Law School,  Work Life Balance

The Bar + Covid: Breaking Past One Last Barrier

In normal times, this would be the week so many of you would be gearing up to take the Bar. And many of you have been studying and preparing diligently even as your State’s admission commission are still deciding what to do; or have decided to delay or cancel the exam. And there have also been plenty of folks advocating for Bars to do the safe, cautious choice and confer diploma privilege to avoid exposure to covid and to help people move with their job search/begin practicing.

While I know safety precautions can be taken at the exam site, I am so confused why so many states can’t just do the logical thing and opt for privilege–even if it’s just this once and with extra continuing education requirements, I mean it’s a PANDEMIC! But what do I know…

For those who aren’t in the midst of studying for the Bar, let me quickly explain that before anyone can practice as an attorney, we have to be licensed and in most states (Wisconsin and ?) you must pass a bar exam. It’s a rigorous test and most people study for 10-12 weeks for this two day exam. There is another option though, where a law school graduate is given “diploma privilege” where they may practice in the state where they earned their law degree. Because of covid, many states are delaying or cancelling exams, while graduates continue to study without knowing if/when they’ll get to sit for the test. And these delays will impact their job prospects (and of course, each state has different rules/procedures/decisions to make things more complicated). So as you can tell, I think there is one obvious, safe choice and am a little bewildered that this hasn’t been resolved.

But forĀ  those in the midst of text prep, I just want to take a moment to validate your concerns and frustration that this hasn’t been resolved. I cannot imagine the heightened stress you’re experiencing now. Bar prep is highly stressful in normal times, but add a pandemic, civil uprisings, and the lack of knowledge about the test or having to make the decision to sit and risk your health or delay your ability to practice—can. not. imagine.

I do, however, want to encourage you to make sure you’re recognizing the stress you’re feeling. Recognize how your stress manifests and make sure you are using your coping skills to address this stress. I remember being in law school and suffering through physical ailments because of the stress (TMJ, heart burn, inability to sleep, just to name a few). I’m old enough now to recognize when my body is reacting to stress and to take a beat to figure out what breaks I need to give my mind/body to make myself feel better.

Yes, stress is a “rite of passage” during the Bar, but please treat yourself well during these times. Take longer breaks (especially if the test has been delayed); find the right outlets; nourish your body; and be transparent with family/friends with the support that you need. The disconnect may feel so overwhelming right now. It’s so hard to convey to them the importance of a test and why it’s stressing you out. They may now know what to say or say the wrong thing and I know that can be tough to experience.

Finally, I know that it is no help to tell you that it will be ok and that it will be easy. While I have no doubt you will get licensed, I am so sorry that this is one more, unnecessary barrier between you and this profession. It may feel like an unsurmountable roadblock but you’ve overcome worse. The Bar Exam won’t be what stops you from becoming a lawyer. You have been training for years now for this moment. You have all the skills needed to pass this exam. You navigated higher ed, made it through law school, are acclimating to this new normal, and you’ll be able to make the right decisions for yourself and your career. Take a beat to clear your head; do what you need to bring some calm to your life; and keep reminding yourself that as frustrating as this is, it’s a short moment in time and whatever is thrown your way–you will be able to overcome it.

Good luck!! <3