A lawyer or still a lawyer-to-be?
September 30, 2008 9:43 AM   Subscribe

After I pass the bar examination, but before I'm sworn in, what am I?

The July 2008 Illinois Bar Examination results are supposed to be posted online soon, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed, preparing to update my resume and considering having some business cards printed (I'm still on the job hunt). The question is, what can I say? After passing the exam but before the swearing-in ceremony in November, can I say that I'm licensed? Admitted? May I say that I'm an attorney at law?

I feel a little silly for not knowing this, but no one has been able to give me a straight answer.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Attorney in waiting?
posted by bizwank at 9:52 AM on September 30, 2008

After results: "Passed July 2008 bar. Will be sworn in November 2008."
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:03 AM on September 30, 2008

(Don't get business cards printed until November.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:03 AM on September 30, 2008

I agree with ClaudiaCenter, with the caveat that some states don't do their character and fitness investigation until after the applicant passes the exam. If that's the case in Illinois, then make sure you're good on the character and fitness segment of admission before indicating that you're going to be sworn in in November.
posted by amro at 10:08 AM on September 30, 2008

I wouldn't put anything on your business cards until you are both admitted and sworn in, to be on the safe side. (I would imagine that to your prospective employers, any appearance of overreaching looks bad). If you really, really feel like you need to have a credential on your business you can put your degree -- Lionel Hutz, J.D. -- but this has always seemed a little showy to me. Once you are all sworn in, you have more options -- attorney at law, admitted to practice in Illinois, etc.

On your resume or on your cover letter, I would indicate which administration of the IL bar you sat for, and leave it at that until you get the results, when you can say that you passed the July 2008 bar exam. This is probably the better place to update your bar status rather than your business card.
posted by *s at 10:09 AM on September 30, 2008

that's "business card," oops.
posted by *s at 10:10 AM on September 30, 2008

Your status will not change after you receive your bar results. You should not refer to yourself as "esq", "attorney at law", etc. until after you are officially sworn in. Until then you can place J.D. after your name if you'd like, but it is really unnecessary for job hunt purposes. Simply put a line on your resume similar to the one suggested by ClaudiaCenter. If asked about your status at an interview just explain it to the interviewer -- as they were once in your shoes they will understand the process!
posted by Mr. X at 10:13 AM on September 30, 2008

Until you're sworn in, you can't go with "Esq.". Go with ClaudiaCenter's suggestion.

You can get business cards printed up, so you have something to exchange - just get your name and contact info in a small run.
posted by KAS at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2008

Maybe Law Graduate? That's what people in the asker's position are called where I work, but I have no idea if that's an industry-wide term.
posted by Mavri at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2008

Frankly, if you ever use any title other than Attorney at Law, (or just Attorney), you look like a pretentious douchebag. That includes Esq., JD, Law Graduate, etc. Don't use those professionally, at all, ever. Until you are sworn in, don't use anything at all. Seriously. It might impress your mom, but it won't impress anyone you are trying to get to hire you; it will make them think that you are a clueless pretentious douchebag. That sounds harsh, but it's the truth.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 11:10 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Anonymous J.D. ABSI (All but sworn in)?
posted by 517 at 11:31 AM on September 30, 2008

Where I live, your title would be "Student-at-law"
posted by Deep Dish at 12:01 PM on September 30, 2008

After passing the exam but before the swearing-in ceremony in November, can I say that I'm licensed?




May I say that I'm an attorney at law?


You have no ability to practice law or represent clients until you are a sworn-in-member of the bar.* You are no different than you were before you entered law school.

*Unless you are somehow still practicing as a law student in court if they allow that sort of thing in Illinois. But you may not say you are an attorney or anything else until you are sworn in.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:10 PM on September 30, 2008

... what am I?

In danger of a devastating conviction for practicing law without a license.

Seriously, beg off answering peoples' "hypothetical" legal questions until after you're sworn in.
posted by spacewrench at 12:52 PM on September 30, 2008

For a resume, definitely note that you passed the bar exam and have submitted all the paperwork to be admitted and the date you expect to be admitted (if you know it). For actual practice of law, you need to consult your local rules of professional responsibility to figure out if you can practice under the supervision of a member of the bar and how you inform clients that your admission is pending,
posted by footnote at 1:02 PM on September 30, 2008

just went through this (passed on the 12 sworn in on the 25). On letters I put "certified law clerk" because I could still appear under the student appearance rule. I would tell friends and family that I was attorney, but I just couldn't practice anywhere.

Order the business cards with attorney at law and wait to hand them out until after you are sworn in
posted by miss meg at 6:13 PM on September 30, 2008

I deal with this in my job as a marketing director and attorney responsible for marketing communications at a law firm (meaning I get disciplinary action if I mess this up). On their bios, our new associates have "Awaiting results of July 2008 Illinois State Bar Exam" until October 1 and then they have "Will be sworn in before the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois on November XX, 2008" after they find out.

We do optimistically have their business cards printed with Attorney at Law when they join the firm, but they don't get their cards until they visit me on their swearing in day. If they need cards in the meantime (some do, some don't) they get cards that say Law Clerk, since that is how they are classified in our HR system.

Above feedback about "Esq." is all true.
posted by MeetMegan at 6:39 PM on September 30, 2008

What iknowizbirfmark said. At my firm, we were told to add a "pending admission" line to our emails until we were admitted (i.e. sworn in), as well - just to make it doubly clear that we were not lawyers yet. Anything you put down that suggests you are a lawyer before you are actually admitted to practice is misleading and will make lawyers look down on you.
posted by lorrer at 8:48 AM on October 1, 2008

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