I passed the California bar exam.
It was almost exactly four years ago that I literally woke up and had the idea to go to law school. And next week, I will take my oath and become an attorney.
Over time, I've found that a funny thing happens when you set long-term goals and reach them: by the time you get there, you've already started focusing on the next goal so it's hard to pause and appreciate the ground you've already covered.
Four years ago, the idea of going back to school after 12 yrs and becoming a California attorney seemed almost preposterously far-fetched. But here it is. So I should be pausing for a moment of self-congratulation.
But it doesn't feel right. And that's because I know quite a number of people from UCLA who didn't pass the bar exam. We stormed the beach together, struggled across the dunes, and reached the top of the hill, and just as we were about to complete the mission, they got picked off by a sniper.
It sucks. It sucks for them. And for me, it makes passing the bar exam seem less like an achievement and more like another instance of the unpredictable grading standards at work throughout law school. These are people who were plenty smart to pass. Everyone expected them to pass. But they didn't. And meanwhile, people who were not, shall we say, high achievers in law school did manage to pass.
Am I saying that people with low grades don't deserve to pass the bar? No. The bar exam has rules. When you take the exam, you agree to play by those rules. And whether you passed or you failed, you earned your results fair & square. I'm just saying that I probably underestimated the ability of the bar exam to confound one's expectations — in both positive & negative directions. On a different day, it could've been me.
So, I'm not ready to celebrate. I'm glad I passed. I'm ready to start working as an attorney. But this achievement is incomplete. I'm not ready to congratulate myself until I can congratulate all my friends. The cork stays in the champagne bottle until everyone makes it over the finish line.
To those who didn't pass: if you're crying, or yelling, or lying face-down in a puddle of Jack Daniel's — who could blame you. It sucks. It sucks to have gotten this far and just miss. It sucks to have made such an emotionally exhausting commitment to the exam the first time and now be called upon to repeat that performance. I won't say I know how it feels because I don't. But if you told me I had to take the bar exam again, I would definitely cry. And then crawl off to eat a six-pack of Swiss Miss pudding.
And I salute you. Because most of you will be signing up to retake the exam in February. And it is no small feat to pick up from this setback and get ready to do it all again, in the meantime experiencing all the collateral annoyances from not being a licensed attorney (e.g. the bump-up in salary you were counting on to help pay your student loans). It sucks. But keep at it. I am cheering for you.
18 Nov 07