I had a classmate in law school who first passed the New York bar exam and then entered the JD program. Not your usual order. He topped off his study with a license from one more state. He was able to sit for the New York bar because he was already a licensed attorney in China.
3,571 foreign-educated lawyers took the bar exam in the United States in 2005, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). Foreign attorneys may have more options in the future for limited practice in the U.S. “U.S. States Review Licenses for Foreign Attorneys: Temporary practice and 'legal consultant' status may be expanded,” reports Vesna Jaksic for Law.com:
“Twenty-six states license foreign legal consultants, who are attorneys from other countries permitted to practice in a limited matter, such as only being allowed to advise on their home country's laws, instead of U.S. state or federal laws.”
Nine more states are currently considering the licensing of foreign legal consultants. 21 states are deciding whether they should permit foreign lawyers to practice temporarily.
On the other hand, the U.S. lawyers also actively seek to enter foreign legal markets. To learn more about the efforts to liberalize trade in legal services, read “U.S. Pushes For Open Legal Markets At GATS Talks” by Julius Melnitzer in Inside Counsel:
“The United States exported $3.38 billion in legal advice in 2003, almost four times the $879 million it imported, according to the most recently available statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce.”
The proponents of the exchange of legal services argue that “in today’s increasingly global market, lawyers need to follow their clients to the countries where they operate and give them advice on the laws of their home country and international law.” There is also a wider benefit: “Liberalization promotes the spread of legal skills to places where those skills might be wanting….Liberalization also promotes economic development within the rule of law.”