Clerking at Rice Law: by Erin O'dea

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.
~ W.C. Fields

Obviously, from the quote I have chosen for this week’s blog post, I am talking about good advice for anyone faced with taking the Bar exam in the future. There are, at this very moment while I am typing this word, 10 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes, and 51 seconds left until the list of successful Tennessee Bar applicants is posted on the TBA’s website at noon on October 7th. People love to tell law school graduates, “Of course you passed the Bar! You’re smart.” My fellow law graduates and I would like to tell those people to try taking the Bar, and see if they still feel that same sense of calm and confidence. I doubt their comments following the exam would be anything along the lines of, “Of course I passed the Bar! I’m smart.” I took the Tennessee Bar in July, and I have been waiting for the results for almost nine agonizing weeks now. I studied more than I have ever studied for a test in my life, but I am still not completely confident I passed. Taking the Bar, you write, and bubble in so much, and regurgitate so much information, that, at the end, you just cannot keep track of what you may have said right or wrong.
In May, prior to taking my leave of absence from work to study for the Bar Exam, Mr. Rice called me into his office and gave me some excellent advice. He said, “Erin, fear the Bar… and you will pass. Don’t fear the Bar… and you will fail.” I heeded Mr. Rice’s warning. I became overwrought with fear. I would wake up from nightmares about coming to the exam late, or naked, which was even worse than the usual naked dream because I was so out of shape after sitting at a desk studying for three months, that Sainthood was more attainable than a waistline. I came to understand what a panic attack was, and then I finally got a grip. I realized what Mr. Rice was really saying. I would have to get over my fear. I would have to use my fear. I would have to really, really study.
My realization paired with my parents allowing me to move back in with them for almost a month so they could cook and clean for me, and do my shopping and my laundry, with any luck, created a recipe for my success. Yes, that is a shout out to my wonderful Mother and Father, Frances and Bob O’Dea. You’re the best, Mom and Dad! Thanks for supplying me with endless amounts of coffee, Diet Dr. Pepper, turkey sandwiches, and clean clothes! I promise to never stick you in a dingy old nursing home, but if it ever comes to that: Mom, you get an attractive and attentive male nurse; Dad, you get the same, but the female version, deal? All joking aside, I am lucky to have such supportive parents.
I am also lucky to work for Mr. Rice who insisted that I take off work for the entire three months between graduation and the exam to study. Mr. Rice understands, and taught me, that Bar applicants need to fear the Bar exam, then take that fear and use it. It is easy to look at the extremely high number of students from the University of Memphis who pass the Tennessee Bar, and assume that the exam is not as hard as people say it is, but that is not true. Attention future Bar exam takers: “FEAR IT.”
If, however, you do not see my name on that list of successful applicants on October 7th, please, assume it is a glitch in the computer system, because that is what I am going to do (especially after this long blog post about how much I studied; talk about embarrassing). According to everyone else, “I’m smart, and so of course I passed the Bar,” which is also the fantasyland I will choose to live in, for at least that weekend, if my name is not on “THE LIST.” Until then, I will continue to live in fear that the velvet rope that is passing the bar may not be lifted for me this time, but thankfully that fear is no longer crippling (talk to me October 6th at midnight, and I doubt I will sound this level headed, but for now the fear is manageable). At some point, after passing the Bar, when I am faced with MY first big case, and things just do not look like they are going to go my client’s way, I will remember what Mr. Rice said about the Bar… “fear it,” and I will hopefully use that fear the same way I used it to prepare for the Bar. I will get a grip. I will buckle down. I will work hard. I will not move back in with my parents, but I will give it my all, and if my client still loses, I will assume there was a glitch in the system.
I apologize for the very Bar centered post, but if you were in my shoes, this would be all you would be able to think or write about too. To add to what is becoming a post about good advice, I’ll leave you with one more W.C. Fields quote. Mr. Fields may have had an affection for the bottle, but he also had a way with words… “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” ~ W. C. Fields