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State Bar & Bar Associations

Dec. 11, 2023

17-year-old makes history as state’s youngest lawyer

“For now, I plan on staying here in Tulare County and learning the ropes of becoming a great prosecutor,” said Peter C. Park.

Tulare County DA Tim Ward, left, with members of the Park family: sister Sarah Park, Deputy District Attorney Peter Park, brother Andrew Park, father Dr. Byungjoo Park, mother Hee Eun Park and sister Sophia. Andrew, in front, is 7. Courtesy of Peter Park

Eighteen-year-old Peter C. Park recently became the youngest person to pass the California Bar Exam, and he's already got a job working as a prosecutor in Tulare County.

Park took the bar exam in July, when he was 17, and turned 18 on Nov. 26.

But Park likely won't hold his title for long. Both his younger sisters are on track to beat his record, and their father just published a book explaining how others can pull off the same feat for just $15,000 each.

Reached by phone on Friday, Peter Park said he had grown bored of high school when his father, Dr. Byungjoo Park, noticed there are few barriers to those who want to take the California Bar Exam - aside from the notoriously difficult exam itself.

"My dad dug around and found out that the State Bar regulations allow anyone to enroll in law school without a bachelor's degree," he said.

Park added, "I wasn't learning at the speed that I wanted to learn. Because of the internet, all of the information is already out there. I believe I have the dedication and motivation to find information online and learn on my own."

The elder Park came across a news article about Parker C. Shelton, who passed the bar exam in 2014 at the age of 20. Shelton passed his California High School Proficiency Exam and enrolled in Humphreys University Laurence Drivon School of Law in Stockton at 16. Much like the Park family is doing now, Skelton followed a path laid down by his older brother, Connor C. Shelton, who also attended Drivon and passed the bar at 21. Both Shelton brothers are now attorneys with the State Compensation Insurance Fund.

"I didn't know people knew who I was anymore," Parker Shelton said when reached by phone on Friday. "I'm almost 30. I wasn't the youngest ever, I was the 'youngest current' when I passed. It just goes away eventually."

He added, "I'm touched. It's very nice to hear."

Peter Park was allowed to enter a four-year program at Northwestern California University School of Law at 13 after passing the College Level Proficiency Exams (CLEPS). The school offers online law classes.

"It had to be online because I was doing it simultaneously with high school," Park said.

He passed the California High School Proficiency Exam in 2021, allowing him to focus solely on law school and studying for the bar. Park said that he devoted over two hours a day preparing e for the exam, taking true/false practice tests and practicing the essay portion. He increased this to five or more hours a day as the July test date approached.

He was one of 51.5% of test takers who passed the exam.

Park started working as a clerk at Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward's office in August, then found out last month he had passed the bar exam, days before he turned 18. Ward administered Park's oath on Dec. 5 and hired him as a deputy district attorney.

On Nov. 10, the day after he got his bar results, Park's father self-published his book, "Fast-Track Attorney: Passing the Bar at Age 17."

"This book shares the unique journey Dr. Park's children took to law school without the usual college route," according to the book's description on Amazon. "The total expense to pass the Bar Exam from no degree was less than $15,000."

"This book outlines, step by step, exactly how to do it," Peter Park said. "If you're like 13 years old, this is how you become an attorney. I feel like more people could do it if they knew about it."

Park said the path allows people to get a law degree without going deeply into debt, which can allow them pursue a wider range of career options. His sisters - Sophia, 16, and Sarah, 13 - are following an even more accelerated version of the playbook. Both have already passed the high school proficiency exam and are enrolled at Northwestern California University School of Law.

He said his elder sister just completed an internship at a different district attorney's office. She's planning to take the bar exam in July, he said, and if she passes she'll beat his record by "a few months."

Shelton said it costs about $45,000 to attend Drivon, with many of his classes at night with people getting a law degree as a second career.

"I think if you can go more of a debt-free route, that's awesome," Shelton said when told of the book. "I had no idea there was that debt-free route."

Both Drivon and Northwestern are accredited by the state's Committee of Bar Examiners, but not the American Bar Association. These schools tend to cost less to attend than ABA-accredited schools, but graduates of CBE-accredited schools pass the bar exam at less than half the rate of those who attend ABA-accredited schools. It is also harder to work in another state with a CBE-accredited degree.

"If you're fine with staying in California, it's great," Shelton said. "There's a lucrative legal business in California."

Compared to his path in life so far, Park's current plans are fairly conventional for a young attorney.

"For now, I plan on staying here in Tulare County and learning the ropes of becoming a great prosecutor," he said. "I'll just see how it goes from there."


Malcolm Maclachlan

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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