Growing up my Dad was in the military so we moved…a lot. The shortest we ever stayed was 6 months, the longest was right around 4 years. Generally speaking, ever 3-4 years we’d pack up our entire house (correction: a moving company packed up our entire house) and move, typically across the country if not the globe. After high school I left Utah (where I’d lived for 4 years) and moved to New Orleans for college, where, by basic undergraduate math, I lived for four years, minus the summers that I spent in Dallas, Texas. My college friends were always very confused about where I was from, I’d gone to high school in Utah but only went back there for Christmas, my car had license plates from Georgia which is where my brother went to college and I spent my Thanksgiving holidays but I had a Texas drivers license and I spent my summers sweltering in Dallas. Also: this made my application for the bar very, very complicated.
After college I left New Orleans and moved to Chicago, where in my estimation I’d live for three years before moving back to New Orleans. Shortly after starting law school Hurricane Katrina put a wrench in the economy down there, and then in my third year of law school I met B and figured I’d stay, and what the hell, why shouldn’t I take the Illinois bar exam, this seems like a great idea. Spoiler Alert: I can assure you all I will only take one bar exam, ever, in my entire life. There is not enough money in the world to convince me to do that again. So, Illinois it was. B and I fell in love, got engaged, found jobs, got married.
And somewhere in there, I felt the itch to move. Europe, the West Coast, perhaps Vermont. I’d watch House Hunters and tell B how great _____ City was and how we should move there. He would tell me I would have to take their bar exam, and I’d tell him I liked Chicago after all. Round and round we went, until somewhere along the line, a few amazing jobs in Washington D.C. turned up. Applications were sent because you want to know what I love about Washington D.C.? You don’t have to take the bar exam if you already passed another one. (Simple answer. Waiving in is slightly more complicated and yes, I know how it works, and no, I don’t need you to tell me, just accept my simple version of the truth.) Suddenly I imagined Saturday’s brunching in Georgetown, a single family home with a yard in some neat town outside of DC, date nights at the Kennedy Center. Of course DC has its downfalls, namely the humidity and the fact that you pretty much have to wear your resume on your lapel and if it doesn’t say something like “Harvard” no one takes you seriously, but it also has museums and restaurants and politics and suburbs that don’t make me want to shank myself in the eye. (Chicago suburbs….are not my thing.) WE WERE MOVING TO DC!
And then, while we waited to hear back I started thinking, and while I know I could move to DC and build a life there and be happy and love everything about it, I realized I love Chicago. I love the town and how I know how to avoid the tourists on Michigan Avenue and that I finally know the names of every expressway and where they go. I know the good delis and the tourist traps, I know where to go listen to jazz and where to find a great martini and which bar in the city has the best mac & cheese bites you’ll ever have the pleasure of dipping in ranch dressing. I’ve checked amazing restaurants off my list and I can now bring up a new store by referencing what used to be there and I can successfully navigate myself to any neighborhood with nothing but a bus pass. I have a hair dresser I love, I’m a regular at more than one restaurant in my neighborhood and more than the town and the sailing and the bike paths, I love my people. Our friends who invite us over for dinner, who stop by for a drink on a Saturday evening, who we celebrate holidays and every day with. If I was alone in an emergency room I have an entire phone list of people who would drop everything to come sit with me, and when I had my appendix out the flower delivery man knew my name because we have so many amazing people around us. My husband I, both transplants from other places, have built a life, a support network, and our own little community.
And suddenly I realized, perhaps after all these years, I’m home.
It is that time of year again, when recent law school graduates are filled with fear and despair as they try to cram insane amounts of knowledge regarding antiquated legal doctrines into their brain in order to properly regurgitate it for the board of bar examiners. The fear is palpable if you get too close to a BarBri study site, much like dementors hovering over London, it casts a cold misty pallor over everything. Heaven help the poor soul who ends up stuck in a coffee shop near one of these study sites, during their 30 minute wait for a cup of coffee they’ll be treated to aimless chattering about riparian water rights, flash cards with crazy acronyms (COAH anyone?) and frantic discussions about whether or not the extra cost of PMBR is worth it.
Sigh. If you wander across one of these coffee shops I implore you to vacate it immediately.
This is the first summer that I don’t think I personally know anyone who is taking the bar exam. Certainly they are out there, but none of my close friends have sent me an e-vite for the post-bar-exam-drinking-extravaganza so suffice to say, anyone I know who is taking the bar exam is merely an acquaintance. I realized it has been four years since I took that exam and with that realization came another; the fact that I am no longer qualified to give advice to examinees. There are younger lawyers who are closer to the exam that are better prepared to offer anecdotes and study aides, to remind their friends to wear layers in case their testing center is too hot or too cold, to suggest which room to sit in for the BarBri lectures. I no longer remember much about the lecturers or even the exam, rather it is this hazy uncomfortable memory of countless hours of studying and endless outlines and flashcards, and the flood of relief when I found out I passed. My bar exam experience is tied up with a neat little bow, one that makes me shudder if I think about it for too long but is generally over and done with.
So I pass the torch on giving any new advice and instead offer my tried and true archival notes on the whole mess, and if my analytics are any indication, people are still looking for a good set of jokes about the bar exam. Look no further:
And if you are looking for real advice or thoughts:
Dealing With the Dragon (Tips for Loved Ones of Bar Examinees)
In July of 2007 my husband took the Illinois bar exam. (We had just kind of sort of started showing interest in each other.)
In July of 2008 I took the Illinois bar exam. (We were firmly and seriously dating at this time.)
We both passed. Neither of us are experts on the bar exam itself, not one teeny tiny bit, but I suppose we each have a bit of perspective on the time leading up to the exam and waiting for results, after each going through it ourselves and then watching/supporting the other through their own little personal nightmare of the exam.
I’ve written all about the bar exam in years past. Most aptly at this point in time, some tips for a current examinee the week of the actual bad boy. Perhaps a bit late for this year, but tips for loved ones of a bar examinee. For future reference, I once talked about the fun fun day when results come out and all the hysteria that follows. Then of course there is my post that I didn’t even write myself (and of course disclosed that I didn’t write it myself) in which I shared a few bar exam jokes. Don’t worry, unless you have taken a bar exam that post will not be remotely funny. If you have taken a bar exam you will probably laugh really hard, unless you don’t care for profanity, and in that case, well, shit out of luck I suppose.
The only reason I link back to these is that I’ve been made aware that the posts are making the rounds of the current examinees. I can only assume they are enjoying them because I’m averaging an email or tweet a day from someone saying “So my friend from law school linked to your blog on Facebook today…” and more than half my current search engine traffic is coming in the form of the following types of searches:
Bar exam, funny
I think I’m going to fail the bar exam
Help for the Illinois bar exam
Bar exam, I’m dying
Oh sweetie. I know. It is awful but the good news is that you are in the home stretch. So to reiterate points from posts past: