I am an attorney who passed the bar without attending law school. Ask me anything!
In the United States, there are four states that allow a person to qualify to take the bar exam without attending any law school: California, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Instead, the student studies between three and four years in a law office. Each state has their own rules regarding reading the law, but all require that the student study the black letter law in multiple subjects. A fifth state, New York, allows students to enter into a law office study program after completing one year of law school.
The most famous modern day reader of the law is Kim Kardashian. She is currently enrolled in the Law Office Study Program in California and recently passed the First Year Law Office Student Examination ("baby bar.")
I am fortunate to live in Virginia where I was able to enroll in and complete the law reader program. I passed the bar exam on my first attempt and am now a practicing attorney. I am including my acceptance letter into the law office program and my letter confirming that I passed the bar exam.
I have been asked many questions about the law reader program and becoming an attorney through this unconventional route, so I am offering an AMA today.
Copy of the letters: https://ibb.co/D7NMMjw
- Can I transfer my law license to another state?
No. Each start has their own requirements for admission into their bar and the vast majority require a Juris Doctorate degree. I think that there are a couple of jurisdictions (like DC and Vermont) that allow for reciprocity for an attorney without a JD, but I would have to double check. Overall though, law readers are somewhat confined to their state. A law reader from one state can't even transfer to another law reader state. Each state's bar at the end of the day has the final call on who they admit into their bar.
- Can I practice federal law in another state?
It is my understanding that tax courts and immigration courts have their own licensure requirements, so it may be possible for me to practice in those courts. However, I have no experience in those areas and so I have not looked more into those possibilities. Generally though, federal courts that are not specialized (like immigration and tax) require the attorney to be admitted into that state's bar.
- What resources did I use to study the law and for the bar exam?
From the start, I used Barbri and Quimbee. Those two resources helped me the most in learning the basics of the law. I watched all of their videos. I read all of Barbri's outlines. Whenever an outline referenced a case, I used Quimbee to review the case brief. I also purchased other legal study resources (books and lectures) for each topic. YouTube was a great source for lectures depending on the topic. There is a lot you can learn on YouTube!
Later, I started to use Emanuel's Bootcamp for the MBE (which I highly recommend), Critical Pass Cards, and BarMax's MBE question bank. The question bank in particular was very helpful starting my second year. I purchased the Studicata Attack Outline my third year, which helped me in the last areas that I was studying as well as during bar prep.
A full year before the bar exam, I started answering/ reviewing 10 MBE questions five days a week. By the time bar prep rolled around, I had completed the entire 1,400+ mixed question bank. I consistently received passing scores on the MBE practice tests.
The bar prep course I went with was Barbri, though I didn't follow their schedule. By that point, I knew what worked best for me and studying. I made my own schedule using their resources and that ultimately worked out well for me. What I found to be the most useful studying tactics were practicing essay questions by quickly outlining what I would answer (this exposed me to several essay questions), practicing MBEs, and outlining the black letter law from model essay questions.
- How did I remember all of the information?
One thing I learned pretty quickly is that I am not as good at memorizing things as I used to be when I was in college. I used mnemonics on the absolute must need to know stuff, like the elements required for a prima facie case. Everything else, I would retain the information by tying it back to something that I already knew. Instead of trying to learn clumps of new information then, I expanded on what I already knew.
Still, there were subjects that I had very little exposure to. For those topics, I focused more on learning and understanding the concepts rather than straight up memorization. I would read the outlines that Barbri wrote and then look up the case brief every time a case was referenced with a law. The case briefs provided stories as to why the law became the law. People remember stories better than memorization and that helped me too.
For the bar exam itself, I didn't worry about having exact definitions memorized. I instead focused on understanding all of the concepts so that if I needed to define something, I could in my own words. It was not as condensed as the study guide's definition, but I got the point across that I knew what the term meant.
- How did I remain motivated to study for three years?
I am very goal oriented. Each week I set goals for myself and always aimed to meet them. The study resources I used also provided lots of practice tests and exams. I practiced those often. When ever I would miss questions, it spurred me on to do better next time. I kept working on tests in a subject until I had a firm grasp of the area and could pass bar-exam level questions. I hate making mistakes, so missing questions motivated me to review that issue so I wouldn't miss it again. Seeing improvement was also motivating.
- Do I recommend the law reader program?
I would love to see more states have a law reader program option. However, I don't think that it is for everyone. There are cons to the program, like not having a JD at the end of the program. Many law offices require a JD.
Also, the law reader program is a very lonely path. Most of the time, the supervising attorney is working on his/her cases while the student studies in a separate office. Virginia only requires 3 hours of direct one on one time with the student. The rest of the time the student is studying on his/ her own. If there are questions, maybe the supervising attorney will know the answer and maybe not. In law school, there is a professor for each course that can answer questions. There are other students you can bounce ideas off with. But, law readers are mostly on their own. There is no one to commiserate with, and when you don't know an answer, you have to do the legal research to find it.
Of course there are pros, like not having the debt. This is very freeing because I don't have to take a high stress job or case load. I am also able to accept lower paid court appointed cases that help out my community.
Overall, I recommend the program to those people who have worked in the legal community, know what it is like to work in a law office and have the experience of working in an office. That experience is so incredibly helpful when studying for the bar. It also gives the person a real picture of what it is to be a lawyer, so he or she knows if that is the right career path to take.
Each person will have to balance the pros and cons for him or herself. Virginia's bar examiners wrote a memo on this issue here: https://barexam.virginia.gov/reader/readermemo.html
- What area of law do I practice?
Primarily family law. I was a family law paralegal for 14 years prior to taking the exam and it is what I know. Sometimes I do other small civil matters, like a minor real property issue or a breach of contract.
As a note, in the answers you will see I reference both 11 years of paralegal experience and 14 years. I had 11 years experience when I applied to the law reader program. During the three years I was in the program, I continued to work in my spare time as a freelance paralegal. By the time then I finished the program, I had three additional years of experience, for a total of 14 years.
- Can I help you with your Virginia legal problem?
I don't accept any cases through Reddit. However, there are some great resources out there to help people. The Virginia Lawyer Referral Service website is https://vlrs.community.lawyer/. For those with low income, resources include your local legal aid office and https://virginia.freelegalanswers.org/.
- What is the pass rate for law readers?
According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), between the years 2014 -2020, the national pass rate for law readers was an average 33%. (As a note, California's statistics for law readers are not included if there were less than 11 law readers taking the bar for that year. New York law readers were included.) Between 2014 - 2020, the average pass rate for law readers in Virginia was 22%.
In comparison, in that same time the overall national pass rate was about 59%. The overall average pass rate in Virginia was about 69%.
You can see more statistics here: https://thebarexaminer.ncbex.org/2020-statistics/
- Are you Mike Ross?
Based on these comments, I'm beginning to think I need to watch Suits..
Prior to taking the bar exam, I was a paralegal for 14 years. I already knew then many attorneys by the time I passed. Thankfully, I have not experienced anyone looking down on me. If anything, when attorneys find out I did the law reader route, they express great interest. Learning the law on your own is very challenging. I took the same bar exam and was responsible for the same material for the bar exam as law students.
A couple of attorneys have asked to talk to me because they know someone who wants to be a law reader. I am always happy to sit and talk with attorneys about the program or students who are in a law reader program.
I see what you're saying.
One way I can personally picture what you are saying is similar to trusting a registered nurse with 30 years of experience over a Junior Doctor.
That is a good analogy! It would be like if a registered nurse decided to study medicine to become a doctor. Instead of going to med school, she studies from the same or similar books and lectures at a hospital. Then after three or four years of study, she takes and passes the medical board exam.
It used to be that apprenticeship programs were more common for people to be able to do things like this.
Yes! I got some flack in another group because I used Kim Kardashian as an example instead of Abraham Lincoln or Clarence Darrow. My thought process was that back then, it was common and in modern times, it is not. I should have clarified though that Kim Kardashian is the most famous modern day law reader! Certainly Abraham Lincoln is more famous, haha
She has worked with The Innocence Project, or at least on behalf of freeing one inmate wrongly convicted, and while I have zero interest in her celebrity, if she applies her legal skill, and perhaps celebrity status, to this cause, I’m all for it.
I feel the same. She doesn't have to do any of this, but she wants to better herself and help other people in the process.
Can someone actually do that? I’m one year into the healthcare field and trying to figure out my best path forwards. I do poorly in traditional classrooms but perform much better at independent study. I’ve been trying to find out more about this process but hardly anyone has ever even heard of it.
No, I was just using it as an analogy.
Medical training definitely doesn’t work like that. All of the academics are worthless if you never learn the clinical practice. That’s what 1/2 of medical school is all about. And then 3+ years of specific residency training.
I know medical training doesn't work like that. It was an analogy.
Came here to ask the same question lol.
Where's Harvey? We have questions for him.
I don't know who any of these people are, lol
I’m guessing you did a lot of outside studying. How will this affect you in court? Can other lawyers or even judges discredit you because you didn’t got to law school?
I did a LOT of outside studying! My life for three solid years was studying. I studied between 30 and 40 hours each week. If anything, reading the law has helped me in court because I knew the local rules and local court procedures. That is something often not taught in law school.
Since I have a law license, I cannot officially be discredited by a court or lawyer for not going to law school. People can of course spread rumors and say mean things. Thankfully, this has not been an issue for me. The legal community in my area has been supportive of law readers. Off the top of my head, I am the third in my area to become an attorney through the law reader route. There may even be more.
Just here to say that this is awesome! I am an attorney, and law school is just the biggest scam ever. You absolutely don't need law school to practice law. You've got so much paralegal experience that you probably were more experienced than most attorneys even without taking the bar! I know that I could not survive at my job without my paralegal.
Thank you for those kind words!
Are you well versed in bird law?
No, but I do know family law!
OP, what is the law reader program? How did you get it and what did it cost?
I’m reading some of your comments and I’m amazed. 100 kudos for you, OP! You seem smart as hell!
Thank you for the kind words! The law reader program is an alternate way to study the law in four states. Instead of attending law school, the student studies the law inside of a law office under the supervision of an attorney. The student is responsible learning the same law as law students and ultimately is tested with the same bar exam as law students.
You can learn more about the Virginia law reader program here: https://barexam.virginia.gov/reader/reader.html
Between all the application fees, exam fees, bar prep course, study materials, hotel fees to take the exams, etc - my total out of pocket cost was about $8,000.
Just curious, did you have to pay for the supervision of the attorney who supported you? How did you convince them to take you on if not?
I did not. I was fortunate enough to have a family member serve as my supervising attorney. I know other law readers who worked as a paralegal for their supervising attorney first and found their supervising attorney by working. One supervising attorney even asked his paralegal to do it so she could work as an attorney in his firm when she passed, which she did.
What branch of law do you now work in?
I practice primarily family law, but have represented clients in minor civil matters.
My brother went to law school, graduated, and then spent about $8000 to take the test 6 times, the last time with a tutor. It really fucked with him and he’s been terribly depressed ever since and has stated multiple times what a complete joke he is for ever thinking he could actually be a lawyer.
He’s now thinking of giving up law and going back to school for ASL interpretation for court.
My question is, what advice, tips, tricks, hacks to help him study/pass? And, if you have any insight into it, ways that you’ve coped with failure in your life.
I am going to send you a private message about this.
Often times, we as members of society place a great amount of weight on someones capacity in a certain field by what university they graduate from (Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Oxford etc). Is this an opinion or point of view shared within your field? As in: Are you, or does it appear you are, looked at as a less capable attorney by virtue of how you attained your cert?
I practice in a small area that is somewhat rural. The law school that attorneys have attended here never come up in conversation. I am positive that is important in big law, but it is something that I have not personally come across and experienced. At this time, I practice primarily family law.
I have not felt at any point that others view me as less capable because of the study route that I choose. I also knew many attorneys prior to being admitted into the bar. I was a paralegal for 14 years in the same legal community. Having that experience and already being a part of the legal community in a paralegal role was very helpful.
To answer your question then, it really depends on the field and the location. The law school attended is going to be very important or certain positions and firms. For me, who just wants to have a small family law practice, it is not something that has affected me.
Unfortunately, Law and other similar professional programs are one of those that really do look into the Ivys or Top 20 Law Schools. When it comes to working with one of the big firms, the name really matters.
For sure there are going to be some firms that would not hire me. It works though because I would not want to work at those firms anyway. I prefer a more relaxed work environment. Different attorneys want different things from their positions. I would rather make less and enjoy my life more. Because I don't have the debt that comes with law school, I don't have to worry about taking high paying, but high stressed positions. I'm able to just take the cases that I want to take.
Kim Kardashian studies law…?
She is part of the Law Office Study Program in California! California's rules require that a student pass the baby bar before starting their second year. They also require 4 years of study instead of 3 years. I read a few weeks ago that Kim Kardashian passed the baby bar on her third attempt.
Yup, has been for a while now. Father's footsteps and all, I guess
I shat all over her when she first started, but I guess she recently passed some kind of milestone test so she can't be doing horribly
The baby bar is a challenging exam! I have tutored a couple of students preparing for it. That she was able to pass the baby bar means she has a fair chance of passing the actual bar. Still, the actual bar is much harder than the baby bar because it covers more topics. Preparing for the bar will be very challenging and she is going to have to devote a lot of time to studying. Still, she has resources many do not have! It may take her a few years, but I have a feeling she's going to eventually pass.
I've a similar story, but in electrical engineering. While I feel good about the path I've taken, I recognize my life and path to my current position would likely have been much easier had I gone the traditional route. Do you feel the same?
Congrats on your career! Looking back, I feel that the law reader route was the right choice for me. I have a different learning style than most. I think then, even if I had gone to law school, I would have had to still study extra at night to retain what I had learned. Also, those years I worked as a paralegal were good years to me. By doing the route I did, I had the benefit of both experience and studying. It worked out well for me.
This is not a path that I would recommend to most because it is extremely challenging. It was the right path for me because it felt like the next natural step in my life and career.
Without the 14 years of exposure do you think you could have done it?
It is very difficult to say. I don't think I could have successfully completed the law reader program and passed the bar with no prior legal experience. This isn't to say others can't, but I don't think that I could have. I learned how to 'think like a lawyer' while working as a paralegal. I learned how to make legal arguments as a paralegal. These are things you don't learn studying the black letter law. I often relied on my experience when I was analyzing an issue.
I went to law school and couldnt argue my way out of a wet paper bag, I was so young I didnt really understand any of it. Now I am thinking of doing the bar in the UK(I qualified in NZ), but it looks like a lot of work.
It is a lot of work. I would recommend reading a lot of model essay answers. Maybe that can help you start to form arguments, especially arguments you'll need to make for the bar exam. Reviewing model answers helped me the most for the essay portion of the exam.
Can you only practise in your state or the US. Or could you move abroad and be a lawyer too?
I can only practice in Virginia right now. Each state has their own requirements as to who can qualify to be admitted into their state bar. The majority of states require a Juris Doctorate. There may be one or two that I could eventually be admitted into through reciprocity, but the options are extremely limited as a law reader. That is one of the biggest cons of choosing the law reader route. There are some ways to practice in another state on a limited capacity, like through an immigration court or tax court, but I don't practice that type of federal law.
can you pro hac for a VA client as a law reader?
I have never looked into the pro hac rules for attorneys without a JD. I think it would be state dependent. I can represent any client in Virginia though.
what ab reciprocity? is the lack of a JD implicated?
Most states require a JD for reciprocity. There may be a couple jurisdictions that do not. I don't think that DC or Vermont do, but I would have to double check.
Each state has their own requirements as to who can qualify to be admitted into their state bar.
Don't you think that's bad? What if there aren't enough lawyers in one state but an excess in another?
but I don't practice that type of federal law.
What type of federal law do you practise?
At this time I don't practice any federal law. I should have worded that better. What I meant is that most federal courts require the attorney to be admitted in that state's bar. The exceptions are tax courts and immigration courts, but I don't practice either of those fields.
I don't think that any state has to worry about a shortage of lawyers, but I would love if they did change their reciprocity rules! I don't think it is bad they don't. Personally, I would love to see more states with law reader program options, but I respect the decision from each state bar as to what they require of their applicants.
Thanks for the quick reply. Do you like practicing law, or do you just do it because it pays well? (At least, I'm assuming it does.)
There are days I really love it and days I hate it, lol. Overall, I can't see myself doing anything else. The law is a large part of who I am now.
I decided to study to become an attorney because after being a paralegal for 11 years, the law was the only thing that I knew well. I didn't have experience in anything else. My choice then was to stay a paralegal or to become an attorney. There is better job security with being an attorney, so I opted to go that route. The pay is definitely better than that of a paralegal and I enjoy it more than being a paralegal too.
Well, seems like a great choice then! One more question:
Do you have any hobbies, or do you not have time for that?
I like gaming, haha
Could you become a judge in Virginia?
Yes! There have been judges in Virginia who started as law readers. At least one successful judge story is here:
What made you decide to take the leap from paralegal to attorney? What weren't you getting out of your career that you are achieving or hope to achieve now?
There were a couple of things. After working 10 years in a law office, I decided to become a freelance paralegal. As a freelancer, I was responsible for drafting everything from scratch for them. They usually did not provide me forms. I also worked with the attorneys on strategy. After working so many cases, I started to get confidence that I could do an entire case myself.
I also had to put in a lot of hours a freelancer because paralegals make so much less than attorneys. I hoped if I became an attorney, it would mean more money and better job security, which it has.
There were also times when I disagreed with how an attorney handled a case. I wanted the chance to be able to handle cases on my own. Last, it was very frustrating to know the answer to clients' questions, but not be able to answer them because it was considered legal advice.
I like being able to handle my own cases and to give advice to others. After so many years of not being able to give legal advice, my brain still defaults to that. I have to constantly remind myself that it is okay to give people that advice now.
Overall, I enjoy being an attorney more than a paralegal. I like being able to argue in court. I like handling the cases. I like giving out advice. I like the job security.
How did you stay motivated? It definitely seems different doing self study versus in school where you are paying for the education and have deadlines and papers to write.
I created a study schedule and goals. I am very goal oriented. While I didn't have official deadlines, I did have self-imposed deadlines. The bonus of being a law reader is that if I was having trouble in an area, I could spend longer on it. If I picked up something very quickly, I could move on. It allowed me to learn at my pace, which helped in retaining information.
What helped were the study aids that I purchased. (Quimbee, Barbri, BarMax MBE question bank). There were always tests that I could take and I took them regularly. If I didn't score well on a test, I studied more and kept testing until my scores were high. I didn't move onto the next subject until I had a firm grasp of a topic.
Do you believe there is any merit whatsoever to these state requirements like being in a "reading program" or being required to go through a law school? Why is sitting for and passing the bar by itself not enough if you think there is merit in those programs?
I think that all states should offer a law reading option. I respect though that there are people who disagree with me. There are valid reasons for both positions. The Virginia bar examiners prepared a memorandum that addresses some issues with the law reader program that may explain some reasons why most states have opted not to have a law reader program.
You can only be licensed to practice law in reciprocity states but you could still be admitted to any court pro hac vice, right?
I'm not sure if I would be able to be admitted into a court pro hac vice. I would have to read the rules. As for reciprocity, most states will only accept those who have a juris doctorate. There may be a couple of exceptions. I think the last time I checked, Vermont and DC were possibilities, but I am not completely positive. At this time, I plan on staying in Virginia.
I’ve phv’d into a lot of different courts, and don’t think I ever saw a requirement for a JD. They generally want a certificate of good standing from the top state court where you’re admitted, a record of every court you’re admitted in, a record of any previous phv admissions in that court, and a confirmation that you haven’t been reprimanded (or an explanation for any). Also a fee of course. And you’ll need local counsel.
Thanks for that information! That is good to know.
We’re you paid while studying? How did you afford rent/bills etc?
I was not paid by my supervising attorney while studying. During the program, I worked as a freelance paralegal and a private process server for a few attorneys. I was able to afford my bills because of the bit of money I got from the freelance work, my parents helping me, and dipping a lot into my savings.
It seems like a sort of cool, old-timey bootstrap story - like I picture a young Atticus Finch studying law books in his bedroom or something. 😂
I’m sure that’s not really what it’s like, though. Does everyone who follows this path have a lot of experience in a relevant job?
I actually know someone who had my job (California Workers’ Comp Adjuster) who is in the process of doing the same thing with a firm. There’s a specific senior attorney who is “sponsoring” her. I assume her goal is to eventually practice as a Workers’ Comp defense attorney at the firm where she’s studying.
But I always wondered if a random person, like someone fresh out of college with a pre-law degree, could do it (I assume Kim K is a unique situation 😂). I know Law School can mean lots of debt, so it seems like it could be smart if they can swing it.
You are not that far off in what you envisioned! It was a lot of sitting and reading. I don't think that everyone who follows this path as a lot of legal experience, which I believe is a reason why law readers overall have a low pass rate on the bar. The experience is so invaluable in helping teach the law reader how to think like a lawyer, which is necessary to write the essays on the bar exam.
I know someone who went into the LOSP program in California without any experience! Her supervising attorney had put an ad on Craigslist looking for a couple of law readers. Unfortunately, after her first year, she failed the baby bar. Her supervising attorney also had a medical emergency that caused him to go into early retirement. Losing a supervising attorney is one of the risks of being a law reader. It is very hard finding another supervising attorney.
Practically speaking though, I do think it would be very hard for someone with no experience to successfully pass the bar. I think that is part of what Kim Kardashian struggled with.
Do you think its possible to IP and copyright law as a reader? How do you find a lawyer or firm to take you on? What are realistic job prospects?
I have lawyers in my family and was able to find a family member to volunteer as my supervising attorney. I find that most law readers have a supervising attorney who they are related to or have worked for as a paralegal. A couple though are able to find an attorney by cold calling.
I would recommend that a person who wants to go into IP and copyright law as a reader to first look for work as a paralegal in those fields. The experience is invaluable and you will also learn what it is really like to work in a law office, to make sure it is the path that you want to take. After passing the bar, your supervising attorney may be able to help you find a position to work in.
From what I have seen, most law readers end up in the same field as their supervising attorney. It makes sense since that is what they learned and know. Job prospects for law readers are usually pretty good because the supervising attorney will often offer a position upon passing the bar. I know a handful of attorneys who were law readers and all of them found positions they were happy with.
What was the first case that you got?
The first case I accepted was actually for a friend who was in a dispute with her neighbor. I was able to help her resolve it. My first retained case was a custody matter.
Did you win?
Both clients were happy! I'm really careful to not share much detail about actual cases online.
Is not the Virginia law reader rules that you still need a bachelors degree? So you still need college, you just don’t need it in law?
That is correct. I have a 4 year bachelor of science degree.
What’s your knowledge on bird law??
I had to finally look up that this is a reference to "Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia," lol. I never saw the show.
A Federal court hearing a case under diversity jurisdiction involuntarily dismisses an action brought by a plaintiff without stating on the order whether the dismissal is with or without prejudice. May the plaintiff bring the same claim in state court?
Please don't give me civ pro flashbacks, lol
Are you able to ever practice outside of VA? Can you get reciprocity anywhere else? If you decided to move, could you even sit for the bar somewhere else? Or do you plan to spend your entire career in VA (and federal courts)?
From what I have looked into, DC and maybe Vermont may accept a law reader through reciprocity. I haven't found any other states that would. The vast majority require a Juris Doctorate degree. I practice primarily family law, so I have no plans on being an immigration or tax attorney. If I was an immigration or tax attorney, I probably could practice in another state through the immigration court or tax court. However, from what I understand, I would not be able to practice in most federal courts unless I was admitted into that state's bar.
At this time, I plan on staying in Virginia to practice. The limited jurisdiction is probably the biggest con to choosing the law reader route. At least though I know I never have to worry about taking another bar exam again!
How is the pay?
It varies, but in my experience, is about the same as other attorneys. (At least this is true in my field of family law).
How would this affect your ability to waive into different state bars? Can you waive into DC bar?
From what I have seen, I think I could waive into DC and possibly Vermont after so many years of experience, but I haven't found any other states that accept an attorney that lacks a JD for reciprocity. Currently, I am only licensed in Virginia.
Thoughts on the Kyle Rittenhouse case?
That case invokes a lot of heavy emotions in people, so I am going to avoid discussing it here. I am pretty sure if you head over to r/Ask_Lawyers, that somewhere that issue has been discussed.
I am not aware of a program like that in Canada, but I can't say for sure.
Kim kardiasian is trying to become a lawyer without going to school?
Am i the only one who thinks this isnt a good idea?
Congrats on your success!!!
The burden that Kim Kardashian will have to meet is very high. She will have to take the same exam as everyone else and the California exam is perhaps the hardest in the country. I know one California Law Office Study Program (LOSP) student who did pass the bar on her first attempt. It can be done, but it will be challenging.
To Kim Kardashian's credit, she passed the California baby bar, which has a low pass rate. The baby bar is similar to be real bar, except it is covers 3 subjects instead of 14+ subjects.
Is this sort of like a paid internship? Would it be the more financially responsible route for some instead of attending a traditional school?
It depends on the state. In Washington, it is my understanding that the law reader must work for the attorney and be paid. In California, it is optional for the law reader to be paid. In Virginia, the law reader is actually not allowed to be paid. The Virginia bar examiners want this to be a study program and not a situation where the law reader does work for the attorney. I wouldn't describe the Virginia law reader program then as an apprenticeship or internship. It is literally sitting in an office and studying the law through books, lectures, and speaking with the supervising attorney.
The law reader program is not for everyone. The student is required to learn an extraordinary amount of information on their own. I would only recommend it to people who already have some experience in the law.
There are many pros and cons to law school v. the law reader route. Finances is definitely a factor. There are other factors though, like how much you can learn on your own and where you want to practice. Law readers are very limited as to where they can practice. I discussed in other answers that most states require a JD to join their bar.
Is there any difference between what you can do and what a traditional lawyer can do?
The law license for an attorney who qualified to take the bar by completing the law reader program is the same as an attorney who qualified to take the bar by completing law school. I can technically do anything that a lawyer who went the traditional route can do in Virginia. I prefer though to stick with what I know, which is family law.
(If this came up already I apologize)
How long did you prep for the exam and did you use a particular set of resources (e.g. reading list from a lae school or similar)?
From Day 1, I looked at the program as a three year study for the bar exam. As I studied over the three years, I used bar prep materials to help me learn and test with. In my first year, I bought Barbri, Quimbee, and Emanuel's Bootcamp for the MBE for each of the subjects. I used other books and resources too. In my second year, I bought BarMax's MBE question bank. As soon as I finished the core 7 subjects, I started taking mock bar exams.
As I learned more subjects, I would keep doing MBEs on the past subjects I had learned so that I would not forget them. I started regularly answering 50 MBEs each week a full year before the bar exam. By the time bar prep started, I had already answered/ reviewed over 1,400 questions, plus the ones I had practiced over the years through Barbri.
I finished the law reader program in the April before the July exam. I took a few days off and then went straight into bar prep. I never stopped studying in the three years. Once I officially finished the law reader program, I started bar prep.
Doesn’t that way of passing aggravate some lawyers? If so, nice
I think it can sometimes. I understand because at the end of the day, we both have a law license, but I don't have the debt. Then again, I don't have the JD either!
Would you suggest that more folks in the applicable states do this? Especially considering the cost of law school / student loans?
It really depends on the person. The law reader program is not for everyone for a variety of reasons. I think it is best suited towards older people who have been in the work force for several years, especially those in the legal field. But, whether it is right for an individual is up to that individual and their circumstances. The Virginia bar examiners wrote a pretty good memorandum about the program here: https://barexam.virginia.gov/reader/readermemo.html
If you were too move to another state would they honor your degree? I know some states don’t have reciprocity like that
I don't have a law degree. The highest degree I have is a bachelor's. The Virginia law reader program doesn't offer any degrees or certificates - it just qualified me to sit for the Virginia state bar exam. Passing the exam meant that I was able to obtain a law license in Virginia to practice law. The vast majority of states require a Juris Doctorate to be admitted into their state bar through reciprocity. So, I am very limited on options on where I can practice. There may be one or two jurisdictions that would allow for reciprocity. I plan on staying in Virginia.
Once you have passed the bar in one such state, are you able to transfer your license into a state that does not allow you to simply sit for the exam? I.E. are you only really able to practice in those four states?
No - I can't transfer the license. I am not even able to practice in all of those states. I know for certain that California is rather strict with who they admit into their bar from those out of state. I think most attorneys, even those with JDs, have to take the bar in California if they want to practice there.
Most jurisdictions require a JD for reciprocity. There may be only a couple that don't. I think that Vermont and DC don't require the JD, but I would have to double check.
The biggest con to the law reader program is that the attorney is very limited about where he/she can practice.
How do you compare yourself to those who did go to law school? Do you feel they have a leg up? Or do you feel the practical experience you had from prior experience has given you a unique advantage?
Also, how did you set up your study schedule for the exam and what materials did you use?
I feel like going into the bar exam, a law student has the advantage, but when practicing law, the law reader has the advantage. Law school, from what I have heard, does not often prepare attorneys to the practical aspects of practicing the law. After a bit of experience, I feel that in at least my area of family law, attorneys are usually on the same level.
For studying, I made sure that I got a solid 8 hours of sleep at night so my brain was well rested. At the beginning of bar prep, I studied between 4 to 6 hours a day, which worked up to 6 to 8, 8 to 10, and then 10 to 12. By the end, the study time worked its way back down to about 5 hours a day. I felt ready for the bar in the weekend before the exam.
I used Barbri's bar prep, BarMax's mbe question bank, and Emanuel's Bootcamp for the MBE. I also used critical pass cards, but didn't find those to be helpful. During the three years I studied, I also regularly used Quimbee as a resource.
Thanks! One follow up:
Do you feel - or are concerned with - that once your Law School contemporaries gain(ed) some practical experience that their education will allow them to gain an edge over you? This is often the argument used in my industry (completely different but we still have to get a license) of going to dedicated program/school vs going the experience route. That after a bit in the field our education + practical experience will be greater than just those with practical. (That and it is faster to go through the programs, and thus you make more money faster. But I want to focus on the quality of the individuals produced)
They certainly have an edge on applying for new positions. I really like my current position though, so it is not an issue for me. A great thing about being a lawyer is that there is job security.
Each field is likely going to be different. I plan on staying with family law, which is a field I have been working in for a long time either as a paralegal or an attorney, so I am not concerned with someone having an edge over me. I'm sure though if I went into another field, it may be a valid concern.
At the end of the day with the law, the judge isn't looking at the person's education. They are looking at the arguments presented in court. It is very fact and procedure driven.
Why didn’t you jump through all the hoops and go to law school like the rest of us?
There were many reasons. I had been a paralegal for 11 years prior to going into the law reader program, so I was older than most other students. I already owned a house and was at least an hour away from the nearest law school. I also recognized since I was much older than the average student, I wouldn't have as much time to repay student loans. When I was in college, I learned that I didn't learn much from sitting in lectures and had to study on my own to keep up with everyone else. I did consider law school, but given my learning methods, the distance, and the cost, I opted for the law reader program.
How would this affect your ability to work? Would lawyers who "went thru the normal pipeline" look down on you?
Like a GED compared to a HS diploma?
I am in no way saying that a GED is somehow less than a HS Diploma. I actually think I'd respect someone with a GED a little bit more. But, some others may not view it the same.
View HistoryShare Link