Friday, July 23, 2010

The Baby Bar

Chances are, if you went to an ABA accredited law school and graduated in good standing, you have never heard of the “Baby Bar” in California. My blog has been dedicated to complaining about law schools today, and because I have spent a lot of time preparing for California’s Baby Bar these past months, I have been taking some time off. My apologies to the cause!

The Baby Bar is a nickname for the First-Year Law Students Examination. You only have to take it if you did not go to an ABA accredited law school or were academically disqualified after the first year at an ABA accredited law school. It covers only torts, contracts, and criminal law/procedure.

I spent months preparing for it and finally took it at the end of last June.
It costs over $600 and, like any other law exam, you can see that much of the money you have expended is spent for rather outmoded security precautions. They’re always trying to catch people taking the exam for someone else, but you get the impression they also just use the stodgy security precautions as a sort of intimidating ritual. How many people do they actually catch each year trying to take the exam for someone else?

My most shocking revelation with the California Baby Bar is that so many non-Californians were taking it. I first met a guy from Utah who was a student of a correspondence school based in California. Then I met a guy from Missouri, who was retired and had no intention of ever practicing law in California. The woman I sat next to during the test was from Wisconsin.

I am told only 20% of the testers will actually pass the Baby Bar, but that isn’t because it is so difficult. The low passage rate is attributed to the fact that these are mostly self-taught legal minds—the people who are just itching to practice law, but whose grades and LSAT scores aren’t good enough to get into an ABA accredited law school.

The most vicious rumor I heard about it is that California considered long ago discontinuing this exam, but they keep it going because it generates a lot of revenue. That’s a cynical assessment, although I can only imagine that it’s true.
I have used this blog to hash out the theory that the only reason I ended up in the bottom 10% of my law school is that I failed to learn how to write the essays. I think I might have even missed an important Saturday lecture when this was explained to the other students.

For the Baby Bar, I picked up a Fleming’s legal writing workbook that clearer than any other source shows how legal essays should be written, using IRAC, but using the legal term for the “I” (or “Issue”) all in capital letters and underlined. The “R” (or “Rule”) should have specific elements to it, if possible. Otherwise, the multiple-choice section of the Baby Bar was much easier than the Multi-State multiple choice questions that I used to prepare with.

I’m almost willing to say that this is my last hurrah with law, and if I don’t pass this Baby Bar, there really is something beyond my reach to law and I should take back all my complaints and let the world be run by the youngsters that are outdoing me. Then again, I do have three chances to pass this thing.

Meanwhile, I find myself believing that I really do respect the law more than most of the colleagues that I have talked with. I really can’t bring myself to say “I want to be a lawyer,” but find it easier than others to say that justice is important and corruption is bad. When there is no justice in the legal system and corruption is rampant, we have every right to complain about law schools and all the other legal institutions beyond law school. That’s a different breed than many successful lawyers.

In the meantime, for my own purposes and desires, I am probably preparing for my legal career where I’m going to be at my best—among all the other Baby Bar slackers. Calling the legal education system dysfunctional and even corrupt is not the task of a law school brat whose feet never touch the ground.

Working for justice and against corruption takes some real work and sacrifice. To that end, I am proud to be the bad boy of law.


  1. I have never heard of this in the law before! I've heard that medical schools in the Caribbean have the same sort of test after the first year of medical school because they want to make sure their passage rates stay high. So, if you go to medical school at St. George's, for example, and you flunk the mini step 1, then they expel you and your dumb ass won't make the school look bad in their passage rates for the real step 1 test that is issued by the Officials. Great idea, right?

    1. Not true. I was a med student at SGU. Please don't start rumors you don't know to be true. Be a good lawyer and check your facts first.

  2. This is a great scheme for the borderline-accredited California TTTTs and TTTTTs. They get a full year of tuition from the entire class. They get to drop those who cannot pass the Baby Bar, so that their bar passage rates are not affected. And they can accept as many first year students as possible in subsequent years. It is a tremendous cycle of incoming cash.

  3. Actually, Nando, you hit the nail on the head, and this is something I should have developed more.

    The California TTTTs will cull up to 30% of its 1Ls routinely. Meanwhile, after I was culled from an ABA TTT, one of these California TTTTs has been courting me: pass the Baby Bar and will let you continue as a 2L. In fact, my old TTT actually referred me to this TTTT and their tuition is the same as the TTT: 700+/unit. In other words, the TTTTs collect all the culled scraps from the TTTs, and, because the culling process in general is so brutal and imperfect, can pick up some sparkling new 2Ls who scored higher on the LSATs than their usual class of 1Ls. It's one big happy loaf of spam.

    Meanwhile, the TTTs and lower openly insist that the national ranking system is not fair, and students should ignore it. Secretly, they are serving the ranking system with all their hearts and mind.

    Another devise the TTTTTs use is the "hardship case." My original TTT denied my petition for hardship, but the night school TTTTT I'll probably go to will accept my hardhip petition which will allow me to continue. It is so dishonest and manipulative, not to mention greedy, but the only other option out of this sleaze is to quit altogether.

    I'll have to write another blog post about all this.

  4. I scored a 157 on the LSAT and had a 3.25 GPA from one of the top public universities in the country. I could have probably gained admission to then-TT, now-TTT, McGeorge School of Law, but instead chose to enroll at Lincoln School of Law in Sacramento (one the better CBA-accredited law schools). The reasons were purely financial. I could not pass up the opportunity to graduate in 4 years with no debt (since the cost is much lower and tuition can be paid out of income from work).

    After one year at the CBA school, however, I became burned out. Working 40 hrs. per week, attending class 16 hrs. per week, and spending many hours studying inefficiently (i.e. briefing every case) contributed to the burnout and resulted in low grades. And after I didn't pass the Baby Bar the first time, I got discouraged and decided to quit.

    A few years then passed, but I never lost the desire to obtain a J.D.. Thanks to California's liberal rules, I am now getting a second chance to finish law school in an affordable manner. To prepare for this summer's Baby Bar Exam I bought some used Barbri books and learned the black-letter rules more clearly and consisely than I had before. I also used the Bar Breaker book and the Barbri Essay book to learn how to more efficiently write an exam essay. It seems I did not quite pick up these skills through osmosis during my 1L classes!

    I could not care less about getting a job at a large or medium-sized firm. My only dream is to be able to practice law, and I am very confident that I will be successful in this endeavor. However, knowing what I know now I will never again attend another B&M law school. There are corresepondence and distance learning programs that have bar passage rates as good or better than many CBA schools and even some TTTT schools. Economically, I would find it too difficult to justify. Practically speaking, passing the bar requires dedication and long hours of study. There is no way to get around this fact. Although there absolutely are advantages to attending a TT or higher law school, I could not in good conscience take on $100,000 or more in debt, especially in this economy where even many experienced attorneys cannot find satisfactory legal jobs.

    It may be shocking to some to hear about California's flexible bar admissions rules, but if you ask me it is even more shocking that more aspiring law school students have not heard about, or honestly considered, choosing a non-ABA accredited route of study in California.

  5. The problem mainly is that in all cases (whether coming from an accredited law school in the states or overseas), we all get burned out by the massive workload and pressues associated with graduating law school. My third year at Southwestern I nearly quit and had to rely on the firm support of my family to get me through the final months. At the time, I was so worried about passing the bar that during my preparations (I was using a friend's old BarBri book at the time) I nearly fainted one evening.

    What i did that made it much easier on myself was pass from the information heavy BarBri manual to the lighter, yet still comprehensive attack sheets of Tony Breeden. They really took a lot of the pressure off and were not expensive at all. Without so much undue pressure on my shoulders, I could focus on piecing all the seperate information together come exam time.

    So my advice to all current law students, whether preparing for the Baby Bar (if international) or the real thing, is to try to disassociate the pressure of preparing for the exam as much as possible from the actual preparation. Especially on such a considerable task, this approach makes for a more painless overall bar exam experience.

  6. Did you end up passing the Baby Bar?

  7. You need to have a super power memory as they require you to know almost everything.
    I reviewed the materials and they are not that difficult in content. Just need to remember all of them, as there is very little margin for error.

  8. Great post Heckenberg Lawyers firm specializes in disputed will cases, contested deceased estates, as well as divorce, de facto relationships, family law and conveyancing.

    Estate Litigation Lawyers Sydney

  9. I told my personal injury attorney Arizona that sometimes I do not like to see hearings because it's killing me really.

  10. Nice article. I think it is useful and unique article. I love this kind of article and this kind of blog. I have enjoyed it very much. Thanks for your website.
    Utah attorney

  11. Is there a limit on how many times you can re-take the exam if you fail?

  12. Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. I went to a correspondent law school in CA, Concord, why that school? I read an article in LA Times that it had the highest bar pass rate ever, even higher than brick Ivy League law schools from back east. That cemented my choice. The limit is not three. It's 3 to take the baby bar DURING your 2nd year. You may continue to take Baby Bar continuously until you pass. The catch ONCE & AFTER you pass the Baby Bar, is now you must repeat 2nd year and continue where you left off. I passed the baby bar on the 4th attemp. Actually it was my 3rd attempt but because I missed taking one exam during my 2nd year, it is still considered 3rd exam. You have three attempts period during your 2nd year to take BB. Once at end of year 1, assuming you successfully completed 1L, then 2nd attempt is at mid year, and 3rd attempt is at 2nd year end of 2L. that said, I finally graduated from law school Dec. 2009, with electives and concentration in Administrative Law, Contract Law, Cyberlaw, IP Law (Intellectual Property), and finally Patent law. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life working full time and attending Law school and with a newly born son. It is not for the meek or faint of heart. I was reading ALL THE TIME, at BBQ's, picnics, B-day parties, X-mas, T-giving. ETC, etc., etc., The key for me to pass the BB was after the exam, they give you back your written exams, you are permitted to see your MBE's, GO SEE THEM, it's a very short window, but request and appointment, you cannot take notes and take anything out, but it was an eye opener, After I saw them, it was a REAL eye opener, I passed on the next try. I've taken THE BAR and have not passed, and they don't allow you to see those MBE's ever. I will probably take it again this year July...2015...

    1. Have you passed the BAR now? Do you know if CONCORD still has this sterling reputation as surpassing ABA-accredited schools?

  14. The FYSLE is the biggest rip off in California. I will bet that many students in and ABA school couldn't pass it. Why is the BAR weeding out students and not the schools? It's about generating more revenue to keep the BAR alive. There are a lot of extremely smart people attending the non ABA schools. Many are adults who don't want the expense related to an ABA school. Remember, the law is the law, therefore, all students get the same legal information. ABA schools are simply members of the good ole Boy club, therefore, they needs to be another accrediting body for other schools. BOTTOMLINE, the FYLSE SUCKS, IT PASSED IT, $800 for exam, $700 for air travel, $ 650 for hotel. IT SUCKS!

  15. The Baby Bar is a money maker for the State of California, and a way to weed out good cfuture lawyers. Half the ABA students could not pass it. If ABA and non ABA schools are both teaching the same law, there is no way to honestly justify the FYLSE. $700 a pop, plus several thousand students taking the exam mean $$$$.
    The graders are bias, for example: I had several law professors grade my FYLSE essay which the BAR scored a 60. Two other professor graded the same answer 70 and 75, what the FUCK!
    I don't trust the California BAR as far as I can see those fucks.

  16. I failed in my first attempt, but now I am putting a lot of efforts in my Bar Exam Prep. It has been my dream to become a successful lawyer and before that get into the best law school possible. I have always wanted this kind of respect and power with me.

  17. I have to disagree with a lot of what folks concluded above. I attended a California only accredited law school many years ago and passed the Baby Bar and bar exams each on the first time. The Baby Bar is there to protect students who have no hope of ever passing the actual Bar Exam from being exploited and passed through by the non accredited law schools eager to keep taking their tuition money. If some of these schools had their way they’d be happy to keep churning students just for the cash. My first year class began with about 100 students. After attrition and the BB we had maybe 30 some in years two thru four. About 10 or so of us passed the bar the first time. I expect a few more eventually passed later. Without the BB requirement I expect years two thru four would have been at least 50 students; more tuition to the school but more wasted money for most of those students. I don’t have much respect for most of what the government in California does but the Baby Bar requirement is one area they got right. Rather than ripping off students a few hundred dollars for a test they are saving most of the thousands of dollars of wasted tuition money by making them realize they simply are not cut out to practice law. At the same time the system does, unlike most other “ABA or nothing” states a genuine opportunity to reach that goal.