Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How an Attorney becomes an Attorney -- Next Step

Receiving a diploma from an accredited law school isn’t enough.

Then we have to take the dreaded, feared bar exam. Huge intake of breath.

The bar exam is HORRIBLE. I am licensed in two states: Virginia and Indiana. At the time I took the Virginia exam there were 20 some topics that could be on the 1 day state portion of the exam. Only six essays, but you had to know 20 some topics. Can we all say gamble. Fortunately, my study group guessed right.

In Indiana there was a more manageable 12 or 14 topics for the one day state portion of the exam. And fortunately much of it wasn’t that different from the Virginia exam.

Then there’s the one day multi-state. Could you see me shudder. It is a full day, multiple choice test that covers 6 (!) topics. I had to take that sucker twice in 18 months. There should be a special award somewhere for doing that. Ugh! I want to say it’s 100 questions. However many it is, it’s horrible.

Do you get the sense attorneys don’t like the bar exam? It has nothing to do with real life. Nothing. Since when does an attorney not take the time to grab the code or do research when presented with a client question?

But every state has a bar exam. And if an attorney moves, they will either have to be waived in or take the new state’s bar exam. Can you sense the plot twist here?

In the legal thriller I’m working on, I had to deal with this very issue, because my heroine flees from one state to another. To make it real, I can’t have her practice in Indiana on her Virginia license.

So if you’re attorney character is recently out of law school, likely the words bar exam will send them into all manner of twitches. And it is an experience common to all attorneys. We’ve all had to take it at some time. We can all trade war stories about it. Part of that common experience.

Sidenote: a handful of states do allow you to sit for the bar exam without going to law school. These folks read the law like Abraham Lincoln and others did. Those states include Vermont and Virginia. Still not the safest way to do it since other states may not recognize that if you try to take their bar.

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