Any foreign-trained lawyers on the board?

116 posts in this topic

Posted

I did a search and it didn't seem like there was one central post for foreign-trained lawyers or legal professionals on the board so I thought I would start one.

I thought that it would be a great idea to have a central post to discuss how you've adapted your training/skills to Germany and also the profession as it stands in Germany, particularly for those who have been trained elsewhere.

So here's to the start of a support system and question thread - hopefully it will turn into something useful!

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Posted

Thanks for starting this post Fraugenau! I am a U.S. trained attorney planning to move to Germany this spring to seek legal employment and would love to hear from other foreign trained attorneys about their experiences in Germany. Vielen Dank!

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Posted

Hey!

Thanks for posting starting this up. I was just coming here to do some research on what I need to do to start practicing here. I am licensed in the U.S. and I practice U.S. immigration law. I think I have to become a member of the bar association (Rechtsanwaltskammer)? (I am in Hamburg). I would love to hear ideas on what others are doing!

Good Luck!

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Posted

Holly, I think you're on the right track.

I'm sure there's more to be found in German but thus far I've found this in English: http://www.ccbe.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/NTCdocument/gats_questionnaire_e1_1182259979.pdf

To quote the relevant bit:

"Germany - Examination requirements:

Yes, full examination.

The situation is different if the foreign lawyer from a GATS state wants to establish in Germany under his home title, his scope of practice being his home country law and international public law. He may do so becoming a member of the local bar, in his capacity as foreign lawyer. Membership in the local bar has as a prerequisite that the foreign GATS lawyer in his home country exercise a profession which in education, competencies and legal position is comparable to the position of a Rechtsanwalt in Germany. The Federal Ministry of Justice by regulation determines which types of lawyers from which GATS countries are so comparable. There are no nationality, residency or reciprocity requirements"

Not sure what they're referring to when forbidding "temporary services" in the next bit.

Unfortunately I'm not sure how one goes about obtaining membership in the "local" bar however. I'm also a bit concerned by the sentence that states "The Federal Ministry of Justice by regulation determines which types of lawyers from which GATS countries are so comparable." So I guess you have to admitted then have your credentials reviewed by the Feds based on a set of regulations (helpful that they don't mention which regulations those might be!). Anyone know what this entails or how long it might take?

If anyone can shed some light on what's required to do so (or maybe ends up contacting a Bar Association in Germany?), that would be helpful.

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Posted

Thanks Fraugenau and Engelchen,

So, it sounds like as long as I practice U.S. law, I don't need to attend German law school, whew!!...but I might has to pass the state exam (?) that seems unnecessary.

I have found the Hamburg Bar Association website really helpful, here: http://www.rak-hamburg.de/h/berufshaftpflichtversicherung_85_de.php, but I know it's different for each state.

There is also the issue of malpractice insurance. I think Allianz provides malpractice insurance for foreign attorneys, but I am still in the process of figuring out how much that costs. Here is a form that would be helpful if I read German! http://www.rak-hamburg.de/uploads/file/Mitgliederservice/Berufshaftpflicht.pdf

Thanks a bunch! I will keep you updated as I learn more!

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Posted

Interesting links, Holly. Thanks for those.

Are you planning to practice US law in Germany without speaking or writing German? That could be difficult since your clients would probably be German speakers coming to you seeking advice - this is something that's also be holding me back: many Germans have very basic English skills and I would be concerned that my advice would not be properly understood (leading to the potential need to use that insurance you mentioned...). Also, it's my understanding that most big firms have moved away from having immigration practice groups (at least this is the case in Australia). What visa are you planning to come on?

engelchen, I can't seem to find an English translation button on the Berufliche Anerkennung website - is there one? Also, it's clear that permission must be sought in order to practice but to whom is this permission applied, the state/city bar association or a federal governing body?

It seems to me that Holly specifically wants to practice law, not consider alternate options such as those listed in the following links, but I could be wrong so here are those links you're referring to, I believe:

http://www.toytowngermany.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=222145

http://www.toytowngermany.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=197254

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Posted

You only apply to the local bar association, e.g., if you live in Hamburg, you apply to the Hanseatische Rechtsanwaltskammer Hamburg, and so on. Here is the application for attorneys from non-EU, WTO States applying to Hamburg.

The "temporary services" refers to doing ad hoc work as in-house counsel for your company, e.g., your company is being sued in Germany so they send you to represent them. Attorneys from non-EU states are not allowed to do that, but may only apply for permission to work as an attorney from a WTO state who is resident in Germany.

On a different note...at least American attorneys should think long and hard about coming over. The job market is very small, aside from language limitations. Working for certain government organs COULD put your American citizenship at risk, and it seems that EU/EC/other similar institutions have rules that limit hiring to EU nationals. Also, chances are that whatever you do here will not be very marketable to the majority of firms and recruiters if/when you go back to the US. Obvious exceptions would be (US) immigration, which is the same everywhere, and dispute resolution, which develops transferable skills.

I would say that the easiest way to get a job in Europe as a US-qualified attorney is to get placement at a large US firm, show them that you have awesome German language skills, and ask to be transferred over. It would help if you work in IP, tax, or capital markets. You might also consider trying to get placed at a German firm with US offices (most are in New York City) and then ask to be brought to Germany as part of an exchange programme. Keep in mind that such firms also usually have year abroad programmes already in place for their German employees, so you really have to sell the need for an _exchange_ programme that not only gives them an excuse to give yet another one of their clerks/attorneys some foreign experience, but makes you a better attorney for their US office when you return.

Holly, if you are interested in opening up an immigration practise, make sure you get a good tax advisor and a native German-speaking secretary. Register yourself with the closest consulate, and develop an online presence. Being a solo is hard work and takes a certain type of personality. Best of luck in that.

Oh ja, and I'm a US attorney in Germany too.

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Posted

My fiancee is German and a lawyer so I am always hearing about this. Yes, you will not be considered a 'Rechtsanwalt(in)' unless you have the German qualifications. From what I hear, German law degrees are much more work than American or British versions of the same. But of course, this is just what the Germans tell me. Lots of the German lawyers/law students decide to either write an additional Doctoral Dissertaion and/or get an LLM degree in another country as well. For the ones that go to the US, they tend to pick New York, because apparently it is the easiest Bar Exam to pass and they have the best LLM programs. I have heard many Germans say that taking the NY Bar is nothing compared to the 1st and 2nd exams they take here.

Additionally, the big German firms tend to send their lawyers to another country for a year, especially if they haven't had an LLM, so that they still get international experience. They also have two years after their studies where they work as a 'Referendar.' They have to work in 4 different locations:(I think) for a public prosecutor, judge, some kind of public 'Amt', and then I think a private firm. Then they take their second exam and become a full 'Rechtsanwalt.' Before their second exam they can still work in a law firm and make more money then I ever will. Plus, they may decide not to take the second exam and can continue to work in law, just without the 'Rechtsanwalt' title or responsibilities.

Whew, I hope I could at least enlighten you on what you are up against. Also, I heard there is a Greek woman at his firm, with full Greek lawyer status, but is at intern level in Germany. Are there Aussie firms that have a presence here? Maybe that would be your 'in.'

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Posted

As a German lawyer with a British LL.M. and both state exams, I can confirm the difficulty of the challenge that is a "Staatsexamen". However, I do believe there is a fair chance for a foreign trained lawyer to find employment with one of the "Big Guys" (international law firms), however, I do know several American lawyers struggling to find employment and just a few who did manage to get in - the environment is just too competitive due to the level of salaries and perspectives.

German is absolutely the key!

If anybody wants a real tip - I would start with Freshfields.

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Posted

New York State allows foreign-trained lawyers with a US LLM to take the New York Bar, which given Wall Street's importance in capital markets and M&A, is a pretty handy jurisdiction in which to be able to practice law. New York's bar exam is one of the toughest in the US, not one of the easiest.

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Posted

Chi-Beth

New York lawyer here. I need to correct you on something, the New York Bar exam is NOT one of the easiest Bar exams. It is one of the most difficult along with California. Most foreign lawyers obtain LLMs in New York and/or California because they are the only two states which allow foreign lawyers to take their Bar exams.

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Posted

That the New York exam is easy was something that I, again, have only heard from Germans who have chosen to take it. But it seems to be absolutely untrue that foreign educated lawyers can only take the bar exam in New York or California. Here are a few other states:

Illinois:

https://www.ilbaradmissions.org/appinfo.action?id=3

Massachusetts:

http://www.mass.gov/bbe/foreigneducated.pdf

Texas:

http://www.ble.state.tx.us/atty_fgn/main_attyfgn.htm

I'm sure there are others, but as I'm not going to look state by state. Why would other states offer LLM programs if one couldn't take the Bar in that state? (I have no answer for that, so if someone knows, I would be happy to hear.)

Here is the page with info for all US States and Territories:

http://www.ncbex.org/bar-admissions/

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Posted

Also, might it possibly be easier to get into the German law system if one completes an LLM here in Deutschland? Some of them are German or European focused which could help non-EU trained lawyers get some German training.

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Posted

There is a pretty big difference between saying a US jurisdiction's bar exam is easy in comparison to its German equivalent(s) and between saying it is one of the easiest of more than 50 US jurisdictions.

LLM programs aren't solely taken by foreign-trained attorneys looking to get licensed in a US jurisdiction and thus were not developed for that purpose (most LLM attendees aren't foreign trained). Most jurisdictions require a JD to sit for the bar exam. Could Bings have been trying to say was that only in NY and Cali can a foreign-trained lawyer take the bar with a US LLM but no US JD or foreign JD equivalent?

EDIT: I looked at the Texas link provided by chi beth and see that either a JD or its equivalent is required to take the bar, so the LLM isn't the relevant degree there, hence LLM programs could not be offered by Texas law schools (or for that matter, any other US jurisdiction's) for that purpose.

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Posted

The only lawyer I know here who lived here in Munich a few years is TTer Jimbo an legend in his own lunchtime. You might want to PM him as he doesn't frequent TT anymore. He got a bit fed up at the "banter" we used to indulge in being edited out.

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Posted

Short and sweet - NY allows foreign-trained lawyers to sit for the NY bar with an LLM. Most other states require a JD from an ABA accredited law school to sit for the bar, with Texas and California being notable exceptions. California, for example, permits graduates of non-accredited law schools located within California to sit for the bar exam. Virgnia actually even allows a readership programme, meaning you train as an apprentice under an attorney for several years before sitting for the bar.

Now, as for which state has the easiest or hardest bar exam...who cares? At the end, you're either an attorney with clients or you are not. While firms in the US do base hiring/recruitment decisions on academic pedigree, they couldn't care less about what bar you have already passed unless they have an immediate need for a particular jurisdiction. They'll simply expect you to pass the relevant bar exam if you haven't already. Moreover, most US firms care only about where you earned your JD, not your LLM (though some firms that specialise in tax might also require or desire that you have an LLM).

Chi-beth, there is no substitute for sitting for the first and second state exams to become a Rechtsanwalt in Germany. The LLM programmes in Germany that are geared toward teaching German law to foreign-trained attorneys are devised with the anticipation that graduates will use the education to complement their work under their foreign credentials. For example, a French-trained attorney with an LLM in German law would return to work in France for a company that does significant business in Germany.

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Posted

Hi All

I will second most of the comments above but add my two cents. I am headhunting/recruiting lawyers for USA/UK law firms which have a presence in Germany (focussed on this area purely because my German is not fluent and obviously these firms will be bilingual). I have found that all my clients (for candidates 0-5 years) tend to only want German qualified candidates or, at a push, UK qualified. I have had Spanish, Greek, French qualified candidates who have all been rejected. Also, they are sticklers for the German candidates having achieved minimum 9 points in each German State Exam. This is quite tough I can tell you! One or two clients have considered US or Aussie candidates but this has only been because the candidates already had about 5 years experience from one of the top law firms in their home country, and their educational background was Ivy League or from a top Aussie university. Anything less will not be considered. My word of advice for people considering a move over to German to work as a lawyer, unless you have German language skills, you will be limited to the USA /UK firms, and they will not consider you unless your educational background is as mentioned above.

That's about it. Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but this is what I have found the last year.

Cheers

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Posted

Ditto on what's been said above! Don't move here to Germany thinking that you will be able to easily find a job practicing law... not unless you want to start over and do a whole second law degree under the German system and pass both of the state exams here. It is possible, if you already have some legal experience working in your home country, to maybe find an in-house position at one of the international companies with offices in Germany. But, you should speak German (even if the official language of the company is English) and those jobs also seem few and far between...

I'm writing as someone who is a US attorney, NY and DC bar member, has 5 years of experience practicing at a top international law firm plus other work experience, has decent German language skills (C2), has lived in Germany for over a year now, and is still on the hunt for a job. That said, I have faith I will find a decent job, but probably not practicing law.

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Posted

Finally a thread I can feel at home in! Ha. I have been working here for a couple of years doing U.S.-based capital markets work. The best way to get German qualified is 1) Become a partner at an international law firm and after working 5 years request admission to the German bar and 2) be European qualified and backdoor in. As American JDs, the only real option is to take the English QLTS and then practice for two years and then apply for admission to the German bar. Nothing else really works.

My firm hires directly from the states, as do many others in Germany, but as a requirement, all US attorneys at my firm must speak German on a practical level, being able to understand and speak in conferences and on calls that would take place entirely in German. This makes total sense when you look at our client base.

If anybody wants a real tip - I would start with Freshfields.

Also note that Freshfields only has US JDs working in their Frankfurt office. The main US partner there is US and German qualified (but obviously didn't go to German law school or take the German bar).

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Posted

New York lawyer here. I need to correct you on something, the New York Bar exam is NOT one of the easiest Bar exams. It is one of the most difficult along with California. Most foreign lawyers obtain LLMs in New York and/or California because they are the only two states which allow foreign lawyers to take their Bar exams.

Come on. Anyone who has taken the California bar knows that it is one of the easiest for ABA grads. So NY has a 66% pass rate, and California's is just above 50%, but look at the people taking the test. In California you have thousands of people from unaccredited law schools (Cal-Bar schools) taking and failing every sitting. In NY you have hundreds of foreign attorneys taking the test after doing an LL.M. program. English is their second language and a much larger percentage of those people fail. For ABA graduates in NY, the pass rate for first time takers is 90%. I studied for 2 weeks, didn't take a BarBri course, and passed with flying colors (as much as anyone else can know how well they did).

While I wouldn't say it is easy for anyone to just go take the test, you can assume anyone who went to law school and paid attention during their first year will pass the test their first try. My school had a 100% pass rate in NY (albeit from a relatively small sample size) and we studied a different state's law.

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Posted

Great to see this thread catching fire - I knew you lawyer-types were lurking on here somewhere!!

Kings College London together with Humboldt University in Berlin offer a dual degree program (English Law & German Law)... Kings is the only uni in UK offering such a program. Others offer law with German language but not German law. You need almost mother-tongue in both languages...

Corcaigh, the issue here is that most people on this thread already have English-language common law degrees (JDs or LLBs) - we're just looking for a way to get accredited/practicing in the German system now (ideally without undertaking still more schooling, but it sounds as though that may be a dim hope)!

Hopefully the new regulations that I understand are coming in may facilitate things a bit but, until then, it sounds like quite an uphill battle.

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Posted

Come on. Anyone who has taken the California bar knows that it is one of the easiest for ABA grads. So NY has a 66% pass rate, and California's is just above 50%, but look at the people taking the test. In California you have thousands of people from unaccredited law schools (Cal-Bar schools) taking and failing every sitting. In NY you have hundreds of foreign attorneys taking the test after doing an LL.M. program. English is their second language and a much larger percentage of those people fail. For ABA graduates in NY, the pass rate for first time takers is 90%. I studied for 2 weeks, didn't take a BarBri course, and passed with flying colors (as much as anyone else can know how well they did).

While I wouldn't say it is easy for anyone to just go take the test, you can assume anyone who went to law school and paid attention during their first year will pass the test their first try. My school had a 100% pass rate in NY (albeit from a relatively small sample size) and we studied a different state's law.

Graduates of ABA-certified schools located outside California consistently have a pass rate of only about 66%. The passage rate for graduates of ABA-accredited law schools located within California consistently hovers around a mere 75%. Graduates of non-ABA-accredited schools located within California have passage rates ranging from 35% on the high end to 16% on the low end. In addition, while some states (such as NY) seek merely to test whether a candidate would be a competent attorney, California deals with its over-abundance of attorneys by seeking what is sometimes termed "competence plus", meaning something more than mere competence (don't ask me to clarify). But to illustrate, one man had finally passed the February exam prior to my July exam after having sat for the CBE over 23 years in a row, and had literally clerked at his son's law firm for those last couple years. I strongly suspect that although that man had mastered the blackletter law, he was apparently not able to apply or to present it clearly in written form.* For what it's worth, in my year, there were at least two law review students from my top twenty law school who did not pass on their first attempt. Summa summarum, that does not in any way paint the picture of an "easy" bar exam.

Notwithstanding, I took the CBE and was literally booty dancing (to myself, in my seat) during the exam because I found it to be shockingly easy for me despite its reputation for being a monster. On the other hand, there were kids with GPA's much better than mine from my law school who did not pass. Why? Well, putting aside the fact that just about every professor downgraded me for my "unorthodox attendance practices", because I was better prepared. I believed I needed to pass the bar on my first attempt, so I sat myself down to study by myself (I couldn't afford BarBri) 13 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 10 weeks or so, and I received my sweet reward at the end. I don't believe that a 1L could pass the bar exam, but that's a different discussion.

Despite all of the above, I do believe that if California allowed foreign-qualified attorneys with an LLM from a US law school to sit for the bar, they would do so in numbers comparable to those who sit for the NY bar. I suspect the majority of those attorneys sitting for the CBE would come from Asia and the Pacific Rim, but certainly some would hail from European jurisdictions.

It seems to me that the decision to take the NY bar exam has nothing to do with it being "easy", and everything to do with:

  1. eligibility;
  2. reciprocity (NY bar offers generous reciprocity benefits); and
  3. location, i.e., many non-US, international law firms have their US offices in NYC (probably as a result of 1 and 2 above).

* I guess his son hired him on as an associate.

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Posted

Great to see this thread catching fire - I knew you lawyer-types were lurking on here somewhere!!

Corcaigh, the issue here is that most people on this thread already have English-language common law degrees (JDs or LLBs) - we're just looking for a way to get accredited/practicing in the German system now (ideally without undertaking still more schooling, but it sounds as though that may be a dim hope)!

Hopefully the new regulations that I understand are coming in may facilitate things a bit but, until then, it sounds like quite an uphill battle.

I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you. No matter what noises the government makes about the importance of recognizing foreign qualifications, you can bet dollars to donuts that lawyers will be excluded. Their lobby is too strong and Germany is overlawyered as it is.

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