The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!

Maybe not. But that’s still one of my favorite movie scene 40 years later.

But the passage rates from the July 2018 Mississippi Bar exam are in: 58.8% passed.

A bit over 4 out of every 10 failed. Some would call them the lucky ones.

175 people took the exam.

The passage rate for Ole Miss’ first time takers was 73.7%. Here is the school’s press release. It says 38 students were first time takers.  I don’t have MC’s stats.

My Take:

Congratulations if you passed. Now you know how Navin Johnson felt.

The passage rates shouldn’t be what they were before 2008 because a legal career is not as attractive a profession as it used to be. Many smart people who don’t burn to be a lawyer wisely pursue other careers.

That’s how it should be. This is a tough profession. It should be reserved for idiots like me who burned for it and, despite all my bitching, couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

I feel bad for the people who failed. If it’s anything like when I took the exam, it’s the most stressful experience of your life. Until then, that is. Life gets a lot more stressful with jobs, marriages, kids, divorces, loved ones dying and someone eating your lunch you stashed in the break room fridge.

Sidebar: I suspect the movie ‘The Usual Suspects’ was actually inspired by efforts to identify the break room food thief at a law firm.

It’s been 25 years, but I remember bar exam week better than I remember last week. The memories:

  • the jackhammer going off out on the street outside the Robert E. Lee building where we took the test;
  • some people were too nervous to sleep at night;
  • one guy was so nervous he chain smoked a carton of cigarettes;
  • one dude punched a classmate in the nose at the after party;
  • a bit later, the punchee was woken by a cop taping on his car window while passed out at a red light on State Street (he let him go because he was covered with blood and the cop didn’t want to take him to the hospital); and
  • my then wife and me driving to D.C. for a wedding and her asking me my answer on what seemed like all 200 multi-state questions, usually with her crying and saying she failed (she passed).

The bar exam was one of those horrible life experiences that you remember fondly. When you pass.

Try not to get too discouraged if you are one of the unlucky ones who failed. I know some great lawyers who failed on their first attempt.

My advice is to focus on your process for studying for the test. Figure out how you can prepare better next time.

There is too much material to just sit down and study for hours. You need a study plan. Build a couple of extra weeks into your plan so that you are ready early or have extra time on the back end to focus on trouble subjects. You should not need to study the weekend before or at night during the exam.

I studied 8 hours a day, seven days a week for a month. Then I went to 14 hours a day, seven days a week for another month. Maybe I cut it back at night on the weekend–I don’t remember. It was not sit down and study. I made outlines for the state sections and took practice tests for the multi-state. I attended the bar review, but I wouldn’t today if I had to take another state’s exam (always possible for Mississippi lawyers). The time would be better spent on my own.

Yes, I do know people who never passed. And you know what? They are glad. They see the rest of us today and realize that odds are, they are happier today than if they had practiced law the last 25 years.

  • randywallace

    A classmate asked me if I paid the extra $5 to get the raw score. I remember telling him “nope, I didn’t want to give them any reason to look at my test again and find something wrong.” I may have passed by a point or might have had a few points to spare. Never know.

    • Pieter T

      Randy, you aren’t the only one who felt that way about the raw scores after passing. When I was first appointed to the Board of Bar Admissions after a dozen years of practice, imagine my horror upon learning that the Board still had our exam booklets! When it was suggested that storage was an issue and the Board should purge the booklets, I was quietly thinking please don’t look at my mine on the way to the shredder.

      For those who didn’t pass – and those who did, Philip’s observations are on target. The exam is the worst experience you’ll remember fondly.

      • wtfreqkenneth

        I tell younger lawyers that the person who does the best on the bar exam isn’t the person who got the most points, it’s the person with the lowest passing score, because that guy did the absolute minimum amount of studying he needed to pass, and didn’t waste a second more on it.

  • Thomas

    I think your math is off. Only 86 test takers passed, out of 175, which is a 49% pass rate.

    • Wade

      Correct. He posted the overall first time test taker rate.