California Seeks To Raise Bar Exam Fees

The State Bar of California has just proposed a slate of fee increases for law graduates and attorneys seeking to become licensed in the state, as part of a larger plan to boost revenue amid a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall.

It would be the state’s first bar exam and moral character review process fee hike since 2016.

Under the proposal, the cost of registering for and taking the California Bar Exam would go from $796 to $1,000 for law students, a 26% increase. Those fees would increase 50% for attorneys licensed in another jurisdiction, rising from $1,197 to $1,800.

The moral character determination fee—which covers the bar’s applicant review of past conduct—would increase 32% to $725 for law students and 54% to $850 for attorneys seeking to be licensed in the state.

The costs of renting hotels and convention centers, rising staff salaries and inflation have increased the price of administering the exam, the State Bar said. The public has until July 31st to submit comments.

According to the State Bar, its admissions functions are expected to operate at a $7 million deficit this year, with a reserve of $4 million. The State Bar has an overall budget of nearly $270 million. The reserve is not enough to cover future operations without fee increases and cost reductions, it said. As part of the effort to cut costs, the State Bar has proposed reducing the number of bar exam sites to six from between 14 and 16 for the July exam and between 10 and 12 for the February test starting in 2024.

The plan calls for three large test sites in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Ontario, with sites for exam takers receiving testing accommodations at the State Bar’s offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as a site in Orange. Existing test locations in San Diego, Sacramento and Oakland would be eliminated.

The State Bar is also pursuing a $107 increase in the annual fees paid by lawyers active in the state—up about 25% from the roughly $500 fee that most active attorneys pay. Any increase will require the approval of state lawmakers. A state auditor in April found that the organization was outspending its annual revenue and faced a projected deficit of $4.3 million this year.

You can read more about this proposal  here .

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