When I began my legal career, I never expected to practice law in multiple jurisdictions. I went to law school in Boston, and even though I was madly in love with Boston, I knew right from the start that I would return to Virginia and practice law there. I never had any idea that I would practice in Virginia, New York, and now North Carolina or that I would have a law partner who practices in three additional jurisdictions.
Why would an attorney want to get licensed in multiple jurisdictions? Well, sometimes it’s not so much a matter of wanting to be in multiple jurisdictions but rather a necessity.
For example, despite the fact that I’m already licensed in three jurisdictions, I live right on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina. I live on the North Carolina side, but the state line is just seven minutes away. This means I could draw potential clients from both states. It makes sense that I also get licensed in South Carolina.
For others, their family may have ended up moving, requiring the practicing attorney to get licensed in a different state. When I graduated law school, I was single and never gave the possibility of moving for my family a thought. However, now that I’m married and have two young children, I can attest to the fact that sometimes a move is in the family’s best interest, even if that means getting licensed in a new state.
Further, a job may require multiple state licenses. Many firms, agencies, or other employers serve clients in multiple jurisdictions and may require attorneys be licensed in more than one jurisdiction. A friend of mine from law school was licensed in Massachusetts, but her employer also requested she get licensed in Rhode Island.
You may know for sure that you need to get licensed in multiple jurisdictions, but how do you actually go about getting licensed in more than one state?
Taking Multiple Bar Exams
The first step is to either take the state-specific bar exam or to take the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), if your state will accept the UBE.
Happily, in my case, I was able to take the UBE in New York in 2019. North Carolina also accepts the UBE, so I was able to transfer my UBE score to North Carolina.
Be advised, there are lots of rules around accepting UBE scores. For example, North Carolina requires the score be within two years from the date of the exam. South Carolina, however, will accept UBE results that are three years old. Check what your state requires to ensure you comply with any deadlines so that you don’t have to retake the exam.
Some states still don’t accept the UBE. For those states, you’ll have to take the bar exam for that particular state.
Applying For Admission
Once you have your bar exam results for each state, you’ll need to apply for admission to the new state in which you’re trying to practice.
Sometimes this can be very time consuming and expensive, so plan ahead. When I was applying for admission to North Carolina, I was stunned to find out I needed to list more than twenty references. They couldn’t be family or from the same household. Four of them had to be fellow attorneys and two had to be former clients.
It took me quite a while just to come up with a list of that many people I knew and then find all of their contact information.
The expense of applying for admission to a new state can also be quite high. In total, the cost to transfer my score and apply for admission to North Carolina came out to be almost $4,000. There was a fee for transferring the UBE score. Then there were application fees, licensing fees, bar dues, etc.
Staying Licensed In Each State
Getting licensed in each state is one thing, but staying licensed is another. To stay licensed, you need to be able to keep up with all of your continuing legal education (CLE) requirements. Each state, of course, is different.
Virginia requires twelve CLE credits each year due at the end of October. New York requires CLE courses be completed every two years. Keeping up with exactly what is required and when can be a bit of a challenge. Make sure you stay ahead of the game and create a spreadsheet with the requirements to keep track. Schedule deadlines as well so you never miss the due date for your CLE credits or bar dues.
Getting licensed in multiple jurisdictions can be complicated, though necessary, depending on your career goals and accomplishments. Take the time to figure out whether you’ll need to take the UBE or a state-specific bar and when you’ll need to share your scores with the new state. Then, stay on top of each state’s licensing requirements to ensure a smooth career in all jurisdictions.