5 Reasons You Should Take the U.S. Bar - and 1 reason why you shouldn’t
Having interviewed many recent law graduates in the past few months, there is one common question that consistently keeps popping up: “Should I take the U.S. bar?” To make things easier, I’ve created a checklist below which outlines 5 reasons you should take the U.S. bar, and 1 reason why you shouldn’t.
1. You already hold a legal qualification in another jurisdiction
If you are already common law qualified (ie, have completed your training requirements and are already admitted in say Hong Kong/ England & Wales/ Australia/ New Zealand), then passing the bar and being US qualified is a good additional qualification to add, giving you an added boost to your CV.
2. You have a preference for US law firms
Being US qualified definitely gives you an advantage when applying to US law firms. Only a very small number of large UK law firms have a US legal team.
3. You have a strong interest in Corporate work
Great! The majority of the US law firms have Corporate as their largest practice area which includes Initial Public Offerings (IPO’s), Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A), Private Equity, Funds and others.
4. You have a native/close-to-native level of Mandarin/Putonghua
Hong Kong is often referred to as 'the gateway to China', and rightly so. Since the handover of Hong Kong to China, there has been an increasingly large number of PRC corporate clients who use Hong Kong as their legal platform for doing business. Good Mandarin language skills are essential in communicating with these clients, as well as having the confidence in handling Chinese documents.
5. You have a US Juris Doctor / LLM and excellent academics
Due to the competitiveness of entering a US law firm, many only consider candidates with a JD degree / LLM obtained from a reputable American University, and require you to submit transcripts with your initial applications. Candidates who are not able to demonstrate their strong academic capabilities immediately fall short, and are unable to proceed to the next round.
If you answered “yes” to all of the above, you can stop reading. For those who didn’t, please continue below.
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you should strongly reconsider whether or not spending the time, money and effort to study for and sitting the exams for the U.S. Bar will add any value to your CV/resumé.
Aside from candidates who are already qualified lawyers, the majority of candidates have either completed LLB degrees in Hong Kong or the United Kingdom but have yet to complete their respective Postgraduate Certificate of Laws (PCLL) or Legal Practice Course (LPC), in addition to the 2-year requisite training contracts. If you fall under that category, it is important to ask yourself what benefit the U.S. bar will have to your career.
And the reason why?
It's because, not only are you limiting job opportunities in terms of the type of law firm you can apply to and the area of law you are interested in practicing, but you are putting yourself at fierce competition with all the PRC and overseas' qualified lawyers who are seeking to relocate to Hong Kong for these limited number of jobs - namely, the role of a Corporate associate or Registered Foreign Lawyer position at a US law firm. Many of these candidates are already dual qualified, and have a few years' legal training, so you must consider whether or not you are able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these lawyers who, on paper, have a stronger competitive edge.
Keep an eye out for my next blog, which will outline alternatives for entering the Hong Kong legal market! ☺