My apologies, to anyone who may still read this thing, for my intentional neglect. I went on a self-imposed blog hiatus as I underwent the semiannual hazing ritual for all new lawyers known as the bar exam.
For recent law graduates, life divides neatly into equal halves. There is everything that has come before the bar exam (B.B.) and then there is post bar exam (A.B., annos barexamini). The bar exam has the unique ability to obliterate all your other interests, achievements, dreams or aspirations, at least temporarily. They are like 8mm home movies – quaint, adorable and distant. Preparing for the exam on the other hand, has the immediacy of being chased by hungry animals. Anticipation is 90% of the suffering. In comparison, taking the exam itself was a blessed relief.
For those inclined to dwell on the consequences of failure, and here future lawyers are a self-selected group of adept doomsayers, there’s a lot riding on the outcome. Those with jobs are convinced they would be promptly shown the door. Those without jobs know that they are interviewing with one hand tied being their back until their name appears. As veteran criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield aptly put it:
Suddenly, all those smart-mouthed know-it-all kids who were busy telling lawyers all about their vision of the law are lying in their beds in the fetal position, praying that they don’t screw it up and reveal to the world, and their mothers, that they are are total, complete failures.Or so that’s what I read at Thanks, But No Thanks, a law student blog I read about on Ed’s Weekly Law School Roundup.
There is reason for optimism. The statistics are on our side. The pass rate in Texas was 87.63% last year. That’s comforting in the abstract; the odds of being struck by lightning are minuscule, but tell that to Roy Sullivan. Greenfield attempts to comfort us:
Calm down. Take a deep breath. Not because I’m sure you’ll do fine. I’m not. I don’t even know who you are, and you may well be the loser you fear you are. But getting yourself worked into a lather isn’t going to help you any. Nobody does better on the bar exam by hyperventilating. Here’s the deal. Take the rest of the time off from your studies. If you don’t know it by now, it’s too late. No seriously, it’s too late. And chances are in your favor that you know more than you think. Most people pass the bar exam, and you fall into that category.
A debate surges on the use and usefulness of the bar exam. It is, depending on your view, a cartel organized to restrict entry into the legal profession and prop up salaries, an empty and painful ritual inflicted by an absurd and fusty guild, an arcane memory test, a demonstration of minimum technical competence to practice law necessary to protect the public and safeguard the judicial system, or a demonstration of worthiness in both competence and character and fitness to practice law. As for me, it’s not yet my place to ask why, just show me the hoop and tell me how high.
…starts right after the first one is finished.
For Del Barber, a singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Americana label doesn’t seem quite right, but the influences are there – Greg Brown, Townes Van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, John Prine, Wilco, and Woody Guthrie – and come shining through in the songs. The songs are steeped in narrative, expert fingerpicking and a clear tentor. He also does a great version of Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning – check it out around 15:37 in the Poor Michael’s set below, no small feat in itself.
Senator Robert Byrd passed away last night. While I knew of the good Senator’s remarkable longevity in public service, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he displayed equal stick-to-it-iveness in obtaining a law degree as a night student at American University’s Washington College of Law in D.C. He began in 1952, recently elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He finished over ten years later, as a Senator, in 1963.
President Kennedy, who received an honorary degree that day, began the commencement address before the crowd at American University:
President Anderson, members of the faculty, Board of Trustees, distinguished guests, my old colleague Senator Bob Byrd, who has earned his degree through many years of attending night law school while I am earning mine in the next thirty minutes, ladies and gentlemen…
As a Senator he was known for carrying a pocket version of the United States Constitution. While your interpretation may differ, his many speeches on the Senate floor, such as this one, opposing the Iraq War Resolution as falling short of the Constitutionally required formal declaration of war by Congress, reveal his devotion to the document.
In the newly published ‘National Security Strategy of the United States,’ the document which I hold in my hand …. in which the President of the United States outlines the unprecedented policy of preemptive deterrence which the Iraq resolution will implement – the President asserts that: “The Constitution has served us well.” There you have it, 31 pages, and that is the only reference to the Constitution of the United States that is made… and note too that the word “constitution” as mentioned in the President’s document is in lower case. It doesn’t begin with a capital letter. I am deeply disappointed that this Senate …. is not heeding the imperatives of the Constitution and is instead poised to hand off to the President of the united State the exclusive power of Congress to determine matters of war and peace – to declare war.
So the President has said on many occasions he had not made up his mind to go to war. When he does make up his mind, if he does, then he should come back to Congress and seek formal authorization. Let those high-powered lawyers of the White House tell him otherwise. They are going to stand by their client, I suppose. But they did not go to the same law school I went to. They probably did not have to work as hard as I had to work. Their wives may not have worked as hard as my wife to put me through law school. Well, so much for that. Let him come back to the Congress for authorization.
Ten years of law school – there was no career advancement in the offing, no lucrative salary waiting for him, no additional public esteem conferred, certainly it wasn’t for the joy of the experience as any night law student could tell you. Senator Byrd’s decade of law school seemed purely for the sake of the education itself, perhaps to attempt a more faithful and informed devotion to the rule of law he held in such high regard.
Worth remembering on the long slog…