Although most states require that students hold a Juris Doctorate from an American Bar Association (ABA)-approved law school before sitting for the bar exam, a few states have exceptions. Several states, including New York and Virginia, allow prospective attorneys to sit for the bar exam if they have completed at least one year of study at an ABA-approved school; however, only California allows people to take the bar exam without having attended any law school at all. Currently, the only way to be eligible to sit for the bar exam in California without attending a law school is to participate in the California Law Office Study Program (LOSP).
Becoming an Attorney without Going to Law School
Submit an official Notice of Intent to Study Law in a Law Office or Judge's Chambers to the California State Bar Association. This is an applicant's official request to participate in the Law Office Study Program (LOSP), and can be found on the California Bar's website. If they have not already, students should also find a California attorney or judge who has been "a continuously active member for at least five years in good standing" with the California State Bar willing to sponsor their application and teach them.
Comply with the regulations of the LOSP. California State Bar Association rules say that in order to qualify to sit for the California bar, students must study in the law office for a minimum of 18 hours per week, 48 consecutive weeks per year, for four years. The supervising judge or attorney must examine the student with a written examination at least once each month. The judge or attorney must then submit a semi-annual report to the Bar Association, which must include the questions and answers of the written examinations.
Take and pass the California First-Year Law Students' Examination, commonly known as the "Baby Bar." Students in the LOSP are eligible to sit for the Baby Bar after they have completed one full year of study, defined as 18 hours per week for 48 consecutive weeks. The Baby Bar is administered in June and October of each year; students who pass it within three attempts will receive credit for all study up to that point, but students who pass after three attempts will only receive credit for one year of study. Students must have four years of study in order to be eligible to sit for the General Bar Examination.
Take and pass the General Bar Examination. Students who have passed the Baby Bar and have four years of study in strict compliance with California Bar Association Rules are eligible to sit for the general California Bar Examination. Like all people wishing to establish eligibility to practice law in California, LOSP students must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) as well as the California-specific California Bar Examination. The Bar Exam is offered in July and February each year.
- The above process only applies to California, since that is currently the only state where you can sit for the bar exam without having first attended an ABA-approved law school.
- If you pass the California bar exam, you are only licensed to practice law in the state of California. Note that there is no "national" bar exam that will qualify you to work in every state. If you wish to practice law elsewhere, contact the state bar in the state you want to practice in to see if you meet their qualifications.