Note about this FAQ: Most of the answers to these questions are specific to California’s Law Office Study Program (LOSP). We hope to have separate FAQ pages about other states’ comparable programs in the future. We have additional questions and answers in this blog post.
Is there any stigma attached to LOSP in the court room? When applying for jobs? Is there an indication on your bar card that you did not go to law school?
According to multiple California attorneys we have spoken to, judges and clients do not treat apprentice-lawyers differently once they have become an attorney through the LOSP rather than law school. Many people might even find it admirable.
Many attorneys agree, however, that those who successfully complete the LOSP (instead of going to law school) will find it more difficult to get a job at a large, high-paying firm unless they have years of experience in a very area of law that the firm is looking to hire for. LOSP attorneys typically end up working with their colleagues from their time in the LOSP, working for public interest organizations, or starting their own small firms.
Your bar card does not indicate that you participated in the LOSP. But once you are an attorney, anyone can look up your name at the California Bar website to find out where you completed your legal education.
Can I be paid for my time as a legal apprentice?
Different states have different rules regarding this issue. The California State Bar doesn’t have rules or guidance on this matter, so it is left to be determined between the supervising attorney and the apprentice. Apprentices and supervising attorneys should discuss their circumstances and determine an arrangement that works. Some supervising attorneys hire their apprentices as paralegals, assistants, or clerks, so there is an employer-employee relationship in addition to the mentoring component of the LOSP. Christina, one of our bloggers, has a part-time job outside of her legal apprenticeship. At the law firm that hosts her as an apprentice, she observes the attorneys, sits in on client meetings, generally learns the ropes in that field of law, and studies on her own unpaid. However, from time to time, her supervising attorney hires her as a contractor at a fixed hourly rate to assist with work for clients. Yassi and Ricardo, our other apprentice bloggers, are paid to work for the Sustainable Economies Law Center 30 hours per week, and their apprenticeship is an extension of their work at the organization.
What might I miss out on if I do an apprenticeship instead of going to law school?
In a tough and high-stress environment like law school, most law students find that the support network and camaraderie that emerges among peers in their cohort is the best and most useful component of law school. We suggest that, if you choose to do a legal apprenticeship, you look for other apprentices who can support you and share experiences. It is helpful to study with others and may help you to gauge if you’re on track. Additionally, the prestige of having a JD from certain well-known law schools, as discussed above, could be an issue depending on your career goals.
Is there a good time of the year to start the apprenticeship?
You can begin the apprenticeship whenever you are ready, and whenever your supervising attorney has been practicing law for 5 years. If you want to be able to take the bar exam immediately after finishing your four years as an apprentice, then be aware that the Bar Exam is typically offered in February and July each year.
How do I prepare for the First Year Law Students’ Exam?
The First Year Law Students’ Exam (FYLSE) is similar in format and difficulty to the Bar Exam except that it only covers three topics; criminal, contracts, and tort law, whereas the full Bar Exam covers those as well as nine other topics.
The essay portions of previous exams are available on the Bar’s website here. Many apprentices use the monthly exam requirement to take practice tests from Bar test prep books such as those put out by Barbri, the CrunchTime series, the Examples and Explanations series, and others. Most of these books have plenty of practice tests (both essays and multiple choice). There are also bar prep tutors available for hire.
How is the First Year Law Students’ Exam graded?
We’re still trying to figure that out ourselves. Click here to download a copy of the two page sheet of info that one of our apprentices got from the Bar after failing the First Year Law Students’ Exam.
Why is this site called “Like Lincoln”? Did President Lincoln become a lawyer through an apprenticeship?
Abraham Lincoln became a lawyer by “reading the law,” or in other words, independent study, which is a huge component of the Law Office Study Program and other legal apprenticeship programs. Lincoln did not participate in a formal apprenticeship. While many aspiring attorneys think they need a JD from a high ranking law school to become a successful lawyer, we think it’s important to remember that one of the most celebrated Presidents in U.S. history became a lawyer without going to law school at all!