Thursday, March 5, 2015

February 2015 Bar Exam -- Goodbye!

Congratulations to all of you who sat for the February 2015 bar exam! I trust all of you are enjoying the return of a more "normal" life (what that means). If you haven't already, give yourself a much-needed break -- you deserve it. For those of who are curious, let's quickly recap the local exams.

In Virginia, we saw the return of Virginia and Federal Civil Procedures. Back to business as usual! Other core subjects included Wills, Sales, Partnership, Agency, Creditor's Rights, and a mix of Equity and Personal Property. That's a healthy pull from the subject hierarchy: all three Tier 1 subjects, two Tier 2 subjects, three Tier 3 subjects, and one Tier 4 subject. It pays to prioritize. 

However, a few core Virginia subjects were absent. Local Government finally ended its blistering string of essays, and Criminal Law and Procedure were, disappointingly, left on the cutting room floor. It happens, albeit rarely. Corporations and Real Property are also pretty important subjects for any first-year attorney. What happened to them as well? I think the explanation is simple. The VBBE cannot test on every subject on every exam. This exam, like virtually every exam, has a smattering of lower-tier subjects present to keep applicants on their toes, but also enough core subjects to not be considered too far off base. Ultimately, the balance remained as fair and reasonable as ever. The essays were straightforward and offered a healthy balance of soft and hard balls. Still, I was a little disappointed by the absence of Local Government and Criminal Law and Procedure.

In the District of Columbia, we saw a lot of usual suspects: Federal Civil Procedure, Wills and Trusts, U.C.C. Art. 9, Agency, Torts, and Constitutional Law. But for the tricky nature of the Wills and Trusts issues, the essays sounded very manageable. The MPTs were also straightforward, with an objective memo and a persuasive letter. If you prepped for the MPT well, these should've been a slam dunk. 

The MBE was typical: tough but fair. We saw a healthy mix of easy, intermediate and difficult questions being pulled from the normal range of issues. Many of my students also commented that the new Civil Procedure questions were easier than expected, so that's a plus for everybody. 

Virginia will release bar exam results on or around Thursday, April 23rd. The District of Columbia will continue its tradition of being one of the last jurisdictions in the country to release results -- this time, in late May.

Now, let's briefly discuss how you're feeling. All of you are exhausted but relieved. Some of you feel good, but I'm betting most of you feel like an overcooked wet pasta noodle. Maybe you're fretting over that one essay which gave you trouble. You might be bothered by the excess of one particular subject or the lack of another, or by some pesky short answer questions. For some of you, the MBE gave you trouble. And for others, the entire exam felt like a hot mess.

Gradually, these feelings will wear off. You will come to terms with the essay selection. You will accept that the February 2015 exam was fair and is now out of your control. Some of you will put the whole exam in the back of your mind until a week before results are released. I applaud you. Others will not let your anxiety subside at all.

In many respects, waiting for results is harder than preparing or sitting for the exam. You go from having no time on your hands, to having lots of time -- time to think, time to wonder, time to worry. But the same advice before the exam holds true today: you must keep anxiety and self-doubt in check. Otherwise, you'll go crazy. Before the exam, this was half the battle. Now it’s the whole battle. If you think you fared horribly on the exam, it’s because the wound is still fresh and it's all you can think about. You’re thinking about the things you did wrong or missed, and not about the things you did correctly or knew well. Chances are, you're being too hard on yourself. 

Waiting for results is long and arduous. My recommendation is to do everything in your power to distract yourself from thinking about the bar exam. Thinking will only lead to worry, worrying will only lead to more worrying, and no part of this vicious cycle will accomplish a positive net benefit. 

Again, congratulations! Celebrate your accomplishment, and then give yourself some much-deserved rest.