Admission to the Bar

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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The procedure that governs the authorization of attorneys to practice law before the state and federal courts.

Statutes, rules, and regulations governing admission to practice law have been enacted to protect the public interest, in terms of preventing the victimization of clients by incompetent practitioners. The courts have inherent power to promulgate reasonable rules and regulations for admission to the bar. Although this authority is vested exclusively in the courts, the legislature can, subject to constitutional limitations, issue reasonable rules and regulations governing bar admission provided they do not conflict with judicial pronouncements.

The highest state court administers the admission of applicants to the state bar, usually requiring successful completion of a bar examination and evidence of good moral character. With respect to admission to the federal bar, federal district courts are empowered to issue requirements for admission separately from those of the state courts. If, however, a federal district court, pursuant to a rule, derivatively admits to its bar those admitted to the state bar, it cannot arbitrarily deny admission to an applicant who is a member in good standing of the state bar. In most instances, the federal district courts have considerable latitude in establishing requirements for admission to practice before them, but their rules must not contravene federal law.

In terms of the federal bar, an attorney is also eligible for admission to the bar of a court of appeals, if he or she has been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court or the highest court of a state or another federal court and

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if the lawyer is of good moral and professional character. The attorney must comply with the procedural requirements and take and subscribe to the following oath: "I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will demean myself as an attorney and counselor of this court, uprightly and according to law; and that I will support the Constitution of the United States."

In order to gain admission to the bar of the Supreme Court, an attorney must have practiced for three years in the highest court of a state, territory, district, commonwealth, or possession. The person must be of good character in terms of both his or her private and professional lives and complete the specified procedures, including taking or subscribing the following oath: "I, [name]...

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