You’re A New Lawyer...How Does That Sound?!
by Becky Bye
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …
Last month, the Colorado Supreme Court swore-in hundreds of new, wide-eyed, eager attorneys into the Colorado Bar. Several of these new Colorado attorneys are my friends and colleagues. Before, during and after the Bar exam process, many of them called on me (and others) to mentor them through the stomach-turning process. It brings me back to my own Bar exam experience.
I begin with the Bar exam application. Unlike many of my peers, I did not wait until the last minute to begin the lengthy process that included gathering my driving records and criminal history, finding three references from every place that I had lived, and other tedious tasks that proved more difficult than a scavenger hunt. Along the way, I discovered that I had two outstanding traffic tickets in New York and that my birth certificate is impossible to find.
On a beautiful May morning two days after law school graduation, I commenced studying. I traded blue skies, carefree outdoor summer happy hours and fun for mind-enhancing concepts like the rule against perpetuities, holographic wills and mortgages, and late nights in drafty law school libraries, microwavable lunches, 50 pounds of books containing "condensed" versions of law school classes, handwritten flashcards, endless coffee and no social life.
The night before the exam, I went out for my "last supper" with a fellow Bar exam-taker and an attorney. I am not a religious person, but I prayed to whatever supernatural force was listening that night. On exam day, I wore a necklace made out of candy — a pre-exam routine from my organic chemistry days.
I don’t recall much about the exam itself. Perhaps this is my brain’s way of dealing with the trauma. All I remember from the first day was that time was slipping away as I worked on the essays and MPT portion of the exam. The second day of the exam was worse. The fact that many of
my answers did not match other people’s answers concerned me even more during post-exam discussions.
The exam ended anticlimactically when the proctors told us to put down our pencils and submit our tests. I wasn’t happy or relieved, just distraught and unsatisfied. No one was certain whether they had passed or failed.
After the exam, many test-takers ventured to celebrate the end of the Bar … at a bar, of course, but there was a cloud looming above us. I tossed and turned for the next week, trying to recall all the test questions and my answers. To escape, I took a six-week vacation to New Zealand and Australia. Instead of the adrenaline and anxiety of the exam, I opted for less adrenaline-pumping, daunting activities like skydiving, jet boating and scuba diving. The terror associated with taking the Bar and the prospect of not passing was worse than any of the extreme adventure activities in which I participated.
When I returned, I began my new job, intentionally immersing myself in work and social activities to avoid thinking about what was to come. Like the many nights during my studying, I couldn’t sleep the night before the results were posted. At 1 a.m., I realized that some of my friends in England were awake, getting ready for work. I called them in despair. At 4 a.m., I realized the same of my friends in New York City. Finally, at 5 a.m., I attempted to put my insomnia to good use and arrived at work early to get a start on my day. Instead, all I could do was refresh the Bar results website every two seconds. When mid-morning approached, I had a flurry of e-mails from other anxious colleagues. A knowledgeable friend finally announced that the Bar examiners were having "server issues" and the results would not be posted until the afternoon.
I waited, staring at my Blackberry, hoping for a "congratulations" or "sorry" e-mail from anyone. Finally, my law firm e-mailed with the news that "All associates passed the Colorado Bar exam!" When I went to the website to confirm for myself, I was thrilled when I saw my name. That evening, as I was eagerly walking to my car, I tripped and fell down in front of dozens of people. A crowd huddled around me, asking if I was okay. From the back of the crowd, someone from my office yelled: "She’s okay! She passed the Bar!" My sentiments exactly.
As we did at conclusion of the Bar exam, my friends and I ventured into a bar that night, this time with the energy and enthusiasm to enjoy ourselves. Later, as I was taking my oath, I realized that the grueling process of the Bar exam, the mental torment, and my crazed state of being was well worth it. Advocating for clients in the utmost professional and collegial way, while adhering to our historic state and federal constitutions, makes the legal profession truly a beautiful, fulfilling profession.