Notes on applying for bar exams*
Dear bar exam application designers (aka Brilliant Ones):
Thank you for the many wonderful hours of fun you've provided in designing your bar exam application processes. At first I found some of the questions you asked a little insulting. For example, what business is it of yours whether I have ever had a divorce or had a marriage annulled or set aside? That affects my “character and fitness” to practice law precisely how? But then I realized that I had an entirely wrong attitude so I just put on a happy face found it much easier to understand and appreciate the brilliance of this process you have designed. Let me count just a few of the ways you have made my life much better.
First, I'm glad you want to know every address at which I've lived since I was 18. There have been 17 of them and it was fun to track them all down. Thanks also for making it so stupidly difficult to enter all that information into your webforms. That was fun.
You've actually made the joy of filling out poorly-designed webforms nearly infinite, thanks to the fact that you provide so very many such forms for my entertainment. While I appreciate being able to submit a copy of my application online, it easily takes five times as long to fill out these web forms as it would to simply write out all the information by hand. Thanks for that pleasure. I really had nothing better to do with my whole damn day than fill out webforms. And if you doubt my sincerity, just look at the fact that I'm actually paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege of this pleasure and you will doubt no more!
Speaking of web forms, thanks for requiring me to submit my application electronically and requiring that I print out multiple copies and mail them to you. I like doing the very same thing multiple times in multiple ways. Redundancy is such a joy!
Oh, and speaking of redundancy, the fact that you require me to apply for the right to apply for the bar exam is a stroke of genius. I just worry that perhaps you're missing a step there; wouldn't the process be much easier for you and applicants to manage if you required us to apply to apply to apply? It's just a suggestion. I figure if one redundancy is good, two is better!
Of all the pleasures you provide with this application, I think the multiple forms requiring notarization are among the most exquisite. I especially like that you want me to get two barred attorneys to vouch for my character and to do so in front of a notary. It's really not enough to ask them to sign the form and mail it in; it's much better to ask them to find a notary and pay to help me apply for the bar exam. Very thoughtful of you, really.
Thanks for asking if I have any outstanding parking tickets. The answer is no, but I can totally see how that would be crucial data in determining whether I'm fit to practice law in your great state.
Also, I hope you have fun with the fingerprint cards I had to pay a surly “law enforcement officer” to help me create. It's nice to know you don't believe me when I say in answer to your many questions that I have no criminal record. I mean, we all like to be distrusted and second-guessed, and you're doing an excellent job of that!
Finally, thanks for asking for so much information about all of my current creditors (e.g. mortgage, credit cards, auto loans, student loans, etc.), including the balance on each, as well as wether any are delinquent or disputed. I didn't even know all of that information and you know, I was sort of thinking I was happier in my ignorance. But now that I know for sure that I owe more than $170,000 to various large corporations to whom I've granted the right to charge me exorbitant interest for probably the rest of my life, I realize that knowledge is power—and all thanks to you!
In short, jumping through the many hoops required to sit for the bar in your state and then being able to pay so dearly for the privilege—well, I just don't know how to thank you for allowing me to have this experience. I'm definitely looking forward to the exam and to working with people smart enough to develop such brilliant ways to welcome new recruits into their profession.
*Not all of these great ideas were found within the same bar application process. Instead, I've assembled here a collection of some of the most brilliant requirements from a couple of applications. If you've ever applied for a bar exam or looked over an application, what were the most brilliant parts for you?
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I liked it when they sent me a finger print card for Ohio a week after they sent me a finger print card for Illinois. I was very happy about making two trips to the county jail.
Also, Illinois doesn't put the entire application online. In order to get the missing part, you have to request it from the State or visit an Illinois law school.
Posted by: JR at March 29, 2006 10:22 AM
Sounds pretty spot on for my state... even better are the countless letters you may receive asking for "clarification"... like when one of your employers from 10 years ago is no longer in business, and so (go figure) doesn't respond to the Character and Fitness Committee request for verification of employment...
You get to dig out old tax returns just to try to find a W2 to fax them. Because, you know, it matters.
Posted by: Dave! at March 29, 2006 10:48 AM
Jeremy: As someone asked on your site, what part of the IL application is not available online? Are you talking about the "application card"? (That's what I was referring to as the application to apply.) Is there something else I'm missing?
Posted by: ambimb at March 29, 2006 12:47 PM
Yes, it is a card that you pick up at an Illinois law school or by requesting it via mail from the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar. You have to use a typewriter to fill out the card.
Note to first and second-year law students: the card is inapplicable to you. It doesn't have anything to do with the law student registration you did or should have done. It is only for those who are applying to take the bar exam itself.
Posted by: JR at March 29, 2006 01:24 PM
Clarification: the "they" I refer to in my first post is actually an "it." The Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar sent me the fingerprint cards at different times instead of at the same time.
Posted by: JR at March 29, 2006 01:30 PM
Ugh! Seems like it's essentially state-sanctioned hazing!
Posted by: dmoneypenny at March 29, 2006 02:57 PM
My favorite part of the Georgia application was the Employer section. After tracking down all the little jobs I had in college.. I happily filled in their information.
A month after the bar exam, I was told that three of my employers did not return information sheets and thus, I could not be permanently certified.
Is it my fault that these employers suck?! Is it my fault that these employers have outsourced their HR department and won't give me any information?! Boo!
After haggling with the elusive bar fitness "specialist", I received my certification the week bar results came out.
Posted by: Audacity at March 29, 2006 07:45 PM
Posted by: kob at March 29, 2006 10:00 PM
New York was a cakewalk compared to some of these other pretentious bars. DC's is a pain, making you find at least 6 people for references, covering just about every jurisdiction you've lived in. Or Maryland, which forces you to get your old high school records. Right, as if you could get into law school without a high school degree or equivalent!
It is state-sanctioned hazing, indeed.
Posted by: Siryn at March 29, 2006 11:35 PM
You're tempting me to post something. I thought I had it rough but some of what you've described is just downright "overly burdensome" to use some legalese.
Posted by: Steve at March 30, 2006 01:33 AM
Great post! I jumped through many of the same hoops last year when I applied to take the Maryland bar--I think the fingerprint card was the only thing we did NOT have to do (and yes, we did have to get certification from our high school). At least I didn't have to repeat the whole process when I retook the exam this past February (and, to be fair, my completed bar application helped me a LOT in filling out the security clearance questionnaire for my federal employment).
Posted by: bettyjoan at March 30, 2006 08:05 AM
Oh, I can't WAIT to do this next year! Especially tracking down all my old addresses, and getting contacts at all my former employees (one of which is out of business)! Goody. No wait. F#$K!
Posted by: Unreasonable Man at March 30, 2006 10:51 AM
If you think the application process is fun, just wait until you have to meet with a member of the character and fitness committee of the bar. After being quizzed for several minutes about my debt and the lapses of time in my employment history, I was lectured about how they ask about finances because the major reason attorneys are disbarred is for stealing from clients. I bit my tongue and avoided suggesting if they wanted attorneys to have less debt, the Bar Associations should contribute more to scholarship funds and work to make law school more affordable.
Posted by: Debbie at March 30, 2006 10:56 AM
you don't even have to go through all of that to become a citizen of this great country.
Posted by: nana at March 30, 2006 11:45 AM
I was wondering if you guys might be able to answer me something...I'm filling out my bar application for Maryland, and I'm worried about some stupid stuff I did in Highschool, I mean I graduated with a high GPA, but I had some run ins with the administration, any thoughts? Should I really be worrying??
Posted by: paul at April 13, 2006 11:34 PM
Paul: Just write it down. When in doubt, disclose. Someone recently told me that they were struggling to remember the times they got detention in high school b/c they wanted to put that on the bar. If you ask me, that's ridiculous, but if the question asks for that kind of thing, better to put it all down and answer the questions now than to have them accuse you of trying to withhold info later.
It kind of freaks me out, actually. What if I forgot something? It's been so long ago now...
Posted by: ambimb at April 15, 2006 09:58 PM
Well it isn't something I can fill out, they send the sheet to my high school. Ask them to fill it out.
Posted by: paul at April 16, 2006 04:38 PM
Ah, I see. You're just worried that the board of examiners for the bar is going to learn something bad via that sheet to your school. Is there any way you can tell the board about whatever it is in advance so that they can see you're not trying to hide anything? Regardless, it seems like it would have to be pretty darned bad to really harm your chances. If you want to be sure, you could always check your state's board of professional ethics decisions to see if the issue has ever come up w/regard to a bar applicants. Just an idea...
Posted by: ambimb at April 16, 2006 07:21 PM
Thanks I appreciate your advice. I was thinking about stopping by the high school and to see what is on my transcript...just to see what they have to work with? Prior to the receiving any sheet from the bar examiner
Posted by: paul at April 16, 2006 11:24 PM