About once a week, someone will say something to me like, "No offense, but I really don't want to have to deal with a lawyer."
None taken. People don't like lawyers as a whole, just how they don't like politicians and in some cases, cops. Individually everyone is great. But when you look at the group with a wide lens, the bad apples make all of the others look terrible too.
That's OK. I'm a big boy and don't need people to like me. The good news for all of you lawyer haters out there is that it's getting harder to pass the bar exam. If you don't pass, you can't get a law license.
In 2009, 89% of people who took the Illinois bar exam passed. The numbers were over 90% for those who were taking it the first time. The powers that be didn't like this. So even though there is no evidence that those who were barely passing the bar exam ended up being bad attorneys, the standards got harder. You just spent $150,000.00 on a law degree you say? Too bad because we need you to pass this test that has pretty much nothing to do with being an actual attorney.
This past summer when the test was administered, one out of every four people who took it failed. That's a really high percentage.
I was fortunate enough to pass the first time I took it and studied my butt off to do it. Even though I was going great on practice exams and felt good after the test (although I was terribly hungover the next day, but that's another story), there was no moment in my life as nerve wracking as looking at that letter which told me if I passed or failed.
Test takers today can find their results on line, but back in the day we learned if we passed or not by mail. I had just gotten back from a weekend out of town and when I got the mail, there was only one item in it; my bar exam letter. It was thin which I heard was a good sign, but I was still really nervous. I ripped it open fast as if pulling off a band-aid and searched for the word "congratulations." I don't even remember if I saw that word or not, but did see information on my swearing in ceremony which was all I needed to know.
There was no texting back then, so if you wanted to find out how a friend did, you had to call them or bump in to them. Fortunately I didn't have any awkward calls that year as my good friends all passed. I did run in to some people who didn't passed and that really sucked. One of my best friends in Ohio didn't pass it the next year which was a difficult time for him, but he rebounded to pass the next time and became a top environmental attorney.
I get the arguments for making the exam harder, but I'm still against them. It's not like being board certified as a doctor where if you don't know your stuff then someone might die. If the exam measured what we do on most days then it would be more understandable. As a classmate of mine once said, "I just want to write wills for old ladies all day so who cares if I know about criminal procedure."
I don't suspect that the score standards will be changed any time soon. They affect those who really have no voice, the students. I don't expect that you or the general public will be losing too much sleep over this either.
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