Friday, July 23, 2010

The Baby Bar

Chances are, if you went to an ABA accredited law school and graduated in good standing, you have never heard of the “Baby Bar” in California. My blog has been dedicated to complaining about law schools today, and because I have spent a lot of time preparing for California’s Baby Bar these past months, I have been taking some time off. My apologies to the cause!

The Baby Bar is a nickname for the First-Year Law Students Examination. You only have to take it if you did not go to an ABA accredited law school or were academically disqualified after the first year at an ABA accredited law school. It covers only torts, contracts, and criminal law/procedure.

I spent months preparing for it and finally took it at the end of last June.
It costs over $600 and, like any other law exam, you can see that much of the money you have expended is spent for rather outmoded security precautions. They’re always trying to catch people taking the exam for someone else, but you get the impression they also just use the stodgy security precautions as a sort of intimidating ritual. How many people do they actually catch each year trying to take the exam for someone else?

My most shocking revelation with the California Baby Bar is that so many non-Californians were taking it. I first met a guy from Utah who was a student of a correspondence school based in California. Then I met a guy from Missouri, who was retired and had no intention of ever practicing law in California. The woman I sat next to during the test was from Wisconsin.

I am told only 20% of the testers will actually pass the Baby Bar, but that isn’t because it is so difficult. The low passage rate is attributed to the fact that these are mostly self-taught legal minds—the people who are just itching to practice law, but whose grades and LSAT scores aren’t good enough to get into an ABA accredited law school.

The most vicious rumor I heard about it is that California considered long ago discontinuing this exam, but they keep it going because it generates a lot of revenue. That’s a cynical assessment, although I can only imagine that it’s true.
I have used this blog to hash out the theory that the only reason I ended up in the bottom 10% of my law school is that I failed to learn how to write the essays. I think I might have even missed an important Saturday lecture when this was explained to the other students.

For the Baby Bar, I picked up a Fleming’s legal writing workbook that clearer than any other source shows how legal essays should be written, using IRAC, but using the legal term for the “I” (or “Issue”) all in capital letters and underlined. The “R” (or “Rule”) should have specific elements to it, if possible. Otherwise, the multiple-choice section of the Baby Bar was much easier than the Multi-State multiple choice questions that I used to prepare with.

I’m almost willing to say that this is my last hurrah with law, and if I don’t pass this Baby Bar, there really is something beyond my reach to law and I should take back all my complaints and let the world be run by the youngsters that are outdoing me. Then again, I do have three chances to pass this thing.

Meanwhile, I find myself believing that I really do respect the law more than most of the colleagues that I have talked with. I really can’t bring myself to say “I want to be a lawyer,” but find it easier than others to say that justice is important and corruption is bad. When there is no justice in the legal system and corruption is rampant, we have every right to complain about law schools and all the other legal institutions beyond law school. That’s a different breed than many successful lawyers.

In the meantime, for my own purposes and desires, I am probably preparing for my legal career where I’m going to be at my best—among all the other Baby Bar slackers. Calling the legal education system dysfunctional and even corrupt is not the task of a law school brat whose feet never touch the ground.

Working for justice and against corruption takes some real work and sacrifice. To that end, I am proud to be the bad boy of law.