COMMON OR CIVIL LAW IP FOREIGN LICENSED ATTORNEYS MUST THINK TWICE BEFORE MIGRATING TO THE USA WITH HOPES OF CONTINUING IP PRACTICE IN USA. THE ATTORNEY LICENSING RULES NOT SO FAVORABLE TO FOREIGN TRAINED LAWYERS IN PURSUIT OF IP PRACTICE.
Experience is the best teacher, a saying found true through personal experience in reestablishing my legal career in the United State. Interested foreign licensed attorneys from common law or civil law systems should undertake research before leaping for the “Green Pasture opportunities in the USA”. Not only does the USA Legal market have unbalance or unique rules in place, but entities like State Bar Organizations, American Bar Association and Government Agencies have crippling rules only patient, strong-minded and persistent foreign attorneys can fight to achieve the dream over years. I will discuss the disastrous ABA rules, Specific State rules crippling foreign lawyers Chances in practicing or favorable competition in Job market in the next Paper.
The targeted audience for this article includes, foreign trained and licensed lawyers planning on migrating to the United States with hopes of continuing a legal career already established in home countries (Specific to this article IP practice), Law School graduates or undergraduates planning to move to the USA to pursue legal practice opportunities and individuals with questions regarding Law practice opportunities in the United States for lower positions.
THE BIG PICTURE: The United States adopted the federal system way back in 1789 on gaining independence from the United Kingdom. The federal government has constitutional mandate to regulate and enact rules and regulations on specific matters in the United States i.e. International trade, Coining and money publication, Taxation, Immigration, International relations among others. On the other hand, specific matters were left in the hands of independent States (51). When it comes to Attorney licensing, the regulation and standard setting is mostly in the control Independent states through State Bar Association although specific fields falling within Federal law or government regulation adopted additional rules for attorney licensing to practice in federal courts automatically adopted by all State Bar Associations.
Federal law practice areas for private attorneys is mostly limited to, Intellectual Property law, Immigration law, few federal cases involving international matters and inter-states matters permissible in federal courts among other areas. For Intellectual property practice, the lawyer must have graduated with an undergraduate degree in science, mathematics or related field, have a Juris Doctorate (JD) from the American Bar Association (ABA) accredited college “ABA Accreditation is only limited to USA institutions by the way”, Sat for and passed the specific State Bar Exam and acquired a license in that State. Don’t forget the additional required application to the federal court for the Intellectual Property (IP) license.
The fact that no other common law or civil law countries require IP attorneys to acquired a scientific undergraduate degree (physics, math and the like) automatically implies that none or a few foreign licensed attorneys can ever practice IP in the United States. I’ve heard of some States permitting prospective IP attorneys without undergraduate degrees in math or science opportunity to undertake 2 years courses in those fields though I’ve never met a foreign lawyer licensed through that exception. Ask yourself, in your career as a legal practitioner, have you ever encountered any foreign trained and licensed attorney possessing an undergraduate degree in math or science, I have never met one from Africa or Europe. Advice for IP foreign trained lawyers, Think twice before moving or migrating to the United States if IP is the practice area of Interest. IP Practice is a dead road for foreign trained and licensed attorneys in the United States. Not considering the fact that, most states require additional Credits acquired through a master’s degree, siting for a specific State Bar exam which requires additional tutoring or independent studying i.e. to sit for the NY Bar exam, one must read 54 Examinable subjects undertaken by USA JD students.
It’s a long frustrating road only won by the persistent, patient and hard workers. Take Initiative and do research before blindly pursuing a dream in a new State or country. Other factors to consider would include, resource availability “can you afford to pay for a master’s degree (LLM) to acquired additional required credits for eligibility to sit for a State Bar Exam”, Your age and determination to make it. Anybody that sits for an exam not having studied all USA examinable subjects must either be smart, very hard-working or have been trained the same laws in home country with a few variations to pass the State Bar.
Think twice before you leap or migrate, You might be forced to accept whatever the system throws your way. Working at an 8 hour pay job or higher paying but way below home earning potential. Although most immigrants might have been fresh licensed attornies, weigh USA opportunity carefully before moving. This country needs low job workers not skilled workers and the rules are not in your favor. Know your options before boarding the flight, ask and research.
Independent thoughts of an experienced Foreign trained Lawyer’s journey in acquiring a practicing licensed in the United States and the battle continues daily.