Monday, July 9, 2007

survival of the fittest: the bar exam

jonathan's heading into week five of studying for the bar.

in april, he emailed me the following article about the bar prep. i had no idea how much he and i would identify with it! read on...

Test Takers Go Through Several Emotional Stages

ABA Journal E-Report
May 30, 2003
The Rodent

April, the poet wrote, is the cruelest month and thereby gave away the fact that he had never taken the bar exam. Had he done so, he would have known that July is far crueler, and that the months you spend waiting for your results can be pretty darn mean, too.

Even as a kid growing up with only a casual interest in the law, I knew the bar examination was tough. You see, we had a family friend who took it several times and never passed. He eventually gave up, opened a chain of car washes, became a multimillionaire and retired at the age of 41. Tragically, he never had the opportunity to practice law.

If you happen to be spending this summer gearing up for the bar exam, you will need to prepare yourself for a change of lifestyle. You should also prepare yourself for the various stages the bar exam taker goes through during this delicate period. They include denial, depression, fear, isolation, boredom, agitation, confusion, resentment and acute apathy (often resulting in poor personal hygiene).

Actually, it might not be accurate to call them stages. Instead of coming one at a time and in order, they will more likely hit you at the same time. While reading the bar review outlines on civil procedure or evidence, for example, it's quite possible to simultaneously feel depressed, fearful, agitated and bored.

For me, isolation was the big thing during the months I studied for the bar. Friends and family cut off all contact so they wouldn't interfere with my study schedule. The hardest days were those when there were no bar review classes, and I spent the entire day at home with the books. The highlight was when my mail arrived. I was grateful for any communication with the outside world even if it was in the form of a letter from the board of bar examiners indicating that my application for membership failed to report all my priors.

Isolation was followed closely by confusion and resentment. I was confused and resentful that I had to take the exam at all, and really couldn't fathom why lawyers were required to pass a comprehensive test before practicing. After all, I had read the occasional newspaper story about the discovery of someone practicing law without a license. In some of those cases, it turned out the person never even went to law school. Inevitably, such stories went on to quote colleagues, opposing counsel and even judges all complimenting the unlicensed attorney on his or her exemplary legal skills.

I became so resentful of the bar exam that I made it part of my studying by looking for constitutional arguments as to why one should not be forced to take an exam in order to pursue one's selected livelihood. And I also gave a lot of thought to other professions. My friends who went to business school simply graduated and went to work. Same for almost all the other professionals I could think of. I came to regret not becoming an airplane pilot, doubting they had to pass a comprehensive exam just to prove competency to land a jumbo jet at night on an icy runway. I mean, how hard could that be?

Once the two months of studying were over, I had three days' worth of exam, and then three months of waiting for the results. I also had the various stages and emotions that go with those things. Then, after learning I had passed, I entered a brand new stage: selfishness. Like most other lawyers, I could suddenly see the importance of being licensed, and I began to think that they should make the exam even harder for everyone who had not yet passed it.

i laughed at the time, not realizing just how close to the truth it is! but it really hits close to home. :) i've been praying for strength for him as he's been preparing, and there's finally light at the end of the tunnel...just 17 days away!

our recent timeline - we got engaged on june 1st, finished relay on june 2nd, and he began the barbri prep course on june 4th. suffice to say, our last 'official' date was a month ago, on june 8th when we went to the wac in seattle with mom and dad, and onto west side story. :)

most of his days (from monday - saturday) start with an hour or two or studying, then down to the washington state historical museum for the barbri class for 2 or 3 hours, and then 8-10 hours of studying following class.

the whole experience has been a range of emotion - from focused determination to exhaustion to giddiness that he's finished a dozen essays to burnout and finally a loss of all emotion. :)

the video below was what he sent to me during one of his first weeks of studying - to help me better understand what he's going through in his daily classes. it's been eight years since i studied for the series 7, so it gave me a few flashbacks. :) (if you're having trouble with the sound, you might need to double-click on it to launch a new window)

the brownrices have kept a good eye on him when he's been hunkered down studying at my house and i've been off shooting photos or at the office - sending sustenance over and keeping the dogs walked. a really special e-thank you to you! ♥

the exam is two weeks from this tuesday. please keep him in your prayers over the upcoming two weeks...


kat said...

Jonathan and you are in my can't be easy :) Love ya!

Jonathan said...

Thanks Kat!!! I can use all the help I can get.

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