I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I have stolen this from Vidas.

My friend, Vidas, as we refer to her, and I should, one day, have a column in a newspaper. Maybe it could be advice, maybe it could be social commentary -- our slightly divergent viewpoints (mine wacky leftist, and hers wacky right) could make for some amusing banter.

I anticipate Vidas' next blog, like people probably anticipated the arrival of the Wells Fargo Wagon in yesteryear, bringing them exotic goodies like "a box of maple sugar on my birthday" or "raisins from Fresno" or "a gray Mackinaw" or a "box of grapefruit from Tampa" or maybe some "salmon from Seattle," and maybe, just maybe, the "D.A.R. [had] sent a cannon for the courthouse square!" I mean, after all, each of Vidas' next blogs, could be thomethin for thomeone who ith no relation, but it could be thomethin' thpecial, jutht for me! (If you know what that's from, God Bless you.)

Now that I've finished ripping off Meredith Wilson's The Music Man!, and having reaffirmed my homosexuality, I will now paste the full text of Vidas's most recent blog, normally findable here or also at www.dasvidas.blogspot.com.

For you see, gentle reader (I hope you don't hate it when I call you that, or think I'm being condescending when I break the "third wall") Vidas is taking the Bar Exam again. And, as usual, I find her assessment of the situation, well, 100% correct.

Without further ado, here is the text of something I did not write:

So I'm currently studying for the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar exams. Assuming I pass both, I will then be licensed to practice law in three states. However, if you count the states with which Pennsylvania has reciprocity, I will have the option to practice in an additional 31 other states including: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Now, let's compare that number with the number of states in which I can practice law as a result of passing the Florida bar:


For those lucky enough to avoid three years of law school, there is a shroud of mystery which surrounds the entire bar exam process. Unless you have actually sat for the bar, it is very difficult to understand why those who haven taken the exam consider it such a traumatic experience. I will now attempt to explain why the bar exam is such a nightmare.

Before you can sit for the bar, you must complete:

The Bar Application

Completing the bar application is almost as bad as taking the bar itself. Some states like to make everyone's lives easier and allow electronic filing of said application. Other states require paper applications to be printed out and filled in. For example, New Jersey's thirty page application can neither be filled out nor filed on-line. New Jersey requires that you print out and manually fill in the 30 page packet. Then NJ has the balls to go and say that it "prefers" the use of a "typewriter".

First, I really don't care what the state of NJ prefers. I prefer to not take the multi-state portion of the bar exam, having passed it by 26 points only one year ago. I prefer not having to list every job I've had since the age of 18, or every residence I've lived in since the age of 16. I prefer not having to go to the DMV to obtain a copy of my "certified drivers record." (I can only imagine how difficult it is for one state agency to obtain records from another state agency. It's probably best that I wait in line four hours to obtain a piece of paper issued by the state to later put in an envelope and mail back to the state.) I prefer not having to think of eight different people to serve as my references, especially when those eight people cannot be: a law student, a relative or a co-worker. News flash NJ, those are the only three groups of people I have spoken to in the last four years. What's that you say? College friends? YEAH! Great idea! Some of my best friends from college don't even know my first name. They might be able to tell you about my beer pong prowess, or about the time we used the handicap designated electric wheel chair ramp to load kegs into a van, or my propensity for Jack Daniels. However, I'm pretty sure they would not have a lot to offer in terms of my professionalism, dedication and commitment to veracity and honesty.

Secondly, NJ, what makes you think I have a typewriter? Are you serious? Like the other 100% of the people applying for this bar exam, I have a "computer". Computers are kind of like typewriters, except that they still make them. New Jersey, if you prefer to have the applications typed, make like Pennsylvania and permit users to fill them out online.

Once you have filed your bar application, you must begin to prepare for the bar exam. This usually involves attending:

The Bar Class

Once you have completed the traumatic filing process, you then shell out $2500 to sit in a classroom for six weeks to learn all of the stuff you didn't learn in law school because your crappy Torts professor spent two months exploring the subtle distinction between a "manufacturing defect" and a "design defect" in product liability cases.

But its worse than that. The bar class isn't about re-learning things you learned during your law school tenure. The bar class is about learning things that you have never learned before and will never need to know again A lot of the new information is never taught in law school because it either 1) never comes up, or 2) is so trivial that it would be silly to mention. Those are basically the prerequisites bar examiners use when deciding which questions belong on the bar. See, e.g., liabity of bee keeper for bee attack turns on whether the kept bees are honey making bees or crazy african bees.

Once you have spent a total of eight weeks trying to learn every minutiae of law that could possibly be thrown at you, you get to take:

The Bar Exam

In the state of Florida, every person that sits for the Florida bar takes the bar in Tampa Bay at the same time, in the same room. If tension and nervousness could some how be harnessed into an alternate energy source, the auditorium in the Tampa Bay Convention Center could power the state of Florida for an entire 3 months.

It's almost amusing to see the way people freak out right before the exam. When I took the Florida bar, I literally had a friend come running up to me 4 minutes before the exam having a melt down about "riparian water rights."

My Friend: "Vidas, Vidas!!!! Do you remember what the BarBri lady said about riparian water rights?"
Me: "No. If it's on there, it will be one question max. Worth one point, if that."
My Friend: "But what if it's in an essay??! An essay is worth a lot more than one point."
Me: "Uhhh. I don't know. Go ask Scott."
My Friend: [Gasping noises.]
Me: "I've got a paper bag for you to breath into. Will that help?"

When the magic hour final arrives, you are corraled like cattle being led into a slaughter house. It's interesting to see how each individual reacts to the inordinately stressful situation. Some people talk non-stop; nervous gibberish. Some people recite elements to different causes of action. Some people use the bathroom eight times before the exam. Some people won't talk. Some people can't sit still and walk around until the test is distributed. I, myself, must have used the water fountain a half dozen times before sitting down to take the test. Thank god for coping mechanisms.
Even after the exam starts, you can tell which people are shitting the bed. In Florida, you are paired two to a table. My friend Scott's table mate would pound the table everytime he encountered a question to which he didn't know the answer. My table mate was a classic "second guesser". He'd write a bunch of stuff down, read it and proceed to erase the entire page. He would erase so hard that the entire table would shake. The Florida bar has three essays. I think this guy wrote about eight that day. By the time the essay portion of the exam was over, he was about a foot deep in eraser shavings.

And the sad thing is that when you see people shitting the bed, you don't feel bad for the person. You feel happy it isn't you.



The Aftermath

As you fill in that last bubble on the scantron sheet, there is total and utter joy. You did it! You finished the bar exam. But somehow, by the time you get up from your seat and hand in your test booklet you have managed to convince yourself that you failed the exam. Just to make sure you totally failed, you and a friend spend the four hour car ride home comparing each of your answers, question by question.

So the relief you feel from completing the bar is almost non-existent. The crushing weight on your shoulders stays with you for another six weeks until the bar examiners post results on line. The day before the bar results are announced, you hear people say things like: "I know I failed; that exam was impossible. I hope the next version is easier", "I just hope everyone passed. Everyone studied so hard. We all deserve to pass." Then the results are announced. And how things change. Those same people now say things like: "I knew I nailed it. It wasn't that bad. It was a lot of hype, but in the end not that hard." "Oh my god, did you hear so-and-so failed the bar? I know, what a bitch. Total karma, right?".

The day the results are announced, there is a frantic explosion of telephone calls and texting and IM'ing. If you fail the bar and don't want anybody to know about it, I would seriously consider moving. At the very least, you should stop taking phone calls for a good month.

Final Thoughts

The bar exam is a stupid, stupid attorney right of passage. How well you do on the bar exam has no correlation to the type of attorney you will become. A lot of really bad attorneys have passed the bar. A lot of really good attorneys failed the first or second time around.

In the end, I think that the best way to describe the entire process is like a pregnancy. The bar exam is like a baby you carry for two months. During those two months, your life completely changes. You stop drinking (lest you lose a day of studying). You rarely see your friends or family. You get weird food cravings during those late night study sessions. You gain weight from the aforementioned food cravings and because you no longer have time to go to the gym. You have horrible mood swings due to the tremendous amount of stress you are under. (See, e.g., the "Dog Killing Story")And by the last week of your pseudo pregnancy, you just "want it out" of you. There's even post-partum depression associated with taking the bar. You are happy that the bar is over, but feel an overwhelming sense sadness because you don't know whether you have passed or failed.

Anyway, good luck to all those out there studying for the bar. In the end, it's just a test. A really, really, really horrible life sucking test.

Two things I have learned about Papayas:

Thing the first:

Seeding a Papaya is one of the only experiences in life that actually feels in practice, exactly how you think it's going to feel. That may not make sense, so I'll elaborate. One of my favorite feelings, and I don't know why, and I don't know what this says about me, is that first feeling after you've halved a papaya, when you dig your hand into the center and scoop out the seeds. The seeds are shiny and slimy and round - if they popped like salmon eggs that would be even better, but at least they have a little gelatinous cushion around the hard seed inside. I really like having that handful of mushy seeds in half of my hand, and the creamy, dare I say buttery texture of the coral-colored papaya flesh on the other side of my hand. Scooping seeds feels exactly how you...think...it's going to feel. Wet, mushy, but also firm. Yeah. I'll give it to you that it's weird. But I really mean that with no purient subtext -- totally innocently. Is there anything more satisfying than flinging a handful of papaya seeds from your hand into the garbage disposer?

Probably, but right now I'm at a loss to think of any of them.

Thing the second: When you're pissed off that your tonsils are swollen AGAIN, (but not infected. yet.) and you're consuming massive quantities of strawberries, mango, papaya and oranges...(Yes, I live in a tropical climate. I'm also a little brown-skinned child who is able to shin up a coconut tree and bash the coconut on a stick on the beach of the island paradise where I live. On this aside, does anyone else remember this clip from Sesame Street? Old-time Sesame Street, when lots of their clips were totally late 70s early 80s? Like, guys with Afros, Sesame Street? And there was a segment that I vividly remember of kids climbing up coconut trees probably in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, or Guyana, or wherever, and picking green coconuts, and bringing them down, and hammering them on a spike driven into the beach, and drinking coconut milk out of them. Anyone? Am I the only one? Okay. Juuuust checking.)

I digress -- I'm gonna blame this one on the papaya: Papayas have a slight... laxative effect if you eat too much. And by slight, I mean I spent the last two days gripping the arms of my chair and praying that time would speed up and the day would end as my guts bubbled furiously. For yes, I have not overcome my fear of public pooping. I will not do it.

And as a result, I have learned a very, VERY important lesson: Less papaya in the future. And that is a lesson that I am only too happy to pass along to you, dear reader. LESS PAPAYA IN THE FUTURE.

And with that, I bid you adieu.