Monday, October 4, 2010

Why People Fail the Bar Exam

Bar exam results came in on Friday in Illinois.  All three of our new associates passed, so hurray for them.  One of our clerks (who, for reasons beyond me, opted to remain a clerk rather than do actual lawyer work while he was in law school and working at our firm, but I won't get into my frustration about that), did not pass.  I like D a lot and think he is a great guy.  But I can tell you exactly why he didn't pass the bar.

The bar exam covers an obscene amount of material.  You have to know about criminal law, tort law, constitutional law, contract law, corporate law, agency law, partnership law, family law, estate law, property law, securities law, and on and on and on.  Within each of those areas of law are a number of different causes of action, crimes (criminal law), laws, rules, and other things to know.  For example, in criminal law alone you have to know the elements of the crime for at least the following:  first degree murder, second degree murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, rape, larceny, larceny by trick, embezzlement, conspiracy, assault, battery, and all of the various iterations thereto.  You also have to know the various defenses, like self defense, insanity, intoxication (not a defense usually), consent, etc.  This is a highly summarized view of one area of law. 

There is just a lot to learn memorize. 

The learning process takes time.  This is why Barbri (the preeminent bar review course) starts in May, right after you graduate from law school.  It goes until the end of June, and then you are on your own for the month of July, up until you take the bar at the end of July.  You almost have to take Barbri, because Barbri tells you exactly what you need to know to pass the exam.  The amount of material is so great, that to do it on your own is absurd and wholly overwhelming. 

The vast amount of material covered on the bar exam will likely be useless to you in your career, but you have to plant yourself down and do it.  Review, review, review.  Memorize.  To do this takes a lot of time.  This isn't a test most people can cram for in two weeks.  There is just too much information.  (By the time you are taking the bar exam, most people are three years removed from contract law, constitutional law, tort law, and criminal law classes.)  From July 1 on, you should be spending 8-10 hours a day solely devoted to studying for the bar exam and doing practice tests.  This doesn't include the 4 hours a day you spent at Barbri during the end of May and all of June.  The bar exam is not a difficult test, but you have to know the material, and the only way to know the material is to take the time to study.  I probably spent at least 300 hours studying for the bar exam. 

D crammed for it in two weeks.  I know this because he worked at my firm up until two weeks before the bar exam, even though we all told him starting July 1 that he should be studying full time.  He also went out a lot.  I understand wanting to party after you get through law school, but he went out 3-4 times a week, went to a number of Cubs games, while working full time through May, June, and most of July.  That does not leave a lot of time to study for the bar exam.  I also hadn't realized this, but he didn't do Barbri because he "couldn't afford it."  (I think Barbri costs around $2000, but it is highly, highly worth it.  They tell you everything you need to know to pass.)  He got some Kaplan books (another bar review course) for free off someone else, and was using those to study.  I have no idea what the Kaplan course is like, and I'm sure it's fine, but....the "I can't afford it" excuse doesn't fly with me, and here's why.   

He could afford to go out many nights a week during the summer, before graduation, and over the past year.  I mean, this kid goes out a lot.  He's got a PDA, numerous video games, DVDs, etc.  He was going to Cubs games.  He was going out to eat.  None of that is free.  He made a choice, in my opinion.  Maybe that's why he was also working for so long, I don't know.  At minimum he could've bought a used set of Barbri books from February's exam off of eBay and worked off that.  (I mean, the content doesn't change a whole lot.)  He just made no effort.  None.  The sad part is that because he made the choice to spend his money on going out and other fun things, that he now is in a holding pattern until February, the next time he can take the bar.  One of the partners at my firm has graciously offered to pay for him to take Barbri, which is very nice of him.  But D could have found a way to pay for Barbri, if he had made some sacrifices in the personal realm over the last year. 

Don't think I and many other attorneys at my firm didn't explain all of this to D starting in May, because we did.  You have to put in the time.  It's boring and it sucks, but you have to do it.  This means you won't see the light of day for the month of July, but it's worth it, because without passing the bar, you have no license to practice law.  And isn't that what going to law school is all about?  I'm not trying to be a jerk, because I feel awful for D.  Just awful.  I mean, he cried when he told us on Friday.  It's devastating, not to mention embarrassing, to not pass this exam.  So, this post is my advice on how not to go through the devastation he went through.  Suck it up, pay for Barbri, make some personal sacrifices, and you'll be fine.  You only need a D to pass this thing.  I just hope he passes in February. 

1 comment:

  1. Those tears he cried on Friday? I'm such a bitch. I would've laughed all the way home. I really hate this kind of crap and have no sympathy for people who don't study, then screw themselves up for months or years. If he doesn't get his act together and pass it next February, he's a complete waste of time and playing the selfish lazy victim in my opinion.

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