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Bradley Silver fought city hall, as it were, and won. “Well, yes, it was something like that,” said the mild-mannered Silver, a 29-year-old lawyer from Johannesburg, South Africa. Single-handedly, Silver brought about a de facto policy change at the New York State Board of Law Examiners: No longer will graduates of top South African law schools be required to devote a year of their lives — and perhaps $30,000 in tuition, with at least that much more for living expenses — to earn a 20-credit master of laws degree (LL.M.) in the United States before getting a crack at the bar examination. Months after his victory — and now safely certified as a New York attorney — Silver realizes the extent of his achievement: “The more I think about the way I did things, the luckier I feel — and the more I feel it was a real accomplishment.” As many an aspiring young lawyer would attest, the state law board is not to be trifled with. As a colleague at the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis indeed attests, Silver is not the trifling sort. “I would describe Brad as tenacious,” said Carolyn Edgar, a partner in the intellectual property group, where Silver is an associate. “He’s a nice guy, but with a bit of pit bull in him. “You don’t ignore him. He tends to get results.” Working nights and weekends, Silver created something of a manifesto in challenging what he believed to be arbitrary application of the “substantial equivalence” standard in � 520.6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals, which deals with foreign applicants to the bar. According to the New York law board, he is the first South African to have challenged the standard. Silver argued that the University of the Witwatersrand Law School — commonly known in South Africa as Wits Law — educated him in almost purely English common law, which would render him as qualified to take the New York bar as any British, Canadian, Australian or New Zealander applicant. Silver marshaled extensive comparative citations of decisions from U.S., English and South African courts, and letters supporting his contentions from American academics and South African jurists, including Constitutional Court Justice and Wits Law Chancellor Richard Goldstone. “The result of our study [of Silver's manifesto] was that we will look more favorably on our South African applicants,” said John J. McAlary, deputy executive director of the New York law board in Albany. “We won’t automatically say that South Africans would have to take more study here in the U.S.” HANGOVER FROM APARTHEID McAlary said the rule was related to the politics of apartheid, the former system of statutory racism abolished in the mid-1990s after negotiations led by former President Nelson Mandela, a member of the indigenous Xhosa tribe who spent 18 years in prison for opposing racial separation. “There were some constitutional changes in South Africa since apartheid was abolished,” said McAlary. “We felt that now was a time to make a change. This was a case where review was appropriate.” McAlary said he is going one step further in the cause of qualifying South African lawyers for the New York bar exam. “I had a couple of cases I remembered, where I wrote back to the individuals and suggested they try again,” he said. INDIVIDUAL MERIT He was also careful to say that while Silver’s successful application was “impressive,” it was based on the individual merit. All future applications from South Africans, said McAlary, would be judged case-by-case, with special attention to the law school attended. “There are schools over there based on correspondence,” he noted, “and schools that teach in Afrikaans instead of English.” Jonathan Mayers, a Cape Town-born corporate associate at Davis, Polk & Wardell, always suspected that the cruel politics of apartheid prevented New York law board examiners from recognizing that jurisprudence in South Africa was based on the same fundamentals as that of the United States. If a South African law school graduate had applied in the mid-90s, said Mayers, “I can’t imagine the [New York law board] would even consider the political minefield that would have necessarily come with that. Now that those politics have been removed, [the law board] can look at it in a more neutral way.” Silver had the same hunch. “That was something that was never mentioned,” he said. Taking the cue, the extensive research materials Silver submitted with his application did not deal with the hot potato of apartheid. Mayers suggested that Silver’s action could open the gate for a small flood of South African applications to the state law board. He estimated that a few hundred of his countrymen are working in New York as attorneys, whereas several thousand are working in London, where there are no impediments for South African lawyers. “In South Africa, the law industry is completely different. If you’re lucky, you’ll be among the 50 percent of [South African] law school graduates to get a job,” said Mayers, 30, a graduate of the University of Cape Town Faculty of Law. He was lucky enough to win a scholarship for an LL.M. at New York University School of Law. “A lot of young lawyers have to leave the country. “So this [Silver's success], I think, will surely open a barrier.” INQUIRIES FROM HOME As word has spread of his success, Silver said he has received “a good deal of inquiries” from young attorneys back home in Johannesburg, where he misses two things the most: his family, and “incredible thunderstorms every afternoon in the summer.” He is willing to share his research with young South Africans. But young South African are also well advised to understand that the New York State Board of Law Examiners likewise has pit bull quality, so to speak. Despite McAlary’s assurances, the law board change affected by Silver is not de jure. The board Web site declares the following proviso for foreign applicants: ” … Applicant has a law degree that is durationally equivalent (at least three years of full-time study) but it is from a country whose jurisprudence may be based on the principles of the English Common Law but whose program and courses of study the Board does not consider to be substantially equivalent to the legal education obtained at an approved law school in the United States, e.g., India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Republic of South Africa, etc.”

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