How to Become a Lawyer Like Kim Kardashian:
Your Guide to the California Baby Bar Exam
When Kim Kardashian announced at the end of 2021 that she passed the California baby bar exam, many people wanting to become lawyers were left wondering if they could follow the same path. Most states require that applicants to the bar first complete law school and receive a Juris Doctor degree prior to taking that state’s bar exam. California (in addition to a couple of other states) is unique in that it provides an option for students to take the bar exam without ever going to law school. Sounds great, right? Not so fast!
Although this may sound like an ideal option to fast-track your career, taking the California baby bar exam, as Kim Kardashian has done, is still a challenging route to becoming a lawyer in California. As is true with all things, just because something is quicker (in theory), it does not necessarily mean it will be easier. In this post, we discuss everything you need to know about the California baby bar exam—and how you can become a lawyer like Kim Kardashian through an apprenticeship!
How to Become a Lawyer Like Kim Kardashian:
Your Guide to the California Baby Bar Exam
What is the California Baby Bar Exam?
The California First-Year Law Students’ Examination, more commonly known as the California baby bar exam, is a one-day exam administered by the State Bar of California twice per year in June and October. The test is similar to the actual bar exam in that it includes both essay and multiple-choice questions. However, unlike the bar exam, the California baby bar exam consists of just four one-hour essay questions and 100 multiple-choice questions that test only three areas of law: Contracts, Criminal Law, and Torts. The test focuses on general principles of law, rather than California-specific law. Students spend four hours answering essay questions and three hours answering multiple-choice questions. Both the essay and multiple-choice sections are weighted equally on a 400-point scale. Examinees must score at least 560 points out of a possible 800 points to pass the exam. This is the equivalent of answering 70% of the questions correctly (learn more about how the exam is scored here!).
Who takes the California Baby Bar Exam?
Not everyone seeking admission to practice law in California must take the California baby bar exam. Rather, the baby bar is only required in the following five situations:
- For entry into California law schools that are State Bar-unaccredited registered law schools.
- For those enrolled in a Juris Doctor (JD) program through the California Law Office Study Program.
- For those without two years of college work and who attend certain law schools.
- For those without two years of college work and attending an ABA-accredited school.
- For an academically disqualified student, in certain circumstances, in order to return to school.
Kim Kardashian took route number two to get started on her attorney licensure. She is participating in a four-year apprenticeship program led by licensed attorneys. We describe this program in more detail in this post.
What does an apprenticeship for the California baby bar exam entail?
In California, in order to become licensed as an attorney through an apprenticeship, an applicant, such as Kim Kardashian, must first:
- Study law in a law office or judge’s chambers regularly for at least 18 hours each week for a minimum of 48 weeks to receive credit for one year of study (if a person does this for only 24 weeks, they are eligible to receive credit for a one-half year of study).
- Pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination, a.k.a. the California baby bar exam.
- Pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).
- Pass the California Bar Examination.
There also are specific requirements that the attorney (or judge) supervising an apprentice like Kim Kardashian must satisfy. Those supervising must undertake the following:
- Be licensed in California.
- Personally supervise the apprentice for 5 hours a week.
- Examine the apprentice at least once a month for studies conducted.
- Send the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California detailed reports of the apprentice’s hours of study, materials used, and hours of supervision.
As a result, the path to becoming a lawyer through apprenticeship is a lot of work not only for the lawyer-to-be but also for the supervising attorney!
What are the Upsides to Taking the California Baby Bar Exam?
Although the California baby bar exam is challenging, there are definite upsides to utilizing the apprenticeship route.
Skipping law school means avoiding the high cost of traditional legal education. Most students cannot afford to finance their legal education themselves and have to take out student loans. In addition to high-priced tuition, there is the cost of books, cost of living, lost income if you stop working to pursue your education, and possible moving costs to be close to the law school. As a result, many students graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. In contrast, the only costs incurred with an apprenticeship are the cost of books, study materials, registration fees, and bar fees, which typically total around $10,000 per program—making apprenticeship a much less expensive pathway to becoming a lawyer.
Apprenticeship offers the ability to learn on the job and acquire real lawyer skills while studying. Instead of studying black letter law in a classroom, an apprentice sees how it is applied to actual cases. In contrast, students choosing the traditional route often must take specific courses or participate in clinics to gain the practical legal exposure and experience that an apprenticeship offers.
By taking a more traditional route to becoming a lawyer (i.e., attending law school), you are forced to follow the same curriculum as every other student. People have different learning styles (check out this post on how to use your learning style to study better!). With the apprenticeship route, although you will need to learn specific material, there is more flexibility to learn at your own pace and in a way that best suits your personal learning style.
Networking is key in the legal profession. Knowing the “right” people is an essential part of finding your next legal job, closing deals, or negotiating a great resolution for your client. While going to law school allows law students to network with classmates (who are future lawyers and judges), those that are working in a law office or courtroom are instead directly in contact with practicing attorneys and judges. Thus, through an apprenticeship, you get a jumpstart on building your network. Working with a supervising attorney or judge allows you to make potentially useful connections with future clients, mentors, and colleagues, in addition to the connection forged with the supervising attorney or judge.
What are the Downsides to Taking the California Baby Bar Exam?
Although there are some benefits to taking the California baby bar exam, there are also several downsides to consider.
Low Pass Rates
Kim Kardashian took the California baby bar exam four times before passing. That’s a lot of stress—and a lot of time-consuming studying! Kim’s situation is not unique either. The California baby bar exam has a notoriously low pass rate. The overall pass rate generally has been between 16.9% and 25.3%. When breaking it down, first-time takers have had a pass rate between 18.8% and 32.3%, whereas repeat takers have had a pass rate between 8.8% and 22.7%. The statistics speak for themselves: taking the California baby bar exam is not an easy feat. Just because the pass rates are low though, does not mean you will fail! Check out our posts with tips with our top 5 tips on how to conquer the California baby bar exam here!
Choosing the right supervising lawyer or judge is crucial because you will be working with that person a lot! You want to make sure that they are a good fit for what you’d like the experience to be. However, that can be difficult to gauge right away. You may end up with a licensed attorney mentor who is not a good fit for you! That can negatively impact how well you do and make the experience more stressful than necessary.
Taking Multiple Exams
Passing the California baby bar exam does not mean you are a lawyer. Kim will still have to take (and pass) the “real” California bar exam to obtain a law license. Unfortunately, the California bar exam—an exam which has low pass rates and is hard to pass to begin with—has far lower pass rates for candidates who have chosen the apprenticeship path than those who take the traditional law school path. So, not only do you have to take multiple exams, but you also are less likely to pass them.
Law school ranking and class rank are factors that many firms will consider when making a hiring decision. In fact, most of America’s prestigious law firms tend to only recruit from top-tier law schools. As a result, the best positions may be out of reach (or much harder to attain) for apprentices. Check out our top ten tips on how to get a job after law school here.
Exceptional Personal Discipline
Although personal discipline is necessary for any aspiring lawyer, it is especially crucial for apprentices. An apprentice must dedicate themselves to studying without much structure—and studying a lot. This can be difficult without the support of law school classmates or a study group that those taking the traditional route have available to them, so exceptional discipline is necessary to stay on track.
How should I study for the California Baby Bar Exam?
If you decide that apprenticeship is the route for you, even given the difficulties of passing the California baby bar exam, you may be wondering what the best way to study is. There are a number of methods that can help you prepare. In addition to her attorney mentors through the California Law Office Study Program, Kim Kardashian studied using tutors, study aids, and prep courses.
Many bar examinees recognize the advantages to hiring a bar exam tutor, which is especially true for those taking the California baby bar exam since these students do not undergo the same in-depth, time-intensive learning process as those attending law school. A tutor offers one-on-one personal attention, a tailored approach to studying based on your strengths and weaknesses, accountability to keep you on track with your studies, and support during the stressful process.
Memorization is key for any exam, and study aids can assist with memorization. Study aids encompass a variety of materials—from outlines to practice questions and practice exams to flashcards. Kim Kardashian used study aids to pass—and even gave a shout-out to JD Advising for the practice questions we sent her! If you are looking for some more fun practice questions, check out the Kim Kardashian-themed California baby bar exam questions that we created.
Remember how a downside to an apprenticeship is less structure than a traditional law school route? Well, a prep course can help bridge the gap by providing some structure! By having a structured learning plan, students are more likely to remain focused and on track to pass the exam. Additionally, a prep course provides access to invaluable resources and tips that otherwise would not be available! For more reasons why a prep course is beneficial, check out our post containing 5 reasons you should take a bar prep course here.
Want to learn more about the California Baby Bar Exam? Check out our free guide to the California baby bar exam here, where we have posts that break down everything about the exam, including how frequently essay topics are tested, how to answer questions, and what to do if you don’t pass.
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