Bar Exams, BARBRI, California, Screw-Ups, UVA Law

Congratulations to All Bar Exam Finishers!
(And more horror stories from across the land.)

Some North Carolina bar exam takers had to suffer through a power outage. While stuck in a giant barn. Without air conditioning. But that wasn’t all:

Adding to the fairgrounds/cattle barn/no power yesterday, there was a “rodent” issue today during the exam. On the way to the bathroom during the morning session of the multi-state, I passed a couple of applicants crouched up on their chairs, trying to avoid the mice running underneath their feet and continue bubbling their scantron. A couple of braver test-takers took some sort of active charge and proceeded to poke the poor things with their pencils to get them away. We were told someone would be “taking care of” the problem during the lunch break. We should have a moment of silence for the first casualties of this season’s bar exam.

Were they rats or mice? Opinions diverge. From a different tipster:

On Day 2, we had mice running around during the MBE, but that was a lot less interesting [than the power outage], and probably par for the course when the test is being held in a livestock barn. The NC Board of Law Examiners is currently “considering their options” for ensuring fairness, which we’re told may include repeating the Tuesday afternoon essays.

Yup, that’s right. Some poor saps might have to retake part of the test, according to North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.

Regarding Virginia, we previously reported on a test taker who had a seizure in the middle of the exam. One of our sources reported that “a bunch of students stopped their exam to render medical assistance, which was one of the more selfless things I’ve ever seen.”

Might one of these Good Samaritans have been a UVA law student? From the law school’s Facebook page:

Lucas Beirne ’12 engaged in some heroics during the Virginia bar exam Tuesday. The former nurse helped a test taker who faced a sudden medical emergency. Another Virginia Law graduate who witnessed Beirne in action said ‘We all agreed that Lucas should get an automatic pass on the exam.’

So please pop your collars for Lucas Beirne. He sounds like an old-school UVA gentleman.

Alas, we’re hearing claims that the Virginia bar examiners might not have conducted themselves so honorably. A tipster tells us:

One of the essays from the Virginia Bar Exam was straight from the BarBri book of Virginia essays. I’ve attached a copy of the BarBri question (and answer). Unfortunately I didn’t save my essay questions from the real exam, but I can assure you that it was almost identical to the BarBri question. The bar examiners basically just changed the parties’ names and modified [one subpart] slightly….

The bar examiners changed the parties’ names, added two or three extra miscellaneous facts, and modified subpart (c) to be about removal of the trustee rather than termination of the trust, but other than that, the question was the exact same. I believe the terms of the trust itself (the most critical part of the question) are literally identical in both the real and the BarBri question, as are many other relevant facts (e.g., the investment solely in U.S. government bonds, the daughter’s life expectancy, and so on).

The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners requires everyone to wear a suit while taking the bar exam because they’re so concerned about “the high calibre of professionalism that has traditionally characterized the bar,” and yet they couldn’t be bothered to write an original trusts question for the July 2012 bar exam. If they so desperately seek to instill in us a respect for the bar’s professionalism, perhaps they should exercise some professionalism in writing exam questions.

Recycling an old exam question that is widely available to the public is something I’d expect from a law school professor, not a state bar association.

We might do a follow-up story on this. If you have information you’d like to share, feel free to drop us a line (subject line: “Virginia bar exam”).

UPDATE (7/27/2012, 11 AM): As it turns out, it wasn’t a matter of Virginia taking a question from BAR/BRI; rather, it was Virginia just recycling its own questions. A tipster told us:

Barbri just prints released essay questions (which are available online) in their books, so everyone had access to this question. I had read the question beforehand. It definitely helped. I’d be more upset if the question wasn’t available to everyone.

Recycling questions might be unprofessional or lazy, at least in the eyes of some, but apparently it happens all the time in Virginia. Said a second source:

This is old news re: Virginia using the same questions year to year. On last year’s exam, if I remember correctly, 2 questions were, as your tipster described, barely modified with changed names and insignificant facts. One question was about the ethics issues of talking to a witness who was previously employed by the defendant. The second question that was exactly the same had to do with a famous painting (or artwork, or coin) that was stolen and then sold and then was about to be moved out of the country. The question then asked about a number of areas of law that I don’t remember including whether you could get an injunction to stop the painting from leaving the country and about obtaining a warrant in detinue. (Most of the people I knew freaked out over the detinue claim, but for me, it was the easiest question on the exam given that I had read the answer only 3 or 4 days before.)

Moral of the story: Virginia does this all the time and it’s fairly well known. I told every 3L I knew this year that they should at least read the answer to every VA exam question in the barbri book, because there was a good chance that they would see 1 or 2 of the questions again.

Finally, let’s hear about two of the nation’s biggest bar exams, California and New York….

(hidden for your protection)

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