I hated the bar exam

I hated the bar exam. I really hated it. Although a pacifist in faith, I must confess I had some very bad thoughts for the folks who created the bar exam and those who graded it.

The months leading up to it were a miserable existence of studying various subjects, some of which had very little to no impact in my law school life. I still remember looking at my BarBri book and reviewing the subjects with pure terror. Family law? I never took that course? Corporations?

“I plan on being a trial attorney, why would I study corporations?”  Commercial law? Wait, I actually studied this subject, but that was of no importance because I studied law in New York, a strange land where the old UCC still roamed free.

It was a confusing time, it was a terrible time. More importantly, it was a stressful time. Even for those do-gooders who had ample experience with each tested subject, the pressure to pass the exam, land a job, and start paying down debt borders on the traumatic. Thankfully, I only had to deal with two of the stresses – I landed a judicial clerkship a few months earlier.

Still, while I had two-thirds of the concerns many other candidates had, I still felt 100 percent stress. The stress began to manifest as the pressure increased.

For instance, during one spell towards of the middle of July, I failed to leave my house for 11 days. I only broke from my trance when my pastor called to inquire why I had missed church the week before — I had forgotten what day it was.

I also lost 20 pounds on a diet reminiscient to the professor who lost 27 pounds on a twinkie diet, specifically, M&M cookies for breakfast, ramen noodles and vienna sausages for lunch, and ramen noodles and vienna sausages for dinner.

The general course of prepping for the bar exam is formulaic. The first several weeks consist of information gathering and drafting notes. I generally spent a few hours each day at the BarBri course, and about five hours re-typing my notes.

While most Americans observe the 4th of July as a time of fireworks, baseball and BBQs, bar takers view it as the transition from information gathering to memorization (flash cards, going over notes) and testing. It’s also observed as the transition from a life that is no fun, to an existence of pure, unadulterated misery.

Instead of studying most of the day and having time off after 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., the hours are extended. Bar prep slithers like a snake throughout the final days and slowly consumes more and more of your time. By the last two weeks, my preparation of studying, going over flash cards, taking tests, and practicing essays/MPT consumed 12 to 16 hours of my day.

Interestingly enough, the days of the bar exam are anti-climatic. My nerves weren’t shot as I anticipated, and each day I enjoyed going back to my hotel room and simply decompressing.

Yet, for all the misery caused by the bar exam, the overwhelming agony, in my opinion, comes from the four-month wait. Although never proven, I suspect a tinge of sadism is involved in the delay, otherwise, why would my friends in North Carolina have their results within a month? Weeks of “Do you know?” inevitably bring back bad memories and doubts – and as fate would have it, just as you’re forgetting the experience, you get the same question from another person you know.

Then comes that first Friday in November. Although I knew the results wouldn’t show up until 4:30 p.m., I still kept refreshing the results page of the Maryland Judiciary, hoping I’d found a flaw in the system.

Now, I’m a man, so I’ll never have the experience of giving birth, but I can imagine that in a slight way (I have to choose my words carefully because I grew up with four sisters and a single mother), finding out I passed the bar was reminiscient to having a child. The months before it were stressful and painful, but in the end it was all worth it.

In one word, my reaction was tantamount to euphoria – unbridled happiness and optimism with the world. There was also screaming, fist pumping, and the occasional strum of my air guitar.

The reason I bored you all with my experience was because I recently had a conversation with a friend who is waiting to find out the results of his bar exam this May. Talking to him, I gained a deep appreciation for my current circumstance. So, to all of those still waiting to hear your results, I wish you the best.

If you attorneys have any war stories RE: your bar exam experience, please feel free to share.

3 thoughts on “I hated the bar exam

  1. This column is so silly and self-indulgent that it defies comment. I have a feeling you’re going to be overmatched by law practice.

  2. And yet you found reason to read the article, my longest by far, and comment. No doubt a legal genius with a budding practice, I commend you for finding time from your busy, busy practice to insert irony in your comment.

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