Bar Exams, Gay, Gay Marriage, Immigration

Bar Review Diaries: Don’t Panic

Well, we are just two weeks away. The bar exam looms. Our columnists have given up discussing country life and making fake advice lists. They are putting their noses to their respective grindstones.

This week at the Bar Review Diaries, we hear some crowd-sourced opinions about studying for the bar, we learn the secret to not feeling stressed (hint: spell it backwards), and we even get a little immigration policy lesson.

Let’s check in with our bar-taking correspondents….

First let’s hear from Mariah:

This week, I polled some friends for their thoughts on studying for the bar.

When asked what the best part about studying for the Bar Exam was, most people seemed to agree on some variation of its straightforwardness — black letter law after three years of Socratic can be refreshing. One person saw it as a good chance to do some “reflecting on my entire law school career while going over each class I took in a wholly superficial manner.” Another friend mentioned that it has been nice to actually spend time with friends while studying.

The flip side to this, as another friend put it, is that it is “like drinking water out of a fire hydrant.” So much material and not enough time. Someone else wrote, “It’s like being in finals for a very extended period of time — but worse because you don’t quite have enough panic to be pulling all-nighters or locking yourself in a room for 18 hours. Instead you sprinkle in movies and dinner dates among the “studying”… but there is so much material that you SHOULD have that much panic.”

Also, some of the tasks can give you a false sense of accomplishment. As another friend wrote, the best part is “feeling justified in rewarding myself with playing some Call of Duty after going to the lectures. [And the] worst part: realizing that I just played Call of Duty for three hours and didn’t really pay attention during the lectures.”

In college, I almost never missed class, even if I was exhausted, unshowered and barely dressed. I wanted to accomplish something by showing up. Instead, I ended up nodding off in the lecture hall. So, yeah, I feel your pain, Mariah.

And so does Mike. He is trying to stay positive, despite the fact that the next two weeks will be long and tedious:

Are you scared yet? You should be. You only have two weeks left!

I spent Thursday morning staring at my Themis Course Completion Percentage: 44. Somehow, after about seven weeks of studying, that’s as far as I’ve come. It was time to get real. I read hundreds of pages of outlines, watched a marathon of lectures long enough to rival my last Gilmore Girls binge, and took my first full Multistate Bar Examination as well as my first full Multistate Performance Test.

I should qualify that. I actually took two Multistate Performance Tests. I took the first after my left contact leapt out of my eye with the gusto of a Bear Stearns executive, circa 2008. Was it a coincidence that I happened to be reading Wills and Trusts? I had so much trouble reading during the test that it took 45 minutes to finish the short cases. If I had muscles, I would have put my fist through the table.

After all that, I am at 48 percent complete. This is getting ridiculous.

Bummer, man. If nothing else, maybe it’s a reminder to wear glasses instead of contacts on test day.

But last night my little cousin said, “Stressed is desserts backwards.” She’s right. Look at the first time bar passage rates in your state. (California applicants, this doesn’t apply to you. You should quit reading now and get back to studying.) The rates are absurdly high.

While the slight possibility of failing should instill you with a healthy fear, you should feel confident that way dumber people than you have passed. If you put in the work steadily over the next two weeks, you have a very good chance of becoming a lawyer. Follow my cousin’s advice: When you get stressed, eat your weight in chocolate.

This is true. Reminding myself that stupid people can perform a lot of surprisingly difficult tasks helps me know that dang it, so can I. Also, there really is nothing better after a crummy day than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in front of the tube.

Out on the left coast, Christopher is pondering how current events will affect his impending job:

There was a lot of celebrating recently for Pride weekend in San Francisco, and the festivities went into a higher gear when New York voted for marriage equality. One more step forward for queer rights.

Another boost came when federal officials canceled the deportation of Henry Velandia, a Venezuelan who legally married American Josh Vandiver in Connecticut. Immigration law does not let U.S. citizens petition for their same-sex spouses to stay in the country. Henry faced deportation until a judge granted his request to end proceedings while the attorney general and courts sort out whether the law should allow same-sex spouses to have the same immigration benefits as straight couples.

Yeah, that seems kind of important. Please continue…

This news was especially encouraging to me because I’ll start work as an immigration lawyer in the fall, helping binational couples navigate the hoops of immigration law. When I was an immigration legal assistant before law school, there was a stark difference in the options available to straight couples and gay couples who came to the office where I worked.

Straight couples had to deal with long waits and fees, but the law generally supported their commitment to each other and provided a path to citizenship. Gay couples had no such path. The only option was to apply for asylum — an arduous process that depends largely on the discretion of asylum officers or immigration judges.

After hearing about the prospective change, I thought how good it would feel to be able to offer the same help to gay clients that I will offer to straight ones. My next thought was how important it will be to keep working toward an immigration system that’s fair for everyone.

That’s it for now; everyone had to get back to studying. If you get discouraged, just watch this completely absurd awesome video about your noble profession.

Disclosure: This series is sponsored by Themis Bar Review, which is an ATL advertiser.

Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He previously covered legal technology for InsideCounsel magazine. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at You can read more of his work at

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