Let me tell you about the bar exam.
The California bar exam was three days of testing, six hours a day, with an hour break for lunch. Six topical essays (one hour each), two “performance test” essays (three hours each), and 200 multiple choice questions.
The multiple choice questions covered six areas of law. The topical essays covered those six areas, plus another seven areas, totaling 13 possible topics. But that number doesn’t include the federal and state distinctions; I needed to study the federal and California law of evidence and civil procedure and know which one applies. Each area of law came complete with rules, exceptions to the rules, and exceptions to the exceptions.
I had six weeks to study for the test. I spent pretty much every day inside, on my computer, following an online course. Topical outlines. Lectures. Practice multiple choice questions. Practice essays. Practice complete tests. Over and over and over.
I learned that the bar exam has little to do with real lawyering skills . Oftentimes, I would get a practice question wrong because I did not know some minute detail about the law, some tiny quirk that I happened to miss. The bar exam tests people’s ability to take tests. At least the performance test (which provides a hypothetical scenario with fictional facts and cases from which to craft a legal memo) actually tests the critical reasoning skills necessary to succeed as a lawyer.
So why did I put myself through this awful mess?
After I finished the bar exam on Thursday, I went to volunteer with the Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles at the legal clinic at Homeboy Industries. I worked with an attorney to provide legal services to indigent clients. One of the clients we served had an awful story. She was a survivor of domestic violence. She had been in prison. She was physically disabled and unable to work. She and her teenage daughter had been homeless. And now she had just been evicted from her apartment because of disagreements with the landlady. She came to the clinic for help in getting her security deposit back. The landlady refused to return the security deposit, even though that is required by law.
What impressed me the most was my client’s sense of confidence and strength. Even though she had been through so much, she was willing to fight to make a better life for herself and her daughter.
The attorney and I helped the client with filling out a form for small claims court, and prayed for her to find resolution. With tears in her eyes, the client thanked us for listening to her and helping her with her legal case. She said that getting the security deposit would help her find a new apartment for herself and her daughter. She left the clinic feeling much more relieved and hopeful for the future.
I went to law school to become an effective advocate for the poor and the marginalized. I believe that my work as a lawyer is part of my calling to “Love my neighbor as myself.” So even with the tedium and the bureaucracy and the rigmarole of becoming a lawyer, I am still glad that I made this choice.
Now I just need to wait until November for the results to come out.