get licensed. While some applicants’ situations are more complicated than others, a lot of these questions are very simple. Here are just a few of those to save you the hassle of calling or emailing us and waiting for a response.

1. What kind of applicant am I if I passed the bar exam in another U.S. jurisdiction but I haven’t been admitted yet?

You remain a general applicant until you are officially admitted as an attorney in any other jurisdiction.

2. I received a degree from a non-ABA approved law school or a law school in another country. I also have an LL.M. from an ABA-approved law school. Can I sit for the bar exam?

Not yet. Under our current Admission to Practice Rules, the only way law school graduates from foreign law schools, foreign-licensed attorneys, or law school graduates from non-ABA approved U.S. law schools can be admitted to practice in Washington is by being admitted in a common-law jurisdiction by examination, have practiced law in that jurisdiction for three of the past five years, and be in current good standing in that same jurisdiction. LL.M. degrees currently do not qualify anyone to sit for our bar exam.

However, there are proposed changes to the Admission to Practice Rules pending with the Supreme Court of Washington that would allow applicants in this situation to sit for the exam once they obtain an LL.M. from an ABA-approved law school that meets certain qualifications. These are not set to be adopted until September 2013, and they are subject to change until formal adoption by the Washington Supreme Court..

3. When will I know that I’m allowed to sit for the bar exam?

At the very latest, we send out permission to sit notices 18 days before the exam. However, we usually begin to gradually send out these notices via email within a month and a half leading up to the exam, as our review process finishes for each applicant. If you are not allowed to sit for the exam pending further investigation or a Character and Fitness hearing, you will be notified directly by our office.

4. Am I admitted once I am sworn in?

No. You are not licensed to practice law in the state of Washington until the Supreme Court enters your name in an order admitting you to the practice of law. You must complete every step of the licensing process as described in your online application for us to send your name to the court in an official recommendation for admission.

5. Can the federal judge I’m clerking/externing for swear me in?

No. Please refer to Admission to Practice Rule 5(d), regarding the Oath of Attorney. The judge who swears you in must be elected or appointed to an elected position, sitting in open court, in the state of Washington.

Yes. Admission to Practice Rule 5(d), regarding the Oath of Attorney, was amended in December 2012. Federal judges can now administer the Oath of Attorney.

6. I am starting a job before I receive a bar number. Can I reactivate my APR 9 (“Rule 9”) license?

Yes. Your APR 9 legal intern limited license expires either 24 months after issuance or 12 months after graduation, whichever happens sooner. Therefore, you may still use your license if it hasn’t yet expired and you update the WSBA with your new, eligible supervisor. Fill out the Change of Supervision form available at www.wsba.org/rule9 and submit the paperwork to our office.

If you have any questions about the admissions process or the bar exam, please contact the Admissions department at admissions@wsba.org or at 206.727.8209.

Do you work for a law school or interact with a lot of law students? What questions do you hear most frequently that should be addressed here? Let us know in the comments.

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