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I’m a first year associate in nyc thinking about taking the CA bar. This pandemic has made me realize I don’t want to be far away from my family. Continued in comments...

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Couple things: 1. You can identify all references that you don’t work with to avoid anyone at your firm finding out, but you can’t stop the bar from contacting your current employer as part of their Character and Fitness review. 2. The California bar exam is legitimately harder than every other state’s. I took it two years out from law school after already having passed two others and don’t think I could have passed if I wouldn’t have been given a few weeks off work to study for it full-time. It will be very hard to justify the nose-dive in your billables if you try to keep it a secret. It will also be very hard to explain a three-day absence in the last week of July after a month of being less available. If people don’t suspect you’re taking the bar, they’ll probably suspect you’re interviewing at other firms and planning to quit—which is bad considering you’ll have to wait until November before you even know if you passed. 3. It’s a lot easier to apply for the bar if you can leverage an assistant to run down some of the paperwork (e.g. certificates of good standing, etc.). If you’re doing it all on your own because you have to keep it a secret it will be a huge pain. All that said, it’s a bad idea to tell your firm you want to leave unless it’s “I want to leave to go be in your California office.” Even then, you shouldn’t expect support from partners to move to another market when the need they were filling when they hired you was in New York. A better move is trying to lateral to a California firm that will pay for you to take the bar after being hired. That’s very hard to do with only one year under your belt unless you’re at a very prestigious firm already. If that’s not the case (or until you have another year or two in private practice), start leveraging your law school network: who do you know at firms in California? Can they share your resume? What are they hearing from their new friends at other firms in town? Good luck, and I’m sorry. It’s very hard to be away from family and you’re right to want to be nearer to yours.

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I just started my job 6 months ago but I wonder if I should get the exam over with while I’m young. Do I need to tell my firm that I am applying to take another state’s bar? I’m worried they will think I’m leaving soon. I’d like to stay with my firm for at least a year or two. Advice?

I would not tell your firm a peep about anything that makes it look like you have one foot out the door at all in this climate. Not a peep.

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