For the first time in state history, the Minnesota Supreme Court has admitted to practice a graduate from a foreign law school without requiring her to pass the state’s bar examination.
The court ruled on Sept. 26 that JaneAnne Murray possessed the education and professional experience necessary to exempt her from the usual requirements for bar admission, and that she would suffer undue hardship if refused.
Murray, a native of Ireland, received a bachelor’s degree from University College Cork in Ireland in 1989 and a law degree from University of Cambridge in England. Minnesota law in general requires licensed practitioners to have graduated from law schools accredited by the American Bar Association. The ABA does not accredit foreign schools.
The Minnesota bar only once before, in 1986, admitted a graduate from a law school not accredited by the ABA without requiring passage of the bar exam, but that applicant was not from a foreign law school. That attorney graduated from an unaccredited law school in Louisiana that closed in 1964.
Murray moved to New York after graduating from law school, passed the bar there and worked for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. She also worked as counsel at O’Melveny & Myers, for a legal aid provider and as a federal public defender in New York. In 2005, she became a solo practitioner in New York, focusing on criminal defense.
She moved to Minnesota last year when her husband took a job at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed as a practitioner-in-residence at the University of Minnesota Law School. At the time she filed her petition for bar admission, she maintained her New York practice.
The court’s decision hinged in part on the “significant hardship” that Murray faced.
“If we require Murray to successfully complete the Minnesota bar examination as a condition of applying for admission to the Minnesota bar, she cannot be licensed to practice law in Minnesota before May 2013,” the court wrote. “Murray credibly contends that the nature of her practice—criminal defense—makes it impracticable for her to maintain a practice in New York while living in Minnesota with her husband and two school-aged children.”
Murray said via email that she felt honored by the decision. “I look forward to opening a practice in Minneapolis,” she said.
Representing the Minnesota Board of Law Examiners, which opposed Murray’s application, was Assistant Attorney General Karen Andrews. She did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Writing for the court was Justice Paul Anderson. Justice Christopher Dietzen, dissenting in part, argued for admitting Murray only after she passed the bar exam. “Murray has failed to demonstrate a hardship beyond ordinary inconvenience that warrants a waiver of the bar exam requirement,” he wrote. Judge Lorie Skjerven Gildea joined the dissent on that point.
Representing Murray was Lewis Remele of Bassford Remele in Minneapolis. The decision, he said, was unlikely to create a “stampede” of applications from foreign law school graduates seeking admission—a concern, he said, of the law examiners board.
“If somebody is as educated and has the same credentials as JaneAnne, we should welcome them,” he said.