Vail Daily column: Hurtling the bar | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Hurtling the bar

To become a lawyer, there are certain things somebody has to do. While no particular course of study is required, a four-year college degree is the first step. To get into law school, one must take and do relatively well on the LSAT — the law school admissions test — then graduate from law school — a three-year test of endurance, understanding and performance. While no two law schools are exactly alike, many stick with the five-classes-a-semester, single-exam-per-semester-per-class format.

No Mulligans in law school.

You graduate. Congratulations. But there is one more little obstacle to overcome before you can call yourself a lawyer. The bar exam. And it's a doozy.

In some states the bar exam is two days. In California, where I took my first bar exam, it's three days.

Put in the work

Traditionally, the passage rate in California is about 45 percent. After at least four years of college, three of law school and being skilled and tenacious enough to graduate, less than half the takers pass any given bar exam. Although you may take the bar exam as many times as you wish, it costs a bundle to take and is only given twice a year. One poor schmo in California passed on his 46th attempt.

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As soon as the confetti of law school graduation settles, most folks do is take a bar-prep class. They traditionally last two months. My days studying for the bar went like this:

Bar course, 8-11 a.m. Drive home, stuff something in my face. Study 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. Swim (or bike or run) 4:15-5:30 p.m. Shower. 5:45-8:45 p.m., study. Nap 8:45-9:15 p.m. More studying 9:30-11 p.m. Relax 11–11:12 p.m. Shower again 11:12–11:15 p.m. Bed 11:15 p.m.

This was seven days a week. When the bar exam was done and I went back and counted up the hours, I had averaged more than ten hours a day studying. And another twenty or so per week in class.

If you have never sat for the bar exam, then you may be wondering. "What is all the fuss? This is only a silly test. Right?"

Yeah. Sort of. It is divided into sections like a grapefruit and is spread across three days.

Day one goes like this: Show up. Fill out forms. Ready, set, go. Sit in a silent room with a couple hundred other people while vulture-like proctors gum-shoe about for the next four hours and answer three essay questions. Now, there are dozens of areas of law: contracts, torts, real property, Uniform Commercial Code and so on, and every possible nook and cranny of your brain is filled with law in its nearly infinite permutations. The truly evil thing about each one of the three questions is no hint whatsoever is given to what area of law the particular question may concern. You are asked a question. Period. It is up to you to figure out both the area of law and the proper answer. It's sort of a complex game of Ringolevio. Except you are entirely on your own. Oh, one other thing. Some of the questions involve two, three or even more areas of law. So a single question may require more wattage than your overstrained brain can reasonably muster.

Time to impress

In order to duly impress the grader one would hope to spit out a dozen pages or so. Per question.

After four hours of your neck crooking and your hand cramping, you take a break for lunch. Advil is recommended.

At 1:30 p.m. it all starts again. But this time, you have practice skills. Practice skills is another four-hour block. Instead of writing essays, you are asked to demonstrate your practical side.

You are provided with a library which may consist of various memos, letters, statutes and/or cases. The library could consist of a hundred pages or more. Your mission is to somehow get your arms around this unmanageable mess and then you are assigned a task. "Write an appellate brief on behalf of appellee/defendant," for example, "on the most secure grounds upon which an appeal may be based."

Then off you go.

Oh, did I mention, the brief must be fully annotated with appropriate references and authority from the library provided? So, no making stuff up.

Day two consists of a little devil known as the multi-states. Day two is called the multi-states because, with the exception of Washington and Louisiana, it is the same in every state.

The multi-states are divided into two sessions: a morning session and an afternoon session, each consisting of 100 multiple choice questions. The 200 questions that comprise the two sessions test six subject areas based on principles of common law and Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (covering the sale of goods) which apply throughout the United States. The questions are not broken down into sections, and the six topics are distributed more or less evenly throughout the exam. The morning session is three hours and the afternoon session is three hours. To pass this section of the bar exam, you must earn a score of 140 or better.

Day three is a rerun of day one but with different essay questions, a different library and practicum.

Sometimes, lawyers get a bad rap. But a little sympathy is in order. For each and every one of them to hang a shingle, the hurdle of the bar must have successfully been leapt. Some compassion, please.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, robbins@slblaw.com or robbins@colorado.net.

To become a lawyer, there are certain things a body has to do. While no particular course of study is required, a four-year college degree is the first step. To get into law school, one must take and do relatively well on the LSAT, the law school admissions test, then graduate from law school, a three-year test of endurance, understanding, and performance. While no two law schools are exactly alike, many stick with the five-classes-a-semester, single-exam-per-semester-per-class format. Needless to say, when exam time comes, your test-taking knives must be sharpened.

There are no Mulligans in law school.

You graduate. Congratulations. But there is one more little obstacle to overcome before you can call yourself a lawyer. The bar exam. And it’s a doozy.

In some states—Colorado is one—the bar exam is two days. In California, where I took my first bar exam—and yes, you must take the bar exam in every state in which you wish to practice—the bar exam is three.

Traditionally, the passage rate in California is about 45 percent. Yep, that’s right. After at least four years of college, three of law school and being skilled and tenacious enough to graduate, less than half the takers pass any given bar exam. And here’s the kicker; although you may take the bar exam as many times as you like, it costs a bundle to take and is only given twice a year. One poor schmoe in California passed on his 46th attempt.

When I say the passage rate is about 45 percent, that is 45 percent of all takers; first-timers, second-timers, and umpteenth-takers.

As soon as the confetti of law school graduation settles on the dusty indifferent cobbles, what most folks do is take a bar-prep class. They traditionally last two months. My days studying for the bar went like this:

Bar course, 8-11. Drive home, stuff something in my face. Study 12-4. Swim (or bike or run) 4:15-5:30. Shower. 5:45-8:45, study. Nap 8:45-9:15. More studying 9:30-11. Relax 11–11:12. Shower again 11:12–11:15. Bed 11:15.

Mind you, this was seven days a week. When the bar exam was over and I went back and counted up the hours, I had averaged more than ten hours a day—seventy hours a week—studying for the bar exam. And another twenty or so per week in class. If you don’t drink coffee, and you intend to sit for the bar exam, you’d better start.

If you have never “sat” for the bar exam, you may be wondering. “What is all the fuss? This is just some silly test. Right?”

Yeah. Sort of. In the same way that the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are Manny, Moe, and Jack.

It is divided into sections like a grapefruit and is spread, like grapefruit marmalade, over three days.

Day one goes like this. Show up. Fill out forms. Ready, set, go. Sit in a silent room with a couple hundred other people with vulture-like proctors gum-shoeing about for the next four hours and answer three essay questions. Now, there are dozens of areas of law: contracts, torts, real property, Uniform Commercial Code, and so on, and every possible nook and cranny of your brain is filled with law in its nearly infinite permutations. The truly evil thing about each one of the three questions (were the exam given on Passover, perhaps there would be four?) is that no hint whatsoever is given as to what area of law the particular question may concern. You are asked a question. Period. It is up to you to figure out both the area of law and the proper answer. It’s sort of like a complex game of Ringolevio. Except that you are entirely on your own. Oh, one other thing. Some of the questions — most of them, in fact — involve two, three, or even more areas of law. So a single question may require more wattage than your overstrained brain can reasonably muster.

In order to duly impress the grader — and yes, each essay is graded by hand—one would hope to spit out a dozen pages or so. Per question.

After four hours of your neck crooking and your hand cramping, you take a break for lunch. Advil is recommended with your Sunny Delight.

At 1:30 it all starts again. But this time, you have “practice skills.” “Practice skills” is another four-hour block. But this time, instead of writing essays, you are asked to demonstrate your practical side.

You are provided with a “library” which may consist of various memos, letters, statutes, and/or cases. The library may consist of a hundred pages or more. Your mission is to somehow get your arms around this unmanageable mess and then you are assigned a task. “Write an appellate brief on behalf of appellee/defendant,” for example, “on the most secure grounds upon which an appeal may be based.” Or some other auto-da-fé.

Then off you go!

Oh, did I mention, the “brief” must be fully annotated with appropriate references and authority from the library provided? So, no making stuff up!

Day 2 consists of a little devil known as the “Multi-states.” The Multi-states are called “the Multi-states” precisely because, with the exception of the states of Washington and Louisiana, Day 2 is the same in every state. It’s sort of like tonsils; nearly everybody has them.

The Multi-states are divided into two sessions: a morning session and an afternoon session, each consisting of 100 multiple choice questions. The 200 questions that comprise the two sessions test six subject areas based on principles of common law and Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (covering the sale of goods) that apply throughout the United States. The questions are not broken down into sections, and the six topics are distributed more or less evenly — like peanuts in a box of Cracker Jack — throughout the exam. The morning session is three hours and the afternoon session is three hours. To pass this section of the bar exam, you must earn a score of 140 or better.

Day 3 is a rerun of Day1 but, of course, with different essay questions in the morning and a different library and “practicum” in the afternoon.

Sometimes, lawyers get a bad rap. But a little sympathy is in order too. For each and every one of them to hang a shingle, the hurdle of the bar must have successfully been leapt. Some compassion, please!

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his e-mail addresses, robbins@slblaw.com or robbins@colorado.net.