In response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in July 2020, the California Supreme Court directed the State Bar "to implement, as soon as possible, a temporary supervised provisional licensure program—a limited license to practice specified areas of law under the supervision of a licensed attorney." The State Bar convened the Provisional Licensure Working Group, led by Trustee Hailyn Chen, which crafted the draft rule. Following the adoption of the initial rule, which applied only to “2020 law graduates,” the Working Group reconvened and developed a rule to expand the program and create a pathway to licensure for a defined set of previous bar takers.
On October 22, 2020, the California Supreme Court issued an administrative order approving New Rule 9.49, which implemented a Provisional Licensure Program for 2020 law school graduates. The program launched November 17, 2020.
The original program allows eligible 2020 law school graduates to practice law as provisionally licensed lawyers under the supervision of fully licensed lawyers who meet the requirements of the rule and who agree to assume professional responsibility over the work of the provisionally licensed lawyers. To become fully licensed, they must take and pass a bar exam and meet all other requirements for admission. On May 26, 2022, the Supreme Court extended the program until December 31, 2022.
On January 28, 2021, the California Supreme Court issued an administrative order approving Rule 9.49.1, expanding the Provisional Licensure Program. The expanded program applies to individuals who scored 1390 or higher on any California Bar Exam administered between July 2015 and February 2020, as determined by the first read score or final score, regardless of year of law school graduation or year satisfying the educational requirements to sit for the bar exam.
Those eligible for the expanded program will not need to retake a bar exam if they complete 300 hours of supervised legal practice in the Provisional Licensure Program, receive a positive evaluation from their supervisor(s), and fulfill all other requirements for admission to the State Bar. On May 26, 2022, the Supreme Court extended the program until December 31, 2022.
Provisionally licensed lawyers are allowed to engage in all of the same activities that a fully licensed lawyer is permitted to engage in, under their supervising lawyer's supervision and subject to certain restrictions. Both the provisionally licensed lawyer and their supervising lawyer are expected to abide by all applicable State Bar rules and guidelines and are bound by the disciplinary authority of the California Supreme Court and the State Bar.