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Most New Associates Who Fail California Bar Can Keep Their Jobs — For Now

Xiumei Dong LAW.COM

What happens when a law firm’s incoming associate does not pass the bar exam?

The State Bar of California recently reported that only 31.4% of would-be attorneys passed California’s February 2019 bar exam—the second-lowest pass rate California has seen in more than 30 years.

More than 4,600 people took the February test, and roughly 1,500 test-takers passed the exam, which means over 3,100 won’t be able to practice law until at least July, when the next exam is administered. But many of them have already committed to jobs at law firms.

“Law firms have established policies about what do to when their associates don’t pass the bar; most law firms will give associates two chances to pass the bar,” said Kate Reder Sheikh, an associate recruiter at Major, Lindsey & Africa. “Just because they didn’t pass the first time, [it] does not mean that they are going to be out of a job. That is a positive thing.”

According to Reder Sheikh, Big Law associates who do not pass the bar exam on their first try are unlikely to be impacted immediately, as most of them are practicing under the supervision of senior attorneys. But if the associate does not pass the exam on their second attempt, they will likely be terminated, she said.

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