Since I'm still not sure exactly where I'll be next year, I have been looking into the differences between taking the California and the New York bar exam. Conclusion: nobody in their right mind would take the California bar exam unless they were really, positively, absolutely sure that they were going to practice law in the state for the next fifty years.
For one, the CA bar is ridiculously expensive. About $200* to register as a law student in California (and if you don't do this, you can't take the bar). Then there's about $500 for the moral character application. (Get this in quick, folks, the price goes up in January) Which seems a little expensive, given that the government does a way more intensive check when it does security clearances and doesn't charge you a dime, tax dollars aside. Then there's the test itself - somewhere in the range of $800. Add another $150 if you want to use your laptop.**
The New York Bar, by way of comparison, costs about $250 as far as I can tell, plus a $100 laptop fee. Incidentally, in both cases, the laptop fee seems to be to cover the license for the ExamSoft software. I'm having trouble believing that the software costs $50 more on the west coast.
Of course, you have to fly out to Albany to take the exam. Which starts at 6 am Pacific time. Plus, unless you're lucky enough to have relatives in the area, you'll be staying at a hotel and eating cheap take-out - not exactly ideal test taking conditions. On the upside, the NY bar exam is only two days long. There are less essay questions, and they're shorter. On the downside, classes at Boalt don't cover NY law for the most part, so you'll have to learn all the state specific stuff during BarBri. On the upside, BarBri does offer a NY course out here.
Both the NY and the CA bar exams are notoriously tough, so it's a pretty even draw there - although NY does have a slightly higher pass rate. All in all, it seems like NY is probably a better bet if you've got a job lined up that gives you the flexibility to choose.
Any alums who've taken both have any thoughts on the matter?
* All numbers are approximated from the online research I did yesterday. If you want to get the actual figures, you're probably better off checking the official websites rather than relying on me.
**What I want to know is, where is all this money going? Does the head of the bar association have a really nice wine cellar funded by law student dollars? Or do they actually do something useful with it, like scholarships or legal aid clinic funding?
Labels: Bar Exams