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.
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?