Solo & Small Firm

California Provisional Licensing Program Launches

Applications are now available online for 2020 law school graduates to seek provisional licensure, enabling those who have not passed a bar exam to practice law in California under the supervision of fully licensed lawyers. The initial group eligible for provisional licensure are those who graduated law school between December 1, 2019, and December 31, 2020.

“In these uncertain times, the program creates a measure of certainty for both new law graduates and those who employ them,” said Donna Hershkowitz, Interim Executive Director. “We are encouraging licensees to consider offering employment or volunteer assignments to new graduates eager to begin their careers. We hope that the program expands access to justice at a time when the needs are only increasing.”

Provisionally licensed lawyers will be able to engage in a broad array of legal activities, subject to supervision. Applicants must have an employment offer, conditional employment offer, volunteer opportunity, or conditional volunteer opportunity lined up. They must submit a declaration from the supervising lawyer along with their application within the Applicant Portal. Applicants must also pay a small fee and meet all requirements, such as already having submitted a complete moral character application. The application procedure and requirements are detailed in these FAQs. The State Bar also plans to implement an online directory that will enable the public to search for provisionally licensed lawyers.

Possible expansion discussed

At a meeting on October 14, 2020, the Provisional Licensure Working Group voted to recommend that the program be extended to those who scored 1390 or higher on the July 2015 bar exam or any subsequent exam. The working group is scheduled to meet on November 20 to assess whether, for this cohort who previously scored 1390 or higher, the program should serve as a pathway to full licensure that would not require retaking the bar exam. Any recommendations to expand the program will circulate for public comment before being submitted to the Board of Trustees for approval, after which they would go to the Supreme Court for final approval.

The provisional licensure program lasts until June 1, 2022, unless extended by the Court. As currently structured, when the program ends, provisionally licensed lawyers wishing to continue practicing law will have to meet all normal requirements for admission, including passing a bar exam.

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