Kim Kardashian West‘s first solo American Vogue cover debuted on Wednesday morning, signaling she had pretty much achieved everything the career of being Kim Kardashian had to offer. In a shock no one saw coming, she used this career apex to announce that she’s decided to take on another line of work all together: becoming a lawyer. Yes, Kim Kardashian is studying for the bar exam in California. No, you didn’t miss the part where she secretly enrolled in law school or even took the LSAT. You’re not wrong when you think, Wait, she doesn’t even have an undergrad degree, right? Apparently, none of that matters under a little-known law still in place in California and a handful of other states. Turns out, yes, Kim Kardashian can become a lawyer without a college degree.
In California, as well as Virginia, Vermont, and Washington, aspiring lawyers can pass the bar exam without a law degree through a process called reading the law. It’s essentially a leftover system that precedes the codification of higher education in America. Back in the days before law schools, aspiring lawyers used to study under either practicing lawyers or judges for a set amount of time before taking the bar exam. Indeed, as the Vogue article points out, it’s how Abraham Lincoln became a lawyer, and those who pass the bar this way are commonly referred to as “country lawyers.” Most states have done away with the practice, but not California.
In California, you have to undertake a four-year apprenticeship under a practicing lawyer that lasts at least 18 hours a week (five of which must be directly supervised). It also involves monthly tests, and biannual progress reports submitted to the California bar.
This is exactly what Kardashian is doing. Remember her interest in prison reform, her interest in the case of Alice Marie Johnson, and the trip to Donald Trump’s White House that eventually saw Johnson’s life sentence for a nonviolent crime commuted? During that time, Kardashian realized she might have more of a passion and natural aptitude for her father, Robert Kardashian’s, chosen profession than she would have assumed.
“I just felt like I wanted to be able to fight for people who have paid their dues to society,” she told Vogue. “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.”
Meanwhile, Van Jones, the political commentator and lawyer who was also in the meeting at the White House, said he saw something special in her. “I watched Kim Kardashian unleash the most effective, emotionally intelligent intervention that I’ve ever seen in American politics,” said Jones of Kardashian’s apparent ability to change Trump’s mind on prison reform.
Now Kardashian travels to San Francisco every week to apprentice at a law firm in order to meet the requirements. She’s been quietly doing it since last July.
The path is not particularly common, however. In 2014, The New York Times reported that of the 83,986 people who had passed bar exams the previous year, only 60 were what are known as law office readers. Indeed, only 28 percent of law office readers go on to pass the bar exam, compared to 73 percent of those who go to law school. And while the practice can save someone a ton on tuition, it’s also, perhaps obviously, hard to actually find a lawyer or a judge willing to mentor a prospective reader.
Kardashian will also have to pass the baby bar—an exam for first-year law students attending unaccredited schools in California—soon in order to continue her studies. In the 2014 Times article, a woman who attempted this path got derailed because she was unable to pass the baby bar, but she still found the process and knowledge useful.
Perhaps that might be Kardashian’s ultimate goal anyway: learning about a subject she’s passionate about. It seems like her interest is more angled toward advocacy and reform than living an entire Ally McBeal lifestyle. “She’ll probably go into criminal law. I don’t know if we’ll see her in courtrooms…” one of her lawyer mentors told Vogue.
In any event, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that a Kardashian kid may finally become a lawyer. After getting her undergrad in Theater Arts, Kourtney Kardashian has said she applied to law schools before ultimately deciding against it. Rob Kardashian Jr. also attended law school for a while, but apparently did not graduate. It’s in the family.