Legal Apprenticeship: What Is It & Is It Right For You?

By this point, we’ve all heard about Kim Kardashian and her journey to becoming an attorney. You might be wondering, along with lots of others, what the hell she’s doing to go down this path. Well, you’re in luck because I am currently doing the same thing as her!

Currently, only a few states in the US allow for prospective lawyers to forego law school for a legal apprenticeship instead, California being the most prevalent. Not many people are aware of this alternative, and in my opinion, there is good reason. This program is through the State Bar of California (or the other states that participate, you’ll have to check which ones they are) and requires a multitude of steps to begin the study.

First, you’ll need to submit an application through the CalBar website, including your transcripts, an initial report your supervising attorney fills out, and various other pieces of information. Once this is submitted, along with a check for $125 or $150 (I can’t remember the exact cost), a background check will be performed on you and as long as you pass this, you are ready to begin studying.

There are no real rules to this apprenticeship, other than you must submit monthly exams to the Bar once every 6 months, a payment for this report, and a list of all reading materials completed. The requirement is 20 hours per week for 50 out of 52 weeks of the year, and students must pass the First Year Law Students Exam upon completion of their first year. You will NOT receive credit for one year if you do not submit the proper reports and exams to the Bar. That is basically everything you need to know about the basics of the program.

Why I Don’t Suggest It

While this option is extremely cost-effective if you are interested in becoming a lawyer, there are many nuances you miss out on by not attending law school. This is all very personal, of course, and everyone has their own learning style. For me, I learn by studying, reading, discussing the material, and listening to lectures and feedback from peers. In this environment, you only have one professor (your supervising attorney), and it is up to them how often they lecture, if at all. All your reading and assignments or lack of assignments is controlled by the supervising attorney, and more often than not, your attorney is extremely busy with their own caseload. This makes it very difficult to get the proper education necessary to pass exams and writing exercises.

Again, everyone is different! This might work wonderfully for someone else. With the classroom setting, you get the advantage of professors who know the purpose of law school is ultimately passing the Bar. Your curriculum is extremely structured, and you have the benefits of office hours, peer study groups, and TA hours. This might sound counter intuitive, but you also have assignments in law school, which end up being beneficial in the long run.

Conclusion

I’ve completed my first 6-month period of my apprenticeship, and I am definitely thinking law school is the better path for my style of learning. I am super grateful for my supervising attorney (who was one of my professors in my undergrad and also happens to be my boss), but I think I will be pursuing a law school career!