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California High Court OKs Some Law Licenses without Bar Exam (1)

Oct. 22, 2020, 7:41 PMUpdated: Oct. 22, 2020, 9:51 PM

The California Supreme Court has approved a new rule creating a temporary lawyer licensing program for 2020 law school graduates as an alternative to the bar exam.

The provisional licenses will be open to anyone who was eligible to sit for the California bar exam between Dec. 1, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2020. Applicants must have an offer of employment, or a commitment to volunteer with a law firm, legal services organization, corporate legal department, or government agency prior to applying.

The program, which takes effect Nov. 17, will serve as a stop-gap measure for law school graduates who haven’t yet passed a bar exam but want to practice until the program ends in June of 2022, unless it’s extended by the court. Participants will need to pass the test to remained licensed after that time.

The court had initially directed the State Bar of California to create the program in a July 16 letter. The high court noted at the time that California had canceled its in-person exam, like many states, in favor of a later online test held earlier this month.

“The court recognizes that postponement of the bar examination may impact employment prospects, delay incomes, and otherwise impair the livelihoods of persons who recently have graduated from law school,” the court wrote at the time.

Another court statement issued Thursday added a little more information about the program. The court said provisionally licensed attorneys who take but do not pass the test will continue to be licensed until the June 2022 program end date.

A provisional licensure working group will meet on Nov. 9 to hash out additional details, including the type and number of hours of supervision that will be required, according to court spokeswoman Merrill Balassone.

A working group will meet on Nov. 9 to hash out additional details about the path to licensure for those who scored 1390-1439 on a bar exam within last five years, according to court spokeswoman Merrill Balassone. The court in July lowered the passing bar exam score from 1440 to 1390, but declined to make the change retroactive.

(Updated with additional information in the final paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Skolnik in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at; Rebekah Mintzer at