Do you want to become a lawyer in Texas? If yes, then this article is for you. Becoming a lawyer used to be as simple as a young man joining a law firm where he works as a law clerk for a few years. One morning, feeling ready, he appears before the judge in his district. The judge asks him a few questions about legal proceedings and, if his answers are satisfactory, he is sworn in as a lawyer.
Things got complicated after the Civil War, when the bars wanted to “raise the bar”, and the universities got involved.
Today, the criteria for admission to a bar in the United States are relatively uniform. It should be noted that the bars are under the jurisdiction of the States. There is no federal bar, but it is necessary to be a member of the bar of a state before you can be allowed to plead before the federal courts of that state.
To become a lawyer in Texas, the Texas bar require the following elements from a candidate:
- A university degree based on a four-year program;
- A law degree from an accredited faculty;
- A clean criminal record and citizenship of the United States (or permanent resident status or, in some states, a work visa);
- A sufficient mark on the professional liability exam;
- A sufficient mark on the bar exam;
- Oath-taking, payment of fees, and continuing education.
The University Program
The required university degree is a bachelor’s degree. This diploma requires four years of study after leaving high school.
A university degree can be in any field; a degree in theology qualifies a candidate as much as a degree in engineering or any other field.
The Legal Diploma from an accredited College
A legal diploma is a three-year program, divided into 6 semesters. The degree must come from an accredited university. It cannot be an Internet study program where, for $100 and a few interactive sessions on a keyboard, you receive your diploma in the mail. In most cases, this degree is a Juris Doctorate, hence the suffix J.D. that American lawyers sometimes add to their names. Candidates for the bar of a state are not required to attend law schools in that state. A Texas college graduate, for example, can run to the bar in any other state as long as their college is accredited.
It is not mandatory to study law immediately after graduating from college. Many candidates work for several years, before going into law. These candidates are a source of intellectual wealth for the profession. They make lawyers who can demonstrate solid careers in finance, business, engineering, etc., with all the experience, expertise, and professional credibility that this brings.
Criminal record and citizenship
Each bar conducts a fairly comprehensive investigation, on each candidate before they can become a lawyer. In Texas, students are encouraged to initiate this survey early in their first year of law school. The investigation can take a long time and must be completed before the candidate can sit for the bar exam. Of course, the more the candidate’s criminal record, the more problematic his candidacy.
The good faith and transparency of the candidate count for a lot at this stage. The little nonsense of youth is forgivable as long as the candidate does not try to hide the facts. Concealing that one was arrested one evening for drunk driving carries far more consequences (harmful for the candidacy) than the crime itself. Here again, as elsewhere, time heals most wounds, below certain limits.
Applicants to the Texas bar must have US citizenship, permanent resident status (that is, a “green card” holder), or a work visa. Other states, such as California and New York, allow foreigners to come to their bar, even without a visa. But simply becoming a member of the New York or California bar does not necessarily entitle you to work as a lawyer in the United States. For this, you need citizenship, a green card, or a work visa.
The Professional Liability Review
To become a lawyer in Texas, a candidate for the bar must pass a professional liability exam, the Multi-state Professional Responsibility Examination, which is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions, which must be answered in two hours and five minutes. Usually, Student lawyers take this exam in their third year of study, after completing a compulsory professional responsibility course. Topics covered are ethics, the duty of confidentiality, conflict of interest, client money, etc. The Texas Bar requires a candidate to have a standardized score of 85 out of 150 or higher (the average score of all candidates is statistically normalized to 100).
The bar exam as a Lawyer in Texas
The Texas bar exam is renowned as one of the most difficult, and it is administered by the Texas Board of Law Examiners.
The exam, which takes place twice a year, takes place over three days, from Tuesday to Thursday, and consists of four tests:
1.The Multi-state Performance Test (MPT), which is submitted on Tuesday mornings:
It is a 90-minute essay on a legal problem, all of the elements of which are given to the candidate in the form of a dossier. This test measures the candidate’s ability to process this file and produce a coherent and well-argued thesis in 90 minutes. The candidate can use their laptop to write their answer by installing special software.
2. Procedural and evidence questions (P&E), which are also asked on Tuesday mornings:
These are two written tests of 90 minutes each on Texan civil and criminal proceedings. Each test has about 20 questions, which must be answered in five handwritten lines or less (no computer).
3.The Multi-state Bar Examination (MBE), which is held on Wednesdays:
This exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, which the candidate must answer in two sessions of three hours and 100 questions each. The questions deal with six subjects: federal constitutional law, contracts (including Articles 1 and 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)), criminal law and its procedure, rules of evidence, property law land tenure, and obligations (wrongs).
4. Finally, the Texas Essay Questions, which is held on Thursday:
You must write 12 essays of 30 minutes each, in two sessions of three hours and six questions each. The questions concern the following legal matters, focused on Texan law: the principal-agent relationship (agency), associations, companies, bankruptcies, financial instruments, pledges, community, trusts, guardianship, estates, consumption, family, taxes, oil and natural gas, sales, rents.
A candidate must obtain at least a mark of 675 out of 1000 to pass the Texas bar.
The oath and costs
Once admitted to the bar, the candidate must take an oath before a judge. This makes them promise, among other things, to defend the constitution of the United States and that of Texas. However, no one is a lawyer in Texas until the bar dues are paid. It is only after these fees have been duly paid that you receive your card, and it is even forbidden to practice the profession if you are in arrears in payment.
Bars are state law, and admission to a state bar does not entitle a lawyer to practice elsewhere. To practice in another state, a lawyer must also be admitted to its bar. Again, there are a lot of variations. Some states, like California and Florida, force everyone to take their exam. Others, such as New York and Texas, for example, admit lawyers from certain other states to their bar “reciprocally”. The candidate for reciprocal admission must sometimes have been professionally active (as a lawyer) for at least two years. at least five years in the seven years preceding the application. He must also be in good standing with his home bar.
Membership of several bars is generally justified by professional logic. A Washington DC estate lawyer will find it beneficial to register with the bars of Washington, Maryland, and Virginia so that he or she can serve the widest possible range of clients in the capital city area. A Texan lawyer who dealing with securities will almost necessarily have to register with the New York Bar, given the importance of that state’s courts in this area. You can accumulate bar registrations as well as diplomas, but it is expensive because you have to pay substantial contributions each year.
It is also possible to be admitted to the bar of a foreign state on an ad hoc basis, for example for a trial, by partnering with a lawyer from that bar.
A lawyer who works within a company (and not in a law firm) is not required to work only in his State of certification as long as his professional activity does not go beyond the framework of the company or its activities. Thus, and for example, the lawyer of a Texan company, residing in Texas, and registered only at the New York bar, will be able to negotiate a contract for his company in Houston or Los Angeles (or elsewhere) without violating the law.
Finally, to maintain your presence at the bar, it is not enough to pay your membership fees, you must also take continuing legal education courses.