After taking the Florida Bar Exam, many of my colleagues questioned the entire premise of law school. If law school is not devoted to teaching law students how to pass the Florida Bar Exam, then what is the point?
According to many seasoned professors, the intent of the law school structure/system is for students to learn how to “think like a lawyer.” This involves learning how to organize one’s time, case materials, and most importantly, lawyerly preparation. Thinking like a lawyer also means developing the skill to think quickly and cleverly when confronted with new information at a rapid-fire pace. What does thinking like a lawyer have to do with the Florida Bar Exam? Maybe nothing, maybe something, IT DEPENDS (stop me if you have heard this one before!).
What Does it Mean to Think Like a Lawyer?
Thinking like a lawyer is arguably the most vital skill a Bar Exam test-taker can bring to the table (those splinter-ridden Bar Exam forum hall tables). The Florida Bar Exam contains plenty of shock and awe questions. For example, the July 2017 Florida Bar Exam essays included two topics that are rarely tested and therefore slenderly studied or recommended for study by the commercial Bar prep companies. This is where the lawyering skills kick into overdrive. We do not suddenly stop writing and panic, or think about how we can pass the next Bar Exam 6 months later. Rather, we write like lawyers. We think like lawyers. We RESPOND like lawyers. This is why law school teaches us how to think on our feet (merely an expression as pertains to the Florida Bar Exam). If you had never studied the timelines associated with notice and adoption, or if you were not a Book-Award worthy law student in Commercial Paper (UCC Article 3), the Florida Bar Essays from the July Bar Exam may have seen daunting if not impossible.
I did not intend to leave you hanging at the end of the last paragraph, rather I intended a sort of cliffhanger effect. A lawyer knows that if she does not know the exact date timeframes involved, that she has studied civil procedure, which would have taught her the purpose of giving notice, as well as what notice is intended to do. Knowing the foundational concepts and having the wherewithal to never give up and surrender can be what allows a Florida Bar test taker to (forgive the WWI expression here) go over the top. No law student can possibly know every issue, every law, or even have enough time to write coherently and fluently on all three essays in a mere three hours.
Final Thoughts on Whether Law School Prepared me for the Florida Bar
To relate back to the title of this article, did law school prepare me for the Florida Bar Exam? My law professors compelled me to develop the skills necessary to be a lawyer. Those skills are invaluable when taking the Florida Bar, and primarily, when writing the Florida Bar essays. Were it not for having to make a verbal 45-minute ex parte motion for summary judgment, or write law school exam answers on questions we had never studied in class, I would never have felt panic, dismay, bewilderment. The emotions and fear of failure are what causes law students to toughen up, to have resolve, a steeled-spine if you will. The next time you are in full panic mode, just remember, if you can think like a lawyer, behave like a lawyer, and pass the Florida Bar Exam LIKE A LAWYER.
Written by Jonathan Jacobs