Friday, December 09, 2005

Not all lawyers are created equal

Twice a year California provides an opportunity for those coveting a license to practice law in the Golden State to show that they are worthy - in the form of a three day event not so affectionately referred to by some as "a little pop quiz."

The summer writing messes up Tuesday - Thursday of the last week of July. In the "old days" applicants would receive their results the Friday following Thanksgiving. Small envelope - good. Big envelope - bad. It was real simple. Wanna-bees who didn't develop a tolerance (need?) for alcohol in law school were given plenty of opportunity while they waited for "results."

Modernly, results become available the Friday before Thanksgiving via a computer and a password. The envelope arrives thereafter. Reportedly, "good" and "bad" are cloaked in the same-sized cover. While plenty of lawyers still fondly nurse a drink, the ability to drink to excess is not a "good-'ol-boy" test of manhood - which is a good thing as womankind occupy a majority of seats in some law schools.

I digress. The winter writing is hosted the last week in February.

Twice a year, for years thereafter many practicing lawyers say a silent prayer, take a moment of silence or slip out into the parking garage and scream gratitude that they are not spending the heart of the week locked in a large room that four months later will leave one-half of its occupants bleeding dreams and wondering how in the heck they are going to pay off their school loans and tell mom and dad.

Every lawyer can tell stories about the horrors of the bar exam. Even those who passed on their first attempt have friends and acquaintances who did not. I remember the ripple of fear that spread across California in the early 80's when the "number one" at Boalt Hall (Berkeley) failed to pass.

The roll of the dice is cruel. This year is no exception. Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School, licensed to practice in New York and Massachusetts and a virtual "rock star" of the legal world felt the weight of the "big envelope" this Thanksgiving. As reported in the Wall Street Journal:

Kathleen Sullivan is a noted constitutional scholar who has argued cases before the Supreme Court. Until recently, she was dean of Stanford Law School. In legal circles, she has been talked about as a potential Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court. But Ms. Sullivan recently became the latest prominent victim of California's notoriously difficult bar exam. Last month, the state sent out the results of its July test to 8,343 aspiring and already-practicing lawyers. More than half failed, including Ms. Sullivan. Although she is licensed to practice law in New York and Massachusetts, Ms. Sullivan was taking the California exam for the first time after joining a Los Angeles-based firm as an appellate specialist. The California bar exam has created misery for thousands of aspiring and practicing lawyers. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown passed on his second try, while former Gov. Pete Wilson needed four attempts. The recently elected mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio R. Villaraigosa, never did pass the bar after failing four times.

Hat tip to Brother Brent for the news. Thanks, I bet I have nightmares tonight and my envelope was small oh so long ago . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

God Bless you my lawyer friend. I had little or no knowledge of this procedure and its possible accompanying pain. With a bit of legal experience (note, I did not say expertise), I quite honestly never considered the anguish that surely does befall the hopeful.

Ahhhhhhhhh much worse in reality, than waiting as a child for "Santa" to arrive. Hat tip to you Sir. From the Barbara Ann

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