legal specialist examination Information

Oct. 27, 2015 - Save the date for the next Legal Specialist Examination. Registration available Spring 2015.

In the meantime, visit your legal specialty page to begin tracking your experience and education or do it after passing the examination. It's your choice.


The next legal specialization exam is an all-day test that will take place on:

Date:    Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015

Location:    Oakland Convention Center/City Center Marriott in Northern California
                    Pasadena Convention Center in Southern California.

Examination Fee:  TBD

Additional Laptop Fee: TBD (to use your personal laptop to type the exam using Examsoft)

The Legal Specialist Exam is the first step in the two-step certification process. After passing the one-day exam, you must submit an application detailing your compliance with the remaining certification requirements, primarily task and experience, legal education and positive references.


Click on an area of law to review the standards for certification, exam specifications and sample exam questions.  At this time, the packets from 2013 are posted.  These will be updated in early 2015.


Hotel, Transportation and Parking Information

There are many hotels near the testing sites. Some applicants choose to stay at a hotel nearby the night before the examination. The doors will open at 7:00 a.m. on the day of the examination at the testing sites.

Parking is available for a fee at both testing centers.

Exam Format and Purpose

Each exam consists  of 75 multiple-choice questions and eight essay questions. There are no optional questions; each examinee is expected to answer all questions on the exam.

The purpose of the exam is to verify that an applicant has a basic knowledge of the usual procedures and substantive law that should be common to certified specialists in a particular field of law. The exam asks applicants to demonstrate their proficiency in an area of law by:

  • using and applying legal principles rather than merely repeating them
  • analyzing the facts presented
  • selecting material from immaterial facts
  • discerning the points upon which the case turns
  • identifying and resolving issues
  • showing knowledge and understanding of pertinent principles and theories of law, their relationship to each other and their qualifications and limitations

After passing the exam, applicants must file a post-exam application (which some people start well before the exam) documenting completion of required tasks and education and providing the names of references.

Reference Materials

Reference materials are allowed during the exam only for the following subject matter areas:

Bankruptcy Law: Bankruptcy Code and Rules
Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law:  California Probate Code
Immigration and Nationality Law: Immigration & Nationality Act only
Taxation: Internal Revenue Code only

Publications must be completely free from markings, writing, highlighting, underlining, or tabs of any kind.  Only the publications listed above will be allowed, and only for applicants taking examinations in the subject areas specified.

Use of Laptop Computers

A laptop bulletin will be posted shortly.

Release of Results

Legal Specialization exam results are generally released approximately four months after the examination is administered. Results will be mailed to the applicant at his or her address as listed on the applicant's My State Bar Profile.  No public pass list will be posted.

Contact Us

Questions about the examination or eligibility for certification can be directed to:

Department of Legal Specialization
The State Bar of California
180 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639
415-538-2180 (fax)