Can one become an attorney without a law degree in the United States, such as by passing the state bar exam? Which States in the U.S. allow this?

  • This depends on the state/country. There is no single answer.
    – MSalters
    Feb 25, 2020 at 15:31
  • @MSalters Thanks. I narrowed the scope down.
    – Geremia
    Feb 25, 2020 at 15:40
  • It is also worth noting that it is possible to be a judge without being a lawyer in many states where it is not possible to be a lawyer without passing the bar exam. For example, New York and Colorado, where I am admitted to practice, are among them.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 26, 2020 at 1:37

1 Answer 1


California, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington allow a person to substitute a pattern of study in a judges or lawyer's office. In California, this is per rule 4.29 of the California Bar, and rule 6 of the Washington Supreme Court. These states require the candidate to be supervised and tutored by a practicing attorney or judge, which makes it challenging to actually satisfy the requirement. There are also provisions whereby one might substitute the fact of being a practicing lawyer in a common law jurisdiction (which opens the theoretical possibility that one might not have attended law school in that country).

  • My grandfather "read the law" in North Carolina (in the early 20th century, so it's likely that this is no longer possible in North Carolina) and served as a county judge in addition to his private law practice, so I presume that being supervised by a practicing judge or lawyer only applies before being admitted to the bar.
    – phoog
    Feb 25, 2020 at 17:32

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