Taking the bar exam is like being pregnant

I originally found this blog post written by http://dasvidas.blogspot.com several months ago while waiting for February bar results, but the author has since then set his blog as private, although you can see the cached copy here. Anyway, I thought this was so accurate and hilarious I had forwarded it to some of my law school friends, and I just dug it up from my sent e-mail folder to post for your reading pleasure.

For those lucky enough to avoid three years of law school, there is a shroud of mystery which surrounds the entire bar exam process. Unless you have actually sat for the bar, it is very difficult to understand why those who haven taken the exam consider it such a traumatic experience. I will now attempt to explain why the bar exam is such a nightmare.

Before you can sit for the bar, you must complete:

The Bar Application

Completing the bar application is almost as bad as taking the bar itself. Some states like to make everyone’s lives easier and allow electronic filing of said application. Other states require paper applications to be printed out and filled in. For example, New Jersey’s thirty page application can neither be filled out nor filed on-line. New Jersey requires that you print out and manually fill in the 30 page packet. Then NJ has the balls to go and say that it “prefers” the use of a “typewriter”.

First, I really don’t care what the state of NJ prefers. I prefer to not take the multi-state portion of the bar exam, having passed it by 26 points only one year ago. I prefer not having to list every job I’ve had since the age of 18, or every residence I’ve lived in since the age of 16. I prefer not having to go to the DMV to obtain a copy of my “certified drivers record.” (I can only imagine how difficult it is for one state agency to obtain records from another state agency. It’s probably best that I wait in line four hours to obtain a piece of paper issued by the state to later put in an envelope and mail back to the state.) I prefer not having to think of eight different people to serve as my references, especially when those eight people cannot be: a law student, a relative or a co-worker. News flash NJ, those are the only three groups of people I have spoken to in the last four years. What’s that you say? College friends? YEAH! Great idea! Some of my best friends from college don’t even know my first name. They might be able to tell you about my beer pong prowess, or about the time we used the handicap designated electric wheel chair ramp to load kegs into a van, or my propensity for Jack Daniels. However, I’m pretty sure they would not have a lot to offer in terms of my professionalism, dedication and commitment to veracity and honesty.

Secondly, NJ, what makes you think I have a typewriter? Are you serious? Like the other 100% of the people applying for this bar exam, I have a “computer”. Computers are kind of like typewriters, except that they still make them. New Jersey, if you prefer to have the applications typed, make like Pennsylvania and permit users to fill them out online.

Once you have filed your bar application, you must begin to prepare for the bar exam. This usually involves attending:

The Bar Class

Once you have completed the traumatic filing process, you then shell out $2500 to sit in a classroom for six weeks to learn all of the stuff you didn’t learn in law school because your crappy Torts professor spent two months exploring the subtle distinction between a “manufacturing defect” and a “design defect” in product liability cases.

But its worse than that. The bar class isn’t about re-learning things you learned during your law school tenure. The bar class is about learning things that you have never learned before and will never need to know again A lot of the new information is never taught in law school because it either 1) never comes up, or 2) is so trivial that it would be silly to mention. Those are basically the prerequisites bar examiners use when deciding which questions belong on the bar. See, e.g., liabity of bee keeper for bee attack turns on whether the kept bees are honey making bees or crazy african bees.

Once you have spent a total of eight weeks trying to learn every minutiae of law that could possibly be thrown at you, you get to take:

The Bar Exam

In the state of Florida, every person that sits for the Florida bar takes the bar in Tampa Bay at the same time, in the same room. If tension and nervousness could some how be harnessed into an alternate energy source, the auditorium in the Tampa Bay Convention Center could power the state of Florida for an entire 3 months.

It’s almost amusing to see the way people freak out right before the exam. When I took the Florida bar, I literally had a friend come running up to me 4 minutes before the exam having a melt down about “riparian water rights.”

My Friend: “Vidas, Vidas!!!! Do you remember what the BarBri lady said about riparian water rights?”
Me: “No. If it’s on there, it will be one question max. Worth one point, if that.”
My Friend: “But what if it’s in an essay??! An essay is worth a lot more than one point.”
Me: “Uhhh. I don’t know. Go ask Scott.”
My Friend: [Gasping noises.]
Me: “I’ve got a paper bag for you to breath into. Will that help?”

When the magic hour final arrives, you are corraled like cattle being led into a slaughter house. It’s interesting to see how each individual reacts to the inordinately stressful situation. Some people talk non-stop; nervous gibberish. Some people recite elements to different causes of action. Some people use the bathroom eight times before the exam. Some people won’t talk. Some people can’t sit still and walk around until the test is distributed. I, myself, must have used the water fountain a half dozen times before sitting down to take the test. Thank god for coping mechanisms.

Even after the exam starts, you can tell which people are shitting the bed. In Florida, you are paired two to a table. My friend Scott’s table mate would pound the table everytime he encountered a question to which he didn’t know the answer. My table mate was a classic “second guesser”. He’d write a bunch of stuff down, read it and proceed to erase the entire page. He would erase so hard that the entire table would shake. The Florida bar has three essays. I think this guy wrote about eight that day. By the time the essay portion of the exam was over, he was about a foot deep in eraser shavings.

And the sad thing is that when you see people shitting the bed, you don’t feel bad for the person. You feel happy it isn’t you.



The Aftermath

As you fill in that last bubble on the scantron sheet, there is total and utter joy. You did it! You finished the bar exam. But somehow, by the time you get up from your seat and hand in your test booklet you have managed to convince yourself that you failed the exam. Just to make sure you totally failed, you and a friend spend the four hour car ride home comparing each of your answers, question by question.

So the relief you feel from completing the bar is almost non-existent. The crushing weight on your shoulders stays with you for another six weeks until the bar examiners post results on line. The day before the bar results are announced, you hear people say things like: “I know I failed; that exam was impossible. I hope the next version is easier”, “I just hope everyone passed. Everyone studied so hard. We all deserve to pass.” Then the results are announced. And how things change. Those same people now say things like: “I knew I nailed it. It wasn’t that bad. It was a lot of hype, but in the end not that hard.” “Oh my god, did you hear so-and-so failed the bar? I know, what a bitch. Total karma, right?”.

The day the results are announced, there is a frantic explosion of telephone calls and texting and IM’ing. If you fail the bar and don’t want anybody to know about it, I would seriously consider moving. At the very least, you should stop taking phone calls for a good month.

Final Thoughts

The bar exam is a stupid, stupid attorney right of passage. How well you do on the bar exam has no correlation to the type of attorney you will become. A lot of really bad attorneys have passed the bar. A lot of really good attorneys failed the first or second time around.

In the end, I think that the best way to describe the entire process is like a pregnancy. The bar exam is like a baby you carry for two months. During those two months, your life completely changes. You stop drinking (lest you lose a day of studying). You rarely see your friends or family. You get weird food cravings during those late night study sessions. You gain weight from the aforementioned food cravings and because you no longer have time to go to the gym. You have horrible mood swings due to the tremendous amount of stress you are under. (See, e.g., the “Dog Killing Story”) And by the last week of your pseudo pregnancy, you just “want it out” of you. There’s even post-partum depression associated with taking the bar. You are happy that the bar is over, but feel an overwhelming sense of sadness because you don’t know whether you have passed or failed.

Anyway, good luck to all those out there studying for the bar. In the end, it’s just a test. A really, really, really horrible life sucking test.


3 thoughts on “Taking the bar exam is like being pregnant

  1. FBE, I just started blogging about my ongoing repeat situation in FL. I was wondering if I could link your website, repost this post, and give you full credit. Please let me know. Your website has been very inspirational to me and has inspired me to share my experience with others. I’m still trying to pass, but reading your blog gives me hope. Thank you so much.

    • FBE, I decided to post it. I included a link to your entry and gave you full credit. I am not sure when or if you will ever get to reading this comment. In case you do have an issue with it, please let me know and I will be sure to remove it. Thank you.

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