Bar Reciprocity & Admission on Motion

“Reciprocity” itself can mean a plethora of things. In relation to legal bar admission in the United States it refers to the transfer of a bar applicants exam scores, or based upon the prior practice of law by an applicant in a different jurisdiction. On whatlawyersknow.com we use bar reciprocity as well as admission on motion to mean generally the same thing unless otherwise noted. Both definitions relate to a bar admission where bar applicants or current attorneys that are licensed in another jurisdiction apply to a new jurisdiction and are admitted without having to take that new jurisdictions bar exam based on either a transferable previous exam or as a result of active practice of law for a specific amount of time. Some states label this type of bar admission as an admission via comity.  Many online and offline resources label such types of admission or the use of “reciprocity” to refer to an MBE score transfer. Attorneys rely on this type of reciprocity when they are either not eligible for admission via motion (practicing in another jurisdiction for a specific number of years and then being able to waive in to a state), or if their scores for one jurisdiction are too low they can transfer to a jurisdiction where their scores meet the minimum required score.  Under the Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”) the transferring attorney may not have to take any additional exams if they meet the minimum score. However, in some states only the MBE is transferable and the attorney may have to still take certain written portions of the exam.

Reciprocity can also refer to a federal court allowing admission based on an attorney having a state license from a different jurisdiction. For instance, a Arizona federal court may require all attorneys in front of it to have an Arizona bar membership. Whereas a federal court in Maine may allow attorneys to be admitted to the Main bar as long as they have a license in another state. So Maine federal courts may be referred to as have a certain level of “reciprocity” with the state of Arizona, but this would not be true if the situation was in reverse.

Various Levels of Bar Reciprocity (Admission on Motion)

In most situations when “Bar Reciprocity” is used  in a legal context to refer to admission on motion, as more of a general phrase. There are a handful of ways in to achieve bar reciprocity admission, or admission on motion. Each of these ways still relate to how an attorney licensed in another jurisdiction can be admitted to a new jurisdiction without having to take the bar exam.  Bar reciprocity or Admission on Motion rules for a jurisdiction tend to relate to one of the following:

  • Admission on Motion:
    • Based on certain criteria (any licensed attorney from any state may admitted)
    • Based on bar reciprocity (attorneys can be admitted to the new jurisdiction only if the admitting jurisdictions licensed attorney can also be admitted in the transferring attorney’s jurisdiction)
  • Zero Admission on Motion allowed
  • Pure Reciprocity (attorneys may be admitted if allowed under the transferring jurisdiction’s regulations.)
  • Semi-Pure Reciprocity (attorneys can be admitted to the new jurisdiction only if the admitting jurisdictions licensed attorney can also be admitted in the transferring attorney’s jurisdiction, however, there are additional requirements, fees, and likely an online state specific test that is required.)

Please Note: For pure and semi-pure reciprocity applicants must obtain a minimum passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”).

To determine what the laws and regulations are of  your jurisdiction, or the jurisdiction you wish to transfer too select your region from the map below. Then you will select your state on the following page. This process can be confusing for newly admitted attorneys, recent law graduates, as well as experienced attorneys. Whatlawyersknow.com aims to assist and has listed each jurisdiction’s reciprocal admission requirements. (Georgia, South Dakota, and Wyoming do not publish reciprocal information).

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