Steps & Requirements Before Becoming a Lawyer in California

Now that you’ve finished law school, you might be wondering, “What now?” It’s a loaded question, similar to the one more common one: “How to become a lawyer?”, but you’ve already survived the hardest part, which is studying and learning the ropes.

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There are a lot of places in California where you can practice, and depending on your chosen field of law, a lot of clients to help out. Here are some things that can help you before you become a certified California-based lawyer.

What do lawyers do?

I’m done with law school. What now?

Lawyers can be defenders and confidantes for everyone. They will help in the resolution or prevention of legal problems. Once you become a lawyer, you can do:

  • Drafting of wills
  • Give advice to those who are thinking about filing for divorce
  • Prepare bank documents for mortgages and big loans for clients
  • Provide knowledge and advice to corporate clients about international and interstate tax laws.
  • Put a criminal behind bars (or defend them from service time)
  • Settle disputes between landlords and tenants.

You don’t have to necessarily spend some time in a courtroom when you become a full-pledged lawyer. You can choose to work in an office instead, side by side with your paralegals, doing analytics for corporate clients or accounting firms.

Lawyer Requirements

Are there any requirements before I become a lawyer in California?

Of course, like when you were applying to law school, there are also requirements before you can be admitted to the bar. General requirements include:

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  • Your age must be at least 18 years old
  • Completed a minimum of undergraduate college education or passed equivalency exams
  • Must be a graduate of a law school accredited by the State Bar or approved by the American Bar Association.
  • Registered with the State Bar within 90 days of your start at law school
  • For some schools, some students are required to pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination.
  • Bearer of a positive moral character determination
  • Passer of the California Bar Examination and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
  • Have a social security number, not applicable to those who are exempted

Wait, how do I obtain a positive moral character determination?

It’s basically a background check that lasts between four to six months. If you want to become a lawyer in California, you need to get a positive moral character determination.

You need to fill out an application, submit fingerprint cards, and provide them with references that can attest to your moral character.  The Committee of Bar Examiners’ Subcommittee on Moral Character will put these things into consideration before they give you the go signal:

  • Proof of your candor and honesty
  • Your respect for the rights of other people and the law
  • Fiscal duty
  • Proof of how trustworthy and allegiance in other fields where you’re licensed

It’s your responsibility to prove that you have good morals. If you’ve been previously convicted with multiple or serious felonies then it will automatically give you a negative mark. Drug and alcohol related offenses could also be red flags. If, by any chance you don’t pass, you can always make an appeal to the State Bar Court.

California Bar Exam

I failed the bar exam. When can I take it again?

You can take the bar exam on the next scheduled one. However, once you pass, you need to take the attorney’s oath within five years of passing.

I already have a California license, but I want to take my practice to New York. Is that possible?

Of course it is. However, you need to find out about your target state’s requirements for lawyers (you might need to take a course at a local law school in New York). Mind you, this also means that you have to take the bar exam again, but for that state’s exams.

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These are just the things that you have to know before you become a lawyer. It has been a difficult and time-consuming path, but once you take the attorney’s oath, you’ll feel relieved and happy that you’re now on your way to helping others with their legal woes.