One week ago I was on the subway in Buffalo, headed for day two of the Bar Exam. My days were long:
6:10-drive to Buffalo
7:20-arrive at UB South Campus, walk to subway station
7:30-catch train downtown
7:55-arrive downtown, stand in line at the convention center
8:35-finally get to the door, go through security
8:45-get to my seat
9:00-start the morning session of the exam
1:45-start the afternoon session of the exam
4:45-travel home the same way: subway, drive
6:15-finally arrive home
The exam was grueling. Monday was the New York day: 5 essays from a possible 20 subject areas (most essays test more than one area), 50 multiple choice questions highlighting New York distinctions from the common law, and one Multistate Performance Test. The MPT is legal practice question. You are given an assignment by a fictitious senior attorney along with some facts (affidavits, police reports) and law (statutes, precedent cases), and you must complete the task according to the law given, not your own knowledge.
Tuesday was the Multistate Bar Examination, which is given in almost every state* and covers the common law in six subjects: 1. constitutional law, 2. criminal law and procedure, 3. contracts, 4. torts, 5. real property, and 6. evidence. It is a 200 question multiple choice test with 100 questions in the morning and 100 in the afternoon. Each question is a short fact pattern (1-5 paragraphs) followed by a legal question. The answers are almost always split into two “yes, because—” and two “no, because—” answers. So you not only need to know which way the law goes, but why. In practicing for the bar I would [too] often get the right answer but for the wrong reason, which is still wrong :/
Here is an example of an MBE question**:
Five years ago, a residential parcel of land was conveyed by warranty deed to a man and a woman “as joint tenants with right of survivorship.” The language of the deed was sufficient to create a common law joint tenancy with right of survivorship, which is unmodified by statute. The deed was promptly and properly recorded.
Three years ago, the man and the woman married each other. Last year, they divorced. The final divorce decree did not contain a specific provision concerning the legal title to the land. Subsequently, the man died intestate, leaving his nephew as his sole heir.
Who owns the land?
(A) The woman alone, because of the divorce.
(B) The woman alone, because she survived the man.
(C) The woman and the nephew, because of the doctrine of estoppel by deed.
(D) The woman and the nephew, because unmarried individuals cannot hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship.
I had practiced hundreds of MBE questions, but rarely worked through 200 in a day, so I was pretty exhausted by the end of the second day. Around question 172 I was having a hard time concentrating. The last 28 questions felt as hard as the first 100!
Thursday I slept in until 11:00, and then promptly got sick. I wasn’t surprised—that sort of rigorous activity tends to lower my immune system, and I’m vulnerable to even the weakest germs. But by Thursday night I was keeping food down and feeling better, but still tired.
Friday I slept in, but only until 9:30. Then I helped Alan get some last minute camping supplies, and dropped him off to go camping with some guys from church in the Adirondacks for the weekend.
While Alan was roughing it, I joined my parents at my grandmother’s cottage on Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It was a quiet, relaxing weekend, which I so needed.My sister-in-law is at the cottage now, with my four month old niece. I was hoping Alan and I could drive down for a day this week, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to. Alan’s preparing for a conference that will be held at the University of Rochester in a few weeks. He has to complete his work soon, because we’re headed to Utah next week to visit his parents and do some hiking!
It’s weird to be on the other side of the bar. Law school was such a big “thing,” and it seems unreal that it’s just over. When people congratulated me on graduating from law school, I told them all the same thing: graduating from law school is the most anti-climactic thing ever. As soon as you graduate, you start studying for this huge exam. If you can’t pass the bar exam, graduating from law school doesn’t mean much.***
So now I feel the weight of having graduated from law school AND taken the bar exam. It’s pretty cool.****
*except Louisiana, which is based on a civil law system, and Washington state
**The answer is (B). This is a fairly simple question: you have to know that joint tenancies include “survivorship,” which means that if one joint tenant dies, his share in the property goes to the other owner(s), not to his heirs. The stuff about marriage and divorce are just distracters.
***There are jobs for people with law degrees who haven’t passed the bar, but it’s not quite the same.
****It’ll be cooler if I pass and don’t have to take the exam again in February!
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