‘Bar’ doesn’t always mean ‘party’

I get a vivid visual reminder of the time of the year, law-school-wise, every time I walk past my assistant director’s office: the BarBri tomes and flashcards piled next to her desk (the perfect mid-morning work break!) speak volumes. She graduated from Michigan Law five years ago and passed a bar exam then, but in a different state. She claims an interest in pro bono practice, but personally, I think she’s just a glutton for punishment. In either event, next week she’ll take two vacation days to sit in Lansing and grind out eight hours of essays and then another eight hours of multiple-choice answers. Good times.

Naturally, those of us in the office who sat through a bar exam or two in the past are trying to cheer her on and cheer her up, but she tells us that we’re not helping. As the person who once admitted her to law school, for example, I remind her that she is quite good on standardized tests. She glares at me. Reminding her that she not only passed another bar exam but in fact has been a successful litigator for a significant period (one of the essay question examples was actually based on one of her old cases!) also elicits a glare. Those and similarly perky comments just up her anxiety level—because of course, those comments end up sounding an awful lot like an expectation that she ought to pass.

The dean of students and I both enjoyed an article that someone sent us the other day: a soothing mentally healthy piece urging people to keep bar exam preparation in perspective. But I didn’t forward it on to my assistant director because one of our colleagues assured me that reading something like that when she had been slogging through her last bar study days would have incited her to violence. My assistant director’s office is right across a small hallway from me. Safety first.

Really, the only safe course is nodding sympathetically and saying, “hang in there. ” So hang in there, Michigan Law grads studying for the July 2010 bar. I’m thinking about you, even if I am scared to talk to you.

-Dean Z.
Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions