Another Bar Exam

Whether you chalk it up to a rite of passage or a demonstration of the minimal degree of knowledge for the right to be responsible for other people’s lives, the bar exam must still be passed before you get to call yourself a lawyer.  I believe it will be administered on July 27-28th in New York.  Suddenly, all those smart-mouthed know-it-all kids who were busy telling lawyers all about their vision of the law are lying in their beds in the fetal position, praying that they don’t screw it up and reveal to the world, and their mothers, that they are are total, complete failures.

Or so that’s what I read at Thanks, But No Thanks, a law student blog I read about on Ed’s Weekly Law School Roundup.

Calm down.  Take a deep breath.  Not because I’m sure you’ll do fine.  I’m not. I don’t even know who you are, and you may well be the loser you fear you are.  But getting yourself worked into a lather isn’t going to help you any.  Nobody does better on the bar exam by hyperventilating.

Here’s the deal.  Take the rest of the time off from your studies.  If you don’t know it by now, it’s too late.  No seriously, it’s too late.  And chances are in your favor that you know more than you think.  Most people pass the bar exam, and you fall into that category. 

Your mind will work far better if you get a tan, take a swim, have a cool beer (preferably with a piece of citrus at the top of its long, long neck).  Relax and trust that if you have not been a complete screw up all along, lying and cheating your way through law school, you’ve likely picked up a bit of knowledge.  Not wisdom, mind you, but knowledge.  And that’s all the bar exam asks of you.  No biggie.

Cool heads work better.  Worry too much and your brain will cramp.  That could be painful.  You don’t want pain, do you?

And no matter what your mother or Uncle Charlie thinks, anybody can blow the bar exam the first time.  Anybody.  No, I passed the first time, but that doesn’t mean that everybody does.  Great minds, thinkers, people, lawyers fail the bar exam the first time.  It happens.  Stercus accidit (use this in an essay and you’re guaranteed an extra 2 points).

There is only one thing that you really need to know.  While anybody can fail the bar exam the first time, nobody but a blithering idiot* fails it twice.  No pressure though.  Best of luck and enjoy your time taking the bar exam.  Really.

* If you are reading this post and failed the bar exam twice, do not post a comment saying so or informing of great lawyers who failed the bar exam twice.  Just trust me on this.  Don’t do it.

9 comments on “Another Bar Exam

  1. Marilou

    This is excellent advice, not only for the bar exam but for any important test, whether of knowledge or of skill. I wish this post could be required reading, today, for each of next week’s bar exam takers who intends to make a serious career of helping by lawyering.

  2. Lee

    How many times did JFK Jr. fail? It was something absurd, like 6? There’s a point at which perseverance becomes absurd.

    When I sat for the CA bar, the first section of the first day, the guy sitting next to me had his laptop malfunction. I’ve never seen anything like the panic he exhibited, he had to be removed and I heard him vomit on his way out. That’s probably not the way to do it.

  3. Lee

    Yes, I think 2004 was the 2nd year they used laptops although I’m not really sure. The entirely unfair part was that they left it up to the exam taker meaning lots of people still wrote by hand, leaving them at an enormous disadvantage in a test where timing meant so much and just spewing out some reasonably coherent keywords can probably earn you a pass.

  4. Eric Mayer

    The hardest thing about the bar exam is avoiding all the people freaking-out and chatting uncontrollably (and loudly) during the breaks.

    Luckily, I only had to take one bar exam, but I remember noticing the rules for taking it for the second, third…

    First time: All first-time test takers were in a very large conference room.

    Second time: The second-timers were allowed to take it in the same conference room.

    Third and more: These poor souls were placed in small classrooms (some with the entire room to themselves) with a proctor acting like an armed guard at the door.

  5. Artistmcgill

    I remember taking the NY bar back in 2008 with 11,000 other people. Waiting at the door to go into the cavernous rooms where they administer the exam people were still reviewing their bar prep class materials. Seriously, if you don’t know it 10 minutes before the bar, you won’t know it during the test. Same was true in Michigan when I took the bar a mere 6 months after the NY test. So, no matter where you go people will always freak out, that’s just nature’s way.

    p.s. I passed both the 1st time out.

  6. Slack-wa-zee

    Not true. I took the bar exam several years ago and was sitting in the conference room between the morning and afternoon essays eating my lunch. We were having a discussion about “what questions do I fear the most” and I mentioned that I had done absolutely no preparation for Act 250 questions (a unique land-use statute here). The guy next to me proceeded to deliver a five minute mini-lecture on how to answer an Act 250 question (and there hadn’t been an Act 250 question in years)… Sure enough, there was a whole question devoted to Act 250 and I was able to regurgitate what I had heard just minutes before for a 10/10… If I hadn’t been getting lunchtime class I would maybe have been able to identify that they wanted an Act250 answer, but that would have been it…

  7. KL

    If you fail the bar exam, you really should find another career. Failing the bar two or more times means you aren’t cut out for this profession. I recently read about someone who took the bar exam fourteen times. It was remarkably sad. There comes a point in life where you have to say goodbye to your dreams.

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