Here we have part II of Postcards from the Bar Exam – Ithaca Law Grad 1988 (Part I here), kindly provided to me by Carolyn Elefant of My Shingle. Ms. Elefant’s advice to herself in 1988, remains true for law students today.
Only in Paris! There are some places, like Paris, which boast of such unique customs and rich history that they become universes unto themselves, with a distinctive and isolated reality. Likewise, the bar examination possesses its own form of reality, this one far more bizarre and idiosyncratic than anywhere else on Earth. Only on the bar exam do people sign contracts on softballs, and subsequently attempt to enforce them (which they can do). Only on the bar exam: a child standing on his own property, throws a softball across his neighbor’s yard, the ball lands safely on the other side, and the neighbor sues the child for trespass the next day (the neighbor would win – the flying softball invades her property). So many of the bar exam questions are downright implausible; they occur in a world so incredibly removed from reality that no Earth-bound law graduate would ever be practicing in such a place.
It’s true, bar exam questions are full of far-fetched and unnatural scenarios. The questions force the student to think about the material in a purely abstract manner; nothing familiar is provided to them. It’s best for law students to begin to prepare themselves for the alternate reality of bar exams well in advance of of formally preparing for the bar.
Take time early in your law school career to become familiar with MBE style questions. Go ahead and buy a couple practice books and become familiar with the structure of the questions early on – not just post law school graduation, with 2 months before you take the bar exam. You’ll be glad you did.