Monday, July 21, 2014

Taking the Bar Exam

I have a friend who will be taking the Utah bar exam next week. She is a bit freaked. And that is a good thing.

For her, I am going to bore you all with my experience with this little, life-changing challenge.

I have to tell you that the day before I graduated from law school I got married. The invitations had a sepia toned drawing of a Victorian woman and man in wedding garb. Above their heads were bubbles that stated their thoughts. Hers read: "I hope I pass my board exam" and his read: "I hope she likes my cooking". Apropos at the time. But I digress......

The day after graduation I began studying for the bar. There were less than 60 days to prepare.

I did the special studying class thing. I took practice exams. I read, reread, outlined and re-outlined study material. I made flash cards. I made up guessing games. I read and reread and outlined my study notes. I memorized mnemonics. I did everything exactly as the study class people told me to do.

And the week before the exam I shut down. I packed up the study material. I put it all in my closet.

I prepared the plastic bag of pencils, erasers, and other items necessary to take the exam. I put that in my car.

I washed and dried the clothes I would wear for three days of the exam.

My aunt had made her house available to me for the noon breaks. I called to confirm (and found out that my lunch would be ready and in the refrigerator each day)

And then I watched television.

I wasn't speaking to anyone by this time. I was too focused for conversation. I was in a world of my own. Looking back I recognize the feeling of living in a hamster bubble. I could hear and see all that went on around me but I could not (and didn't want to) communicate.

On the day of the exam, I arrived 30 minutes early. That meant there was plenty of parking close to the examination hall.

And I remember the first question. It was an essay question. (In California, day one is devoted to essay questions only--three in the am and three in the pm) It was a Constitutional Law question.

To this day, I am convinced that the question was written by the professor who had taught the First Amendment class that I had finished just before graduation. I still remembered the citations for the cases that we covered and several where implicated in the question.

I remember the woman sitting next to me putting the question aside and going on to the next.

I plowed through it.

I don't remember a thing about the exam after that.

But I do remember the advise that my aunt gave me when I called her the week before the exam.

"Gaelann, do NOT talk to anyone during the exam. Not at the exam hall, not during lunch, not at night. Someone will ask you how it is going or how did you do and you will begin to doubt yourself. Do not doubt yourself. You have worked too hard to doubt yourself."

That is why her house was open to me for the lunch break. That is why my lunch was prepared for me. That is why the house was empty of humans when I went there.

That is why my advice to ANYONE taking a bar exam is the same as I give my criminal clients.

Don't talk to anyone. And don't let anyone talk to you.

Good luck, my friend. You won't need any luck, though. You are smart and tough and prepared.
Give 'em hell!

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