Virginia Lawyer

VaLawyer_Feb2012

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Executive Director's Message by Karen A. Gould Fear and Trembling in Roanoke THIS MONTH WE HONOR THE 100TH anniversary of the Board of Bar Examiners and the exam. Actually, the board is 102 years old this year. Circumstances delayed us a bit …. We all remember that scary rite of passage, but I like to think it was scarier for me than for most Virginia lawyers because I went to law school out of state. I came home to Richmond in May of 1979 to study for the Virginia bar exam after having attend- ing law school in South Carolina from 1976 to 1979. I also took the South Carolina bar exam immediately after finishing the bar exam in Virginia. Please note that was THREE consecu- tive days of bar examination. The mul- tistate score transferred from Virginia to South Carolina. Not being totally stupid, I signed up for a prep course at the University of Richmond. It was painful studying during the day, going to class at night, but at least I wasn't working as well. During the first part of the summer, literally every time I opened my big yellow book I would fall asleep. I fig- ured I had about a zero percent chance of passing the exam. Some of the heat was off because I had a judicial clerkship starting in August with federal district court Judge Glen Williams in Abingdon. I didn't have to become licensed to clerk, but it sure would have been embarrassing if I didn't pass and then I would still have to take and pass the bar exam. South Carolina had already adopted "code pleading," as it was known there, and had abolished courts of equity. Virginia civil procedure was like a stranger from a strange land. Craving oyer? What on earth was that? www.vsb.org The first prep class on criminal procedure was enough to drive me to drink, but at least that way I got to know some of my classmates. But for them, I would not have passed the bar exam. Thanks to my study group, I overcame my resistance to the vagaries of Virginia civil procedure, was drilled in the intricacies of Virginia law, and was scared to death in the weeks lead- ing up to the bar exam. Taking the bar exam is one of the most important things lawyers have to do in their professional careers. I feel certain most of us have the same feel- ing about the process. As I walked into the bowels of the Roanoke Civic Center, I remember having an over- whelming sense of dread. It was high- lighted by the feeling that I was going to throw up on the person in front of me, despite the fact that I had not been able to eat breakfast that morning. Should we talk about the day of hand-writing answers to Virginia essay questions in the ubiquitous blue books? I can conjure up symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder just thinking about it, so let's not dwell on that truly awful experience. The multi- state exam was a multiple choice guess- ing game. Many times I would get to two answers that were both seemingly correct, and then had to take a mental coin and flip it. I was totally exhausted after the first day. While others were cramming before the next day's exam, I went into a vegetative state, having no mind left with which to study. When I was finished with the Virginia exam, I got on a plane and went to South Carolina to take one more day of bar examination. I don't remember much about that experience, being dazed from two days of bar exam agony in Virginia. It helped that I had worked for a law school professor writing an article on the new South Carolina death penalty statute. The death penalty statute was on the bar exam. What is that old saying about being lucky? Although I have never practiced in South Carolina, I still maintain active membership in the South Carolina bar. I was fortunate to pass the Virginia exam, thanks primarily to my study group. My parents were thrilled, of course, and we celebrated with cham- pagne and a wonderful meal at our favorite restaurant. It was my father's idea for me to attend law school, so I imagine he was the happiest and proudest person of all. I was also fortunate while applying for the bar exam to have met Scott Street, secretary of the Board of Bar Examiners (VBBE) since 1972. I con- tinue in that good fortune to have the opportunity to speak frequently with Scott in my current position on regula- tory issues that impact both the VSB and the VBBE. Bob Glenn, president of the VBBE since 1993, only went on the board in 1982 and didn't have an opportunity to see me quaking in my shoes in 1979. I feel certain he has seen many people just like me in his thirty years on the board. I thank the bar examiners and the VBBE staff for their long and dedicated service to ensure that Virginians get quality legal representation. The Supreme Court of Virginia has entrusted you with the obligation to screen and test applicants for licensure to practice law in Virginia, and you have ably fulfilled your roles. Vol. 60 | February 2012 | VIRGINIA LAWYER 17

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