Why Do People Take the Baby Bar?

May 12, 2023

Law school students take the baby bar exam for various reasons. In California, where the bar exam’s notorious difficulty leads to low passage rates, the baby bar is a mandatory exam first-year students attending unaccredited schools must pass in order to continue their education.

In other words, if you’re a California resident and are pursuing a degree in law (typically online) from a college or university that doesn’t meet certain standards of academic excellence and integrity, you must pass the baby bar as a condition in continuing your unaccredited program. This helps increase your chances of passing the bar exam at the conclusion of your studies and becoming a sworn attorney in California. It also helps protect students from paying exorbitant tuition and fees for an education that doesn’t do what it advertises.

Although it’s not a requirement in many states, some law school students choose to study for and take the exam to get an idea of where they stand in terms of their knowledge and skills and get a taste of the bar exam.

About the Baby Bar

People unacquainted with law will probably interpret the term “baby bar” in a variety of ways. But those pursuing legal degrees will likely quickly make the connection to the bar exam each law school graduate must pass to legally practice law.

The baby bar, also known as First-Year Law Students’ Examination (FYLSE), is typically taken after the first year of law school. It covers a diverse array of basic legal principles and subjects such as contracts, criminal law and torts. The questions aren’t state specific and can gauge the knowledge and skills of law school students from all over the country.

The exam is seven hours long and consists of four essay questions and 100 multiple-choice questions. The exam is intended to measure a student’s legal knowledge and writing ability.

Do Law Students in Georgia Need to Take the Baby Bar?

The short answer is “no.” To reiterate, unless you’re enrolled in an unaccredited school in California, you don’t have to take the baby bar. This isn’t to say these requirements are set in stone. While California is the first state to mandate the exam, the rise of numerous unaccredited colleges might prompt other states to follow suit in the future.

If you’re pursuing or planning to obtain a degree from an accredited law school in Georgia or another state, you may not ever be mandated to take the baby bar.

California is not the only state that forces students of unaccredited law schools to jump through additional hoops.

Unaccredited law school students in New York (and some other states) must complete an LL.M degree at an accredited law school before being allowed to take the bar exam. Virginia has a set of criteria unaccredited law schools must meet for students to even be allowed to take the bar.

Both Alabama and Texas simply don’t allow unaccredited law school graduates to take the state bar. These restrictions may be waived in some states if the person has already been a practicing attorney in good standing in another state for a set period of time (usually three to five years) or has passed the bar elsewhere.

Benefits of Taking the Baby Bar

Even for students attending accredited law schools, taking the baby bar can have several benefits. It provides you with an opportunity to assess your knowledge and understanding of basic legal principles and identify areas where additional focus is needed early on in your studies.

The baby bar can also serve as good preparation for the actual bar exam, as it provides experience in taking a high-stakes exam that tests your legal knowledge and writing ability. Successfully passing the baby bar can provide you with a boost of confidence and a sense of accomplishment, which can be valuable in the often-challenging journey to becoming a licensed attorney.

How to Register for the Baby Bar

The baby bar is administered by the State of California twice a year—in June and in October. As of 2023, the exam is administered remotely, making it accessible to law school students outside of the state.

Registration for the baby bar is available online upon the creation of a personal account.

What Score Is Needed to Pass the Baby Bar Exam?

The passing score for the baby bar exam is 560 out of 800 possible points. The exam is divided into four sections, and a score of at least 140 out of 200 points is required to pass each section. Percentage wise, you’ll need a score of at least 70 percent to pass the exam.

The baby bar has a relatively low pass rate. For instance, in June 2021, only 20.7 percent of students passed the baby bar.

This goes to show how challenging the exam can be, and why it’s important for law students to prepare extensively for it. It can also be viewed as an indictment of unaccredited law schools and the questionable value of online remote learning for legal professions.

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