An Overview Of California’s Provisional Licensure Program - JD Advising
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California’s Provisional Licensure Program

An Overview Of California’s Provisional Licensure Program

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its challenges, the California Supreme Court introduced a new attorney licensing program. Much to the relief of many bar exam applicants around the state, the California Committee of Bar Examiners introduced a new provisional licensure program. The program is classified under Rule 9.49.1 of the California Rules of Court and the Committee introduced the program on July 16, 2020. For those who recently took the California Bar Exam or graduated from law school, you might be curious about the program. In this blog post, we’re going to be exploring California’s provisional licensure program and how it may impact you.

An Overview Of California’s Provisional Licensure Program

Who Is Eligible For The Program?

The provisional licensure program applies to two primary groups of people. The first group consists of eligible 2020 law school graduates. The second group consists of those who scored above 1390 on a bar exam between July 2015 and February 2020.

Who Isn’t Eligible For The Program?

Unfortunately, if you fall outside of the two groups identified above, you are not able to benefit from the program. However, there are some additional applicants that also can’t participate in the program even if they fall into one of the two categories described above. If you already passed the California Bar Exam (congrats!) but are not yet licensed, you’re not eligible to participate in the program. Moreover, those who’ve received negative moral character determinations are also not eligible, unless more than two years have elapsed. Likewise, if you receive a negative moral character determination while enrolled in the provisional licensure program, you’re automatically disqualified. The program terminates on June 1, 2022.

What Does The Program Actually Do?

California’s provisional licensure program allows for the practice of law under the supervision of a fully licensed attorney. Those participating in the provisional licensure program are allowed to engage in the same activities as a fully licensed attorney! The supervising attorney has a lot of latitude to determine what the provisionally licensed lawyer can and cannot do.

Do I Still Have To Take The Bar Exam?

The short answer is “it depends.” If you’re in the first category we mentioned above, namely 2020 graduates, then the answer is yes. In contrast, you’re in the second category, someone scoring above 1390 between July 2015 and February 2020, the answer is no. Let us explain.

First, for 2020 law school graduates, you must pass the California Bar Exam before June 1, 2022.  Prior to June 1, 2022, you can still be a provisionally licensed attorney and continue to take the California Bar Exam until you pass. Once you pass the exam, you become a fully licensed attorney. If you take the Bar Exam as a provisionally licensed attorney and don’t pass, you’re still in the program. You just need to pass before June 1, 2022.

On the other hand, if you scored 1390 or above between July 2015 and February 2020, you don’t need to retake the exam. However, you must complete 300 hours under a supervising attorney prior to June 1, 2022, in order to be fully licensed in California.

Are There Supervising Attorney Requirements?

Put simply, the answer is yes. Supervising attorneys must have at least four years of experience.  Similarly, practicing attorneys must have been practicing in California for at least two years.

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