The D.C. Bar Option

DC Bar Admission Rules

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DC Bar 26 Credit Option

By: Jose M. Gomez, MS, MBA, JD

Because many law students have been unable to complete their studies at law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, the author has found it necessary to research other available options.   After researching the rules governing admission to several state and federal jurisdictions, he has found one alternative may just do the trick the D.C. Bar Option.  
D.C. Bar Rule 46(b)(8)(iii) states that an applicant may take the D.C. Bar exam if the applicant has successfully completed 26 credits from an ABA approved law school in subjects tested on the Multistate Ba r Exam (MBE) and has earned a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from a non-ABA law school.  This degree can be a non-bar J.D. degree, such as an Executive Juris Doctorate, or a bar J.D. degree from a California correspondence law school.  In order to have successfully completed a subject taken on the M.B.E., a student should have achieved a grade of at least a C-.

Law students may ask if their practice would be limited to the District of Columbia.   The answer to that question depends on the rules of their jurisdictions highest court and the court rules of the federal courts in their jurisdiction.   The answer to this question also depends on federal agency practice rules.
For example, federal practice before most federal agencies is permitted, so long as the attorney is admitted to practice before the highest court of any jurisdiction, including the District of Columbia.   See Sperry v. Florida, 373 U.S. 379. (1963).

However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) allows only those who have passed its registration examination to practice patent law in the agency, even admitted attorneys.  As a side note, the USPTO allows attorney and non-attorney examinees to take its registration examination, as long as they possess a bachelors degree in engineering or a science, such as biology, chemistry, or physics.  It should be noted that the USPTO allows an attorney who is admitted to practice before the highest court of any jurisdiction, including the District of Columbia, to practice trademark and copyright law in the agency without a formal examination.

An attorney admitted to practice law in any state or the District of Columbia could also practice immigration law before The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), an office within the Department of Justice charged with hearing immigration appeals.

One should also examine the rules of the federal courts in a particular jurisdiction to determine whether they require State Bar admission.  For example, the Local Court Rules for the Southern District of Texas allow an attorney admitted before the highest court of any jurisdiction, including the District of Columbia, who is also admitted to practice before another federal district, to practice in the District Court for the Southern District of Texas.  In other jurisdictions, such as the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan, an attorney is allowed to practice in federal court if that attorney is admitted before the highest court of any jurisdiction, including the District of Columbia.  Thus, one could practice federally in a jurisdiction where federal court local rules allow such practice, notwithstanding the fact that one may not actually be admitted in the state where that federal court sits.  See In Re Desliets, 291 F. 3d 925 (6th Cir. 2002).

However, other federal district courts, such as the District Court for the District of Massachusetts, require admission to the Massachusetts State Bar.   In such states, however, ones practice would be limited to federal agency practice.

Once admitted to the D.C. Bar, one could also examine the rules governing state bar admission to determine whether or not they would be eligible for admission to practice state law in that state via a general bar examination, attorney examination, or admission without examination.

Yet another option to explore is federal appellate practice before in the Circuit Courts.   Admission to the bar of these courts is open to attorneys admitted to practice before the highest court of any jurisdiction, including the District of Columbia.   Circuit Courts hear appeals from the district courts located with their respective circuits, as well as appeals from federal agencies.   Currently, there are thirteen regions, called circuits, in the United States.   These courts are located in major cities throughout the United States.

Therefore, there are a number of options available to those students who are unable to complete their studies at an ABA law school.   Those with further questions should contact the author at jg20@juno.com.   It should be noted that any student interested in becoming an attorney through the methods discussed in this article should verify all information with the D.C. Bar and the courts in the students prospective jurisdiction before making a decision on which path to take.

About The Author: Jose M. Gomez is an attorney with The Gomez Law Firm, PLC, an immigration law firm.  In addition to a Juris Doctor from West Coast School of Law, he holds a Masters degree in Business Administration and a Masters degree in Information Technology Management.   Jose M. Gomez is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.

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