Bar Exam Horror Stories


As I am reminded by Above the Law, the bar exam is coming up. And that means it’s time once again to run the stories of the two legendary screw-ups in New York bar exam history. I claim a proud connection to both.

Since there is no need to re-invent the wheel and re-write, I present to you, for your reading pleasure…
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New York Bar Exams (Legendary Screw-Ups) (July 16, 2008)

It’s that time of year again. Time for the bar exam. And so it is only fair I think, as recent grads work and sweat and cram and get all anxious, to remind them of some things.

First, that’s how you will probably feel when you try a case.

Second, the New York bar exam has had a couple of legendary screw-ups, and I’m here to remind you during your moments of insecurity, nausea and panic about them. I’d like to think it’s part of my job, but really, I’m just having fun at your expense.

There was the 1985 exam. The one where the multi-state exam results were lost or stolen. That was for those that took the test inside one of the New York Passenger Ship Terminals on the west side of Manhattan. I know first hand about that test: Your Bar Exam Answer Sheet is Gone — Now What? Hundreds had to re-take the exam. But not me. Click the link and see why.

Lest you think that was the only time our trusty bar examiners fouled up, fear not, they managed to do it again last year by losing some essay answers that were typed on laptops, due to a software crash.

But last year’s story seemed to go on, and on. To fix the problem of missing answers, the bar examiners decided to do a grade approximation. Trust us, they said, to get it right this second time. Trusting them might not have been such a good idea though, as a question arose due to an anonymous comment on this blog as to how, exactly, they did that approximation. It included giving a grade of 3/10 for an essay that was never written because the guy ran out of time.

And then the story got weirder still, after I called up and found out that an unknown appeals process existed at the New York State Board of Law Examiners. Lawyers creating a secret appeals process? Just how weird is that? An anonymous test-taker blogged his experience here, in the rest of that entry that followed my call.

But wait, there’s more! The guy who took the exam, the one who was told he had failed and then blogged his experience here, then went public under his real name, Eric Zeni. He successfully appealed, after after being told there was no appeal process. He had argued his first case and won. Zeni was sworn in as an attorney earlier this year. [Update: And is now practicing law out on Long Island with a small firm.]

Are there lessons to be learned from these stories? Probably. But I’ll leave my readers to figure them out.

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2 Responses Leave a comment

  • Clint 2011.2.28 at 16:05 | Quote

    I can’t believe I keep searching for horror stories related to this topic. I will be taking my bar exam next year and I’m already getting nervous. I’m usually pretty calm, but this has me very worked up. I’m not sure yet if some of these stories are making me feel better or worse. I feel that I’m prepared already, but something in my gut is telling me otherwise.

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