Growing numbers of law students are aiming to become US-qualified, hoping to practise in north America or gain an edge in international legal practice. Marialuisa Taddia looks at the advantages and challenges of sitting US bar exams THE LOW DOWN

‘If only they didn’t speak English,’ was BBC journalist Jon Sopel’s way of observing the pull that the United States has on our attentions. Generations have now been reared on US legal dramas, from Ironside to Ally McBeal and Suits – and many solicitors name To Kill A Mockingbird ’s Atticus Finch as an inspiration. The draw is also practical. The US is an enormous legal market and, drawn by the work and the rewards, more and more international law students and lawyers are pursuing the US bar. UK law schools are offering preparation courses for the New York and California bar exams, and some point out that there may be a saving to be made by becoming US-qualified, then taking the QLTS to become a solicitor. Failure rates are high, though, and exams are based on a legal education system that is specific in style and content to the US.

On an October morning in Las Vegas, the temperature is already 25°C and Cindy Nicolson, a newly minted attorney-at-law, is in her shorts. As a Scot, the contrast with back home could not be greater: ‘It’s wonderful living here. The weather is one of the perks. And then you have got so much to see in America.’

Nicolson, a law graduate from Abertay University in Dundee, says she ‘wanted to travel and to do law, but didn’t know what could give me both options’. Until she discovered that with her British LLB she could sit the New York bar exam.

Despite the considerable efforts involved, more and more international law students and lawyers are pursuing the US bar.

The climate, which differs widely from state to state, is not the main pull, however. ‘The earning potential is insane,’ says Nicolson, who was admitted to the New York State bar in August.

‘Salaries in the US are generally a lot higher across the […]

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