California's bar exam is notoriously difficult. This fact, in conjunction 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 pass 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 bar. This examination is colloquially referred to as the 'Baby Bar.'
Although California is currently the only state that employs this system it is entirely likely that other states will adopt this model as well, especially in large markets that have many law schools and low bar passage rates. The following article provides an overview of California's baby bar.
Registered Schools and Registered Students
Only students attending "registered" law schools are subject to the baby bar requirement in California. Those attending a school accredited by the ABA or CBE aren't required to take the test. Registered law schools are often either newer schools or correspondence/distance learning schools.
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 Tested?
The baby bar is a single-day test that covers business associations, civil procedure, community property, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, professional responsibility, real property, remedies, torts, trusts, wills, and the first two articles of the Uniform Commercial Code.
The exam does not test California-specific law, but instead tests the student's general knowledge on the 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
Passing the baby bar is important since the state of California won't credit study that fails to comply with the requirement. Students must pass the baby bar within three administrations of the test after they first become eligible upon their completion of the first year of law school. Failing to do so can result in loss of the credits for legal study accrued prior to the baby bar.
If you pass the baby bar outside of this window only one year of law study credit is granted toward the legal education requirements necessary to qualify for the California Bar Exam. These requirements are set out in Section 6060(h)(1) of the California Business and Professions Code.
Get More Law School Advice
The baby bar is just one of a series of hurdles that need to be passed in order to become a lawyer. 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 overcoming these obstacles and other relevant topics.