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Request for Public Comment to Amend D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 46 — Admission to the Bar

July 06, 2017

The D.C. Bar Global Legal Practice Task Force (“Task Force”) is soliciting public comment on its report and recommendation to amend D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 46 — Admission to the Bar (“Rule 46”). Comments are due by close of business on September 5, 2017.

Existing D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 46 — Admission to the Bar

Under existing Rule 46 governing admission to the D.C. Bar, graduates from non-ABA approved law schools — a category that includes graduates of foreign law schools — may qualify for admission to the D.C. Bar by first completing 26 additional credit hours of education at an ABA-approved law school. The additional credit hours must be in subjects tested on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). The additional criteria apply to applicants seeking admission to the D.C. Bar — whether by: (1) admission based on examination in this jurisdiction; or (2) admission by transfer of a UBE score attained in another jurisdiction; or (3) admission without examination of members of the bar of other jurisdictions. Before submission to the Board of Governors, the Task Force requests public comment on the proposed amendments to Rule 46 summarized below.

Summary of Proposed Amendments to Rule 46

The Task Force proposes amendments to Rule 46 that would: (1) reduce the number of credit hours to satisfy the additional education requirement from 26 hours to 24 hours; (2) change the subject matter requirement to 12 credit hours from a list of specific courses described in Rule 46 and 12 credit hours in elective courses; and (3) allow any amount of the additional education requirement to be completed by distance education that the law school would certify as complying with ABA distance education standards. All of the proposed changes would apply to graduates from non-ABA approved law schools, which comprise both American and foreign schools, regardless of the path they choose to seek admission to the D.C. Bar.

The proposed changes to Rule 46 would eliminate or modify requirements that pose a significant burden on admitting otherwise qualified, foreign-educated individuals, while maintaining the value of acquiring a foundation in American legal education by meeting the new additional education criteria under the Rule. The proposed changes would improve the ability of lawyers to meet their clients’ legal service needs. Although many foreign-educated individuals enroll in and receive advanced law degrees (LL.M.s) from District of Columbia and other American law schools, the current rule leads most of these individuals to seek admission to the bars of other U.S. jurisdictions. The proposed changes are intended to encourage these foreign-educated individuals to seek admission to the D.C. Bar.

The ability of candidates to use distance education methods from an ABA-approved law school to complete all of the additional education hours would reduce significant travel and housing costs, as well as immigration burdens on foreign-educated individuals. The Task Force believes that regardless of the method used to satisfy the additional substantive credit hours from an ABA-approved law school (in residence or distance education), taking and passing the demanding professional licensing bar examination in a U.S. jurisdiction is the standard that establishes an individual’s professional competence to practice law at the time of admission.

The proposed changes are intended also to ease the administrative burdens on the Committee on Admissions of the D.C. Court of Appeals (“COA”). Under the Task Force’s proposal, the rule itself would provide specific guidance about the required and elective courses, and the law schools would certify that the applicant’s education complies with the specific course requirements in Rule 46. While the COA may choose to analyze the content of specific courses of any applicant to the Bar, the COA would not be required to do so.

The Task Force also proposes two administrative changes that would conform Rule 46 to proper terminology: (1) change “ABA-approved” to “ABA-accredited,” throughout Rule 46; and (2) change ‘Rules of Professional Responsibility” to “Rules of Professional Conduct” in Rule 46 to reflect nomenclature consistent in referring to the ABA Model Rules.

Lastly, the Task Force recommends that the Committee on Admissions of the D.C. Court of Appeals consider creating a “Frequently Asked Questions” webpage and periodically issue advisory guidelines on an as-needed basis on how it interprets Rule 46 for the benefit of applicants and the law schools.

The D.C. Bar Global Legal Practice Task Force

In 2014, the D.C. Bar Board of Governors (the Board”) approved the creation of the Global Legal Practice Task Force at the recommendation of then-D.C. Bar president Brigida Benitez to explore issues that arise from the globalization of legal practice that have an impact on members of the D.C. Bar and the Bar as an organization, and to make recommendations about what the Bar may consider doing to address them.

Read the Task Force’s report and proposed amendments to Rule 46.

Written comments about the proposed amendments should be submitted by e-mail to [email protected] or to the D.C. Bar Global Legal Practice Task Force, c/o Michael D. Rybak, District of Columbia Bar, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005, not later than September 5, 2017. For hard copies of the report, please contact Duane Tolson at [email protected], 202-737-4700, ext. 3358.

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