This September marked exactly 6 years since I began studying law at university. If someone told me back then that after graduating I would go on to qualify as a New York Attorney, I would probably have laughed ! However, here I am, 3 weeks away from being admitted to the New York State Bar, right after my 24th birthday.
Throughout university, I didn’t think much about what I would do after graduating, where I wanted to work or in what area of law I wanted to specialise in. I think it is very difficult at that stage in your career to definitively decide on the area of law you see yourself practising in 5 years’ time. As I’ve come to realise, law is very different in practice to theory. I just worked as hard as I could to hopefully keep my options open after I graduated.
After my 3rd year I moved to Berlin for 4 months. It was the first time I had lived away from home and it was from there that I developed a desire to move abroad and practice internationally. I started to realise then how versatile a qualification a law degree is and how many doors it could open for me.
By honours year of university I had to make decisions as to what I wanted to do after graduation and I was faced with working out how I could make my dream of moving abroad a reality after graduating with a Scottish LLB. There were lots of good options available, ranging from the obvious one of completing the Diploma in Legal Practice and applying for traineeships at international firms in Scotland to studying a post graduate conversion course to practice in England, to the ‘wild card’ option, study the law of the US, attempting to pass the New York Bar Exams, and then move Stateside. . There were of course other “non law” options too such as using my qualification to join an international financial or banking business. Many of my contemporaries pursued that route and a law degree is typically well received by employers.
The first two options, though attractive, meant I would still be living in the UK, however the third option meant, in theory, I could move to the US within a couple of years and if ultimately it didn’t work out, I could always go back to options 1 or 2. A traineeship in Scotland, or a non law option, seemed like a good safety net for pursuing something rather more daring!
I began studying US law with Barbri International in October 2016, in time for the July 2017 Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in New York. For the UBE you were required to learn 14 subjects, based on principles of law that apply across the US, which was the equivalent of 2/3 years’ worth of university classes condensed into 9 months. The exam was a 2 day, 12 hour exam. Day 1 was two Multistate Performance Tests for which you were given a set of facts and law and you had to present a legal argument based on your instructions. This was then followed by 3 hours of unseen essay questions. Day 2 consisted of 6 hours of multiple choice questions. To say it was the most difficult exam I’ve ever sat is an understatement and despite doing every practice question available to me I still finished the exam in a blind panic, sure I had failed.
Against all odds I found out in October 2017 that I passed. I then went onto pass the New York Law Exam in December 2017, which was on the rules specific to New York and then the Professional Responsibility exam in March 2018. After passing all the exams I received a Notice of Certification and then had to apply for admittance to the New York Bar. My Admission Ceremony is in 3 weeks’ time, exactly 1 year since finding out I passed the Bar Exam.
So now I am faced again with the decision of what to do next, except this time my focus is much clearer. I have been working at Gilson Gray for exactly 1 year. During this time I have gained invaluable experience in the field of commercial litigation and I hope to continue my career in this discipline. The practical exposure I have had to a range of interesting and challenging litigations has confirmed my interest in this area. I am planning to move to the US in 2019 and aspire to obtain a Junior Associate position once I make the move. I can’t say it has been easy but I am very excited about my future career and open to the opportunities that will arise from the path that I have chosen. I am very grateful for the adaptability that a Scots law qualification brings, the opportunities it has presented me with and the sold grounding it has given me, enabling me to pass the New York Bar exams and pursuer my career on the other side of the Atlantic.