The California Bar Exam - Dumber than You Think


I had my first day of BarBri yesterday and they spelled out the mechanics of the Bar Exam. Most of the logistical stuff I already knew. Some came as a bit of a surprise.

In addition to the one-day, six-hour, 200-question multiple choice "multistate" exam (covering Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law including Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts), there are two days of essays (one hour each, six total) and "performance" tests (three hours each, two total). These two "state-specific" days cover everything on the multistate plus seven other subjects - Civil Procedure, Community Property, Corporations, Professional Responsibility (rrrrr!), Remedies, Trusts, and Wills.

Here's the kicker: You only need to know California law for three of the subjects - Community Property, Wills (but not Trusts), and Professional Responsibility. Everything else is either Federal Rules or majority rules. Given the fact that law schools don't teach California law, this is good news in terms of preparation, but still seems pretty dumb. Especially with respect to Civil Procedure (where California is one of the few - perhaps the only - state that still has Code Pleading instead of Federal-style Notice Pleading) and Evidence (where the Federal and California Rules differ in at least a few important ways). Rumor has it that starting next year it'll be California Civil Procedure instead of Federal.

I had assumed that the Bar Exam tested your ability to know and understand California law. I guess it's just there to make sure you're smart enough to be a California lawyer (which judging from some of the attorneys I've come across can't be a very high bar).


Why is it called the Bar? Is it simply that you must "be as high as the bar" in order to practice? Is there some history there?

You must be at least this tall to ride this attraction!

I'm sure there's some quaint common law explanation. I think it had something to do with the actual bar that barristers stand behind when appearing in court in England.

I read that there was a bar in the old Supreme Court, and you had to pass the bar to argue before the court. Something like that.

I mean literally a metal bar.

In England, medieval times, taverns (literally bars) were used as court houses. Being "called to the bar" had a literal meaning back then.

England continues this tradition - in order to be called to the bar in England, you need to be a member of one of four Inns of Court - Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on May 26, 2005 7:24 AM.

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