Monday, April 27, 2015

The PTLS Program for Law Students in California

By Maggie

Lately I've been thinking about all of the things I wish I'd known before I started law school. I definitely would have approached it differently, had I seen the bigger picture or had any idea of how crafting my curriculum could work, or how your choice of classes affects opportunities you can have throughout schooling AND in employment... 

In an effort to help other students, I'm hoping to post a few blog pieces with advice and clarification. This will be pretty specific for Berkeley Law students, but it could be helpful for others.

First up, the "PTLS" Program. If you want to get real trial experience while you're in law school, this is a great opportunity. I had never heard of it until my supervising attorney at the DA's office my 1L summer mentioned it.

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Here's what you need to know:

1. Register with the California State Bar. Now.
Cost: $113.00 (payable by credit card - see linked fee website)
You will need your "Admissions File No." for all PTLS paperwork.

2. Take Civil Procedure and Evidence as soon as possible. 
You can't speak in court until you've taken these classes (or are taking them concurrently with your externship). I would have taken Evidence the second semester of my 1L year so that I could have been certified that summer, if I'd known this. DO IT! ConLaw is beneficial, but this is a much better opportunity. Plus, evidence is fun.

3. The PTLS Application
It consists of 4 different documents. Download the three forms from the PTLS website (linked).

a. Declaration from Supervising Attorney
You have to have a job with a specific attorney who is registered with the state bar and is willing to vouch for you.

b. Declaration from Dean of Law School
At Berkeley, you send this to the registrar, not the Dean.

Go online (doesn't work with Safari browser) to:
Berkeley Law > Registrar > Forms > Request for Personalized Letter of Verifications > Order Online

Select "Complete Attached Form" and upload the form from the PTLS website.
Enter your Email address, and they will email you the completed form. The fields are impossible to see, but just click and start typing (see image below).

c. Student Application
You need your CA Bar Admissions File No. for this. Then just fill it out and sign it.

d. $55 Application Fee
This must be a cashier's check, traveler's check, or money order made payable to "The State Bar of California." 

You mail this all in TOGETHER as a HARDCOPY application to:
The State Bar of California 
Office of Admissions
PTLS Program
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

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In a few days, you'll get an email with a certification letter and number for a specified time period. The certification expires.
If you keep the same supervising attorney at the same employer --> You can renew without a fee.
If you change your supervising attorney at the same employer --> You can renew with a $25 fee.
If you change employers --> You have to start all over again and pay a $55 fee.

The PTLS coordinators are actually really responsive to email. I wouldn't bug them, but if you have a problem, I've had good experiences with renewal and extension of my certification.

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I hope that information is helpful!!

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