legal specialist examination Information

Oct. 27, 2015 - Registration is now closed. The next Legal Specialist Examination will be on Oct. 24, 2017.

If you have already registered for the Legal Specialist Examination, you should have already received an information packet containing relevant bulletins and your admittance ticket which was mailed out on Oct. 5, 2015 to the address listed on your My State Bar Profile. To view an electronic copy of the bulletins, visit the forms page.  

In the meantime, visit your legal specialty area's page to learn more about your particular examination and to decide whether you want to fulfill the other requirements before the examination or take up to three years afterward.


The Legal Specialist Examination is a one-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:  $600 for registrations received by the Oct.1 final deadline

Additional Laptop Fee: $150 (to use your personal laptop to type the exam using Examsoft SofTest software)

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. 


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 the testing centers.

Exam Format and Purpose

Each exam consists  of 8 essays administered over four hours in the morning and 75 multiple-choice administered over 2.5 hours in the afternoon. 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 experiences and education and providing the names of attorneys and judges familiar with the applicant's work in the specialty area.

Reference Materials

Most applicants will not be allowed to bring reference books into the examination rooms and those examinations have been designed with this in mind.  Applicants taking any one of the following four examinations are allowed to bring in a code book as follows, in either the annotated or unannotated version:

Bankruptcy Law: Bankruptcy Code and Rules
Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law:  California Probate Code
Immigration and Nationality Law: Immigration & Nationality Act only (NOT regulations)
Taxation: Internal Revenue Code only (NOT regulations)

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.  Publications must be bound, commercial volumes.  Homemade or home-printed copies or electronic copies are not allowed.

Use of Laptop Computers

When registering for the examination, examinees may choose to handwrite their essays or to type their answers on their own computer.  If choosing the typing option, you will be sent a link in October to download ExamSoft SofTest's software on your computer by October 23, 2015 at noon so that you will be able to type your answers at the examination.  You will be able to use your computer normally after downloading the software.  You will bring your computer for the morning session, and then take it away over the lunch period.  No computers will be allowed in the testing room during the afternoon session.  All registrants will use pencil and paper to take the multiple-choice portion of the examination.

Release of Results

Legal Specialization exam results are mailed on March 16, 2016 to the private address listed in the examinee'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 94105-1617
415-538-2180 (fax)