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Someone once asked me if I believe in reincarnation. My response is that I hope there is no such thing because reincarnation would mean having to take the bar exam again. I’m also afraid God might punish me by making me come back as a tax attorney. Contrary to somewhat popular opinion, it really isn’t that hard to pass the bar exam. Sure, it took Charles Evans Hughes seven tries. John Kennedy Jr. took the New York bar exam three times. And we all know people who went through the exercise more than once, more than twice, and even more than several times. But, even in states with low passage rates, the vast majority of people get past the exam. Bottom line: It doesn’t take a legal genius. Don’t believe me? Pull out your law firm directory and go down the list of names. Far harder than the bar exam itself is waiting for bar exam results. One of the biggest unsolved mysteries is why it takes months — up to four months in some states — for bar examination results to be released. Many people conclude there is no good reason for this. Then again, if results were popped out in a week or two, bar exam takers (especially bar exam flunkers) would feel that not enough time had been taken to adequately consider their exam answers. It’s kind of like when my college roommate submitted his application to Stanford Business School on a Wednesday and got his rejection letter on Friday of that same week. He was left to feel his application had not been adequately considered. (I, on the other hand, was left to feel vindicated, having told him on numerous occasions that Stanford does not accept B-minus students). Meanwhile, bar exam takers are left to wait �- and wait — and wait. Lives, or at least careers, are put on hold while scores are tabulated. During this waiting period, even the most confident fear the “we regret to inform you” letter from the State Bar. They therefore use this time of year to figure out what they are going to do when the bad news arrives. Someone once said that failing to plan is planning to fail. Those waiting for bar exam results make a plan for when they fail. Some of the more common of these plans are described below. 1. Plan to move out of state. It’s so unfair that you’ve decided to practice in a state with a low passage rate while some states seem to pass anyone who knows how to operate a Number 2 pencil. While you are waiting for results, some of your classmates from other states who never studied a lick for the exam are already licensed to practice. You make plans to move to a state that you’ve never visited, where you know no one, where you have no contacts. But, more importantly, it is a state that does not place a huge obstacle in the way of your becoming an attorney. 2. Have an alternative career plan. At some point during the results waiting period, you become certain you failed the bar exam and make alternative career plans. For example, you are driving to work and see one of those people who hold the SLOW signs at road construction sites. You say to yourself, “There’s a job I can do if I fail the bar exam.” The same thoughts run through your head when you get to the office and see the guy who opens the door and says good morning to people entering the building. The shortcomings of these jobs, you conclude, are a fair tradeoff for not having to pass a two- or three-day-long examination. 3. Plan for a new lifestyle. We all have well-meaning relatives, friends and coworkers. But, when you are waiting for bar results, well-meaning relatives friends and co-workers are the worst kind of relatives, friends and co-workers. This is because each one gives you that “waiting bar results look” whenever they see you. The look is a split second longer than the pre-bar exam look. The additional glance checks to see if you are cracking under the pressure. Eventually, you prefer not to look at anyone and make plans to become a hermit. Giving up all forms of human companionship is a small price to pay for not having to go back and study contracts and torts yet again. 4. Plan your excuses. Unlike most other academic, professional and personal failures you may have during your lifetime, failing the bar examination is public information. Announcing you “didn’t want to be a lawyer anyway” isn’t going to work as well as “I wasn’t fired, I quit” or “our breakup was my idea.” More imagination and effort need to go into excuses for failing the bar exam. Warning: The “they lost my exam” and “a terrible mistake has been made” lines have already been tried and not proved fruitful. In the end, most people pass the bar examination and all these plans are forgotten. Still, they may prove useful later in your career if you get bored with practicing law for a living or if the State Bar Ethics Committee makes “a terrible mistake.” The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected]

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