Bar Exam Memories — and How to Celebrate Until Work Begins

Congratulations to all of the recent JDs finishing up their bar exam today! I thought I’d start an open thread for those of us past the experience to share our stressful memories, as well as to share the fonder memories of the celebrations and relaxations that followed. I’ll start.

I always like to look at this picture, taken of my then-dorm room wall a few weeks before the bar exam. (My DC lease ended in May, but my NYC lease didn’t start until September, so I opted to spend the summer in an NYU dorm.) Along with the few pieces of “artwork” I traveled with and a few pictures of family and friends, you can see that here I’ve also Scotch-taped to the wall all the important things: papers listing important criminal procedure facts, as well as the different levels of murder that one can be charged with under both New York and multi-state law. Or something — I don’t really remember any of it now.

The few memories I have of the exam itself are fairly intense ones. I took all my little Scotch-taped charts with me and hung them around my hotel room in Albany. I even taped them to the bathroom mirror so I could review them while brushing my teeth. Most of my memories are of the hotel room — this dank, horrible hotel room where I was surrounded by my crazy-person papers and the largest ants I had ever seen in my life.  I remember peering into the bathroom mirror (between the papers) and realizing, for the first time, that I could see several gray hairs sticking straight up out of my temple. I was 26. I remember coming back between day 1 and day 2 and trying to relax by renting the frothy teen comedy What a Girl Wants — and I remember hysterically sobbing at one plot point in the movie (a father/daughter disagreement? a misunderstanding? who knows) and knowing that my reaction to the movie was way, way out of proportion to the movie itself. (Honestly, the only thing that can compare to it is my memory of watching The Thornbirds, which is a miniseries made for sobbing anyway.) I remember sitting in a huge auditorium (a football stadium, maybe) and trying my best to remember every piece of information I’d poured into my head, and trying to work some BarBri-sanctioned advice  where they’d told us to guess (C) for every question we were unsure of and then come back to devote more time to the question if and when we could. I also remember booking it out of Albany for the train back to NYC. On the train I found myself surrounded by fellow Bar Survivors, and collectively we broke the rule that you never talk about the substance of a test after you take it.  It was strangely cathartic, like we couldn’t not talk about it. I remember buying a bag of popcorn for the trainride home for “lunch” — when I got to New York I joined some friends who were already celebrating with liquid libations at someone’s apartment, which stands out separately as one of the Most Drunk Nights, ever, in my life.

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The next day, horribly hung over, I had about 24 hours to pack up everything and get out of NYU because the summer lease was ending, and also to pack for my bar trip — heading to London and Paris for two weeks to shop. As it turned out this was a fantastically horrible decision — not only was it blisteringly hot, but most of the good shops and restaurants were closed in Paris, it being August and all. It was my first time traveling alone, and I remember really, really enjoying the silence and the chance to empty my head. I remember that when the Blackout of 2003 happened, I was in a Paris hotel room watching the TV news, telling me that my brother in NYC (then in the midst of interview week for his law school), my mother in Cleveland, and my father — in Detroit on business — were all without power. Once I got back to America I spent a few weeks in Ohio with my parents, friends and family there, and then moved to NYC officially, where I had about 2 weeks to settle into my new apartment and catch up with NYC friends.

I remember the day the scores came out, also, huddling over my computer in the early morning hours and feeling vindication when I saw my name.  Take that, gray hairs, I said to myself.  That day at work, my fellow first years and I whispered our relief to one another until we ascertained that everyone had passed, and then the excited buzz grew to a more jovial mood.  That night, it was like our summer all over again — all 50 of us went out to celebrate together.

Readers with JDs, what was your bar exam experience like?  Where did you go on your bar trip?

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  1. SF Bay Associate :

    CA bar takers aren’t done until Thursday. Stay strong!

    • Same for Texas – hang in there ladies!

      • yes! i was just about to say this. the ca bar is THREE LONG DAYS and even though i’ve taken it and passed, i nearly fainted when i saw kat congratulating people on finishing. i remember on monday, i sent a text to all my friends (a lot of them were taking 2 day bars because i went to law school in boston) warning them that i was not done until THURSDAY and i did not want to hear from them until then.

        • Barrister in the Bayou :

          I took the Louisiana Bar which is mostly essay with no MBE component. It is three full days long (MWF). I have some friends sitting through it right now and just the thought of it makes me shudder (I sat last July).

          • Arpent Noir :

            did they tell you that the examiners dropped a completely different test on us? I’d cry if it wasn’t so funny that we get to be the guinea pigs for the committee’s animosity towards BarBri.

      • There is a Silver Lining – benefit to the bar exam. I met my husband Larry when I took the bar, and we are now expecting our 2nd Child!!!!!

    • MA isn’t over yet either

    • I remember this too. This is going back 15 years now, but I also remember drinking alot after the exam, and waking up in some dumb dufuses’ apartment who had bought me 3 Bloody Mary’s the night before at the Zanzibar! What a summer!

  2. I took the bar exam on my birthday a whole bunch of years ago. Probably the worst birthday other than my 16th which, like the movie, my parents forgot. Oh well – that’s the problem with summer birthdays. At least my niece was born on my birthday so she is helping to replace those painful memories of sitting for the bar exam. Good luck to all the soon to be lawyers today!

  3. I took the bar the same year you did Kat! I was having a spa day with a friend when the blackout happened. That was my treat to myself after surviving the NY and the CT bar. Thankfully we had just finished all of our treatments when the power went off!

    And that is really the only thing I remember about the summer I took the bar exam!

  4. Georgiana Starlington :

    I’m one of those annoying people who barely studied and found the bar exam waaaaay less horrible than I thought it would be. It helps that I took the bar in Alabama. It also helps that I am one of those people who is just comfortable with taking tests. Our Barbri class was evenings in a hotel in my hometown, there were 8 of us, I was the Barbri rep and thus in charge, and after the second week, we decided it was time to start drinking during class. Several of my friends were in the class and we made it fun. The exam experience itself wasn’t too bad – I was upgraded to a suite because of my dad’s hotel points, we had a half-day the first day so I got in a nap and a bit more review, I got a little tipsy the celebrating a friend’s birthday the night before the MBE.

    My post-Bar trip to Greece fell through (friend who had relatives in Greece was a victim of the Class of 2010 job market and didn’t want to spend money he might need for rent). Fortunately, we did a family trip to NYC instead (my first time there), and enjoyed several Broadway shows, shopping, and lots of touristy stuff. Then a quick weekend trip to a couple Cardinals games with my Dad, then I started work 2 weeks after the bar. I hated starting so early, but I had paid rent on both my law school apartment and my “grown-up” apartment all summer and I hadn’t taken a bar loan so I needed the money. I actually didn’t have many friends who took big bar trips…a function of the changing economic picture, I guess.

    We were scheduled to get bar results on a Friday in September, so a group of us booked a condo at the beach for that weekend to celebrate. Thursday morning, I got a phone call from a friend on my way to work telling me I’d passed. I nearly wrecked my car and dropped my cream-cheesed bagel on my suit skirt. I checked the list for all my friends’ names, and most of the day was spent Gchatting with friends to figure out who didn’t pass. Several beers at lunch that day, an unproductive afternoon at the offfice, a very drunken celebration that night. Friday we were all hungover and gave up on getting anything done at about noon and left for the beach, where we all immediately took naps to recover from Thursday night.

    • I also didn’t think it was as bad as expected. I worked at my firm and then went to class at night that summer. I also did my fair share of socializing. I took PMBR and BarBri and kept up with most of the work.

      I went to the test and it was the first time NY used computers. That was a hot mess. People lost bits and pieces of their exams. I hoped everything would be ok with my exam and it was.

      I went to Costa Rica with two friends for a road trip around the coutnry. Amazing!

  5. I have never felt as stupid as I did after Day 2 of the California bar. I went back home and crawled into bed: it felt like my brain was leaking out my ears. And this was after sitting (successfully) the exam in two other states! But California, man, that was ugly.

    I swore after Day 3 that I was never taking another standardized test again. It’s been 14 years and I haven’t broken the vow.

    • Day 2 sucks. I remember every question seemed to have two right answers. I thought I had surely failed after Day 2. Was so happy when I passed that I also had one of my drunkest.nights.ever. I feel for those taking it today!

    • After Day 2 of the California bar exam (multiple choice hell), I was pretty sure I had failed, but I showed up on Day 3 (which turned out to be the easiest day). At least a third of the people in my exam hall (Oakland convention center) did not bother to show up for the third day. Yikes.

  6. NYCMom of Two :

    I took the bar exam in the 90s–because on the blackout day in 2003 I was again walking down 48 flights of stairs from my office, in the dark, and walking home 80+ blocks, eerily reminiscent of 9/11 for some downtown NYers. I took the NYS bar exam at the Javitz Center in NYC. I don’t remember much about it (Pieper’s advice: bring a hoodie in case you end up sitting near an HVAC and bring your lunch because the only McDonald’s nearby is sure to fill up fast with a gabillion bar examinees that day). The July results come out in November. This is before they were available online–you got a letter in the mail on a Thursday and about a week later they were published in the law journal. I didn’t get my letter on Thursday (the night EVERYONE I knew had received them, and either drank to celebrate or drank to forget). Or the next day. Or the next. Stories of fat envelopes (allegedly with a new application) danced in my head (the theory being the fat envelope took longer to arrive). I bordered on… ok, was hysterical. And then (after calling the Board of Bar Examiners trying (and failing) to get some intel), got the notice I passed the next day in the mail, skinny envelope and all. Just late mail. What do I remember most? Not getting the envelope on time.

    • This almost exactly mirrors my experience. Rumors were flying with law school friends that I had failed. Miserable week. I don’t even remember the actual exam, but I definitely remember the feeling of panic when the letter didn’t come on time. I ended up having to wait until the results were posted on the website to learn I’d passed. Awful.

      • Oh – and no bar trip. Similar to some of the others, I was doing an unpaid thing while I was deferred and was definitely broke.

        Instead, I laid on the couch in a comforter with my dogs for the entire next day. My now-hubby came home from work that day to find me drunk, wrapped up on the couch, with a mostly-gone 18pack of BudLight (cowboy cold) on the floor, watching reruns of bad television. It was better than a bar trip.

  7. You’d think a decade between me and the NY Bar would lessen the Battle Fatigue/PTSD. But no.

    The Albany Airport Residence Inn: $200 a night I did not have.

    Thought I was taking the exam at the Pepsi Arena. Did a practice drive the night before. Looked at my admission ticket the next morning: Marriott. Biggest panic of my life.

    The three hours on the Thruway back to the city are a blur. All I can really remember are collapsing on the kitchen floor in an exhausted stupor and my then-boyfriend taking me for sushi.

    Spent next three weeks looking for my own apartment. Locked into a 2-year lease at exorbitant monthly rent. Started work in August. September 2001 pretty much sucked. Housing market took a dive. Still locked into 2 years of exorbitant monthly rent.

    My salad days. Aaah. So poor. So happy.

  8. I honestly didn’t think it was that horrendous, other than the fact it’s just so long. i did suffer on the commercial paper question, but I worked on the theory everyone else was suffering, too, so we’d all still pass. My most annoying memory was standing in line for the restroom, actually, because whoever designed the javitts center in new york failed to account for how slow women are compared to men when it comes to the restroom (I want legislation that mandates women’s restrooms be at least double the size of men’s).

    No bar trip. I graduated in 2010. Most of us were lacking the immediate promise of a BigLaw salary that is important for a really awesome bar trip. I actually moved to DC the week after the bar exam to start work (For a Congressman who lost 3 and a half months later. But I found a new job and got to move back to new york, so it turned out ok). My “bar trip” was two days at home when I went down to get my car from my parent’s house. But I just took a trip to Britain last week as sort of a delayed bar trip. It only took a year.

    • oh, and the results. that was actually more nerve-wracking than the test because they leaked a day early on above the law while I was at work. I spent about an hour in agony trying to decide whether to look. A friend gchatted me to tell me I passed, which solved that problem, but the other guy in the office who had taken the same bar as me did not pass, which made it slightly awkard.

  9. I took the bar exam while 7 months pregnant. It was not as bad as I thought it would be, but was not an enjoyable experience. Afterwards I met my husband at a local diner type place and ate lots of greasy comfort food. I then relaxed at home for 2 months until my baby was born! Then started my lawyer job and the rest is history!

    • anon-oh-no :

      i did this too, though it was my 2nd bar and as a result, i generally found the whole thing easier. i also asked to be put in a room with my husband, you know “just in case,” and they sat me right next to him. My first state did the same thing when i asked to be put at the same location in albany b/c we only had one car.

    • Anonymous :

      Wow, good for you! During the last trimester too, that’s tough.

    • Divaliscious11 :

      Me too…., although I only had 2 weeks before having to go start my clerkship. The worst was the NY bar in 2001 had n corporations/business associations, but the last question was Rule Against Perpetuities…… Was sure I failed but nope!

    • a friend of mine took (and passed!) the CA bar about 6 weeks after giving birth. How she studied with a newborn, I have no idea, but she did it!

  10. It’s significantly more depressing and less celebratory to finish taking the bar exam, only to look out into a vast horizon of unemployment. So, most of the people I know from my top-20 school did not take bar trips (2010) … we took whatever time we needed to come to grips with our situations, and then started sending out letters to volunteer places before we could land paying gigs.

  11. Maddie Ross :

    Ugh, I suffered through it twice. Once in the summer for one state, and again in February for another. The second time was not nearly as bad though — mostly because I already knew I could do it and because my first one was Virginia where I had to wear a suit. My memories of the July bar all include day one, where the air conditioning went out in the ballroom where the computer-test-takers were doing their essays. It took until after lunch before they finally let the guys remove their jackets and ties. It was torture! And to add insult to injury, the lining of my Ann Taylor suit fell out — literally — while I was walking in and pooled around my ankle. That was officially the last AT suit I ever bought. Like Kat, I also went back to my law school apartment after the exam and had 24 hours to pack everything and move for my clerkship. I started my clerkship 10 days after the bar. In retrospect, I wish I took a bar trip.

    • Virginia makes bar examinees wear suits during the exam?!? Why? That’s terrible!

      • Maddie Ross :

        It’s a crazy archaic rule. It’s explained as “you’ll have to wear a suit when practicing law, so you should wear one while proving you should be allowed to practice law.” Mostly, I think it’s one of those “I did it and lived through it, you should have to do the same” type of things and the examiners refuse to change. It’s really not so bad – I was too focused to notice. The funny part is wearing your suit with non-marking shoes, i.e. sneakers. Everyone looks ridiculous.

      • Betty White :

        And it has to be a conservative suit–no seersucker, no funny 80s pink suits (lots of jokesters coming from VA)–or they can turn you away!

        • There was at least one guy in seersucker last July! And a bow-tie too, if I remember right (most of that time period is a blur).

        • Another Sarah :

          I saw one girl today in a cordoroy skirt and a pink leather (!) blazer. So it all depends on which proctor is paying attention at the time, I suppose…

          • Katie in DC :

            Just finished up the VA bar exam this year. I wore a basic black suit with hose the first day, just in case, no one was sure how strict they were going to be about the “professional” attire; but after seeing one fellow examinee in velcro sandals and a cotton sundress, I figured I’d leave the hose at home for day two. Also, they changed the rules this year: no longer required (allowed?) to wear sneakers.

            Right now, I’m just glad I’m done.

  12. I’m a ’09 grad who moved to another state for work. I have a medical condition where I have to keep health insurance. I remember the stress of whether my husband could move with me during the bar summer (aka, would he find new work quick) or would he have to stay in old state to keep me on his insurance. He found work and we moved flawlessly.

    I took two states at once so I had the three day marathon. State one was held at a law school next to a beautiful park. At lunch I just had to unwind so I visited the ducks, rode the slides and the swings. Then I got a call (while still at lunch) from my husband that he had bought $200 worth of groceries and locked himself out of the house with them melting in the car. DUDE – I’M TAKING THE BAR!!!!! So I had to leave my house key with reception so he could get it and get back into the house and not lose the groceries.

    Day two, immediatly after the bar, friend and I drove to state two and checked into our hotel. Neither of us had studied for state two at all. We were going to do a hail mary pass for it. We both reviewed for state two that night for a few hours, studying the Barbri distinctions. B/c of my aforementioned medical condition, I was taking the state two bar in a smaller room near a bathroom. I remember my room being so much less chaotic. Other room was nuts and someone passed out, someone threw up, etc. Glad I was in the chill “special” room.

    The thing I remember most is not caring at all about the traffic after the bar. I usually have panic attacks in bad city traffic (see medical condition that requires bathroom access.) After the bar I was in a crowded car in traffic for hours and felt more relaxed then I ever felt in my life.

    When I got home, hubby had a bottle of premium tequila waiting for me and was ready to take me out partying. I took two shots and fell asleep and slept the best I think I have ever slept.

  13. My father very kindly paid for me to spend 3 nights (so I wouldn’t have to worry about checking out the morning of the second day of the exam) in a luxury hotel in downtown Chicago within walking distance of my exam site. It was great to be comfortable and in a relaxing environment. I didn’t bring any books or study materials with me, because at that point, I would only have driven myself crazy, and I didn’t even bring my computer. The night before the exam I practiced walking to the exam site so I wouldn’t get lost and then went to the gym, and the night between the two exam days I ordered room service and watched brain-candy TV shows. I had lunch both days with a law school classmate, and the night after I finished, I got a pedicure and a 2L friend doing her summer associateship in Chicago took me out for dinner and drinks.

    I passed, and I’m so glad I relaxed instead of endlessly stressing myself out until the end.

    • Oh, no bar trip. I’m a public interest lawyer and couldn’t afford it.

      • Suzy Borman :

        Same here. And I think that a lot of my classmates (’09) who booked these trips months in advance and then got deferred are very sorry they did a bar trip at all.

    • My dad paid for me to stay in a nice hotel right next to the exam site also! It was so nice not to worry about getting up early, fighting traffic and finding a parking spot downtown. It was also nice to not worry about meals, since I ordered in for lunch. I was able to just relax before the afternoon session.

  14. Associette :

    One of my favorite memories – of all time – was that my then boyfriend, now husband, walked me to my seat at the bar exam and then took his. We both passed.

    I didn’t take a bar trip because after three years of law school – living an entire summer without pay – and knowing that I didn’t start at my new job until September, I was low on cash.

    Getting the results was probably the most nervous I have ever been! I kept imagining the conversation that I would have to have with the partners if I failed. “So, I failed…what next?” Luckily, I never had to have that convo! Few.

  15. So, slightly different than the bar exam but for fun I’ll chime in on my general surgery oral boards experience, which is fresh in my head.

    We take a multiple choice test in August, and then if you pass that you sign up for the orals. Offered in 4 different citites at 4 different times a year, the orals are 3 30 minute sessions. They are at a very nice hotel in town (mine was at the Omni on Michigan Avenue in Chicago). After a brief intro session, you are given your assigned rooms. You rotate through three different rooms, each with two examiners, who ask you questions about the management of surgical disease. Not only is that aspect intimidating, but the examiners are titans in the field — I entered a room and thought, yep, I’ve read his text book.

    I wisely picked Chicago in early May, did a 4 day cram course in a suburban Hyatt across from a giant mall — I could have literally been in any suburb in America it was almost disorienting.

    You’re assigned one of several sessions over three days. I was assigned the morning session on the last day, so had two days in Chicago. I was planning to study but actually did very little, instead working out, taking long walks, eating good meals with a very good friend.

    My coresident took it the first afternoon, and we discussed his answers afterwards. I had a sinking feeling that he had made major errors, but didn’t tell him.

    The actual test was blindingly fast — as we waited outside our rooms to be escorted in, I made small talk with the candidates around me, but literally do not remember their faces. The actual sessions went faster than I could have imagined. At one point, I made an examiner laugh, which I thought was good, and at another I realized an obvious mistake and cringed audibly, which also made them laugh.

    I left, feeling pretty confident, ate some breakfast, headed to the airport and flew home, unable to concentrate on a book or movie. Over the next 24 hours, I became steadily more convinced I failed, to the extent that I couldn’t sleep and was sick to my stomach. Every micro-mistake I made took on epic proportions, and failure was pretty realistic in my view.

    Fortunately, the results were released at noon the following day, and I logged on and was delighted to find out that I had passed (pass rate is 76%, so failure is actually not unrealistic). Unfortunately, my friend who had taken it did not.

    Due to our relocation, my husband had actually moved us out of our house while I was in Chicago, but I ordered myself a new purse to celebrate.

  16. Anonymous :

    I got deferred a week before I sat the bar last summer — so I spent the majority of the two days trying not to cry and dodging questions from friends about whether I’d set my start date with my firm. No thanks to the firm, I passed the bar

    • That’s just mean – would it have killed them to wait a week?

    • Was this Quinn Emanuel? I seem to recall reading something about that on Above the Law back in the day and thinking it was uniquely heartless and unnecessary to defer everyone two days before the Bar exam.

      • My firm did a similar thing! We had to give them a decision re: defering until January, public interest for a year, or outright leaving (with a cash sum) during the time everyone was studying the bar. I advised the firm of my decision well in advance, HOWEVER, the day before the final decision was due, I got a call from a managing partner “strongly advising” me to change my mind. It sent me into a panic while I scrambled to figure out what to do. Needless to say, I didn’t need the additional pressure on job things while studying for the bar, and it made me very ressentful and anxious.

        Nevertheless, I approached bar prep with a “this is my 9-5 job” mentality and never studied more hours in the day than BarBri recommended. I still socialized and saw my friends and family up until the final 2 weeks. I honestly don’t remember much of the exam itself, but I do remember that I stayed in a hotel with a friend who was extremely nervous most of the time, which actually helped counter-balance me. I saw a movie inbetween the test days, and on the final night went out drinking with friends (still in my hotel). I was incommunicado with internet and e-mail when the results were released early my year, so I did not know they were released early, until a friend called to tell me I passed. So I got to skip the nervous checking and waiting. Once I got over the firm/work drama, it wasn’t so bad!

  17. I took the AZ bar last summer. I was relieved that the bar itself was much less terrible than the studying leading up to it. I had decided to drive back from Phoenix to Tucson directly after the bar because I just wanted to be home and done with it all. A monsoon storm started just as I drove out of the parking garage. Between the torrential downpours and a later dust storm, the hour and a half drive took three. The margarita I had that night was the best I’ve ever tasted.

  18. This isn’t a particularly exciting story, but it brightened up the bar-related misery a little: I stayed with family between day one and day two, but for some reason I was on my own for dinner, so, not wanting to be bothered with anything, I ran out to a trashy little Taco Bell/KFC/gas station off the interstate to grab a burrito. As I’m in line making my order, two cops come rushing in. Turns out, one of the cashiers had accidentally hit the secret hold up alarm under the counter. Whoops!

    Anyway, the cops, once they realized that nothing was actually wrong, decided they might as well grab a bite, and we stood around chatting for a little bit while waiting for our food. It was nice and not at all bar related, which was a relief. As I was leaving with my dinner, I heard one of the cops say to his partner, “Well, that wasn’t so bad a call. We got to talk to a cute girl.”

    Made going back a little bit brighter!

  19. This is an awesome thread. Two thoughts, both from after the bar. My boyfriend at the time (now hubs) and I had studied in the same town all summer (but separate apartments) and it had been a wonderful summer. We were both able to study in the way that we needed and supported each other marvelously. The night after the bar exam we went drinking with a bunch of people and go into one of the worst fights we have ever had to this day. It was about nothing, I am sure, but we were both so exhausted and wrecked that it just spiraled out of control. Tread lightly right after the exam, especially when you add heavy drinking.

    A few days later, while on a road trip, I got bit by something and broke out in hives ALL over my body. Over 100 of them. I had been so calm and organized before the bar, but I think my body was still in high alert mode. I’ve never had that reaction before (or after). Lesson #2, be gentle with yourself, physically and mentally, right afterwards!

  20. Not a lawyer, but this brings me back to the summer of qualifying exams for my PhD program. In my program’s structure, you take these exams for the first time in the summer after your first year. If you fail, you get one more chance (2nd semester of your 2nd year) before you are booted from the program. There is a month between the end of the semester and the exams. I lived about an hour and a half from school, so I had to get up really early. I remember calling my husband frantically on the bus ride to campus because I had hit snooze on the alarm rather than re-setting it for his wake-up time. I was so out of it. I also remember arriving to the exam site so early that the doors were all still locked (yup, I am that kind of person). The exam lasted two days. I had a party for my classmates after it was over, and then spaced out for the rest of the summer. We didn’t have a specific date to receive results, so I got a random email about two months later indicating that I had passed. Whew! It’s funny – the actual studying and test-taking weren’t that bad. But the psychological burden and fear of failure – that was brutal!

    • We had written qualifying exams after the first year. Not too bad, but I do remember a question or two that had the 6 of us in the room taking the exam (we were left alone in the department conference room, all sitting at one big table, I guess they trusted us) looking at each other like, WTF is this??

      At the end of the second year, we had oral qualifying exams that basically consisted of writing up a research proposal and then “defending” it in front of group of about 5 faculty members. I turned in the written proposal and then had some time to develop the oral part. I got so sick of the thing, I remember spending the weekend before that reading “Pillars of the Earth.” I read that sucker in about 2 days.

    • 2 day quals? Wow! We defended our proposals, then 2 weeks later were given a set of 2 to 4 questions to write essay answers–10 to 35 pages–on, due in 3 days. 1 day off, then repeat for a total of 3 cycles. At the end, I had about a week to pack up and head off for my diss research.

  21. A Regular Lurker :

    What a cute idea! I was in college in 2003 and happened to be in NYC in 2003 on a trip with my parents during the blackout. We had just purchased tickets from the TKTS booth when Times Square went dark. It was definitely eerie watching people pour out of their office buildings and to see the packed buses leaving the city. My mom figured we should buy sandwiches as quickly as possible, so we had a nice “picnic” dinner in Central Park before dark. Fortunately, our hotel was able to cope with the blackout and escorted everyone to their rooms by candlelight and used big, old-fashioned keys to open the doors. We fell asleep early because there really wasn’t anything to do.

    Fast-forward to the summer of 2010, when I was taking the bar exam: the night before the exam, as I was getting ready for bed and doing some last-minute cramming, the power went out. I was living at home at the time, so my mom French-braided my wet while I frantically reviewed flashcards by candlelight. The power was still out at our house the next morning, but fortunately there was not a problem across town at my bar exam site.

    I’d initially thought of going out to celebrate after I finished the exam, but I was just too tired and basically went on a sleep binge for the rest of the week. No big bar trip (2010 grad here). Fortunately, no blackout the day the results were announced. :)

  22. Preparing for and taking the bar exam – more than once – was nothing but misery. There was no money in the budget for a bar trip. But finally passing was amazing. My friends threw me a surprise party that started about half an hour after results came out, knowing that they might not even be able to get me to show up. And my mom gave me a beautiful bracelet from Tiffany engraved with the date I passed. Those two memories are among the most treasured of my life :)

    • Hee. Someone gave me a silver Tiffany paperweight engraved with my law school graduation date!

  23. Yankee-Peach :

    My car wouldn’t start in the parking lot on the last day of the bar exam. Everyone was piling out of the parking lot and there I was. I had a brief moment of “Oh no, I need to study! Should I get my books out of the trunk?” etc. etc. And then it sort of hit me that the bar was over. It seemed almost poetic in a sick way. Trapped at the bar exam.

    Too exhausted to do anything else, I called AAA, talked to my mom for a bit and my best friend from law school taking the bar in another state. Then I tilted the seat all the way back and I think I dozed off because the AAA guy had to wake me up by banging on my window. After surviving the bar, I’ve discovered that things like a dead battery don’t freak me out quite as much as they used to.

    • Maddie Ross :

      Ugh, I remember that feeling after the bar — it was like I forgot how not to study all the time.

  24. Lana Lang :

    I haven’t taken the bar exam, we don’t have them here in England, but we do have Law School final exams which are 5-6 exams of three hours each in the space of one week or so.

    I remember that both years I was so wiped out on the day of the last exam that I’m pretty sure I literally went home and went to sleep. Any kind of hard core partying was completely out of the question!

    Good luck to all the bar takers! I am considering doing the NY bar so it’s good to hear all these stories to put it all into perspective…

  25. Anonymous :

    I went home and slept. The next day, I packed up my entire apartment and my family and moved to another city, where I proceeded to visit museums and playgrounds with my 3-year-old for the month before my work and her preschool began. At the time, I was jealous of my friends exotic bar trips, but now, looking back, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.

  26. Legally Brunette :

    Two neat experiences:

    1. Went to the law school library every day to study for the bar and then later to another room in the building to take the Barbri class. One day, the security guard in front of the library stopped me and said, “You know, I see hundreds of students coming in here every day to study, but you’re the only one who always has a big smile on her face and is always so positive and upbeat. Keep it up, girl.”

    2. I took the CA bar, but was living on the east coast. So when the results were finally posted, it was 8 pm on a Friday night EST. I didn’t want to ruin my plans that night, so I didn’t bother checking my results until several hours later (1 am). Meanwhile, got several frantic voicemails from my mom who was convinced I had failed and that I was too ashamed to call her. No mom, I passed. :) I just didn’t want to deal with checking the results at a time when everyone else was, and having the server crash.

    • Legally Brunette :

      Oh, and another one:

      I stayed with my mom during the exam and had her drop me off at the BART each morning because I was paranoid we would get caught in the traffic if we drove to the exam site. Along with my purse, I carried a brown bag lunch that my mom had lovingly prepared. Between the food and the drop off, I seriously felt like I was back in junior high. :) It was really cute.

    • karenpadi :

      Another bar-pass story. I was in Florida on vacation and my one requirement was access to a computer at 8pm on Friday to check results. My dad booked us in a hotel with one community computer in the middle of the lobby.

      At about 3pm on Friday, he (with the permission of the front desk staff) put a sign on the computer that said “RESERVED at 8PM. CALIFORNIA BAR RESULTS”. Yes, I had an audience. I was so nervous that my dad had to enter in my login information. I passed. Phew!

      • i got my ca bar exam results at a national lawyers convention i was attending. it was either going to be the best or worst decision of my life finding out my bar results surrounded by 2000+ attorneys and judges. when time came for me to check my results, my then-boss gave me a hug and told me to go check. i checked on my iphone (yes, iphone) in the hotel bathroom and i PASSED. my boss was the first person i told (followed by a phone call to my parents, who were also worried that i hadn’t passed because it was 8 pm their time when i called). soon, word spread through the conference that i had passed the bar and a bunch of judges and lawyers i knew came to the hotel bar to congratulate me. one judge and his wife bought me cake to celebrate. everyone tried to get the judge to swear me in to the bar AT THE BAR, but luckily, he didn’t know the oath off the top of his head. the rest of the night was spent in an alcohol-induced haze with my boss ushering me around convention night events and telling everyone i had passed the bar. turns out the decision to find out my bar results at a national lawyers convention was the best decision i ever made.

  27. When I took the bar in Albany (in ’03), my now-husband drove me to and from the hotel to the testing site (Empire State Plaza) and walked around all day while waiting for me to finish. I had lunch with him both days to keep my head together, and he had flowers for me when I finished the 2nd day (I seem to remember weeping when it was finally over.)

    After that we had about 2 weeks to pack up all of our stuff in Connecticut, and move in with my Mom in NYC while we both looked for jobs. We had literally just finished moving all of our stuff in when the power went out.

  28. I also took the exam in Albany and my Dad came with me, which to this day is one of the nicest things he ever has done for me. He made sure I didn’t have to worry about anything- he picked me up for lunch and had checked out places to eat that were further away than most people could walk- and had read all sorts of news and things all morning to make sure he had things to talk about other than the exam. He did the same thing for dinner- and because I was taking it in the Pepsi Center in ’04 WHEN IT WAS FREEZING – he also took me to Walmart to buy every piece of sweatshirt material they had. He then drove me from Albany back to NJ for day three -and did the same thing on repeat on NJ (except that I was staying at my parents house). The night after the NJ bar my mom made my absolute favorite meal- I spent 2 hours on the phone with a friend while she drove back from taking the Mass bar- I floated in the pool and then promptly passed out at around 8pm. Needless to say I have some of the best parents around- because my graduation present from them was my post-bar trip for 10 days to Scotland with my best friend.

  29. Anonymous :

    bar time- worst experience/s of my life.
    passing- priceless.

  30. Bar trip? I’ve never heard of that, but it summarizes the difference in pay rates (or expectations) for lawyers and PhDs pretty well. We often buy a few rounds for advisers, committee members, and grad school colleagues, but always (I think) at the old familiar haunts we’ve visited regularly for the past few years.

    In my case, I picked up my 2-yr-old son from the sitter’s and probably went out to dinner. I honestly can’t remember–we were racing a moving truck from DC to Southern Georgia, stopped in Lexington KY for the dissertation defense, and kept on going. My new job started a few days later.

  31. I am an ’06 grad who did not take a trip after the bar because I didn’t have the money for one. Who has money for an extravagant trip even before they start working? It seems so odd to me.

    • Two cents :

      Those of us who were fortunate enough to go to law school on a scholarship! Thank you, admissions.

    • Did you never have money to take a vacation? Did you ever have a job before/during/after law school? A bar trip need not be crazy expensive and tons of people take them, whether it be on Daddy’s dime or their own hard-earned money. Maybe best to not be judgmental about other’s means.

      • I realize tons of people take bar trips, but I really wish people wouldn’t assume that everyone does, like it’s some kind of automatic part of law school. This is making me feel like some kind of low-rent freak for not having any plans for a bar trip.

        (However I just finished taking it today so I may be overreacting/cranky on the subject!)

    • 0% interest for 12 months credit card. My two week bar trip (went with hubby) was about $5,000, including flights to Africa. Paid it off within 3 months after starting work. This was in 2007, so I wasn’t nervous that anything would happen to my fall Biglaw start date. Splurge? Yes, but we won’t be able to take that kind of time off again for years, and we have incredible memories.

      • I agree – taking a bar trip may not be the most financially responsible thing to do – especially if you’ve already started a family, have a lot of expenses, etc. But – I’m so incredibly glad I took one. I took a bar loan, so used that money to pay for it. Went to South America for 3-4 weeks and started at a big law firm soon after. Never again will I have that much time to take a long trip unless I quit my job, etc. I also LOVE LOVE traveling, so to me the money was worth it.

    • In retrospect, I wish I had taken one. I have been practicing law for 5 years now and have not had a vacation longer than a holiday weekend. It doesn’t seem likely that I’ll get one anytime soon, either. It would definitely have been worth the extra 2K or so on credit cards or bar loan at the time.

    • MaggieLizer :

      I didn’t take a bar trip either and I’m so glad I didn’t. My then-bf and I were both class of 2010; I had a job and he didn’t. I considered putting an extravagant vacation for both of us on my credit card with the understanding that he would help me pay down the card when he could. I didn’t because we had picked out a ring and were trying to save for it and our wedding/honeymoon, and I decided I’d rather take a fabulous honeymoon than a fabulous bar trip.

      Five months later, he had pretty much given up on finding work and wasn’t even volunteering. I never expected that from him – top 10 law school, law review, etc. – and it completely took me by surprise. Now he’s living with his parents and I’m much happier without that frustration in my life. Had I footed the bill for the bar trip, I would have ended up paying for his share of the trip and he would have gotten to go on a great vacation for free. Not going was one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made.

  32. Any one here taken the Illinois bar? Just curious on how it stacks up compared to other states. Thanks!

    • I have – honestly my experience didn’t seem to be as bad as my friends who took it in other states. i took the exam at northwestern law school which was down the street from where i was living at the time so i was able to walk too and from easily. i appreciated that they set up the exam rooms to mimic law school exams – i was in a room with approx. 30 other people all of whom were also taking their exams on computer and had a pretty chill experience (for the bar exam at least). my only issue was that i unexpectedly got a “visit” in the middle of the afternoon session the second day and was too scared to ask the proctor to access my bag in the front of the room to get any “supplies”. illinois sent us these dire warnings regarding accessing your stuff during the exam (pretty much: if you have anything that could be considered contraband you will be asked to leave and fail the exam. period.). as for the exam, it was hard but my surroundings didn’t add any unnecessary stress so that was nice. i’ve heard horror stories about 1000 bar takers being put in the same room at the state fairgrounds (nc i’m looking at you) so i feel like i got off pretty easy taking it in illinois.

    • Yes. The thing that really sticks in my head is the day of essays. There are, like, 15 potential subjects, but you only have to write 6 essays, and you may end up with more than one essay on the same topic. On the day of the bar, they give you seven essay questions, and then they tell you which one not to answer. My year all the questions had to do with corporate law – and I’m an immigration lawyer who never took a single corporate class in law school. I think we had 2 questions on commercial paper, too.

      It is nice that the exam sites are mostly very comfortable (I took it at UChicago’s b-school, very lush) and in downtown Chicago so you can have your pick of hotels (they guarantee all sites will be within 1 mile of Water Tower). The pass rate is normally around 70%, which isn’t high but isn’t low either.

      It’s possible this has changed since 2006. Also, in 2006, we were still handwriting exams, which sucks for a test that’s almost all essays.

      See my comment above for my own bar experience. I highly recommend staying somewhere comfortable downtown if you can manage it. I was so glad to relax and get room service. I was also glad that I stayed the night after the exam finished so that I could just rest (and not have to worry about checking out in the morning before going to the exam).

    • Long Tall Sally :

      I did, although it was about a million years ago in 1990. It was at the U of C’s 190 Delaware building on the Gold Coast, so there were plenty of good options for lunch and decent places to stay nearby. Two of my friends from law school and I made a pact that we would eat lunch together both days and refrain from discussing or even referring to the exam in any way. That turned out to be a good decision, although I remember sticking both of my fingers in my ears on the way out of the exam site because everyone around me was talking about it – “Hey, what did you put for that agency question?” – when I hadn’t even SPOTTED the agency question. The best piece of advice I can give you is PLAN SOMETHING NICE for right after the exam – drinks, dinner, fun with friends, whatever will help you forget the whole experience. Don’t do what I did, which is go back home and ruminate about the exam, while feeling sorry for myself because I was probably going to flunk and my firm was going to fire me and there was nothing good in my refrigerator and my apartment was a mess and blah blah blah. I passed, and it all was fine, and in retrospect I wish I’d spared myself the self-immolation and gone out and hoisted a few with my pals.

  33. Wow, too much copy editing today: “anyone”

  34. My most vivid memory was having my hands — both of them — literally give out 2 weeks before the bar. Couldn’t even pick up a pencil, let alone write with one. So those precious days 2 weeks before the bar were spent in orthopedic waiting rooms trying to figure out what the heck had happened and — hopefully — get a disability accommodation form signed. Total nightmare.

    Sure enough: the hands still didn’t work for the bar. Had to take it on a computer, which would’ve been a blessing but for the fact that they were so numb I couldn’t feel the home keys (or any other keys, for that matter) well enough to type efficiently. I know I’ve had stress in my life, but that about took the cake.

    Nerves are a weird, wonderful, wacky thing!

    • An older lawyer :

      Similar experience–I took the bar in the (gulp) late ’80s, before computers, and had to use a typewriter because of a neurological problem in my writing hand (which developed, not coincidentally, during law school). When I checked in to take the exam, security had to examine the typewriter and the guy picked up the case, turned it over, and … the typewriter fell out and hit the floor with a sickening crash. My heart stopped and everyone for 10 feet around cringed. We quickly plugged it in and, miraculously, it worked. Thought I was safe…until the elevator stopped mid-floor on the way up to the typing room. Really?? They got it started again within a couple of minutes. All went well, though, and I passed. Still sorry my then-husband and I didn’t take a trip. We were poor but should have done it anyway!

  35. Left out a part of my bar story that I have always wanted to forget. I have a rescued dog that I absolutely love to pieces but she has some strange anxiety issues. I had moved three months before the bar with her, my cat, and husband. Husband had a new job and was in another state for training for a month. Dog was apparently bothered by all the change and the newness of me being home all day studying. In my husband’s absence she got wayyyyy over protective.

    Three days before the bar I was walking her and two teenage girls were laughing and running around and banged into her. My dog nipped the girl in her love handle and then just sat down and wagged her tail like an angel. Totally unacceptable behavior on my dog’s part but the girl freaked out – acted like my dog had mauled her and called her mom to “report it.” I was crying hysterically because I thought days before the exam, in a new town, husband far away, the police were going to come and confiscate my beloved dog.

    My husband, a former cop, was preparing me over the phone for what they would do which was just making me more hysterical. My head was spinning – she will be so afraid of them, she will growl, they will call her dangerous and put her down!!!! Luckily the girls mom called me and verified all the vet info, etc, said the skin wasn’t broken and her daughter had overreacted and said that she wouldn’t report it to the police if I promised to take her to obedience school, which I did.

    I knew I was too emotionally spent to study another minute so I left the dog at my house, drove to husband’s hotel, slept there, and drove back super early in the morning to let the dog back out. I had a great cry and a good sleep and still passed the bar and still have my dog who still has issues but has passed obedience school, wears a gentle leader, and has never again tried to bite someone!

  36. Anonymous :

    When I took the bar, I couldn’t afford the luxury of not working for two months so as to study for the bar full time (and a bar trip was obviously out of the question; I didn’t even know such a thing existed). I also couldn’t afford the cost and schedule of Barbri, so I worked full-time and studied using some 3 year old used Barbri/PMBR books I bought from Craigslist (the previous 3 owners of said books had passed, which I figured was a good sign). Did I mention I was taking the California bar? And sharing a hotel room with a friend for whom it was her 5th shot at the bar? Right. I only took the exam because I wouldn’t get a refund if I didn’t show up.

    So, assuming that I was going to fail, I spent the three horrific days of the bar trying just to get through the damn thing, avoiding all the other exam takers when they collectively freaked out over the minutiae of their various answers, and trying not to think about the fact that I would have to take it again in six months. Even though I was pretty relaxed during those three miserable days (why freak out if you know you’re not going to pass?), I was so physically and emotionally exhausted after the experience that I got completely trashed off only 2 glasses of wine at dinner.

    Either the bar examiners were huffing nitrous when they reviewed my exam or those bar review books really were good luck – when results came out, I had somehow managed to pass. And awesomely, so did my friend (5th time’s a charm). Now I refuse to move out of California – you couldn’t pay me enough to sit through another bar exam. I don’t know how anyone does multiple states; y’all are crazy.

  37. CA Bar, 2005: My friends and I set up camp in Ontario for a week. Partly because my study partner/then-bf wrote his exam by hand, the rest of us were on computer, and Ontario had both options. Also, we really wanted to get out of LA. Three of the must surreal, bizarre days of my life. Why were there state law questions on the MBE? (There weren’t, obvs, but it sure felt like it!) Is it healthy to watch a soap opera during the lunch break? Why does every channel on the TV hotel show either A Few Good Men (on repeat) or an Entourage marathon? The test was given in a huge auditorium that was silent but for the scraping of the chairs on the metal floor. In the bathroom we all avoided eye contact. In the 60 seconds before the start of day 3, power went out to our entire table and blue books were being thrown around. Oy. My mom had actually given me 3 funny cards, one to open each day. It was the best thing anyone could have done for me. A bunch of us from law school stayed out in Ontario after the bar ended and we went out for margaritas that Thursday night.

    Bar trip: a massive whirlwind trip around the US, hitting all 48 contiguous states. I only gave myself 3 weeks to do it — between the Bar and a friend’s wedding 3 weeks later. I was convinced I couldn’t take the road trip after the wedding b/c I needed to find work. Which I didn’t actually find until February. Hindsight’s 20/20, I guess — I should have waited until after the wedding so I could have enjoyed the road trip more.

    Results day: Most nervous week of my life! Went to see Walk the Line and the latest Harry Potter movie in the theatres. My friend and I made sure we were having a glass of wine at 6pm, when the results came out online, because we were sure the system would be crashed and overloaded. We were home by 6:45 and had a very intricate system for sharing results: if neither of us contacted each other before 7:00 pm, it means we both had passed. It avoided the whole “Did you pass?” “No,” conversation we didn’t want to have. It was ok to call if we failed, though. On top of that, our extended group of friends came up with a little code we called the “Champagne/Tequila” code: are you drinking champagne, to celebrate? Or tequila, to forget? Fortunately most of us (including me) were drinking champagne. After my initial cry-fest (which was so severe my dad had actually thought I failed when I called my parents to tell them), there was much champagne. And then, of course, tequila, the further we got into the night.

  38. How fun to read all these stories!

    I took the CA bar, and my most vivid memories all seem to revolve around food or not having food. I was so stressed out I lost about 8 pounds in the last two weeks right before the exam. My husband went to the grocery store the day before I left and bought me a big container of trail mix, a bunch of five-hour energies, and granola bars for my hotel room to encourage me to eat. The exam itself was kind of a blur. The first day I went back to my room at lunch, took off my pants, and sat on the bed in my underwear watching I love Lucy and eating subway. That night I couldn’t stomach fast food, so I walked to a gas station about a mile away and bought a jar of peanut butter and a spoon and ate that for dinner while I watched stupid tv to distract myself. The third day I’d already checked out of my hotel so I brought something to eat during the lunch break since I wouldn’t be able to go back to the hotel room. I knew they didn’t allow food in the testing rooms but figured I could leave it in the hallway with my other stuff. Nope! Apparently, they anticipated this happening so they had enforcers at all the doors checking bags for food before you were allowed to walk into the building. (crazy;, right?) I ended up leaving my lunch in a paper sack outside. When I came out I discovered that my bag had flopped over, and my poorly wrapped peanut butter sandwich had come undone. The entire spot was a PILE of frenzied ants. Gross. Needless to say, I did not try to salvage my lunch. After it was all over I took the shuttle to the ontario airport and felt like I was finally hungry after about a month of having no appetite. Unfortunately, that is the tiniest airport and every food option closes at 5 My flight wasn’t until 8. By the time I got to my layover at SFO I was starving. I scarfed down sushi and guzzled a couple of beers that tasted amazing. My husband and brothers picked me up at the airport that night and brought me home, where I promptly fell asleep. Bar trip: a three day weekend at the lake with my husband immediately following the exam; two weeks visiting my grandparents in the country; then a month long road trip with my husband.

  39. I took the New York bar exam many years ago, before computers, in the huge Javits Center in Manhattan. Just before the exam was to begin, a woman several rows away from me stood up and let out a thunderous, blood-curdling scream. Then she quietly sat down again. As the exam commenced, the rest of us were fidgety nervous wrecks, while the screamer calmly put pencil to paper and seemed quite composed and unruffled.

    I added a third day and took the New Jersey bar as well. When I got back to NY, I was really wiped and just wanted to crash, but my husband really wanted to take me out to celebrate, so we went to a great little restaurant near our apartment. In the midst of ordering, though, I suddenly burst into tears, and blubbered, “I just want to go home and s-l-e-e-p…!” We went home, and I slept for at least 12 hours.

  40. AgencyCounsel :

    I took the bar in 2001 in Boston. I remember finishing a bit early and hitting the Barking Crab with a bunch of friends afterward.

  41. Both my fiance and I took the Washington State Bar last July (2.5 days of essays). And 9 days later we got married. (Yes, we realize how crazy that sounds). Retrospectively, it actually wasn’t too bad. We did a combined bar trip/honeymoon and spent 3 weeks in Greece. And we both passed.

  42. Virginian :

    My now-husband, then-fiance and I finished the bar a year ago today. His second state, my first and only–it would have to be a REAL good reason to move to convince me to take another bar! I remember we had checked out of the hotel in the morning so we started driving the 90 miles or so home right after the second day ended. I already can’t remember if I changed out of my suit after the exam, but I do remember there was terrible traffic getting out of Roanoke (yes, inconvenient locations is another quirk about the Virginia bar). As hard as we tried not to, we ended up discussing each essay question on the ride home.

    We had grand plans of going to dinner at our favorite restaurant and then out to a bar with friends to celebrate but I was barely functioning by the time we got home. I think I made it for one glass of wine and half my entree. Went home, passed out, and I think it was a good three days before I could carry on a normal conversation.

    We postponed a bar trip until post-clerkships but did get to go to an island for two days after our wedding three months after the bar exam. We both found out we passed in the airport on the way home–best wedding present we could have asked for! I agree with what Kat said recently, studying for and taking the bar exam was the hardest thing I’ve done. My husband often asks me, “Remember when you passed the bar?” just to see my relieved smile in reaction.

  43. just finished NY bar. MBE was hard. so many things barbri didn’t teach me.


    • SF Bay Associate :

      Chin up, bummed. If Barbri didn’t teach it to you, chances are Barbri didn’t teach it to anyone else either. I’m not sure if the Honingsberg lecture is still around, but NOBODY! If you didn’t know it, nobody knew it, so it’s a wash for everyone :).

      • Honisberg! He was the “YOU CAN DO THIS!” and “Good idea?” guy, right? My friends and I still say that to each other. Loved him.

        • SF Bay Associate :

          YES! I still say “good idea???” in his tones probably once a week, four years post-bar. It’s a wonderful gut check device that gives words to that little voice in my head talking sense. Thank you Honisberg!

    • NC Bar Exam Taker :

      Don’t be discouraged. I have yet to hear from anyone who didn’t think the MBE this year was a killer. I thought there was quite a bit of information BarBri didn’t cover. (At least 20 questions I thought “must be those test questions they talk about!!”) But–you don’t have to know everything, and chances are, if EVERYONE we’re talking to thought they missed the boat, we’re all on the same page.

      As much as I want to sit here and worry, and trust me, I’m not confident at all in my results, we can’t do that for the next five weeks. So, I’ve vowed to assume the worst and hope for the best, not waste five weeks of worry, but not be totally caught off-guard if it’s bad news.

      • Also a Bar Taker :

        I feel the same way…I thought I would feel a huge relief after the exam was over, but I am convinced that I failed. I made a lot of mistakes on the essays (just plain getting the law wrong) and the MBE was pretty much a blur. I can’t seem to relax and feel happy at all. I think I might go shopping or have a spa day or something. Glad to know others are worrying as well (someone at my bar came out and high-fived his friend in front of everyone and yelled “Nailed it!”…nice.)

        • There’s a special place in hell for people like that.

          It’s called “the circle for second-time bar takers.”

        • You should absolutely have a spa day. At least a massage. You deserve it.

          And almost everyone is feeling the same way you are. I would bet a significant amount of money that the “Nailed It” guy failed. (He was trying to psych you guys out. And it seems to have worked.)

          Trust us. No one feels good about the MBE. Some of us freaked ourselves out so much in prep that a Seriously Hard Test became a Not As Horribly Bad As I Thought It Would Be test. But the MBE has easier years and harder years. Either way, everyone’s in it together, and it’s graded on a curve.

          • Anonymous :

            I feel the same way. My process for answering MBE questions was to circle every question I was not quite sure about in the hopes of coming back to that question later. Long story short, I was appalled at the number of questions I circled.

    • AnonInfinity :

      I feel exactly the same way about the MBE. I felt great after the essays, but not good at all after the MBE yesterday. Drat :(

    • Former IL Bar Studier :

      Agreed – MBE was ridiculously hard — and I thought it was way harder than even the all day practice test that Barbri told us would be full all the “harder questions we could possibly expect to see on the exam.” As I was running away from the testing site day 2 at lunch and at the end of the day (to avoid conversations about the questions on the exam), I heard lots of people talking about how hard they thought it was, so we’re definitely not alone. I think we have to just put it behind us and not think about it for a few months.

  44. Grace Wang :

    NY Bar takers are done!!!

  45. My husband and I met in law school and took the bar exam together. The first day of the bar was all essays, and we had a great dinner afterward and felt pretty good about the next day. The next day, however, was not so good. The MBE was brutal, and my husband says the only thing that saved his sanity was gleefully selecting an obviously-wrong sucker’s answer to one question, because it gave him a sense of control over the test. (Not a strategy I’d choose, but it demonstrates the importance of knowing yourself and tending to your needs during a test like this!) The next day (yes, this was a 3-day-long ordeal), there were more essays. By that point, it was becoming hard to tell what subjects the different questions were testing. After it was all over, we had fun comparing the laws we invented to answer questions we didn’t know anything about. Turns out, we’d even made up the same exceptions to our same made-up laws!

    The bar exam doesn’t just test your knowledge of the law ~ it tests your sanity, your relationships, your stamina, and lots of other things. The most stressful thing about waiting for the results was being as concerned about each other as we were for ourselves ~ it was stress x 2. We woke up early the day the results came out, and held our breath until we saw both of our names on the list. They were both there, and I have never been so relieved in my life.

    No real bar trip for us, although we did take a cross-country train trip to attend a friend’s wedding. Between going through the bar exam and spending 104 hours on a train together, it was a real summer of bonding.

  46. I was dreading reading this thread, because I didn’t want to relive the experience again. I agree with Kat and others – it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But this thread is great! I love everyone’s little stories.

    I took the Bar in Alaska, where we have around 60 candidates each summer (fewer in winter). The exam here is 2.5 days. The last day ends at noon.

    You have to send in a passport-sized picture when you apply for the Bar Exam, and since there’s so few people, when you show up at the Exam, the proctors call you by your first name. They have studied your pictures. It’s really unsettling.

    There are a few people that fail over and over, and everyone knows them, and seeing them at the exam actually made me feel better about myself, because they would put the curve in my favor.

    I was staying at a friend’s house, and she had installed bookshelves on the wall above her guest bed. About 3AM or so on the night between the first and second exam days, I woke up to an earthquake. I looked up at the hardback books on ledges above me, and thought, well, either I will die or I won’t. Luckily, it was just a small earthquake and didn’t cause any books to fall.

    Two law school classmates of mine were also taking the exam. One of them told me he smoked marijuana in the mornings, because, “They tell you to follow your normal routine.” He was the first to finish the exam on the third day. He did not pass.

    Another friend of mine was clerking in a small town in southeast Alaska. There were no other candidates in his town, so they let him sit in the judge’s chair, behind the bench, in the only courtroom, to write the exam. No proctor. Statute books all around him. He passed.

    My family had scheduled a family vacation to Europe. I had told them I couldn’t go until after the Bar, so I boarded a flight on Friday, and arrived in France on Saturday. While the rest of my family was flitting around Paris, taking pictures, going to museums, all I wanted to do was sit on the hotel balcony and stare out.

  47. I never went anywhere after the bar. It was not fun, but I needed to look for a job. It is now 10 years and I do have a job, so that is good news. But it was not to much fun at the time.

  48. The main thing I remember from taking the bar exam is that my mother insisted (insisted, insisted) that she accompany me to the exam. Strange, yes, but I was too stressed and exhausted to argue. We shared a hotel room and the night before the exam, she snored so loudly and woke me up so many times that I distinctly recall hurling a pillow at her face in the middle of the night while hysterically shrieking/crying “MOM I can’t sleep! SHUT UP!” But, I passed on the first try. And that’s all that matters.

    • My friend’s mom also insisted on accompanying her to the exam… did you take IL in 2006, perchance?

    • Former 3L :

      Oh my god. I just finished New York and my older brother is taking it as a second bar (it’s my first, though) and I drove him up and let him stay in my hotel room as a birthday present BUT HE SNORES. I slept for 45 minutes Monday night (before essays) and for 4 hours Tuesday night (before the MBE) EVEN WITH EARPLUGS. I AM THE TIREDEST PERSON.

  49. TiredBarTaker :

    I am reading these comments on my phone as I bus home from day 2 of the California Bar exam. I can’t wait to be done tomorrow, I hope I never have to do this again, and I’m very much looking forward to my post bar camping trip. I refuse to talk to my friends about the test so it’s reassuring to read all your experiences that had a happy ending.

  50. I took the Virginia bar three years ago – wearing a suit and sneakers. The only thing I really remember about the exam itself was that the proctors ordered the girl across from me to put her suit jacket back on because her camisole was too revealing.

    I stayed with my husband’s family in Roanoke, which was the best move I could make. It was so nice to get away from all of the other test takers, and have a home cooked meal.

    There was no post-bar celebration for me because I got married a mere 10 days later, and I had to finish planning my wedding. An Alaskan honeymoon replaced my bar trip! Although it seemed crazy at the time to study for the bar and plan a wedding at the same time, it worked out well in retrospect. Wedding planning helped distract me from freaking out about the bar too much, and vice versa. A little – I was still a basket case. I never want to do either again!

  51. Equity's Darling :

    CPLED anyone? It’s like 10 assignments over 6 or so months instead of the bar exam (for Western Canada)

    I start in 2 weeks. I hear it’s a huge pain in the tushie.

  52. sitting here reading these comments in my hotel room waiting to take the second half of the NJ bar, just did two days of the PA bar. i’m pretty sure i’m going to remember forever how i forgot to upload my essay answers the night of the exam and freaked out the morning after thinking they wouldn’t accept them (turns out i was fine and just uploaded them today). here’s hoping NJ turns out okay. it’s nice that we get to take the exam in atlantic city, pretty much everyone’s got a room booked for tomorrow night too so everyone can celebrate!

    as for a post-bar trip, i start work on monday so no trip for me. but i’m too broke to go anywhere anyway!

  53. I took the California bar two years ago… I studied through the barbri course – went to all of the classes – did a little studying every night with a good amount of socializing. Then about two weeks prior to the bar I buckled down.

    I didn’t stress. Stayed calm and focused. And found it to be surprisingly easy… even the MBE portion, which I finished close to an hour early.

    I passed. Maybe by a little, maybe by a lot. Who knows.

  54. Almost Done! :

    Last day of CA bar exam tomorrow. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your stories. Brightened my evening :D

  55. Like many other 2010 grads I couldn’t afford a big bar trip. However my college has a reunion weekend in Las Vegas every summer, and it just happened that last year it started the day after the bar. So I got home from the bar, went out to a big celebratory dinner with my now-fiance and then went to sleep, slept for about 12 hours and then got on a plane to Vegas! It was glorious. Although I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of Vegas as I probably otherwise would have – I was too beat from the bar for much late night partying.

  56. I met my now-husband on my post-bar trip! Yay, but, boo, because then I had to take the bar in his state, too. New York. UGH. After Day 2, he picked me up at the Javitz Center, took one look at me, and said, I am taking you to Otto Tootsie Ploughound (great shoe store on 5th Ave) and then bought me a fabulous pair of tweed D’Orsay pumps I still wear and call my Bar Shoes.

    I passed.

  57. AnonInfinity :

    I’m very late to the party, but yesterday was my last day of the bar exam, and I was on a media blackout all day. Only because we weren’t supposed to have phones in the testing center, and then I immediately went with friends across the street to a local bar and drank 3 beers before 6. Was home in bed by 9:30.

    I felt great after the essays and horrible after the multiple choice, so now I wait.

    Luckily, my husband has been working this whole time, so I do get to take a fabulous bar trip to Spain and Italy! Can’t wait!!!!

  58. wiser and happier :

    Hope this isn’t a downer for those of you who are celebrating today. After I took the bar (many years ago) my then-husband and I went away for a long weekend at Shenandoah National Park, a beautiful place. He proceeded to tell me that the night I spent in a hotel before the exam he had gone home with a women he just met, and told me about all of the women he had cheated with during our 8 1/2 year marriage, which I knew nothing about. (Silly me, I believed him when he had told me they were “just friends”.) He had been very supportive throughout law school, but this showed me how he really felt about his wife becoming a lawyer. Not long after this, he fell in love with his secretary and we separated. Shortly thereafter, I met and fell in love with another lawyer. We’ve been happy together for 30 years (and husband #1 died young of lung cancer, leaving a wife and 2 young children). I am not making this up!

    • Whoa! That’s terrible.

      But at least he waited until after the exam to tell you…

  59. somniculosa :

    Congrats to all those finishing the bar!

    I took a three-day bar exam four years ago, and I followed it up with a two-week Mediterranean cruise with my husband. Unfortunately, we flew out at 5 pm the last day of the bar, so I took off having not slept for the past two nights. And of course the seventh Harry Potter book came out right before the exam, so instead of sleeping on our way to Italy, I read the entire book before we touched down. So when we arrive in Venice, I’m on 50+ hours with no sleep, and we find out that my husband’s bag was lost and that he wouldn’t get it until the next day (the day we got on the ship). So we’re already upset when we get on the water bus, and we got off at the stop our travel agent recommended for our hotel. Well, it was the wrong stop, and we spent half an hour pulling our luggage around Venice (up and over all the many, many bridges) trying to figure out what we were supposed to do. Finally, when we found out where we should have gotten off and got back on the water bus, I couldn’t take it anymore and just started sobbing. It was a quiet breakdown, so I couldn’t ignore the poor people around me asking my husband if I was okay. . . . It was a horrible start to the best vacation I’ve ever had (once I got some sleep).

  60. Laura Wilson :

    Hi everyone. Just yesterday finished the Vermont bar exam. Even though I did everything I think one could possibly do to prepare, it was still a very hard test. I felt particularly shaken by the morning MBE. I don’t know how other people felt about it, but the questions seemed exceptionally difficult. I finished all questions, but with only a minute to spare, so no time to check answers. I came out at lunch feeling like I must have failed for sure. The PM session went a little better, it seemed, and I finished with 14 min to spare, and used the time to check some answers. But I can’t shake this awful feeling that I probably failed–on the other hand, I know that a lot of people, if not most, feel like they failed in the aftermath. At this point, I’m in despair that I have failed, but really, I have totally lost perspective on this. Have other people had this problem? LW

    • Laura,

      I absolutely agree that the morning MBE was a killer. I asked a friend of mine if he thought the morning session was difficult and he said no, so it makes me feel better that you thought it was hard! My brain is stuck on the ones I know I got wrong and it is making me crazy. I think it is almost impossible to look back at how you did and be objective!
      You are absolutely not alone in how you are feeling. I think the months waiting for the results will be harder than the months studying! (In Illinois, we won’t get ours until the first 2 weeks of October.)

      • Laura Wilson :

        A follow up: just found out Friday that I passed the Vermont bar exam. Wow! I have to admit I’m still looking at my pass letter a few times a day to make sure I read it correctly. I passed!

  61. I get a stomachache every year around the same time and always wonder why…then I remember. THE BAR EXAM! I’ve had various reminders throughout the years…like when I worked at a temp placement agency and we went to the Javits Center (which I still HATE driving by. HATE) to hand out No.2 pencils and candy (and business cards in case the exam takers needed work the next week) to those suffering. I wanted to hug everyone but not scare them.

    Now, as Chair of the Law Student Perspectives Committee at the City Bar I’m much more tuned into what law students and recent grads are doing all the time.

    I met my future husband in January of my 3rd year of law school and warned him, probably in April, that we’d be breaking-up for May-July. He laughed at me, but I was totally serious. I’m glad, in retrospect, that I had him around to talk to me about something else besides the exam. I only had dial-up service in my apartment at the time (2002) and that year the results were posted publicly online…for ALL to see. There was NO way I was leaving those results up to the chance-y-ness of dial-up. I still get the shakes even thinking of seeing the list and then having my service disappear! So, I took my then-boyfriend (the same guy I swore I’d break-up with) out to Kinko’s at midnight and wouldn’t let him look at the computer screen. I found my name and burst into tears. It was a MIRACLE! Even more so because I took NJ too and found out 2-3 weeks before the NY results that I had not passed NJ but I knew my MBE score. I was holding my breath and as “everyone” knew NO ONE fails NJ and passes NY so why didn’t I just call the tutor already. So there I am sobbing at Kinko’s on Court St and the boyfriend was too scared to ask what the results were…you know, just in case.

    I passed! Still one of the proudest moments of my life! Then I called all my friends. There are 6 of us girls (women/moms/lawyers) and we’re all still friends. That night we realized that 2 of the 6 close friends had not passed. We got emails from them basically saying that they didn’t have a contagious disease, they just hadn’t passed the Bar Exam. They are both two of the smartest women I know and passed the next Feb but I think I’ll always feel badly that they didn’t get to share the overwhelming joy, relief, satisfaction, elation, perfection, pride and insanity of finding out that night.

    Now I have the pleasure of working with law students all the time and being able to share my story (although in a generally less candid way) and those of my friends. Just knowing others have lived through it makes the experience more bearable.

    The day I took the NJ exam, AKA, the 3rd day of NY exam, I was randomly seated next to my BFF from college and law school in the hugest auditorium I’d ever seen. I realized, during lunch, that I hadn’t written anything about a 3-part test, and didn’t think there was an issue that required one. That might have been my 1st clue that I wouldn’t pass NJ.

    I still recommend law school to people who ask and have LOVED every (OK, almost every) second of my legal and alternative career since graduation. It’s OK that I don’t practice anymore…especially since I moved to NJ last year!

  62. I just took the bar in February in Chicago, this year. I handled it well while I was taking the test, but when it was over, I was sure I had failed – positive! It was so hard to log on to the website to read the letter – I was so scared! Then after I found out I had passed, I was sure that it was a mistake somehow – even though I was a good student and had studied hard. It was hard to take the test in February because I saw kids from my law school class who had not passed in July and were retaking it – that kind of freaked me out. It made the possibility of failure more real.

    For my test, the IL bar examiners tested Administrative law (by referring to the statute citation) in an essay question – and this was a subject that hadn’t been tested in many many years – so the bar prep course didn’t even have a lecture for it! This was one of the many things I worried about later!

    After the bar exam, my husband drove downtown to pick me up. I stayed in a hotel for the test – it was a nice hotel and I walked to the exam. I just wanted to go home! My middle son (I have 5 kids age 14 to 27) baked me a cake to celebrate that the exam was over. After reading these posts, I wish I could have told my parents – but they are no longer alive. It’s funny that although they’ve been gone for years, there are still times when I miss them so much.

  63. Bar trip? No, I was working full time at a law firm and had already taken precious time off to study. Couldn’t possibly have afforded it – had a family, too. Went to law school as a “grownup”. But no one I know took trips either, so I guess it’s a more recent thing in another universe. (I graduated in ’98).
    Best memories after the bar (and just knowing I’d failed)?…a call from a former secretary wishing me “congratulations, counselor” when I myself had no idea yet that I’d passed; walking into my boss’s office -he was on the phone- putting my hand over the receiver and saying – in tears – “I passed”; calling my father who’d helped me pay for law school to tell him the same; calling a lifelong dear friend who I knew had secretly believed (wished?) I’d never pass; going home and dancing by myself to Neil Diamond’s “Beautiful Noise” – blaring – most of the night (while avoiding the constantly ringing phone). Can’t recall if I had vino or not, but no booze necessary for the highest high I ever had other than childbirth. Truly priceless and unforgettable day – and end of a brutal never-to-be repeated experience. A bar trip could only have been a let down after that.

  64. I was taking the exam at Temple Law School in Philadelphia, had just moved to a town about 45 minutes away [my husband was working in NY and it put us near the Amtrak station for both of our commutes], and I’d been warned by one of my law school profs about the street and subway dangers of Philadelphia. I was terrified that my car would breakdown on the way to the exam and I would miss it. Decided to stay at a Center City hotel, but didn’t want to take public transportation; I didn’t know my way around either.

    My wonderful, super-supportive husband booked me into a really nice hotel, and hired a limo to take me to and from the exam location both days. I brought my electric tea kettle and all of my exam prep books and the study flip-cards I’d made, so I could continue making myself crazy in the coziness of my room.

    The first morning, my limo pulled up in front of Temple Law School, lots of people sitting on the broad steps leading up to the school. Limo driver jumps up, opens the door for me. I’m a fast test-taker, so I finished all of the morning and afternoon parts of the exam early and left the exam rooms. I was sure that observers thought I either didn’t know any answers, or that I had a sugar daddy who was pulling strings for me and I was just going through the motions. [I passed on my own, no strings, no sugar daddy].

    We went on our delayed honeymoon after the exam, we’d gotten married that April.

    I was a nervous wreck studying for the exam, taking it, and on the honeymoon. But everything worked out wonderfully, especially the marriage. Practicing law isn’t too bad, either.

  65. ug….I overslept the second day of my bar exam…just tired already…by skipping breakfast and toothbrushing, I made it to the exam locale on time, though not with any poise. I remember the experience as totally exhausting. No alcohol after and amusingly, police near the venue (a hotel conference center with a bar) were waiting for unsuspecting DUI exam takers. No trip….no money! …..though I did later take an exotic trip between a clerkship and a job. At the time, I thought if I failed and had to take the bar or bar review a second time, I would not be able to afford it. As a person who always liked school and standardized tests, I subsequently said that law school and the bar cured me of any desire for more education or test-taking.

  66. Anonymous :

    I hate the feeling of post traumatic test disorder. You know, when you wake up with a sudden intense dream of one part of the bar exam and how you think you answered it incorrectly. I have spoken to a few people suffering from the same plight. Truth be told, I probably do not accurately remember most of the exam now, but that does not stop my subconscious from running wild. At the end of the day, however, I think we need to put things in perspective. Our plight does not come anywhere close to the men and women currently serving or who have served overseas who are currently suffering from PTSD.

  67. Anonymous :

    I hate the feeling of post traumatic test disorder. You know, when you wake up with a sudden intense dream of one part of the bar exam and how you think you answered it incorrectly. I have spoken to a few people suffering from the same plight. Truth be told, I probably do not accurately remember most of the exam now, but that does not stop my subconscious from running wild. At the end of the day, however, I think we need to put things in perspective. Our plight does not come anywhere close to the men and women currently serving or who have served overseas who are currently suffering from PTSD.

  68. Laura Wilson :

    It’s been two weeks since the bar exam–in the meantime, I took the MPRE, which while challenging, seemed far more manageable to me. No matter what the outcome, all tests are over, and that has given me reason to feel happy–even euphoric. All my Barbri and other study materials are stored away, out of sight. Like most people, I struggle with doubts, alternating between thinking I probably passed and then remembering how difficult the MBE was and feeling sure that I failed. Somehow, I’ll just have to get through this roller coaster ride! LW

  69. Old Iowa Lawyer :

    I took the Iowa bar exam in 1993 (a very long time ago). At that time, Iowa did not use the multistate bar exam. It was all essay. It lasted 2-1/2 days. The exams from Monday morning were graded Monday afternoon; Monday afternoon’s exams were graded Tuesday morning, and so on. This meant we found out whether we passed late Thursday afternoon. Those who passed were sworn into the Bar on Friday morning. It was the worst week of my life. My mother-in-law was on her deathbed in Des Moines, and I had to leave my husband and his family on Sunday and go to Iowa City for the exam. She died Monday afternoon. The visitation was Wednesday night and the funeral was Thursday morning. We drove straight from the burial to the law school where the exam results were posted on the door of the law school. The walk from the street to the school door was excruciating. Other students were there, and no one was reacting because you didn’t want to celebrate in case someone else had not passed. After finding out I passed, there was very little celebration given the week’s family events. No bar trip for me.