(This is a con­tin­u­a­tion of Sit­ting for the Cal­i­for­nia Bar as a For­eign­er – Part 1.)

Sit­ting for the Cal­i­for­nia Bar as a For­eign­er — How can I sit for the Bar Even If I Have Not Tak­en an LLM in the US?

I have re­ceived won­der­ful mes­sages from for­eign col­leagues around the world who want to sit for the Cal­i­for­nia bar, many of those who have an LLM abroad and are con­sid­er­ing not pur­su­ing a new de­gree in the US. Their core ques­tion is: Can you sit for the bar even if you have not tak­en an LLM in the US?

My an­swer is: YES. You are smart and have ac­com­plished a lot in your home coun­try, and many times, in oth­er coun­tries as well. Cal­i­for­nia does not re­quire a law de­gree pri­or to the bar, and there are many suc­cess­ful peo­ple who have passed the bar even with­out hav­ing a law de­gree at all (most no­tably, one of the Legal­Zoom founders, Ed­ward Hart­man)

Nev­er­the­less, prepar­ing for the bar is very dif­fer­ent than a Mas­ter’s de­gree. As a for­eign­er, you will need to ded­i­cate­ly study the Cal­i­for­nia laws, and for that, here is my ad­vice:

(1) Keep your mo­ti­va­tion high — Be­lie that you will be a Cal­i­for­nia lawyer and that this will be key in your ca­reer.

Are you plan­ning to live in the US and take a job there? It may sound cheesy but it is re­al­ly true: you need to be high­ly mo­ti­vat­ed, and in par­tic­u­lar, you need to be­lieve that the Bar will be the nec­es­sary key to the life you want. You must treat the bar in your mind like the US work visa — it is a nec­es­sary manda­to­ry step. Study­ing for the bar as a for­eign­er is a huge ef­fort, and I know so many peo­ple who in their minds be­lieved that pass­ing the bar was “op­tion­al” (that there would be oth­er jobs for them in the US or else­where, even if they did­n’t pass) and I think that played against them. My sug­ges­tion is to trick your­self to be­lieve that the bar is your Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.

If you can con­vince your­self, in­side you, that is is what you need to do and that you ab­solute­ly need this for the life you want to lead, then you will be in the right mind­set to face the prepa­ra­tion and the ex­am it­self.

In my case, while I was­n’t sure that I was go­ing to live in the US right af­ter the bar (and in fact, I did­n’t), I was al­ways con­vinced that at some point I will come back to live in Cal­i­for­nia, and at that time the bar will be as im­por­tant as the US visa to ac­cess the pro­fes­sion­al and per­son­al life that my fam­i­ly and I need. And in­deed, hav­ing passed the bar has been so en­rich­ing for my pro­fes­sion­al ca­reer, even liv­ing out­side the US for now.

(2) Find your “re­treat” (if pos­si­ble, in Cal­i­for­nia) be­fore the ex­am

I think one of the things that helped me the most was study­ing for the bar at the uni­ver­si­ty li­brary, dur­ing the US sum­mer. There were many oth­er class­mates study­ing for the bar and the en­er­gy, si­lence and mind­set was very help­ful to keep a study­ing rou­tine. Note that I was still work­ing part time for Ar­genti­na, I had an 18-month old ba­by and was 6 months preg­nant with my sec­ond, so there were a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties for dis­trac­tions. How­ev­er, be­ing in the li­brary and see­ing my high­ly-mo­ti­vat­ed class­mates was very help­ful to help me put aside many oth­er ac­tiv­i­ties; warn­ing fam­i­ly, friends and clients that I will be slow to re­spond (and even set­ting the out-of-the-of­fice no­tice in my email) and post­pon­ing fun meet­ings and events for af­ter the bar. The li­brary was my re­treat.

I feel that if you study for the bar while keep­ing your nor­mal rou­tine, your en­vi­ron­ment (boss­es, friends, fam­i­ly) won’t un­der­stand why you need to take time off and why you need no in­ter­rup­tions to study. Hav­ing

Your re­treat could be 1–2 weeks at a time, or a week­end, or maybe “every day af­ter 3pm”. You need to find the sched­ule that works for you, but keep that time blocked to pri­or­i­tize study­ing and mem­o­riz­ing.

I sug­gest go­ing to Cal­i­for­nia be­cause there is some­thing in­deed spe­cial about Cal­i­for­nia, and be­ing there will be an ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion. But I think that your re­treat could be any­where — as long as you take it as a re­al re­treat, just the bar prep and your­self.

I hope this is help­ful! Feel free to con­tact me with your ex­pe­ri­ences.