California State Bar Considers Alternative Licensing Pathway for Law Graduates

California State Bar Considers Alternative Licensing Pathway for Law Graduates

On Friday, September 22, 2023, Reuters reported that the State Bar of California is considering a new admissions pathway that would allow law graduates to become licensed without having to take the bar exam. The proposal was unanimously voted on by the State Bar’s Board of Trustees on Thursday, who decided to gather public comments on the program.

Under the proposed program, law graduates would receive provisional licenses and work under the supervision of experienced attorneys for a period of four to six months while being paid. During this time, candidates would compile a portfolio of work that would be evaluated by the state bar. If they receive a passing grade on their portfolios, they would become fully licensed in California without having to take the bar exam.

Proponents of the program argue that it would lower the financial burden on candidates, particularly those from historically disadvantaged groups such as first-generation graduates, women, and candidates of color. They also believe that it would increase the number of non-white attorneys, as research has shown that Black and Hispanic examinees in California have lower pass rates compared to white bar takers.

The proposed Portfolio Bar Exam program bears similarities to California’s Provisional License program, which allowed certain law graduates to practice under supervision without taking or delaying the bar exam during the COVID-19 pandemic. Oregon is also considering a similar program, pending final adoption by the Oregon Supreme Court, which would require law graduates to complete 675 hours of supervised work and submit a portfolio of legal work.

While Wisconsin currently allows graduates from its two law schools to become licensed without passing the bar, and New Hampshire permits a small cohort of law students with a specialized curriculum to bypass the bar, California would become the largest state to implement an alternative licensing program if the Portfolio Bar Exam is approved. The program would require the endorsement of the California Supreme Court and will be open to public comments for a 30-day period.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the Bar Exam, a collaboration between the California Supreme Court and the state bar, previously considered the creation of an alternative licensing pathway but failed to reach a consensus. However, in May, the State Bar’s board of trustees directed some commission members to reconvene and develop an alternative licensing proposal, leading to the current consideration of the Portfolio Bar Exam program.


Full story here.

Stay up to date: Join our newsletter

Share This