The State Bar seeks comment on a proposal, created by a working group formed at the direction of the Board of Trustees, which describes an alternative pathway to attorney licensure that does not include the two-day bar exam. Length of comment period: 30 days.
Deadline: October 25, 2023, 11:59 p.m.
Comments should be submitted using the online Public Comment Form. The online form allows you to input your comments directly and can also be used to upload your comment letter and/or other attachments.
In October 2020, the California Supreme Court established the Joint Supreme Court / State Bar Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the California Bar Exam (BRC), with a mandate to evaluate potential changes to the California bar exam and explore alternative methods for assessing minimum competence for entry into the legal profession. Over 17 months, the commission gathered input from various stakeholders, including other states and countries, law schools, psychometricians, and experts from different fields. In the end, the commission recommended the development of a California bar exam (and related recommendations) but did not reach a consensus on an alternative pathway.
In May 2023, the Board of Trustees voted to transmit the recommendations regarding the bar exam to the Supreme Court, but at the same time expressed a desire to review a specific proposal for an alternative pathway. Subsequently, a working group composed of former BRC members who supported an alternative pathway developed a proposal with input from experts and stakeholders, which was submitted to the Board for consideration at its September 2023 meeting. The Board directed that this proposal be circulated for a 30-day public comment period to be consistent with how the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations were treated.
The working group recommends adopting a Portfolio Bar Examination as an optional alternative pathway to licensure. Candidates who choose this option would obtain provisional licenses (in lieu of sitting for the bar exam) and work under the supervision of licensed California lawyers for four to six months. During that time, they would assemble portfolios of work product that would be assessed by independent graders trained by the State Bar to determine minimum competency to practice law. Work product would be redacted to protect attorney-client privilege, supervisors would consent to submission of the work, and graders would use assessment rubrics developed through psychometrically sound practices to ensure consistency in grading. Candidates who achieved passing scores on their portfolios would not take the two-day bar exam but would have to fulfill all other requirements for admission to the State Bar.
Staff will provide a fiscal impact analysis of the proposal itself when the item returns from public comment.
The full proposal for the Portfolio Bar Exam is set forth in the following report to the State Bar Board of Trustees. We encourage commenters to review the report in full before commenting:
Alternative Pathway Working Group
October 25, 2023, 11:59 p.m.