Kim Kardashian — celebrity, entrepreneur, mother of four… lawyer? If you’ve been following CNN and other news outlets, you may already know that “Kim Kardashian West is studying to become a lawyer.”
More recently, you may also have learned that “Kim Kardashian says she failed the ‘baby bar’ exam” where in typical reality television style, she shared her deep disappointment with her sisters and the global media at the same time.
Celebrity or not, the journey from education to career is as unique as each student. Some study law to practice as a lawyer, others study to supplement and elevate their careers with a deep knowledge of the law. Some forgo the traditional law school structure for online law school, or like Kardashian, undertake a legal apprenticeship instead of a juris doctor degree program.
To obtain a license to practice law as a lawyer, you must ultimately successfully pass the general bar exam, at a minimum. The general bar and the baby bar are different exams. So what is the “baby bar,” and where does it fit into the process?
About the Baby Bar
Law students in registered internet-based Juris Doctor programs in California must pass the California First-Year Law Students’ Examination (FYLSE, or FYLSX). The affectionate nickname given to the FYLSX is the “baby bar.” Also, those involved in a law office or judge’s chamber apprenticeship must pass the baby bar exam to receive credit for their studies.
The baby bar exam is administered by the State Bar of California twice a year, in June and October. It’s taken at the end of a student’s first year of law school, and it’s challenging. In fact, the exam is so challenging that the rate at which students pass can be even lower than the general bar exam. Kim Kardashian’s description of the baby bar exam was “harder than the official bar.” The baby bar is a tool that serves to both train and safeguard law students early in their education.
There are advantages to taking the baby bar:
- Checks and Balances
The baby bar exam requirement serves as a consumer protection measure. This early assessment of a student’s disposition for the study of law provides an opportunity for the student to confirm that a law degree is still the right fit — before they continue further into their studies and debt. The baby bar exam can also serve as an impartial indicator of the quality of legal education being offered.
- Real-world Preparation
Structured similarly to the general bar exam, it provides real-time experience in the bar examination environment.
- Breadth of Material
Unlike the general bar, which requires students to be competent across 15 subjects, the baby bar covers only 3 subjects. If the general bar is a decathlon plus a pentathlon, the baby bar is a mere triathlon.
- Testing Insight
The baby bar provides law students with numerical scores that reflect the quality of their learning and test-taking skills. This is useful for identifying where to improve before taking the general bar exam.
- Grading Insight
It allows law students the opportunity to test their skills with graders using a group calibration method similar to what is done for the general bar exam.
What’s On the Baby Bar Exam
The baby bar consists of multiple choice questions and an array of 4 essay questions. The exam is taken on a single day and covers criminal law, contracts and torts.
Thanks to Law and Order, CSI, and other crime drama shows, criminal law topics on the baby bar have become familiar to many through pop culture. As an advocate for prison reform, this is likely to be one of Kim Kardashian’s particular topics of interest.
These exam questions relate to assault, battery, larceny (theft), embezzlement (employee theft), kidnapping, rape, arson, and homicide (murder and manslaughter). They include possible excuses and defenses that can be used to counter prosecution charges, such as self-defense and claims of insanity. Crimes of conspiracy could potentially involve many co-defendants and instances of recruiting help, known as solicitation. For the new student, the opportunity to study and learn these topics is often met with eager excitement.
Many find contracts questions to be the hardest ones. Yet, given familiarity with apartment leases, mortgage documents, employment agreements and car rental arrangements, it could easily be the topic most familiar to a working adult. Contracts lawsuits can focus on the understanding of oral and written deals, the breaking of promises within a contract (aka breaches), and defenses that parties can offer for why they break their promises. Everyone has dealt with many contracts over a lifetime. Contracts lawyers are focused on ensuring that their clients’ rights are protected. They often use creative problem solving skills to come to a solution that satisfies the needs of both parties. Expertise in this area can be a valuable asset in just about every business.
Torts can be a mysterious topic on the Baby Bar exam. Unlike crimes where the state prosecutes, torts are civil lawsuits where individuals or companies sue one another over matters of private liability. For example, torts also include assault, battery, trespass to chattel (similar to larceny/theft), and wrongful death. False imprisonment (confining a person against their will) is similar to kidnapping — just without moving the victim. Other exciting torts issues are defamation (publishing false information), negligence (legal carelessness), and harm caused by wild animals (think lions, tigers and bears)! Defective products that hurt consumers and abnormally dangerous activities are also part of the mix with torts. Finally, invasion of privacy issues are part of torts as well, and cover topics such as making money off of someone’s fame (misappropriation), publishing private information about health and finances, and presenting information so unfairly that the tort is aptly named “false light.”
Voila! This trio of subjects is all students need to know for the Baby Bar exam.
Opportunity, Not Obstacle
Students preparing for the baby bar would be well served by viewing it as an opportunity to sharpen and hone their skills. In the past, a legal education was available only to those with significant financial resources and freedom from family and career-related responsibilities. But as the internet ushered in an era of alternate options to education, it also invited scrutiny. Those who believe that a non-traditional education is somehow subpar are corrected each time those law students pass the necessary exams and become attorneys, licensed to practice law through the bar association.
What can be learned from the public attention that Kim Kardashian is bringing to the baby bar exam process? Students preparing for the baby bar might now realize that those with unlimited budgets are not necessarily first-time passers. Those who pass often do so because they dedicate adequate time and effort. And hopefully, family and friend support groups who have never before heard of the baby bar exam will give those “first years” they care about more time, distance, and study space to prepare.