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Thankful Thursday- One Day Early, 30 Years Later - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
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Thankful Thursday- One Day Early, 30 Years Later
Something reminded me today of a story I'd heard at my last court hearing before leaving last week- and it also reminded me how blessed I am to do what I do, for clients and a living, without having to endure the bureaucratic BS of bar examiners telling me what I have to know and regurgitate. For the last Tuesday and Wednesday of the month are Those Days for the just-graduated n00bs of my profession, and in the 30 years since I took the test, Buffalo has become something of a tourist destination for the unwashed from the other 49 states and assorted Districts, Dominions, Kingdoms and Caliphates.

In my day ::cue the "get off my lawn" cry::, out-of-staters were relegated to Albany. (Residents were assigned to whatever permanent address they'd given when they signed up to take the test, usually in their final year, so I took it here, in the comfort of my own law school library.) A few years ago, local politicians lobbied to change the default non-resident location to Buffalo, and to the downtown Convention Center to accommodate the larger crowds. Our Convention Center is, to put it kindly, a bit last year. Last century. A windowless hulk of 70s Brutalist architecture, with few modern amenities (and even lacking some less than modern ones, as we shall see). But it packs them in and has ample security to keep cheaters and ringers to a minimum, and so it works, except when it doesn't.

Around this time last year, legal writer Jeffrey Toobin wrote a short New Yorker piece about a Japanese ad man who studied law at New York City's Cardozo Law School and proceeded to take our exam seventeen times before finally passing on what would have been his final try either way (they changed the academic prerequisites as of July 2013). Yet he saved some of his nicest words for Our Fair City:

He’s taken the bar in Brooklyn, in Albany, in the vast Javits Center, in Manhattan (“I don’t like that one,” he said. “Lines too long at the bathrooms”), and, this past February, in Buffalo. “I like Buffalo,” he said. “Less crowded. I could reserve a hotel very close to the testing place. Just three minute walk from the hotel. Good access. I can focus on study during my stay. In New York City, many kinds of things attract me.”

Well, after my weekend, I can certainly understand that. But I can only begin to empathize with the shit that went down- and where it went down- in last week's test administration downtown.

----

Day Two of the test, in these parts, is the Multistate Bar Exam. It is a multiple choice tour of the ninth circle of hell, filled with red herrings, fake primrose paths, and way more of the multi-part "which of these statements are true?" questions (I only, I and II, I II and III...) that only occasionally mess with you on the SAT. That one is still administered the old-fashioned #2 pencil way. This year, though, many at the Buffalo site had to stress about whether their Day One essay answers from the day before had even been submitted.

Yes, we allow laptops, at this and a few other locations. But per my reading of Teh Rulz, you do this at your own peril. No notes or other programs can be accessible on the device, and they require software which, presumably, shuts down all other apps for the duration of the test. To be even safer, they forbid internet access- so how, you ask, do you submit your answers?

Knowing New York, I half-expected them to require submitting them on a 5¼-inch floppy, but no:

After the conclusion of the bar exam, applicants will be required to upload their essay answers over the internet to the Examsoft secure site by no later than 8:30 pm (EST) on the Wednesday following the essay day of the exam (MBE day). Failure to do so may result in the disqualification of your answers. Internet access will not be available at the test site to upload your exam files. You must be able to connect the laptop you used to take the bar exam to the internet in order to successfully perform the upload of your essay answers.

No problem then, huh? Locals all have their home wifi's, and the out-of-towners are all at hotels with this as a service (even my hideous Happiness Hotel near Newark had good bandwidth). Except the other end wasn't working so well on the day after the answers were written:

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Law school graduates sweated their way through the second and final day of their bar exams Wednesday, some relieved to see paper and pencil after running into a technical glitch that kept test takers in several states from uploading the first day's answers from their computers.

The Florida-based software provider ExamSoft Worldwide Inc. said the processing problem created a six-hour backlog that had been cleared by early Wednesday morning. The cause was being investigated, spokesman Kenneth Knotts said.

After spending a full day Tuesday inside the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center writing essays and answering multiple-choice questions on her laptop, Julia Pascuzzo of Pittsburgh spent four hours in her hotel room facing error messages while trying to upload her work.

"I thought it was my computer until I finally logged onto Facebook and saw that my colleagues were having the same problem," the Cornell University graduate said during a break from Wednesday's testing. "I fell asleep and then at 3 in the morning I woke up with this panic attack and I was able to manually upload it."

Knotts said the processing problems did not affect the exam takers' answers. But test takers said it cut into their sleep and the time they had to prepare for day 2.

"It definitely takes away from the relief that you have for finishing — that there still might be more problems," said Will VanDerlinder of Elmira, who tried for two hours to submit the exam.

Knotts said he couldn't say what time the delays began or how many people were affected. The company, which administers bar exams in 43 states, listed 16 states that extended their deadlines for submitting the exams.


Now I know as well as anyone about this sort of thing: when I sat for the law school entrance exam (LSAT), I turned a page in the exam book and found a half-page torn out, holding maybe three or four questions. I immediately got up and told a proctor, who could not give me another book, but did offer me a mulligan on it and a free retake the next time. In a second, I decided to pass on the offer and continued on- well enough to get into UB and waitlisted at least one other place, but who knows how different life would be if that score had been 10 or 20 points higher?

So, yeah, shit happens. But it also matters where it happens.

----

None of the above was the story I heard at my hearing. It came from a summer associate brought over by my opponent. She's entering her second year (law students take this hideousness after their third), but she knew people who were downtown for it the previous two days. She didn't even mention the computer glitch, but heard the biggest complaint visited on the site by those subjected to it:

The Convention Center provided them with porta-potties.

I don't know any of the facts or figures about how many barristerish Zombies do this drill downtown these days, but I can't imagine it exceeds the number of teachers, Shriners or Home Show visitors at a more typical convention. All I can think is some would-be lawyer complained about a line at the loo, and the Law Examiners twirled their mustaches and said, You need more shitters? By golly we'll GIVE you more shitters!

And so, for any of you would-be entrants to my beloved career (who have somehow not been put off by actually READING what I say about it here), I leave you with the best piece of advice I ever got about running a 5K or up:

Bring your own paper. Just don't take notes on it;)

ETA. No. Do NOT take that advice. What, you think I'm a lawyer or something?

The prohibited list is very short: EVERYTHING. Only permitted items are permitted, and there are only eleven of them (presumably a laptop is allowed at laptop sites, but again, I rule nothing out in this place):

• Blue or black ink pens - NY day only
• No. 2 Pencils and Erasers
• Medications
• Foam Earplugs
• Keys
• Feminine Hygiene Products
• Non-programmable wristwatch
• Tissues
• Quiet Snack
• Wallet
• One, 1 liter beverage in a re-sealable clear plastic container stored under the table - no glass, cans or cups - labels must be remove.


(Emphasis removed; typo in last sentence not removed.)

Thank heavens for tissues. Otherwise, I would be recommending that would-be squatters of both sexes show up with the maxiest Maxi-Pads they could get their hands on, just to get a good Constitutional Law hypothetical going in the hallway.
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