California lawyer landscape: unquestioned scrutiny amid change

California lawyer landscape: unquestioned scrutiny amid change

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2020 | Ethics & Professional Responsibility

The California bar exam is nationally known for both its singular length and ardor. Its flat-out rigor is unquestioned, and its passage rate over many years has routinely been the lowest for would-be attorneys anywhere in the country. Most people who take the California bar – even those individuals who manage to pass it – don’t retain fond memories of the experience.

Although that is unlikely to ever change, a recent adjustment in bar particulars — arguably seismic – promises to render the ordeal a bit less grueling and stressful.

To wit: The state’s Supreme Court recently announced that the passing score commencing with the upcoming October exam and going forward thereafter will be lowered from the previous minimum score of 1440.

And not by just a slim margin. Notably, the threshold for success will now be defined by a 1390 score, which spells a significant drop of 50 points from the long-tenured status quo.

Imagine how that news was received by the legions of prospective test takers who will now have a bit of extra wiggle room in achieving a passing score and securing a coveted license to practice law in the state.

And imagine how it feels to test takers of the recently concluded February exam who fell below the 1440 margin yet still clocked in with at least a 1390 tally. They might reasonably view that their currently adjudged failure will now be reclassified as success retroactively by bar authorities.

Sadly, that is not the case, and justices of the state’s highest court are clearly not about to budge in their non-retroactive ruling.

So, and at least as far as California’s vast legal community is concerned, the newly finalized rule going forward spells both a win and a loss, depending on the audience contemplating it.

One thing it does unequivocally signify is the ongoing and exacting scrutiny of licensing considerations for aspiring attorneys in California.