Law Grads Awaiting Bar Not Entitled to Overtime, CA Court Rules

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 24, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Guess what, post-bar law clerks? You're a professional!

No, really, you are.

And, in California, that means only one thing: you are not entitled to overtime pay, according to a recent appeals court ruling.

Matthew Zelasko-Barrett brought suit against Brayton-Purcell, a law firm in Novato, California. He alleged that because he hadn't passed the bar, he was entitled to some overtime. Under the FLSA, professionals are exempt from overtime pay. Zelask-Barett was essentially arguing that as an unlicensed attorney, he was not a professional. The court disagreed.

They ruled that since Zelasko-Barrett had significant discretion over his rather intellectual (and non-clerical) work, he was a professional in all sense of the word, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

This probably comes as little surprise to most young attorneys. After all, recent grads waiting for bar results just spent three years shelling out an exorbitant amount of tuition money to pay for a professional degree, the Juris Doctorate.

Of course, what self-respecting almost-attorney wouldn't swallow their pride a bit and argue that they're not professionals to get some extra pay? It's probably worth it to ease some of your post-bar stress.

Until you get your results, you're in limbo. You can do many of the same things that licensed attorneys can do, but you can't really take credit and you need to be supervised.

Add that to the stressful months of waiting for bar results to come out.

And, add onto that the prospect that your firm or employer won't hire you if your results aren't exactly on the positive side.

All told, being a post-bar law clerk is probably not all fun and games. It's little wonder that Zelasko-Barrett filed suit to get his time-and-a-half.

Of course, this California case does not set the precedent in all states. It does, however, create some persuasive authority that may dim the overtime pay hopes of post-bar law clerks in other states.

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