After some two days and three hours, I have returned from Waterbury, Connecticut where, for the past two days, I took the Connecticut Bar Exam. My universe consisted of the Holiday Inn in Waterbury, where I stayed and where the test was held.

It was quite a while since I’ve taken any exam. 18 1/2 years, which is when I took the New York Bar Exam. Having passed that and practiced for many years since, I decided to expand my options down the road by applying for the Connecticut Bar.

To be admitted to the Bar, one must pass an exam and meet various criteria that reflect on one’s character and fitness to practice law. Each state, as far as I know, has a two-day exam. One day dedicated to essays, the other for a 200-question multi-state, multiple-choice exam on six subjects (Criminal Law, Evidence, Property, U.S. Constitution, Torts, and Contracts). So one can transfer the multi-state results to any other state, within a certain period. Alas, that period does not go back 28 years so I had to take that part. That was today.

Day One, yesterday, was purportedly essays on numerous subjects but unlike the New York Bar Exam which had questions on New York law, the essays in Connecticut are not on Connecticut law but on general, common-law principles (for example, while the Rule Against Perpetuities (which provides that certain types of conveyances are void unless they must vest within twenty-one years of a life in being) has basically been eliminated in Connecticut and most other states (although it has the advantage of creating the phrase “fertile octogenarian” (don’t ask)),* it remains a big, complicated issue that serves only to increase the misery-factor for people preparing for the Bar Exam), and the questions cover the above six topics as well as things like conflicts of law, wills, agency, and corporations.

Things might have been different is this was a make-or-break proposition. Good money is made by companies that have people spend months preparing. I spent some good money for prep materials, but not a crazy sum, but I figured that I would not go overboard. The reality was somewhere between just winging it — I’ve been practicing for a while so I should be able to display some threshold of competence — and immersing myself. The pressure, thus, wasn’t that great.

One lesson I learned in law school was that each of us is individual in how we best prepare for tests, so I tried to do it the way that was comfortable to me and that had proved successful in law school. As an aside, except for an accounting exam, every one of my law school exams was open-book. The Bar Exam is not. It ends up to some extent testing memorization. Generally, lawyers don’t necessarily know the law’s minutia but they know where to look for it and what to look for.

Day One, the essays, affords some opportunity to do what lawyers do, i.e., analyze a fact pattern — A was driving his car when B ran a red light and hit A while B was driving a delivery van for E but was taking a detour to hook-up with her girlfriend and A sues E; will A win and why? — and reach a conclusion as to how the law would apply to the facts. Fortunately, although many of these essays ask you to recall a specific legal standard, you can still do OK if you can’t remember the precise rule provided you adequately analyze. (This type of thing, by the way, is what one does in law-school exams.)

I think I did OK on the 12 essays, but one never knows.

Today was the Multi-State. I’d done lots of sample questions and not been particularly impressed by the results. The test itself, however, did not seem as difficult as the samples. But who knows?

I feared that I would be the sole old guy in the room. Granted, most of the takers were in their twenties. (The exam is given twice a year, in July and February. As a rule, a fair chunk of those taking the February exam failed the July one.) But there was a bunch of folks like me. The woman next to me passed the California Bar in 1982 and the guy next to her New York in 1983.

Why, you ask, does someone who’s practiced for over two decades have to take a test to get admitted by another jurisdiction? Money. Connecticut offers reciprocity, i.e., if you’re admitted in a state that will recognize and admit without an exam people admitted in Connecticut, Connecticut will admit you. Pennsylvania, for example. But New York does not allow reciprocity. Nor does Florida or California.

So I’ll get the results in a few months.

On the other hand, this immersion in the particulars of real property law helps in understanding Jane Austen, especially the Bennet girls. [Back]

On a related note, this, a wonderful scene from the recent “Emma”: