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Ask the Hiring Attorney: How do I show my bar status on my resume?

Job Seeker with Resume

Q: I’ve taken the bar exam, but I haven’t been admitted yet. As I send out resumes to law firms for entry-level attorney positions, how do I show this?

A: Be very clear what your licensing status is. Depending upon where you are in the process, you can indicate it in several different ways and update your resume as you move from one category to the next. On most attorneys and recent law school graduates’ resumes, there’s a licensure bullet point or section. If you’ve been admitted to practice, are active, and in good standing, then your bullet point is simple—something like this:

  • Bar Admission: California.

As I write this, the July 2016 bar is right around the corner, and the next exam date is February 2017. So these examples will use those dates:

  • If you haven’t yet applied to take the bar exam, but are eligible to take it: “Eligible for Feb. 2017 California bar exam.”
  • If you’ve submitted your application to sit for the exam, but have not yet sat for the exam: “Candidate for Feb. 2017 California bar exam.” Or “California (sitting for Feb. 2017 exam).”
  • If you’ve sat for the exam, but haven’t yet received the results: “Candidate for July 2016 California bar exam (results pending).” Or “Candidate for July 2016 California bar exam (results expected Nov. 2016).” Or “Sat for July 2016 California bar exam (results pending.”
  • If you’ve passed the exam, but not yet been sworn in: “California (admission pending).” Or “California (admission expected Dec. 2016).”
  • If you’ve been admitted, are active, and in good standing: “California.”
  • If you’ve been admitted, but are inactive for any reason, then use your state’s official language for your status: “California (inactive).” Or “California (inactive and in good standing).” Or “California (allowed to lapse).” Or “California (retired).” If you’re not sure of your status, then call the bar association to ask. The important thing is to use the correct terminology so that your resume is accurate.
  • If you’ve been admitted, but are not in good standing: Call your bar association immediately to find out what you need to do to correct the situation!

Importantly, if you took the July 2016 exam, and did not pass, then you don’t have to volunteer that on your resume. Of course, you’ll have to be honest if asked about it in an interview. But on the resume itself you can simply start over with “Eligible for Feb. 2017 California bar exam.”

A version of this article was originally published by Bloomberg Finance L.P. Reprinted with permission. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Shauna Bryce Shauna C. Bryce is a graduate of Harvard Law School with 20 years in law and legal careers. As a nationally recognized lawyer career coach, she works one-on-one with executive-level attorneys in Global 100 law firms and multibillion-dollar businesses in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, as well as regularly presents to groups of lawyers, career coaches, law students, and others. Her advice column, Ask the Hiring Attorney®, inspired by what general counsel and partner-level clients said they wish they had known while they were in law school, was originally published by Bloomberg Law. She’s the author of the How to Get a Legal Job® series and Bryce Legal® Career Advice for Lawyers blog.

  • Gina Kim

    Can I still say “admission pending” when I haven’t submitted the application paper yet? What do I say when I passed the bar, but still preparing application affidavits & havent actually applied for admission?

    • Shauna C. Bryce

      Each state’s admission process is a bit different, and the key to handling your status on your resume is to understand that process. You want to be clear about your status, rather than write something that might be misinterpreted. It sounds like it might be appropriate to say something like, “July 2016 bar exam passed. Admission application to be submitted by November 2016.”

      • S. James

        Hi Shauna,

        I am a law student. How do I get permission to reprint this article for my school newspaper? Or does Bloomberg already give permissions to reprint? Thanks

        • Shauna C. Bryce

          Feel free to contact me directly at Thanks for your interest and happy holidays!

  • Erfan Shariat

    In your opinion is it okay to mention on your resume that you passed the bar on your first attempt?