November 3, 2010
Some Thoughts on the Bar Exam
A November report on IOMA takes an interesting perspective on the bar exam. Elizabeth Wurtzel suggests that bar exam passage is not the best predictor of success for lawyers. She uses examples of exceptionally bright and successful people who failed the bar the first time they took it and compares them to the hacks that populate the law trade. Yes, law is a noble profession, but the mechanics and economics of practicing law still make it a business. She doesn't suggest getting rid of the bar. On the other hand, changing it in a way that aligns it with the reality of practicing law might be a good thing.
I remember the days when I took the Illinois bar. I, along with thousand of other paranoid law students signed up for BAR/BRI. My commercial law instructor in law school, Professor Michael Spak, taught a number of the BAR/BRI classes. He told us up front that there would be two questions on the Illinois essay portion on commercial paper because they were easy subjects for testing. He also said that it was unlikely that any of us would have a commercial paper problem in real life law practice. If we saw one in 30 years, he said, it would be a lot. I can appreciate that. I had a reference question about UCC Article V yesterday. I think it was the first time in years I had a question about the Code other than where a copy was located.
The joke at the time was that law school was a three year prerequisite for taking bar review. One would think that law school should be preparation enough. The test itself is so arcane at times that it seems to live in a world of its own. One could easily look at the questions on the multi-state portion and ask how the possible answers had anything to do with the question. The best I could say is they all had some relation to law, but not necessarily how I learned it. Somehow I passed.
The National Lampoon famously parodied the New York bar exam where one of the questions asked the taker to pull out the miniature piano and beneath the seat and compose a sonata for piano and drums within 20 minutes. What has this to do with testing on knowledge of the law? Yes, exactly. But in one sense, the parody represented the unreality of the actual exam.
My advice to first time bar takers is take the exam seriously. It's not something anyone wants to do twice. Take a bar review course. These are designed to teach individuals on how to take the exam, what are the code words in the question and how they relate to the apparently unrelated answers in the multi-state portion. Law school on its own doesn't do that. Cherish the moment, as it's the only time that anyone will ever know the most general law in their life. Stay awake. The exam is as boring as it is grueling. And, after hitting the bars after taking the bar, feel free to forget most everything about commercial paper. Unless the result is fail. Then remember it for another six months. Repeat as necessary. [MG]
The article concerning the revelency of the Bar Examination was great.
Posted by: Laurence H. Mott | Nov 7, 2010 1:09:59 PM
The Bar Exam is worth giving it your best. Good luck to those who are about to take the Bar Exam.
Posted by: school scholarships | Nov 4, 2010 5:40:08 AM
You touch on something here that I have thought for quite some time - namely, the bar exam has nothing to do with practicing law . . . the law schools teach to the bar exam . . . thus making valid the criticism that what we teach in law school has no relationship to practicing law. Changing the bar exam to something that more closely resembles some skill useful in the practice of law might induce the academy to adjust law school curricula to better prepare law students to practice law.
Posted by: Scott DeLeve | Nov 3, 2010 1:00:35 PM