How To Get A Law Apprenticeship California

Last Updated on August 10, 2022

This website about how to get a law apprenticeship in California is produced by the State Bar of California as part of its INFOLEARNERS.COM series of websites on various legal professions. These websites offer helpful, career-related information on a variety of legal topics. This website provides information for those interested in an entry level lawyer apprenticeship in California. Included are helpful tips on how to apply for and secure admission to the apprenticeship program, the steps of the apprenticeship training program, the skills you will gain through your apprenticeship experience, and details on how to begin your career as an entry level lawyer.

Here is a juicy fact you probably don’t know: Per the state bar rules, apprentices must study with an experienced attorney or judge for four years before they will be eligible to take the California bar.

If you’re interested in seeking a legal apprenticeship california and law office study program california requirements, those of you who fall into such a category need to know what you’re getting yourself into. There are a lot of things associated with becoming an apprentice as opposed to going to law school, and all of those things can affect your chances at making it as a lawyer in the long run — this means that doing some research is definitely recommended.

Right here on Collegelearners, you can rest assured to obtain all the relevant information you need on California law apprenticeship programs, reading the law California, law apprenticeship programs Washington, amongst others. Take out time to surf through our catalog for more information on related topics.

There are many types of attorneys–Barristers, solicitors, prosecutors and public defenders. However, one of the most common types is a law apprentice. A law apprentice takes on a junior position under an attorney with the expressed intention of training to become full fledged attorney. California law stipulates that anyone applying for this type of apprenticeship must not have any felony convictions or misdemeanors in their past within the last 10 years.

How To Get A Law Apprenticeship California

California: California’s complete bar admission rules are at this link.  Requires 4 years of study in a law office, at least 18 hours per week, 5 hours of direct supervision, monthly exams, bi-annual progress reports to the CA State Bar. Supervising attorney must have 5 years of active law practice in the state.

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The mission of Esq. Apprentice, a California-based non-profit, is to provide low-income women of color with the tools needed to complete California’s legal apprenticeship program and become attorneys. To meet this goal, participants will complete a 4-year course of part-time study which emphasizes legal writing and research. Esq. Apprentice improves the employability and lives of low-income women of color and their communities by creating meaningful opportunities to obtain legal skills and employment. Esq. Apprentice is a federally recognized non-profit (EIN number 47-3060656).

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Here is some basic information about eight states’ rules for bar admission for apprentices. Please see each state’s bar admissions rules for additional details and information on how to register as an apprentice.

California: California’s complete bar admission rules are at this link.  Requires 4 years of study in a law office, at least 18 hours per week, 5 hours of direct supervision, monthly exams, bi-annual progress reports to the CA State Bar. Supervising attorney must have 5 years of active law practice in the state.

Vermont: Vermont’s Law Office Study Program rules are at this link. The program requires 4 years of supervision by a judge or attorney. Supervising attorney must have 3 years of experience. 

Virginia: Virginia’s complete Law Reader Program rules are at this link. Requires 3 years of law office study, 40 weeks per year, 25 hours per week, with 3 hours per week of direct supervision by attorney. Supervising attorney must have at least 10 years of experience. Note that the apprentice may not be employed by or compensated by the supervising attorney.

Washington: Washington’s complete bar admission rules are at this link. The Admission to Practice Rule (APR) 6 Law Clerk Program requirements can be found here. Requires 4 years of employment in a law office, an average of 32 hours of work/study per week, 3 hours per week of direct attorney supervision.  Supervising attorney must have 10 years of experience. Apprentices must pay an annual fee of $1,500. Note that the apprentice must be employed by the attorney.

law office study program california requirements

Maine: Maine’s complete bar admission rules are at this link.  See Rule 10(c)(5).  Maine requires at least two years of law school study, followed by one year of study in a law office.

New York:  New York’s complete bar admission rules are at this link. See Section 520.4.  New York requires at least one year of law school. The remaining law study may be done in a law office, so long as there is an aggregate of four years of law school study and law office study.

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* Wyoming: Unfortunately Wyoming updated their bar admission rules in 2015, eliminating the law office study program. Until then, Wyoming required 1 year of law school and 2 years of a law study program, or 2 years of law school and 1 year of a law study program to be eligible to take the state bar exam.

And the very limited circumstances in which law office study is relevant in West Virginia:

West Virginia: A person who has attended 3 years of law school at a non-ABA-accredited law school in a state where attendance at such school would make the person eligible to take the bar exam in that state may become eligible to take the West Virginia bar exam by doing an additional three years of law office study. The updated rules (as of January 1, 2013) are in Rule 3.0(a)(2)(a) at this link. Note that, as of July 2014, the Rules for Admission to Practice Law on the West Virginia Judiciary website have not been updated. If you read the old rules on that site, you could conclude that West Virginia requires no legal education whatsoever (thanks to the confusing appearance of the word “or”).

If you want to take the bar exam without completing law school, you may be able to do so by following several steps.

  1. Choose your location
  2. Find a legal apprenticeship
  3. Pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination
  4. Prepare for the bar exam
Join the SDCBA

1. Choose your location

Before you can practice law, you will need to choose a state that will allow you to complete the bar exam without completing law school. Currently, Washington, Vermont, California and Virginia are the only four states that allow this process. Wyoming, New York and Maine allow lawyers to practice without earning a J.D. degree, although they must have at least some law school experience. A legal apprenticeship may be able to substitute for one or two years or school. If you plan to live in any other state, you will have to complete law school to practice as a lawyer.

The next step is working as a legal apprentice, which will help you gain hands-on experience in the field. Apprentices typically must work a certain number of hours every week for a set period, working under the supervision of a practicing lawyer. This type of apprenticeship also usually requires participants to complete a set number of study hours. The supervising lawyer must have a specific level of experience, which varies by state, but could be between three and 10 years.

3. Pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination

If you live and plan to practice in California, you must pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination as part of your legal apprenticeship. This exam, also called the “Baby Bar” is also required for first-year law students who attend unaccredited law schools. California is currently the only state that requires the completion of this exam, which is due to the fact that the state’s bar exam is the most difficult, with the lowest pass rate of all 50 states between 1995 and 2014.

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The First-Year Law Students’ Examination is a single-day exam that covers:

  • Community property
  • Business associations
  • Contracts
  • Professional responsibility
  • Civil procedure
  • Evidence
  • Remedies
  • Wills
  • Torts
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Real property
  • Trusts
  • The first two articles of the Uniform Commercial Code

4. Prepare for the bar exam

After you complete the requirements of your legal apprenticeship, you will need to prepare to take the bar exam. The exam varies by state, as does the average pass rate. The pass rate for legal apprentices is approximately one-third the rate of those who have completed law school, so it is important to prepare as much as possible. Use online resources, including study materials and practice tests, limit other activities and adhere to a study schedule to increase your chances of passing.

Cost of law apprenticeship vs. cost of law school

The average cost of law school in the U.S. is between $27,591 and $49,095 per year, which includes tuition and fees. Public law schools are less expensive than private schools, in general, and in-state versus out-of-state tuition factors into the averages as well. These costs do not include room and board, books or other costs associated with attending a full-time J.D. program.

A legal apprenticeship program does not have any costs associated with it, although participants do have to pay for any study materials, books and registration fees related to preparing to take the bar exam. Everyone who takes the bar exam must also pay the fee to do so, as well as the registration fee required to practice law in their state.

Advantages of taking the bar exam without going to law school

One of the main advantages of choosing to forego law school is the cost savings. Law school is an expensive educational program that is often financed through student loans, which must be paid back upon completion of the degree. Another advantage of taking this route to become a lawyer is the ability to gain hands-on experience in the community in which you plan to work. In some areas, such as rural parts of the country, legal apprenticeship programs help encourage local students to remain in their communities and give back through legal service.

Legal apprentices are more likely to graduate with extensive experience because they work alongside practicing lawyers and see a wide range of cases. They often prepare legal documents and research cases to aid the lawyers for whom they work, giving them valuable experience that law students often will not get through the educational experience alone.

Disadvantages of taking the bar exam without going to law school

One of the drawbacks of taking the bar exam without completing law school is the risk of not passing. The bar exam is difficult, so it is not easy to pass without at least some experience. Working as a legal apprentice may give you some knowledge you need to be able to pass, but you will probably have to study the materials provided, which can take a lot of time. Law school professors often provide their students with coursework and exams related to what is covered on the bar exam, leaving graduates from these programs potentially more qualified and prepared to take it. Some clients may be hesitant to hire a lawyer who has not attended law school, which could make it more difficult to find a job. Additionally, since only a few states allow lawyers to practice without completing law school, those who choose this route will only be able to work in a limited area of the country. A lawyer who has not graduated with a J.D. will not be admitted to practice in any state where this degree is a requirement.

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