Bar Exams

Bar Review Diaries: Basking in the Afterglow

The bar exam has come and gone. Our esteemed Bar Review Diarists have lived to tell the tale, and thank goodness none of them fainted or had a baby during the test.

But as usual, Mike, Mariah and Christopher also had their fair share of adventures. Keep reading to see how a soggy sweater and lines to nowhere are just normal parts of taking the bar…

First let’s talk to Mike:

I must thank/apologize to my family and friends. My law student behavior over the past few weeks was despicable. I pulled a disappearing act to rival Tupac’s, and the short conversations I had all involved ordering burritos or listing the requirements for enforceable equitable servitudes.

The exam went well, except I didn’t sleep the nights leading up to it and didn’t even try the night in between. My sleep deprivation caused a bit of clumsiness. During the first afternoon session, I knocked over my cup of water and at least 10 different roving proctors warned me to “watch out.” I finally threw my sweater on top of the puddle and told them to relax.

You do what you gotta do. I hope it wasn’t a wool sweater. I also hope you didn’t freeze in the overly air-conditioned testing room. (See Mariah’s comments for more on the temperature issue.)

On day two, I ran to catch my morning train with my “quiet snack” — blueberries — piled on top of my coffee water bottle and lunch. After diving through the closing doors, I dropped the blueberries on the floor and watched them roll away. The girl next to me didn’t look up. She just lifted her feet slowly, one-by-one, to let the blueberries pass. Luckily the evidence rolled to the back of the subway car before the next stop.

Since I’m not allowed to talk about the test itself, I’ll just say Themis prepared me thoroughly without unnecessary stress. (I get absolutely nothing for writing that.)

I am confident that I passed, but there’s no reason to be arrogant. For now, I’m going to have two sets of business cards made. One will say, “Michael Dulong, Barrister.” The other: “Michael Dulong, Barista.”

That is a fantastic fallback — not that you will need it. That said, some law schools should probably consider giving those cards as graduation presents.

Meanwhile, Mariah feels free as a bird, albeit a bird in a Bill Murray movie who was trapped in a time warp:

The bar exam was less than a week ago, but it already feels like ages. Suddenly, we are no longer in our own little versions of Groundhog Day: coffee, study, study, study, sleep.

As if the final week before the exam wasn’t already grueling enough, this year it had to be nine million degrees outside. Fortunately, the heat broke at the same time as our spirits, and the weather on the actual exam days in Manhattan was pretty pleasant. This was good, since conditions inside the Javits Center were arctic.

Only in America do people wear sweaters indoors during summer and t-shirts during winter. God bless climate control…

Here are some other impressions from those two days:

– They tell you to arrive at 7 a.m. This becomes frustrating when you do that, only to stand around for an hour in what you think is a line, next to a bunch of other stressed out people. Then you realize the line does not actually go anywhere, and you could have shown up at 8:30, simply walked into your exam room and skipped all the hysteria.

– While the list of verboten items included watches that make noise, the fellow sitting directly behind me had just that. He would also periodically shout out for more paper, instead of quietly raising his hand. Still, that’s not as bad as asking the guy next to you what he answered for a certain question and then, after he politely responds, telling him he is incontrovertibly wrong (this happened to someone I know).

– My proctor told me, in the nicest way, that she hoped to never see me again. Amen.

Awww. In the wacky bar exam world, that’s weirdly adorable.

Before we go, let’s check in with Christopher. He’s got a somber reminder that for everyone who just took the test, s**t’s about to get real. With great power comes great responsibility:

That was quite the rite of passage we just went through. We needed tunnel-vision for bar review, and now that we’ve partied out some of the stress and can breathe again, it’s time to look around and see what’s happening in the real world. Needless to say, the mess we’re in would be comically over-the-top if it weren’t so dire. Mass violence, climate crisis, impending institutional collapse, etc.

I remember being in elementary school and feeling such solidarity with my generation in the face of what we saw as adult authoritarian stupidity. “If we were in charge,” I thought, “we would never do things that way.”

Now that we’re about to be lawyers–society’s power brokers–we can’t keep passing the buck and blaming older generations for our problems. We’ve inherited a very skewed power structure that many a lawyer has perpetuated. The longer such extreme lack of balance is propped up, the ruder the awakening will be when things inevitably get shaken up.

Let’s not be those people who think it’s someone else’s fault and someone else’s problem, who want as big a piece of the pie as we can get no matter how hungry everyone else is. Sure, we all need to pay the bills, so sometimes we find ourselves doing things we wouldn’t have expected to do. Like, for instance, writing a blog for Above the Law (j/k!).

You might not have expected it, but isn’t blogging awesome? If Lat asked me to be a real ATL employee, even if it meant I had to shower and go to a real office and face scary commenters every day instead of just twice a week, I’d dance around like the characters in Peanuts.

But Christopher, you’re making an important point, so Imma let you finish:

Let’s not be the lawyers who enable reckless speculation on Wall Street, or who provide legal justifications to strip away safety and environmental protections because that’s what a boss wants. There will be a moment for all of us, sooner or later, when we’re asked to do something at work that goes directly against what we know is right. We need to prepare for that moment now, at the beginning of our careers, and to think hard about what we’ll do so we’ll be ready when the time comes.

Congratulations to all the new attorneys out there. No matter where you are headed, you should be proud of all your hard work.

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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