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New York Bar Skills Competency Requirement

Under §520.18 of New York’s Rules for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law, applicants for admission to the bar in New York must meet a skills and competency requirement. This requirement is intended to help applicants “establish that they have acquired the skills and are familiar with the professional values necessary to competently practice law.”

Although New York has created five pathways to enable applicants to fulfill this requirement, Widener Law Commonwealth anticipates that Widener Law Commonwealth JD students are most likely to rely on the first, second, and fourth pathways, which are described below. For a complete description of all five pathways, please see §520.18.

Pathway 1: Competence in skills and professional values required for participation in the legal profession.

To fulfill this pathway, applicants may submit a certification from their law school confirming that (1) the school’s curriculum incorporates the teaching of skills and professional values required for participation in the legal profession, and (2) that the applicant has acquired sufficient competency in those skills and sufficient familiarity with those values.

Widener Law Commonwealth’s JD requirements provide students with the means to acquire and to graduate with the skills and values required for participation in the legal profession and thus to qualify for admission to the New York Bar under Pathway 1. The Law School faculty is committed to ensuring that the intent of Pathway 1 of the Skills Requirement is met, and has developed learning outcomes that guide the curriculum from which each JD student will be choosing courses that meet this requirement.

Widener Law Commonwealth has determined that graduates are prepared for “basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession” (22 NYCRR § 520.18[a][1][i][a]) if they:

  • Satisfy the JD degree requirements; and
  • Satisfactorily complete each of the courses specified below. Satisfactory completion means that the student has received a grade of at least a D in a graded course or a Pass in a Pass/Fail course.
    • Legal Methods I, II, and III
    • Professional Responsibility
    • Experiential courses totaling at least six additional credits, two of which must be satisfied by enrollment in a clinic, externship, or practicum that will provide opportunities to develop skills in oral and written communication, problem solving, fact investigation, research and writing, and case strategy.

Pathway 2: Law school certification of credit acquisition

To fulfill this pathway, an applicant may submit to the New York bar a certificate from the registrar’s office confirming that the applicant enrolled in and successfully completed 15 credit hours of practice-based experiential coursework. Courses in the Widener Law Commonwealth curriculum that would meet this requirement include:

a) Advanced Trial Methods (2 credits)

b) Business Planning (2 credits)

c) Federal Civil Practice (2 credits)

d) Federal Criminal Practice (2 credits)

e) I.T.A.P. (2 credits)

f) Negotiation (2 credits)

g) PA Civil Clinic (4 credits)

h) PA Civil Practice (2 credits)

i) Pre-Trial Methods (2 credits)

j) Pro Bono Practice I (1-2 credits)

k) Special Problems in Legal Ethics (1 credit)

l) Trial Methods (2 credits)

m) Externship credits

n) VITA (1 credit)

o) Sustainability Law Practicum (2 credits)

In addition to these courses, Widener Law Commonwealth students may also count one credit of the first year legal methods credits toward this requirement. Credits for Legal Methods III courses can also be counted toward this requirement so long as the courses lead to the production of documents that serve as “legal instruments.” Examples in our curriculum include Contract Drafting and Starting Your Own Law Firm. Moot Court and Trial Advocacy experiences can also count toward fulfilling this requirement so long as they are faculty-supervised and credit-bearing.

Finally, applicants may receive up to six of the fifteen credits through law school certified, non-credit bearing summer employment supervised by an attorney in good standing in any state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia. This work experience can be either paid or unpaid. The experience must include:

  1. an initial orientation session;
  2. an opportunity for the student to receive experience and guidance in the skills and values required for basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession;
  3. timely oral and written feedback; and
  4. a monitoring system that demonstrates  the student was actually engaged in the performance of legal work and performed a diversity of tasks during normal business hours and throughout the required period.

At least 50 hours of full-time employment is required for each substituted credit under this subdivision. Only summer hours may be counted.  

Pathway 4: Apprenticeship

To fulfill this pathway, an applicant must complete a six-month, full-time, paid or unpaid apprenticeship in a law office in the United States, under the supervision of one or more attorneys who have, for at least two years, been admitted to practice and are in good standing in the jurisdiction where the apprenticeship occurs. The apprenticeship must be continuous for the six-month period, and must begin after the conclusion of the applicant's legal studies and be completed within three years of the applicant sitting for the second day of the Uniform Bar Exam.

Click here for responses to questions commonly asked about New York’s Skills Competency requirement.