When lawyers talk about the “bar” they may not be talking about the place where you meet your friends for a drink. Rather, the Bar Examination is the licensing test to become a lawyer in the U.S. and the Bar Association is the oganization that regulates the legal profession. Both the test and the organization are often referred to as “the Bar”. So when someone says that they are a “member of the California Bar” they mean that they are a licensed lawyer in the State of California, not a participant in a drinking club in San Francisco.
Additionally, membership in the California bar gives you the right to practice law only in California. Each State of the United States has its own licensing examination because the laws of each State are often quite different. There is no nation-wide licensing for lawyers in the US, except in the very special area of Patent Law. Unlike lawyers in Germany or France, American lawyers who move to another part of the US normally have to take another Bar Examination in their new home State. Some States and Washington, D.C., do not require a new examination if you are licensed in another State and meet certain requirements.
The difficulty of each State’s bar examination also varies from State to State. California is known to have the most difficult bar examination in the country. In the state of Wisconsin you do not have to take the bar exam if you graduated from certain Wisconsin Law Schools.
Louisiana is also known to have a very long and difficult Bar examination. As you may know, Louisiana is the only State in the US that has a legal system patterned after the French system instead of the British Common law system. When we talk about the system of law in France and Louisiana we call it a Civil Law System, as distinguished from a Common Law System.
US Lawyers are also commonly called attorneys or attorneys at law. There is no difference in the US between lawyers who do (barristers) or who do not (solicitors) practice in court like there is in Great Britain and other comon law countries. When you pass the Bar in a US State you are licensed to practice in all areas of law (except Patent Law, which requires a special licensing exam.)
Next week we will talk about different areas of law.
Useful Vocabulary :
Take the Bar
Pass the Bar
Fail the Bar
Be a member of the Bar
Interesting Celebrity Fact :
John F. Kennedy, Jr. failed the New York Bar exam 2 times before finally passing on his third try.