Public Comments for: SB1234 - Virginia State Bar examination; foreign applicants.
Correction to the last comment: it was passed 39-0 (and not 49-0) in the Senate. Sincerely, Ibnul Ali Khan, Esq.
Dear Delegates: I was present during the hearing before the Senate and testified before it was voted 15-0 in committe. A representative from the Virginia Supreme Court stated "no comment" to the Bill. The Patron of the Bill, Senator Petersen, also conferred with the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners ("VBBE") regarding the Bill. The VBBE did not make a public appearance before the Senate. The Bill was passed 49-0 in the Senate. Sincerely, Ibnul Ali Khan, Esq.
Dear Delegates: Background: I am an attorney licensed to practice law in the states of New York and Maryland, and before the United States District Court for the District of Maryland and the Southern District of New York. I also teach Constitutional law as an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University Law School. I currently practice law with a law firm in Fairfax, Virginia. I am familiar with the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia and Virginia law in general. Impacted Class: I speak on behalf of a class of thousands of foreign attorneys who seek to pursue a legal career in the Commonwealth of Virginia but are prevented from doing so given the current law (the "Class"), as fully described herein. Status quo in the majority of states: currently, the Uniform Bar Exam is administered by 38 states and out of those 38 states, foreign attorneys (i.e., attorneys licensed in jurisdictions outside of the U.S.) can sit for the bar exam in potentially 34 different states, with some of those states requiring an LL.M. at an ABA-approved law school in the U.S. Getting licensed in the majority of states: of the 34 states allowing the foreign attorney to sit for their bar exam, 20 of those states require the applicant to obtain an LL.M. in an ABA-approved law school. Therefore, most foreign attorneys only pursue a 1-year LL.M. and pursue the bar exam in these states. The issue in Virginia: there is currently no option for foreign attorneys, even those who obtain an LL.M. at an ABA-approved law school and become licensed as an attorney in another state, to take the Virginia bar exam. Additionally, even if one practices law for 5-years (and maintains an active license), the only waiver provision only grants J.D. graduates the ability to waive into Virginia (without sitting for the bar exam). Therefore, someone like myself, who after having practiced as an attorney for 5 years, could never waive in or even sit for the bar exam given the J.D. requirement. In essence, the Virginia bar is limited to J.D. graduates and those who pursue the "law office" study route and precludes those in the Class. Proposed law: this law would have the impact of allowing foreign attorneys who obtain a LL.M. at an ABA-approved law school and become licensed in one of the United States to become eligible to only sit for the Virginia bar exam. I, along with the thousands of others, support this legislation. It would put foreign attorneys, who become licensed attorneys in the U.S., on an equal footing with Virginia residents and those who have had the privilege to obtain a J.D., at least as it pertains to sitting for the bar exam. Sincerely yours, Ibnul Ali Khan, Esq. Personally and on behalf of the Class