" /> The Merits of the Case: October 2009 Archives

« September 2009 | Main | November 2009 »

October 17, 2009

Keeping the Plates in the Air

One of the things that happens when you fail the bar exam is that you go back over every single excruciating detail of the test and the test preparation in your head to try to figure out "what went wrong." It could have been anything...maybe I had a bad test day (or days), maybe I didn't concentrate enough during the lectures, maybe I just didn't get it all like I thought I did. I received a detailed report of my results, so I know that it was the multiple choice questions that did me in and not the essays as I predicted it would be, but I still don't know exactly what happened. When I left the exam in July I felt relatively confident about it. Or at the very least, I didn't feel like I had failed.

I have begun to wonder if maybe I just did too much during that time. When I first started to study I remember reading a letter from the exam prep company about what the next couple of months were going to be like and about how the preparation was going to work. In the letter, they gave a few words of warning about how to do it "right." One thing they said, which I joked about all summer, was that they recommended that you do NOT try to work, plan a wedding, or train for a marathon while you prepare for the bar exam. And I didn't plan a wedding.

When I tell people this story, I always defend myself at the end by saying, "But I did everything they told me to do! I followed the schedule, I made it my top priority, and I just fit the other things in." And it's true...I did. If I can say anything about myself and what I have done in the past couple of years, it's that I'm a master juggler. I mean really...I juggled law school and three kids! I juggled law school, three kids, and cancer! Why shouldn't I be able to juggle bar prep, work, and triathlon training? And three kids? A friend who always speaks the truth said to me the other day, "Kim, I think you did too much. I know you can handle a lot, but this was one time when you should not have done all of that." And I have begun to wonder if perhaps she is right. Is that what it was? Did I divide my attention too thinly this summer?

I don't know if I will ever know exactly what happened, but I do know that this time I will do things differently. I have registered for the February 2010 bar exam and I have re-signed up for the same bar prep course that I took before. But this time I will not work at all during January and February and I will not train for any triathlons during those months. I will still have to feed my kids from time to time and probably emerge from my office for fresh air and bathroom breaks every once in awhile, but this time my main focus will be bar prep.

October 16, 2009

Grief and Loss

It has been about two weeks since I received my dismal bar results and it has taken much of that time for me to work through my feelings associated with the failure. It has been a blow to my ego and self-esteem, but after a few days I realized that the worst part of it was the loss of my job. It happened so suddenly and I really didn't plan to leave, and it turns out that I had to go through a period of grieving the loss.

After my first year of law school, I worked as an intern at a local state's attorney's office. It was a small office and there were only two interns so we got to do a lot of work while we were there. I didn't have a 711 license that summer (a temporary license granted by the state to "senior" law students which allows them to practice law in some fields under the supervision of an attorney), so I was not able to approach the bench, but I did many other things and I was in court almost every day. Despite the fact that I had said that I never wanted to practice criminal law, I loved it. I loved it so much that when it was time to look for a job after my third year of school (of four...I didn't work after the second year because of chemo), I started my search with other state's attorney's offices. I found an internship with another local office, but this time I had a 711 license so I was able to approach the bench and to do both jury and bench trials with other attorneys. I went back again two semesters later for another internship. And then they hired me.

I was offered a position as an Assistant State's Attorney Law Clerk with this office before I graduated in May. They knew that I had to study for the bar, and they agreed to let me work part time during May and June, and to have July off to study. I went back full-time as soon as the exam was over at the beginning of August. I loved every second of it. Working there as an ASA Law Clerk was even better than working there as an intern. I had my own cases and was in court every single day of the week both for daily court calls and for jury and bench trials. I would often walk through the halls of the office and think about how thankful I was to be there and how lucky I was to get to do this every day.

The day the bar results come out is the day that temporary 711 license expires. If you fail the bar, the license is immediately void and you can no longer practice law. If you pass the bar, the license is extended for another month or so until you are sworn into the bar and you receive your real license. Because I failed, my license expired and I could no longer do most of the work I was doing for the office.

I left work at about 4:30 p.m. on October 1st, knowing that the results of the test were posted online. I had already decided that I wasn't going to check the results while I was at work just in case they were bad. I got home around 5:15 p.m., signed on to the results website, and found out that I failed. The result of my license becoming immediately void was that when I got up the next morning, I didn't go to work. And it turns out that was the worst part.

Many people have asked me why the office didn't hire me to continue to work there doing something else. I think there are several answers to that. One is that I never asked them to. I couldn't imagine going there every day to work as a clerk or an intern after having lost the job I loved. I also don't think they could necessarily afford to hire me. Like every company these days, they are strapped for cash and I don't think there is a lot of extra to be used to hire additional staff. I could probably volunteer to work there part-time doing research or filing or something, and I might do that depending on how things work out in the next couple of weeks.

I spent the week after the results were posted thinking things like, "Well, I'd be heading to the courtroom right now to find out which bench trials were going to go this afternoon" and "I wonder if that motion I worked on will be granted" and "I wonder how big the call is the morning." It was so sad for me to have to give all of that up. In addition, I realized how much I missed my co-workers. There are some amazing people who work in that office, both attorneys and support staff, and it was so hard to just not see them or talk to them anymore after having gotten to know them over the past year.

Many of them have contacted me in the past two weeks with very kind and supportive words, and that has helped. But I have still had to go through a period of grief for the loss of the job I loved so much.
I do not know what the next six months hold and I do not know if I will ever have the opportunity to go back to this office, but I hope so. Right now, my goal is to get this thing taken care of in February, to get my results in April, and then to go back. We will see how it all works out.

October 15, 2009

Frisk the 15th!

Today is the day! Please make sure you do your self-exam today! th_friskthe5copy4XSMALLa.jpg

October 04, 2009


So far there has been little about my law school experience that has been anything like the way most people do it. Most people don't start law school at thirty-nine years old with three children and a husband at home. Most people don't get diagnosed with breast cancer half-way through law school. Most people don't attend class bald and sick from chemo. Most people aren't lucky enough to land their perfect dream job before they even graduate from law school. And most people don't fail the bar exam. I, however, have now done all of those things.

When I first read the results online at the end of last week, I was in shock for a few minutes. I had to read the sentence over a few times and I felt a physical sinking of my stomach, my heart, and every other organ in my body as the news washed over me and began to sink in. When I left the exam last July I didn't feel as if I had aced it, but I certainly didn't feel as if I had failed it. I was (and still am) devastated. I immediately thought of the ramifications of this failure: I would lose my beloved dream job, I wouldn't have any way to pay my loans, I would have to prepare for and take it again.

As the shock of the initial news began to wear off, I felt (and still feel) a deep sadness and frustration. I worked so hard this summer and I did everything I was supposed to do...how could this happen? I was (and still am) embarrassed and humiliated at the thought of all the people I let down with my failure: my husband and kids who went through it all with me, my parents, my family and friends, the people who had enough confidence in me to hire me before I graduated, the people in my unit at work, and myself. While I always knew failure was a possibility, this was not the way I had planned it all out in my head.

One of the things I hated about having breast cancer (one of many!) was that I never wanted to be the poster girl for cancer. And yet when you are bald and sick, that's exactly what you are. I hated that role, and I was so happy when my hair grew back and when people I met didn't know about it unless I told them about it. This time I get to be the poster girl for a bar exam failer. At least I don't have visible signs this time, but I am still reluctant to have to take on a role that I would never have chosen on my own.

I wasn't sure how to share this information, but in keeping with my recent tradition of over-sharing the difficult parts of my life, I decided that maybe the best thing to do was to just own this and put it out there. I know I'm not the last person who is going to go through this, so maybe if I just go ahead and write about the experience here it will be cathartic for me and maybe someone else will find it and know that they are not alone.

So now I'm just trying to figure out the best way to bounce. The next step, just like with a cancer diagnosis, is to figure out what to do next. Not being one to take to my bed and pull the covers over my head, in between crying bouts I have updated my resume, cleaned out my desk at work, and signed up for the February test. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I keep telling myself that this could be worse. At least it's not a cancer diagnosis! Failing the bar isn't going to kill me, even if it does feel like I want the earth to open up and swallow me right now.

I keep comforting myself with a growing list of people who failed the bar and who have all gone on to be successful and to do some great things: Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, both Daleys (father and son), several fantastic attorneys who I know personally, John Kennedy, and one of my favorite law school professors, just to name a few. That is not such bad company.