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Friday, September 05, 2003

Things to Do Until the Bar Results Are in


Among the juicy pieces of information in Hillary Clinton’s recent memoir is her admission that she failed the District of Columbia bar exam. Who cares about the details of her marriage or her political life? Bar exam results are what really interest us.

We all know people (and some of us are people) who went through the bar examination more than once. Still, despite bar exams being challenging, most of us get through. The rest of us become notaries public.

There are few things worse in lawyer life than taking the bar. One of these few worse things is waiting for your bar exam results.

And the wait can be excruciatingly long–in some states, it takes three or four months to learn your fate. It is a bit curious why it takes the bar examiners so long to announce results. I mean, how much time do they really need to randomly select a certain percentage of exam books out of a big pile and mark them "Pass" and leave the rest for the "We regret to inform you ..." pile?

Meanwhile, bar exam-takers are left to wait. That means living several months under the pressure–and under the watchful eyes of friends and colleagues waiting to see if you crack under the pressure. It can get so bad that some people actually feel relieved to learn they failed.

During the waiting period, things are pretty much out of the wannabe lawyer’s hands. One thing you can do while waiting for the announcement, however, is make plans on how to react if the news is bad. There are several different courses of action for this scenario:

1. Plan to move out of state. Not all attorneys are qualified equal; that’s because the degree of difficulty for bar exams varies from state to state. Some states will license anyone who knows how to operate a No. 2 pencil. So, instead of studying harder to try again, you can move to a state where the odds are in your favor. One warning: If you go to one of the easier states and fail there, it will be obvious to all that you are not the legal genius you pretend to be.

2. Make alternate career plans. As you become certain you failed, you will start thinking about alternatives. Your new career path can be almost anything, as long as it doesn’t require a license and the passing of a test. One idea that may pop into your head is marrying someone you think will be elected president of the United States, and then running for the U.S. Senate yourself.

3. Plan your excuses. Unlike most other academic, professional and personal failures, failing the bar is public information and, in your mind, a public event. In other words, if you fail, you can’t simply lie to people and tell them you passed. (Well, you can, but they can look it up.) Instead, you’ll have to practice saying, "I didn't want to be a lawyer anyway," or some such. Warning: "They lost my exam book" and "A terrible mistake has been made" have already been tried with little success.

4. Give me a call. I know a guy who works out of an alley downtown who is a master at making fake bar cards.

You can contact the Rodent at

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