Plight Of Foreign Attorneys In America (2)

by Michael Ewetuga


QUALIFYING graduates of foreign law schools may request permission from the Board to sit for the Illinois bar examination under Rule 715. However, only those foreign law school graduates who meet 3 threshold requirements can possibly qualify to make such a request.

A. Threshold requirements

A lawyer who received his or her legal education and law degree in a country other than the US must meet the following 3 requirements before he or she will be permitted to request permission to sit for the Illinois bar examination.

1. The lawyer must have been licensed to practice law in the country in which the law degree was conferred and/or in the highest court of law in any US state, territory, or the District of Columbia for a minimum of 5 years;

2. The lawyer must be in good standing as an attorney or equivalent in that country and/or in any US jurisdiction where admitted to practice;

3. During each of no fewer than 5 of the 7 years immediately prior to making application in Illinois, the lawyer must have verifiably devoted an annual minimum of 500 hours to the practice of the law of such country and/or to the law of any US jurisdiction(s) where licensed.

Illinois does not require the lawyer to be from a common law country; it will appear that if you are from a country that has its jurisprudence in France’s legal system, provided you meet the threshold requirements, you may be qualified to take the Illinois Bar Examination.

Passing the Bar Examination in any of these states, instead of being a blessing, might turn out to be a nightmare.

Most of the Bar Associations subscribed to diversity and all, I doubt if they educate other lawyers and employers about the rationale behind allowing “Foreign Attorneys” to take their respective Bar Examinations.

Most Attorneys and employers have never been in contact with “Foreign Attorneys” and those who do probably see the legal education obtained by these “Foreign Attorneys” as substandard. It probably does not occur to the Attorneys and employers that one or more of the lecturers that trained these Attorneys were Americans and/or from other Commonwealth countries and that some of the indigenous lecturers were themselves trained in different parts of the world including America.

Some of these Foreign Attorneys, in the course of their foreign practice, read and cited relevant American cases in support of arguments in some cases they were involved in especially those that touch on fundamental rights. Although such cases are not binding on the courts they are persuasive since justice or injustice will be so regardless of setting. It does not matter that some of these Foreign Attorneys passed the bar examination at first sitting whereas some American trained Attorneys had to take it five times or more. Nevertheless the American trained Attorneys will secure jobs before Foreign Attorneys, if the foreign attorneys are lucky enough to find forward looking establishments that will employ them.

Most Attorneys and employers are not aware that some of the Foreign Attorneys were taught the English Language and wrote all their examinations from Elementary to University Level in that Language, it is therefore paradoxical to be asked if one speaks English, makes you wonder what language the respective state’s Bar Examinations questions were written.


In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed a commission, headed by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, to investigate economic and social reasons for destructiveness caused by racism.

The Kerner Commission concluded that the media’s portrayal of minorities, Blacks in particular, contributed to continued racial stereotyping in society. History has proven the Commission correct.”

“For many White viewers, their only images of Blacks are based on media stereotypes of African Americans”

Someone told me I am a double minority, Black and African. How can a Foreign Attorney coming out of Africa be respected when all you see about Africa on TV, most of the times is jungle, animals, poverty stricken people in need of aids, diseases and war? This is not to say such things do not exist in Africa but that is not all there is to that continent.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Most companies in their open position adverts claim to be equal opportunity employer, maybe so, but once you claim to have obtained your law degree from a country other than United States of America you are treated like a leper, unfit to be interviewed for even an entry level position regardless of your years of practicing law in your former jurisdiction.

If you look around you will find “Foreign Attorneys” setting up their own law practices, the reason for this is lack of employment not because they do not want to work for other established law firms and get properly acquainted with the legal procedures.

Foreign Attorney, a class of which I am one, believe in the American Dream and some of us are in the United States not only to pursue that dream but because we believe the United States is a free country, a land of opportunities and a country that thrives on the rule of law. Our desire is to be integrated into the legal communities, to contribute our quota in the general pursuit of justice fail play and equity.

We cannot achieve the American Dream nor can we contribute our quota if the door is continually shut in our faces because we did not attend American Colleges. There must be some wisdom in allowing Foreign Attorneys to take the Bar examination and, on being successful, subsequently licensed to practice law in America, those who made the rules allowing Foreign Attorneys to be licensed must see some wisdom in that decision. I know a Foreign Attorney that has been trying for five years to get into the midstream of the American Legal Practice; he was rebuffed every step of the way. He believes it is because of where he obtained his legal education and is forced to apply for his Masters in an American University, I wonder if this will change his circumstances.

It is not just private employers that shut the doors against Foreign Attorneys government establishments are not doing better. If this is not discrimination based on one’s country of origin, since that is where one obtained the law degree, I wonder what is. What is the essence of licensing Foreign Attorneys only to turn around and deny them the opportunity of proving their worth? It is a shame to have a law license and end up being a security officer or a Certified Nursing Assistant. Foreign Lawyers are not asking for hand outs we just want to be given the opportunity to practice law, a childhood dream for some of us.

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Dare Dickson-Afeni October 10, 2008 - 10:32 am

I feel you bro; how are you doing there

Michael Ewetuga January 6, 2008 - 4:37 pm

I’m sure SMJ didn’t read the article. I am licensed sir

SMJ January 3, 2008 - 2:35 am

Hmm everyone with his/her own problem in America. Na wa o. Anyway, what most professional educated Nigerians do is that they go back to school, humble themselves, do the required coursework to qualify and that will remove all discrimination. Doctors (surgeons) teachers, nurses etc working in reputable institutions in the USA today have passed through this stages. Just humble yourself, take the student loan and get your certification/license. Good luck


Virginia, USA

Reply January 2, 2008 - 11:29 am

Educative and interesting…

Unknown January 1, 2008 - 3:32 pm

As an attorney, I think this article is a very good reference to foreign attorneys.


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