Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I should really be sleeping, but I have to write about this while it's fresh, tomorrow's six hours of multiple choice be damned. :) I may be the only person who went from the bar exam today to his improv comedy class tonight, but it's not like I was really in any mood to teach myself the elements of burglary (although that would have come in handy for an essay today). I spent my subway ride home jotting down notes for a post, on the back of a Duane Reade receipt. Let's see if I can decipher my scribbles, and write something coherent...

The Bar Exam, Day One

Every trash can on the West Side of Manhattan is filled with Bar/Bri outlines.

Okay, maybe just two of them. But they were the two I passed on the way out, and they both had Bar/Bri outlines visibly floating among the Red Bull cans and Starbucks cups, so I have to assume it's part of a pattern. Garbage cans on the West Side of Manhattan have a propensity to be filled with Bar/Bri outlines. (If you've taken evidence -- I didn't -- that sentence made sense. Otherwise ignore it.)

I got out of the subway at 8:10, at 50th and 6th Avenue, to make the walk to 50th and 12th Avenue, to Pier 90, for the exam, which began at 9. Everyone I passed was carrying a clear plastic food storage bag. It was like the walk of shame. Clear plastic storage bag? Check. Old t-shirt from a law school organization? Check. Crazed look in your eyes? Check.

I got there and got on the end of a line that was really, really long. "Is this Pier 88?" "No, it's Pier 90." "Oh, crap." And one guy sprinted away. I recognized a few faces from law school, a couple of people from the firm I worked at last summer, and two people from high school who I hadn't seen in nine years. It was like a bizarre Nerd Reunion. The high school thing was weird. I hadn't really thought about it beforehand, but it totally makes sense that there'd be other people from high school who've had the same basic existence over the past 9 years as I have, just in an alternate universe. As much my fault as not, but surely we should have been able to do better than this:

ME: Hey... You're...
HIM: Yeah... Hey...
ME: How's it going?
HIM: Good. You?
ME: Good. Long day.
HIM: Yeah. Good luck.
ME: Yeah, you too.

Nine years encapsulated in about ten words each. But I guess no one can really be expected to be in any frame of mind to have a real conversation. Before, during, or after six hours of exam-taking, I certainly wasn't.

They gave us green wristbands that we have to wear until the end of the test tomorrow. So we can find each other on the streets of Manhattan. It'll be fun on the subway in the morning to see if I can find the other law students. It's like being under house arrest, sort of. Except we're allowed to move around. Sort of. Not without raising our hand first.

Security was surprisingly lax. Bags weren't allowed in, besides the clear ones, but you could put anything in the clear ones and you'd be okay. They didn't search pockets either. No real incidents. It was very well-organized, it all started on time... they have it down to a science. Disappointingly free of procedural things to make fun of. They did have some really old proctors though, and they're always fun.

I'm still trying to figure out the escalator. It went up when we came in, down when lunch started, up after lunch, down to let us out... it was a smart escalator. I mean, I guess they just flip a switch, but I'm impressed. Doesn't take much sometimes.

Lunch was weird. Lots of people studying outside. I'm not sure what good it could possibly do at that point. Here's what's weird about the test. There's so much material for the New York day -- so many subjects, so many details, so many rules -- and so little of it gets tested. It's completely a matter of whether you happened to cram in your head the right stuff. There was one multiple choice question about commercial paper. Secured transactions didn't make a single appearance on the exam. One multiple choice question about will distribution. Nothing about trusts. Half an essay and two or three multiple choice questions about evidence. Nothing I can recall about criminal procedure. No one got murdered, no one burned down a house, no one got raped. On the exam, I mean. In the exam, I don't know for sure.

A lot of New York Civil Procedure stuff. A lot. Things with words I didn't know, like pendency and receivership. A lot about jury trials and how many people on a jury and who's entitled to them. A lot about how many days to file a motion and whether you need the court's permission, and who has jurisdiction. That stuff was all really boring and I barely looked at it, so I was kind of screwed on those multiple choice questions. But if you're reading this to get a sense for next year -- skip a lot of the New York subjects, but don't skip the New York Practice stuff. Really.

Honestly, I have no sense for how I did. In absolute terms, I did pretty lousy. I didn't know the law for most of the essays and guessed on most of the multiple choice. So in absolute terms, I'm sure I did badly. But I don't know what that means as far as passing or failing. I don't know how well I needed to do. I figure it could go either way. I really didn't know enough law. I didn't know the elements of burglary, which I needed to know for one of the essays. I didn't know the contract law they tested, even though I know I used to. I did okay with the Torts and Wills questions, I think. The MPT (Multistate Performance Test -- basically an open memo -- they give you the law and the facts and you write a memo) was easy, but I imagine everyone thinks it's easy, because it's easy, so no comparative gain there.

It's a long six hours, because there's a lot of writing, and a lot of having to answer boring essay questions that you really don't have any interest in answering. I'm imagining the multiple choice MBE stuff tomorrow will be at least less boring, and probably better because I feel better prepared for that part than today's part. And then I'll be done! And no more law ever again! :) Unless I fail and go take it in South Dakota in February.

More tomorrow, and probably I'll be more coherent about it too. I think it would be cool to demystify this thing a little bit, because I don't think people really know what the Bar Exam is really like before you go take it. So if there's anything anyone wants demystified, shoot me an e-mail and I'll try to come up with something to say.