We asked members: What do you remember about writing the bar exams?
Hey, can I borrow a pencil?” I couldn’t believe this guy! Who does that?"
Like anyone who has experienced a traumatic event, PTSD prevents me from remembering very much about bar ads.
The only memory I have of that time was the business law exam. We wrote the exam in the immense space at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, filled with rows upon rows of desks, two students at opposite sides of the desk, facing each other.
I sat down at my assigned seat. I was the first to arrive at my particular desk. As the exam start time approached, I was still the only one at my desk. I began to wonder if I was going to be alone. The exam began and the chair opposite me sat empty. A whole desk to myself… how fortuitous! I spread myself out to take advantage of the extra space and began to focus on the task at hand.
Approximately 30 minutes after the exam had started; the invigilator came over with a student. Begrudgingly, I moved my stuff over to my side of the table.
The other student smiled at me, seemingly unfazed by missing a good chunk of the exam time. He sat down. He reached into his backpack and pulled out his the business law materials. I immediately noted something was different about the ream of paper he dropped on our desk. Unlike my dog-eared, coffee stained and worn pages, his were new. He actually removed the cellophane covering the materials right in front of me. I couldn’t believe it. Was he joking?
He then went back into his bag searching for something. I was sure he was looking for his index (that special document which unlocked all the secrets of the universe and pointed you to the right answer), but no, he came up empty handed, turned to me and asked: “Hey, can I borrow a pencil?” I couldn’t believe this guy! Who does that?
As I handed over one of my ten back-up pencils, I thought to myself, this guy is either a complete idiot or a total genius. In retrospect, he probably was just a litigator.
“I consumed more cigarillos than nourishment during the exam period.”
1974 would have been a good year to hold stock in Imperial Tobacco by virtue of my consumption of Old Port Cigarillos.
My recollection of writing the bar exams in the old Armoury at Dundas and Jarvis, (the first time they backed in trucks with the papers, I expected to be machine gunned) begins in Sept 1971 with a “Paper Chase” scene at Osgoode. The prof, I think it was Mr Spence, said: “look around, there are 240 of you… a third will be gone by the end of this year, but a third of you might make it into the practice of law.”
Yes, I was nervous about having to write exams, and I consumed more cigarillos than nourishment during the exam period; because, who could keep food down? But I was so damn proud of having made it that far, having made that first year cut, that although never an academic achiever, having been exposed to so many practice experiences during articling that I did not totally choke on Bar Ads.
And, it never goes away. I still cannot breathe whenever someone pays me for my opinion on something life /death to them, and more so when I appear before any court or tribunal; but I remember that I made it through first year Osgoode… and now I practise law!
“The thought of spending another several months studying and writing exams was soul crushing.”
It seems like so long ago. When I was called to the bar we wrote our bar exams at the end of our articling term. So, after completing three years of law school, articling interviews, and twelve months of articles the thought of spending another several months studying and writing exams was soul crushing.
I recall that the sheer force of will, and a shining beacon of full time employment as a “real lawyer” were what pushed me past the finish line. But truthfully, bar admissions turned out to be my favourite part of the process. Courses were taught by local practitioners and the information was practical and relevant. I think I had only one scary moment in civil procedure....when we had to stand up and argue a moot motion.
Looking back that is ironic given that I am a litigator.
“All of my friends and family would rib me for sure as the pass rate is so high that it would be a shame (and kind of funny) if I didn’t pass.”
I was definitely freaking out as there were so many large binders with so much information in them that I really felt the importance of what I was embarking on.
I spent weeks reading the binders through, at least eight hours a day, not sure how much I absorbed, but I just kept telling myself that I had to make it through all of the binders at least twice.
I also spent a lot of time making good indexes with fellow classmates.
I kept motivated by telling myself that I needed to put everything I had into this or I would be so disappointed in myself and all of my friends and family would rib me for sure as the pass rate is so high that it would be a shame (and kind of funny) if I didn’t pass the bar after spending so much time preparing (versus one of my friends who cracked them open the night before, did not read anything and just relied on her indexes; and she passed!).
I would say pace yourself when going over the material and ensure that your indexes are up to date and easy to access; then when you are writing the exams, just remember that everyone is as nervous as you and just stay focussed on the task at hand - answer ALL questions!