Carolyn Elefant, of My Shingle fame, recently came across her musings about taking the bar exam after graduating from Ithaca in 1988 and I volunteered to post them here at An Associate’s Mind. The thoughts and ideas contained in these postcards remain as true today as they did before the Berlin Wall came down. There are four postcards in all and I’ll be featuring the first today, with the other three coming next week. Below is Ms. Elefant’s introductory text (still circa 1988) along with the first post card.

Ithaca, NY, the summer of 1988. – This sum as I study for the bar exam, I can’t help but think of my contemporaries, the graduates from various professional and undergraduate schools who are spending their summers cavorting through Europe. Oh, how I envy them, healthy and tanned, hopping cross-continent from London to Paris to Rome savoring every highlight, while I, plow bitter and frustrated, slog from Contracts to Property to Criminal Law; where the only highlights worth savoring are my pale pink and chartreuse fluorescent pen markings which cover my endless pages of notes. Yet, in its own perverse way, the bar exam is like a European holiday. And I’ve jotted down some postcard notes to make myself believe it even more.

Don’t leave home without it. – Although I’m not the most cautious traveler, I’ve always thought that it wise to take my credit card along on trips to insure against any unanticipated catastrophes. As a law student preparing for the bar, I abide even more religiously by a similar conventional wisdom: “Bar Review Courses – Don’t Take the Exam Without Them.” All the hours I spent in law school honing my analytical and advocative skills and grappling with controversial legal questions; all of these elements taken together will not insure me against failing the bar exam where the bottom line is knowledge of the cold and frequently esoteric black-letter rules. The bar-review courses rescue us from that fate; they inject us with what we need to know through intensive lectures and rote exercises. Boasting seventy-percent passage rates, the bar-review courses aren’t as risk-free as American Express – but they’re better than relying on what I learned in law school.

I’ll be taking the bar this coming February of 2011, and I can’t imagine not taking a bar review course. I agree with Ms. Elefant’s estimate of law school: it provides a student analytical skill and a broad knowledge and exposure to the body of law – but it doesn’t teach you how to pass the bar exam.

Fellow law students: Take the time, spend the money, and invest in your future. Take a Bar Exam Preparatory Course.

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