The Bar Exam's For Dummies: A Beginner's Guide
by Sassy Esquire
Yes. The Bar exam is very much like a cattle prod. It's hard, it's long, and you take it right up the....street from my old house.
Yesterday, our good friend, Jazzy, completed that multi-day torture. Again. Yep. This was her second time around. Now - lest you think Jazzy is anything less than intelligent - be not alarmed. This time she took the exam in another state. And no, she isn't a fugitive. Like me, she simply chose to seek a license to practice law in a second state. And as such, she was required to study, sweat, and bend over again, even though she has already passed one of the (if not the) most difficult Bar exams in the country, i.e. Delaware's.
I see some of you are confused. Don't worry. That's what I'm here for - to confuse you. Actually, let me see if I can explain the folly of the Bar exam process.
Lack Of Concentration Camp.
Before we begin, let me set the scene: It's 8 am. You haven't slept for 3 months. You are about 25 pounds lighter than usual because you've lived on nothing but Diet Coke and No-Doze since you graduated law school in May. You are in an ice-cold auditorium, sitting on the most uncomfortable chair known to man, and surrounded by about 3,500 other exam takers. For some inexplicable reason, you have your belongings (pens, pencils, sharpener, and unwrapped Riccola candies) in a zip-lock bag. Everyone around you has 1000-yard stares and very bad breath.
You are anxious. You are trying to remember what the letters COAH stand for relevant to the doctrine of adverse possession. And, if you're me, you're hoping to god that the examiners forgot to include any criminal law questions because this morning at 3 am you realized you forgot to study that topic in its entirety.
Yeah - you're on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
And then you get some instructions from the proctologist - I mean, proctor:
"Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Day One of your State Bar Examination. Please remember, during the multiple choice sections, use a number 2 pencil only. If you use anything other than a number 2 pencil, the machine will not be able to register your answers correctly. Therefore, use a number 2 pencil for the multiple choice sections."
At this point, someone near the front of the auditorium puts his hand up. "Um....excuse me. I only brought a blue ink pen. Is that ok to use during the multiple choice sections?"
You fight the urge to run to the front of the room and...Ah ha! You suddenly remember the elements of aggravated assault and battery.
The proctor continues:
"As you will recall, before you entered this room today, we asked you to leave your cell phones, pagers, two way radios, and/or watches with alarms outside."
"So, if you have any cell phones, pagers, two way radios and/or watches with alarms here in this room, please bring them to me now." And, to your amazement, about 953 people stand up and form an orderly line, holding out those very items. What the hell? Did these people actually graduate from accredited law schools?
You take a deep breath and roll your shoulders, trying to ease the mounting tension. The girl next to you snaps her gum. You slowly turn and give her your most deadly glare. She blinks at you, and snaps her gum again. You clench your teeth and remember that if you wait until the exam is over and then ambush her in the parking lot, that would be considered murder in the first degree. However, if you kill her right now, it might be justifiable homicide. All good things to consider.
It's the proctor again.
"Ladies and gentlemen. You may begin."
The next 24 hours of your life go by in a blur. You vaguely remember that your gum-snapping neighbor started to weep around 1:30 in the afternoon, and that you lost all feeling in your dominant hand around 3. If you took a bathroom break, you don't recall, but your sweatpants are dry so that's a good sign. Next thing you know....
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Day Two of your State Bar Examination."
You look around, perplexed. You don't even remember going back to the hotel and changing clothes, let alone going to bed around 4 in the morning after trying to cram some more legal nonsense into your fried brain. But, here you are. Your ass is sore and you forgot to comb your hair. Then you notice that the gum-snapping girl is missing. Interesting.
"Ladies and gentlemen, today you will be taking the multistate portion of the Bar Examination. This consists of 200 multiple choice questions. Please remember, use only a number 2...."
You stop listening. You try to crack your knuckles and realize that your hand is permanently paralyzed into a misshapen mess. Shit. You become engrossed with your efforts to straighten out your fingers when the noise around you filters back in:
"....blue ink pen OK?"
For the love of everything International Shoe!? Is that guy for real!? You're all for accommodating the handicapped, but this is getting ridiculous.
"Ok, ladies and gentlemen. You may begin."
Around 2:30 in the afternoon, you realize that you have lost your will to live. You no longer care if you pass or fail. You read question number 123 again. For the sixth time. You can't even spot the issues in the fact pattern. In fact, you're not sure the question is even in English. You're just about to ask the proctor for a translation when she announces,
"Ladies and gentlemen, you have 30 minutes left."
This annoys you because you just want it to be over. You want to go home, curl up into a fetal position, and sleep until the results are published three months from now. (Yeah - three months from now.)
You read question number 124. It seems to be the exact same question as 123. Oh wait....It is question 123. Dammit! You think the answer is "C". You move on. You think the answer to that question is "C" too.... And the next one.... And the one after that. In fact, when you look at your answer sheet, you realize that you've been filling in the "C" bubble for the past 50 questions. That can't be right, can it?
"Ladies and gentlemen, you have 15 minutes left."
Fuck it. You decide to fill in the "C" bubble all the way down to question 200. There. You're done.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you have 10 minutes left."
Aarrghh! Now, with all this extra time on your hands, you decide you better actually read question 200 and see what it's all about. You skim it. Amos apparently got a quit claim deed from Bobby. Huh. What's a quit claim deed? Blah blah blah and blah blah and now Charley wants to quiet title. Reading this question did not help you one bit. You leave your previous answer ("C") intact.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you have 5 minutes left."
Sigh. You stop doodling on the desk and decide to read question 199 just in case. Sarah sold something to Betty and it got destroyed before Betty could pick it up. Sucks for Betty, you think. The four answers beneath the question have strange words like FOB in it. You shrug. You leave your previous answer ("C") intact.
Finally, after the proctor retrieves your answer sheets in the slowest manner possible, you are released from the meatlocker and you walk out into the sunlight. Actually, it's probably raining. It always rains and/or snows on the last day of the Bar exam. Just to piss you off even more. You get in your car, even though you really shouldn't be allowed on the road, what with your claw hand and blurred vision, and you drive to the nearest bar. And you drink. And drink.
And that's what the Bar exam is like.
And now, you are wondering why, oh why, would Jazzy and I suffer through that godawful shit twice, right? Well, you see, we had to.
If you want to practice law in different states, you are generally required to take the Bar exam in each state. Why? Beats the shit out of me. I mean, passing the Bar exam has no bearing whatsoever on your ability to practice law. In fact, the Bar exam is the most ridiculous, arcane, obsolete method of professional licensing in the entire world. In other words, it sucks.
I propose a national licensing program wherein, after you graduate from law school, you take the Multistate Performance Test (the MPT - that's the one where they give you the pertinent statutes and case law, and then ask you to write a brief or draft discovery or something to that effect). And you should only take the MPT once. Not fifty times for fifty states. I mean, the MPT is the closest thing to what we actually do as lawyers anyway. Seriously - when clients come in and ask us questions, we mumble some wishy washy bullshit, tell the client we will meet with them again next week, and then rush to the library to look up the answers. (And by the way, if you are a lawyer and you don't do that - you are basically committing malpractice; I don't care how long you've been practicing.)
And if the individual states want to make sure that you are familiar with their local rules, they can simply make it part of a CLE requirement. Not another fricking exam! I mean, even cows get the general idea the first time they're poked.
Well, there - I said it. I have a lot more to say on the topic but, my proctor has just announced that it's time to take him for a walk.
Ciao, for now.
P.S. Jazzy, congratulations. I am sure you passed - I mean, at least you can count on scoring higher than "blue ink pen" guy.