Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Fascinating Subject

Anyone who is still looking for an interesting Fall course should consider Insurance Law. Of course, I may be biased in saying so, but the subject is not only timely, it is a perfect "capstone" course. Insurance law can be thought of as advanced contracts, advanced torts, as well as a course on policy and complex financial regulations. Insurance touches on all areas of the law, and is sure to raise some thought-provoking issues. For example, Bloomberg just released this story on secret profits in life insurance death benefit payouts. What's not to love?!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reflecting on the Bar Exam

For thousands of recent law school graduates, today is day two of the bar exam. The elation of graduating has faded and the reality of the test is upon them. I feel vicarious anxiety for all examinees. I doubt any attorney can think of someone sitting a bar exam without feeling a pang of sympathy. The bar is a rite of passage, and the experience of it is not likely to fade from memory any time soon.

For me, day two of the bar exam was a blur. I sat the exam in California, a three-day state. I couldn’t share in the excitement of my peers in Pennsylvania who were anticipating the glorious feeling of finishing the exam, and my own energy was waning. Day two is the multi-state day, and it was all I could do to stay focused on each question as it was hurled in front of my attention. It was hard to set aside the feelings about my performance on day one, and equally challenging to realize that I had another full day of testing yet to go. Friends and professors had encouraged us all to think of the exam as a “test of minimum competence,” but could we? In retrospect, that is exactly what it was, but that is certainly not how one approaches studying for such an important endeavor.

I would guess hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on bar preparation each year between the costs of professional bar review courses, hours invested in studying and sitting the test, and lost wages, etc. The period leading up to the bar exam can be a black hole of expense. Expense alone is a strong motivation to pass the thing on the first try. Unfortunately, however, after today (or tomorrow), the takers will have a long time to wait before hearing the results.

For me, the results came out Thanksgiving week – a full four months after I left the San Diego Convention Center. I wish I could say that I left the results in God’s hands and ceased thinking about the test. Sadly, I can still tell you the subjects of each essay and the order in which I wrote them. I replayed the test and my answers in my mind ad nauseam. This exercise in futility did little to ease my stress, though it did occupy my mind.

I can’t honestly encourage examinees to put the test out of their mind completely, because I don’t believe it is feasible or even wise. I think there is something to be gained from reflection. What I wished I would have done, though, is to give myself a time constraint in my own reliving of the experience. And so I will encourage the July 2010 batch of examinees. Give yourself a week or two (at the most) to reflect on the test itself. Talk about the questions with others, look up the “right” answers, if you desire, and then at the end of your set time, let it go. Write down all of your fears and concerns on a piece of paper and then shred it. The die has been cast, and the results will be revealed in time.

For now, sip a sangria and enjoy a much-deserved break. By taking the test, you have joined a fraternity of professionals who are eager to welcome your skills. Be proud of what you have achieved, and look forward to great things.