12 February 2010

A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar

Over the last few days, I've been watching a number of documentaries via Netflix/Roku. Generally, the filmer finds a topic which would be exhausted in 10 minutes and fills another hour and 20 minutes with panoramic pictures, man on the street interviews, skewed opinions, and gotcha shots. The biggest exception to all this has been "A Lawyer Walks into a Bar", which follows six people on their path to take the California Bar exam.

About three months prior to the exam, the documentary starts following 4 women and 2 men. First, it lets us know of California's low Bar passage rate (somewhere between 35-40%) and shows us several famous Californians who failed it more than once. Then we follow the lives of the 6 people preparing for the Bar.

The four women are all taking the Bar for the first time. There's Role-Reversal Woman. She's bright, driven and has a stay at home husband (well, significant guy-other). She's sacrificing time with her family in order to secure Bar passage and a job at a law firm. There's Geeky-Freaked Out Woman. She is alone and spending every second of every day cramming every little bit of legal information into her head that she can (interspersed with painting). There's Party Girl. She's obviously bright, but she just isn't going to put too much work into this. She parties, talks about her acting aspirations, and brags about not having done the take home assignments for BarBri. The final woman is Boot Strap Woman. She's older, has raised a kid, has a live in almost spouse. She never graduated high school. She got her GED, went to community college for two years, went to a university for two years, and then went to an unaccredited law school: the People's College of Law.

The two guys are both multiple fails. Young Guy has failed twice before. It's the first time in his life that he hasn't succeeded at something and he seems to be working through shock and disbelief. Old Guy has failed 41 times, but he's going to keep trying until he passes.

We follow them through their preparations. Role Reversal Woman is studying so hard she doesn't go to the hospital when her son is injured. Geeky Freaked Out Woman pushes herself to the point that she almost cracks and ends up going to hypnotherapist. Meanwhile, Party Girl is shown picking up some random guy at a bar. Old Guy gets a special tutor. Interwoven in all of this are little stories being told by various attorneys.

Next we come to the Bar exam dates. Here we see Boot Strap Women get stopped before she can even take the test because she hasn't taken the proper courses at People's College of Law. Then we get to watch the others as they go through the test. Young Guy looks like he's having a melt down. Geeky Freaked Out Woman is, predictably, burning the candle at both ends. Old Guy is yelling at the test site at night.

The only two who are confident are Role-Reversal Woman and Party Girl. RRW has it all together and exudes confidence. At one point RRW is talking about how the contract question was meant to sucker people into giving a UCC answer when there wasn't any real UCC issue. Then they cut to Party Girl who is confidently talking about the UCC answer she gave.

In the end, it all comes down to the day the Bar publishes the list of who passes on the internet. I'm not going to tell you who made it and who didn't (go watch it yourself). All I'm going to say is that if you fail the Bar California lets you know with a 3" high red "FAIL."

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