The California bar exam has a reputation for being incredibly difficult. This fact, combined with the proliferation of law schools that lack accreditation by the American Bar Association (ABA) or California's Committee of Bar Examiners (CBE), has led to low passage rates, particularly for applicants who attended unaccredited schools.
To address the issue, California introduced a mandatory examination that first-year law students attending unaccredited schools must pass in order to complete their studies and sit for the state bar called the First-Year Law Students' Examination.
However, it is more often referred to as the 'Baby Bar.'
Although California is currently the only state that employs this system, other states could also adopt this model, especially in large markets with many law schools and low bar passage rates. The following article provides an overview of California's baby bar.
Do All California Law Students Have to Take the Baby Bar?
The baby bar caught a lot of attention on social media when reality TV personality Kim Kardashian West took the exam as part of her legal apprenticeship. However, most people who take the exam aren't on the same path as the star of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."
The biggest group of students who must take the baby bar are those from “registered" law schools that are not accredited by the state bar of California or the ABA. Registered law schools are often either newer schools or online law degree programs.
Students attending an ABA or CBE-accredited law school in California aren't required to take the baby bar.
How To Register for the Baby Bar
In order to sit for the baby bar, you'll need to register yourself as a law student with the CBE before applying to sit for the test. This requirement is set out in Section 6060 of the California Business and Professions Code and Chapter 2, Rule 4.16(B) of the Admission Rules. Registration is only available online.
The CBE verifies the completion of one year of law study with the registered school prior to admission for the baby bar. The student is responsible for ensuring that their school's requirements for releasing this information are met. If this certification or the student registration is incomplete by the final eligibility deadline, the application for admission to the baby bar is considered abandoned and terminated.
What Is On the Baby Bar Exam?
The baby bar is a one-day test that covers contracts, criminal law, and torts. Students should also know the first two articles of the Uniform Commercial Code. The exam includes both multiple-choice questions and essay questions.
The exam does not test California-specific law. Instead, it tests the student's general knowledge of the selected topics. The California Bar Office of Admissions offers materials online to help applicants to the baby bar prepare for the test.
Passing the Baby Bar
The baby bar has a much lower pass rate than most other bar exams. Around 27% of first-time test takers passed in 2020. But this doesn't mean the exam is harder than the actual bar exam in California or any other state.
One of the best ways to study for the baby bar is to practice the types of questions you'll be presented with. The State Bar of California posts questions from past exams and selected answers on its website.
Like the regular bar exam, time management is one of the biggest challenges on the baby bar. Use timed practice exams to ensure you can complete all the questions in the allotted amount of time.
Get More Law School Advice
The baby bar is just one of a series of hurdles that need to be passed in order to practice law. Along the way, you'll choose elective courses, seek internships, and find your first job. Return to FindLaw's Law Students section regularly for articles about legal education, networking, and more.