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The benefits of dual qualification: your path to an international legal career

updated on 26 November 2019

Whether you are a newly qualified lawyer or solicitor, one with some experience under your belt, or simply have a desire to expand your horizons after you finish your legal learning, qualifying in multiple jurisdictions will serve your career well. In our increasingly globalised world, demand continues to grow for those who understand the workings of the law of more than one jurisdiction.

As clients conduct cross-border transactions with greater frequency, employers must be able to respond by offering counsel with jurisdictional flexibility. Dual qualification is, therefore, a way to add real value to your CV or resumé while providing an exciting step toward internationalising your legal career.

So how do you best get there? BARBRI makes it possible for you to prepare to sit a US bar exam or qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales from anywhere in the world.

A shrinking global legal market is something BARBRI recognised more than 50 years ago in the United States when it was founded to help students learn the law and legal concepts needed to pass a US state bar exam. Today, BARBRI has a network of more than 1.3 million alumni and enrols around 40,000 students each year. Its international programmes focus on preparing non-US law graduates and lawyers to be more employable around the world.

Why practice across borders?

Within BARBRI, we see lawyers from all backgrounds and varying career stages come through our doors. All have differing reasons for wanting to dual-qualify. The bulk of these lawyers are looking to enhance their legal careers, whether that be through international secondments within their firms or by applying for positions elsewhere.

If you are considering dual qualifying, you are smart to do so. A challenging legal recruitment environment exists, so being dual-qualified is a way to distinguish yourself from the growing competition. Many international law firms give preference in recruitment to candidates who can exhibit understanding and knowledge in more than one legal system.

Increasingly this means lawyers look to dual-qualify by taking the New York or California State Bar Exam, or becoming qualified through the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) assessment in England and Wales. By passing a US state bar exam or the QLTS assessment, you not only advance your career – you also advance your earnings potential. Firms value dual qualification and they are willing to compensate for it.

If you are looking to reap the benefits of dual qualification, the following answers to some frequently asked questions should help pave the way for you to internationalise your career.

What are the requirements for qualification in the US?

The US offers opportunity to those who are fresh out of law school as well as qualified, practising lawyers. New York State permits those who hold a minimum of a three-year law degree from a common law jurisdiction to apply for eligibility, while the California Bar allows any non-US-educated applicant from any country in the world to take the exam for admittance.

What is the dual-qualification process like?

The first element of the process in the US is to ensure that a candidate is eligible to sit the bar exam. BARBRI prepares candidates for the New York or California State Bar Exam over a six or 10-month period, and the student then sits the exam. This enables a path to qualification within the period of one year.

BARBRI also delivers training for the QLTS assessment to those who wish to dual-qualify in England and Wales. Here, candidates can choose to study the first part of the exam, the Multiple Choice Test (MCT) over the course of three or six months, and then the second part, the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), directly thereafter over a three-month period (provided they pass the MCT). The entire process can therefore take as little as 11 months.

How do I successfully study and manage work-life commitments?  

Time is always a big consideration, especially if you plan to study alongside full-time employment. Because BARBRI offers an online and on-demand home study bar review programme designed to be undertaken flexibly, it accommodates ambitious international law graduates and lawyers who have work and other commitments. Currently, we have candidates in about 47 jurisdictions around the world accessing their BARBRI personal study plan (PSP) at different times of the day to balance their work-home life.


BARBRI supports non-US students in preparing for the rigours of the bar examination by focusing on the skills and techniques that they need to successfully pass. The unique support of a one-to-one mentor who is a US (or UK) qualified lawyer helps you focus your studies to get the most preparation in a timely and easily digestible form. If you find the format of testing through multiple-choice questions quite foreign, BARBRI’s PSP has a bank of thousands of practice questions to ensure you are fully prepared for this type of exam.

As you make decisions about your bar exam studies, be sure to find the support of a programme that is designed specifically for non-US graduates and focuses on the exam techniques international students find difficult to master. You should also look for learning that is written and delivered by US law professors and practitioners who are specialists in their respective areas. You get this with BARBRI.

Our ‘Foundations in US law’ course, which is stage one of the programme, provides an initial grasp of the law. More ground is covered with more depth in the main body of the course. We find that this format helps lay out the concepts and principles of US law in a way that promotes quality learning and retention.  

The QLTS exam is taken entirely by qualified lawyers, most of whom have some practice experience. If your sights are on the QLTS, look for a preparation course that provides a thorough grounding in English law and contains skills assessments to enable you to practice competently in England and Wales upon passing the exam. You get this with QLTS prep by BARBRI

Whatever your path to dual qualification, be confident that you will have the knowledge to achieve exam success with BARBRI. 

Rob Dudley is the legal director of BARBRI International.