California Supreme Court Approves Expansion of Provisional Licensure Program

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By Juan M. Villalvazo

On January 28, 2021, the Supreme Court of California issued an order approving the State Bar of California’s proposed amendments to Rules 9.49 and 9.49.1 of the California Rules of Court to expand the Provisional Licensure Program to include applicants who received a score between 1390 and 1439 on any California Bar Examination administered between February 2020 and July 2015.  The program, which officially launched on November 17, 2020, permits qualified applicants to be admitted to practice law in California without having to retake the Bar exam if they complete 300 hours of supervised practice. The Court approved the Bar’s initial proposal with respect to the Provisional Licensure Program on October 22, 2020 in Administrative Order 2020-10-21-01, which only granted eligibility to individuals who became eligible to sit for the California Bar Examination between December 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020.  Provisionally licensed lawyers can engage in the same activities that a fully licensed lawyer is permitted to engage in, under their supervising lawyer’s direct supervision and subject to certain restrictions

According to a January 8, 2021 memo from Board of Trustees member and Chair of the Provisional Licensure Working Group, Hailyn Chen, to the Members of the Board of Trustees Executive Committee, the State Bar estimates that more than 2,000 applicants could be eligible for the alternative licensing program under the newly-expanded program—which roughly twice the number who had applied to the program to that point. The Bar’s website advises that applications for the expanded program will be available in the Applicant Portal no later than March 1, 2021, and must be submitted no later than May 31, 2021. The program will terminate on June 1, 2022, unless extended by the Court.

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