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Board of Governors Seeks to Amend Rule 46, Eliminating Admission Barriers for Foreign Law Graduates

By Jeffery Leon

April 26, 2018

On March 14 the D.C. Bar Board of Governors submitted to the D.C. Court of Appeals proposed amendments to certain provisions of Court of Appeals Rule 46, which governs admission of non-ABA-accredited law school graduates, including foreign-educated individuals, to the D.C. Bar.

The proposed changes would continue to provide effective educational requirements “for acquiring a foundation in American legal education” for foreign-educated attorneys while eliminating unnecessary burdens for those seeking admission to the D.C. Bar, said Bar President Patrick McGlone in his letter to Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby. The recommendations would also ease administrative burdens on the court’s Committee on Admissions.

The amendments were first explored by the D.C. Bar Global Legal Practice Task Force beginning in September 2014 and were approved by the Board of Governors on February 15.

Under the proposed amendments, graduates from non-ABA-accredited law schools, including graduates of foreign law schools, may qualify for Bar admission by first completing 24 credit hours of additional education, instead of 26 hours under existing Rule 46. The proposal also would allow foreign-educated individuals to complete any amount of the additional credit hours by distance learning from an ABA-accredited law school.

“This proposal, if adopted, would make the District of Columbia the first jurisdiction to specifically allow completion of any amount of the required additional education by distance learning,” McGlone said.

Additionally, the Board of Governors is proposing to change the subject-matter requirement in Rule 46 from all credit hours in subjects tested on the Uniform Bar Examination to six credit hours from a list of specific courses described in Rule 46, six credit hours of subjects tested on the UBE, and 12 hours in elective courses.

“The proposed change to the course subject requirement would balance knowledge of fundamental American jurisprudence with elective courses useful to an applicant’s practice interests,” McGlone said.

Recognizing the increasing globalization of the legal profession, the Board believes these changes would help make the D.C. Bar more competitive on the international stage, bringing the Bar in line with other major bars in the United States.

“Washington, D.C., is a diverse and attractive area, with a base of people from all over the world. The proposed changes to Rule 46 would help increase representation to different people locally and provide more services for the public,” says Darrell Mottley, chair of the D.C. Bar Global Legal Practice Task Force.

“The Global Legal Practice Task Force conscientiously strove to consider the interests of the Committee on Admissions, foreign-educated Bar applicants, law schools, the Bar, and the public in crafting these proposed revisions to Rule 46,” McGlone said in a separate interview.

Read the Task Force’s final report to the Bar’s Board of Governors, setting forth its final recommendations to amend Rule 46.