Alternatives to the New Jersey Bar Exam


In order to practice law in New Jersey, one must typically pass the New Jersey bar examination. As with most things, however, there are some exceptions. Lawyers who are licensed in other states, or who are seeking New Jersey admission only for purposes of a single case, can usually find ways around the rule. Attorneys who are working in an advisory capacity but not practicing in court may also be exempt from the bar exam requirement.

Pro Hac Vice Admission

  • An attorney who is licensed to practice law in another state may ask for the New Jersey court's permission to appear pro hac vice in a particular case that is pending in New Jersey. This means that the attorney would be permitted to practice law in New Jersey for a short duration of time on a specific case, but would not be permitted to practice law within the state in any other capacity. Attorneys appearing pro hac vice must follow the rules set out in New Jersey Court Rule 1:21-2.

In-House Counsel

  • In-house counsel are attorneys that are employed by companies instead of being employed by law firms. Lawyers that are working as in-house counsel for a New Jersey corporation -- that is, lawyers who are working in an advisory capacity and only and not going to court -- need not usually pass the New Jersey bar exam. As long as the attorney is an active member of the bar of another state, they do not need to also maintain a New Jersey license. In-house counsel must follow New Jersey Court Rule 1:27-2, which shapes the contours of their practice.

Pro Bono Attorneys

  • Pro bono attorneys are attorneys who work for little or no profit, usually for non-profit organizations or charity groups. Attorneys who are licensed to practice law in another state and who are working for or volunteering for a pro bono organization may represent clients in New Jersey without passing the New Jersey bar examination. In order to do this, the attorney must be supervised by another attorney who is licensed to practice law in New Jersey. The attorney must also ask for the court's permission, as outlined by New Jersey Court Rule 1:21-3(c).


  • Many states allow reciprocity, which means that an applicant who is admitted to practice law in one state can waive into another state without taking the bar examination. New Jersey does not have reciprocity with any other state, though the Ad Hoc Committee on Bar Admissions in New Jersey has made a recommendation that New Jersey enable reciprocity with at least neighboring states. Reciprocal admission may be an alternative to the New Jersey bar exam in coming years.


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