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It’s the latest Kardashian story to take the celebrity media by storm, whether we like it or not — “Kim Kardashian Is Studying to Become a Lawyer, Wants to Take the Bar in 2022.” Responses to the story waffle between the usual “Who cares?” (well, somebody, apparently or else magazines wouldn’t keep posting stories about the family) to people defending Kim for doing something constructive with her life. The only response I haven’t seen — and the one that immediately sprung to my mind — is, can she actually become a lawyer without, you know, going to college or law school? Because last I checked, the only Kardashian to graduate from college was Kourtney, who got her degree in Theatre Arts (can’t say she hasn’t gotten her use out of that) from the University of Arizona.
Much to my surprise, she can.
Today, four states — California, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington — allow aspiring lawyers to take the bar exam without going to law school. Instead, they are given the option to apprentice with a practicing attorney or judge. (New York, Maine and Wyoming offer an apprenticeship alternative as well, but also require some law school.) In California, where Kim famously lives, this option is called the “Law Office Study Program” (rule 4.29 under the state bar’s legal code). The one possible hiccup? Odds of actually passing are extremely low. In fact, the California Bar exam has a passage rate of less than 50 percent, and that rate shrinks to less than five percent among exam takers who didn’t graduate from law school.
Yes, just five percent.
But I would argue we shouldn’t underestimate Kim, who has admittedly exceeded most expectations from way back when she first gained notoriety for being Paris Hilton’s friend and a sex tape star (remember when those were all the rage?). After all, it’s in her blood; her father was a well-known attorney, successfully defending O.J. Simpson during his 1995 murder trial. And she seems motivated by good intentions, telling Vogue that she decided last summer to to begin a four-year apprenticeship with a law firm in San Francisco, with the goal of taking the bar in 2022.
Kim, 38, has been working with author and CNN commentator Van Jones and attorney Jessica Jackson, cofounders of #cut50, a national bipartisan advocacy group on criminal-justice reform, for months, visiting prisons, petitioning governors, and attending meetings at the White House.
Last year, she successfully petitioned President Donald Trump to commute the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent drug offender. After Johnson was released, a major bipartisan piece of criminal justice–reform legislation, the FIRST STEP Act, was passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump in December.
“I had to think long and hard about this,” she says of her decision, explaining that she eventually decided to embark on the journey after “seeing a really good result” with Johnson.
“I never in a million years thought we would get to the point of getting laws passed,” she says. “That was really a turning point for me.”
However, she admits she felt out of her element, which prompted this desire to educate herself.
“The White House called me to advise to help change the system of clemency,” she says. “And I’m sitting in the Roosevelt Room with, like, a judge who had sentenced criminals and a lot of really powerful people and I just sat there, like, Oh, s—. I need to know more.”
“I would say what I had to say, about the human side and why this is so unfair. But I had attorneys with me who could back that up with all the facts of the case,” she continues. “It’s never one person who gets things done; it’s always a collective of people, and I’ve always known my role, but I just felt like I wanted to be able to fight for people who have paid their dues to society. I just felt like the system could be so different, and I wanted to fight to fix it, and if I knew more, I could do more.”