Friday, July 04, 2008

The Fear Factor

It would be easy enough to sit back in my virtual Barca-Lounger and chuckle as Ilya Somin dukes it out with Jim Chen and Nancy Rappaport over the best way to win the Bar Exam game. After all, I took the "very difficult New York" bar exam and passed it easily. But then, I had a secret.

George HamiltonWhile Ilya takes the elitist side, and Jim and Nancy represent the working class, I am a voice for the followers of Hamilton. Not Alexander, but George. You see, I decided to hop on a plane for the week preceding the bar exam and fly down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. There was a young woman I met at Club Med whose family had a beach house down there, and she was amenable to allowing me to spend some time.

My theory was clear. Get a decent tan, and the bar exam will take care of itself.

Like most law students of my day, I took a bar review course in anticipation of the exam. I wasn't entirely clear why I needed this course, but everyone else was taking it and I didn't want to be at a disadvantage. It struck me at the time that I had just finished paying for three years of law school, and I should be prepared to ace the bar. Still, as Jim made clear, failing the bar exam would have sucked, and would not have well served my constant desire to eat.

The review course was useful, mostly for the outlines that enabled me to go back and revisit areas of law that didn't hold much interest in the first place. Still, I understood that I would be tested on the "fertile octogenarian rule," and saw no reason not to have a ready answer. I was sufficiently disciplined to study, and actually found that I had learned more in class than I imagined.

JordacheBut as I dutifully attended my bar review course, I began to watch my pals from school change. Ordinarily easy-going students grew increasingly tense, snappish and wild-eyed. People no longer cared about their appearance, their Jordache jeans (hot at the time) dirty and stretched. Binging on donuts and beer, the energy drink of my day, they arrived at the course with bloodshot eyes and uncombed hair. It was quite ugly.

I was disturbed by this. These were good students, most better than me. My law school efforts were relatively lax, spending more time understanding than trying to get good grades. Yes, the two aren't mutually exclusive, but the latter took time away from more important endeavors, like earning enough money to buy the next day's meals.

Myrtle BeachMy bar review outlines were tucked away in my bag, where they remained for the duration of my time in Myrtle Beach. I felt a little guilty about not looking at them, but the feeling passed with the help of a few Coronas and the best barbecue I ever tasted. When I returned to New York the day before the test, I looked as good as I possibly could. I was tan. I was rested. I was happy.

The bar exam wasn't nearly as difficult as I was lead to believe. I don't attribute this to my learned ways or innate intelligence, but rather my lack of fear of the test. So much pressure is placed on the students, by their schools, their families and themselves, that they create a barrier to success. Even now, as Jim emphasizes the impact of failure on the future of inchoate lawyers, the stress becomes unbearable. As any Viagra afficionado knows, stress can affect even the best performer.

It's just one more test. Don't make it worse than it has to be.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Thank God someone has the courage to finally say this out loud. It has been the elephant in the room for way too long. Looking good has always been and always will be the key to passing the bar. I actually skipped preparation completely and got a nose job and some butt implants. I passed with flying colors. In fact I notice that a local plastic surgeon is adverting a "Bar exam Special."

7/04/2008 12:03 PM  
Anonymous shg said...

May I say you're looking quite callipygian.

7/04/2008 12:59 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

It is what I live for.

7/04/2008 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It wouldn't be a Greenfield post without a needless photo of a woman's body.

7/04/2008 6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And it wouldn't be a warm day in hell without Bartow scowling.

7/05/2008 11:31 AM  

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