Sunday, July 26, 2009

Crossing the Bar

The bar exam is the final culmination of three years of intense study. It's the final pressure-cooker. The bar exam graders don't care what kind of grades you made in law school. They don't care if you ever made high grade in a class or graduated with honors. If you don't do well on those two days, you don't get to practice law for at least 6 months. It's kind of a big deal.

(Unless you went to Wisconsin or Marquette and intend to practice in that great state. Then, you don't have to take the test at all. Unless you are an idiot like me and waste that glorious diploma privilege by accepting a job in one of the other 49 states.)

Just getting to take the test is a trek in and of itself. You have to provide character references, which for the fine state of Kansas meant 3 people to sign affidavits and 10 people to respond to inquiries if asked. Those 10 people had to have known you for at least 4 years and could not be relatives. It's harder than you might think, especially at the conclusion of law school. I had moved to Madison for law school, so most of the people I knew in my daily life, I had known for considerably less than 4 years. (Thank you to all my annex friends for helping out on that!) You have to track down every address you lived at for the last 10 years, including the address of that one apartment you lived in that summer after freshman year of college. You have to report every job you've had and every traffic ticket you got.

I still remember the day I put my bar application in the mail, certified and overnight. The paranoia of a 3L applying for the bar knows no bounds. From that day in March until the day you check in on the first day of the test, I think most of us secretly worry that something will go wrong and we won't be allowed to sit. In my case, the sticking point was my law school transcripts. I had a perfectly good letter from the Dean, verifying that I had graduated. I also had the certified transcripts for my first 5 semesters. But Kansas was threatening not to let me sit for the exam if I couldn't provide a final, certified transcript before the exam and Wisconsin Law School said they'd produce a transcript when they damn well wanted to. It was stressful for me, but, as you might have guessed from the fact that I'm a licensed attorney, it all worked out ok.

But I sure would have liked to have the support of a governor.

This poor woman paid her application fee with a check. It evidently didn't bounce. And she spoke to someone at the bar board who said it was ok. But now they say they only take credit cards so she can't take the exam. I hope the Governator's words do the trick and she's allowed to take the exam. Otherwise, hers might becomes the story that fuels the paranoia of bar applicants for years to come.

UPDATE: They're letting her take the exam and will decide later if the technical glitch in her application should prevent her from being licensed should she pass the exam. That may be even worse. It would be rough not to get to take the exam, but taking the exam, passing, and then finding out it doesn't count would be so much worse than failing.


Meryl said...

Goodness, that makes me kinda queasy just thinking about it....

Dave Wilcox said...

The idea of facing prelims and then writing and defending a dissertation in the coming few years for a PhD at Wisconsin are suddenly looking not quite so terrifying.

S said...

It's a trade-off, though, because I only spent 3 years in grad school to get my doctorate. Good luck with all that PhD stuff.

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