After many months of deliberation, a pros and cons list that took about a dozen states into account, and after interviews for jobs in New Hampshire, Colorado, California, and Virginia (with one more in Wisconsin yet to come), I have decided to take the Virginia Bar this summer. This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. California still holds much appeal for me, but the job climate is so bad there—and getting worse—that I can't move out there in good conscience, knowing that it's entirely possible I could pass the California Bar, one of the two hardest in the country, and still not find a law job. I also thought long and hard about returning to the Midwest, perhaps Illinois, but having gone to school in Virginia and knowing more attorneys here, I have a much better chance of making connections that will lead to a job. (If I were to get the job in Wisconsin, I would have to take the February Bar there.)
There are many upsides to taking the Bar here, in addition to the connections I've made, which could lead to job opportunities that I might not have elsewhere. Some have to do with location: Virginia is a beautiful, geographically diverse state, with ocean, mountains, rolling hills and plenty to do outside. It's right in the middle of the East coast, seemingly just a few hours from everywhere. The weather in southern Virginia is terrific most of the year. It's also close to D.C., so if I were to get a job in the District, after passing the Virginia Bar I could waive into the D.C. Bar and practice there. There's also the fact that Virginia has the death penalty, and one of my greatest passions in the law is capital defense. And of course, many of my law school friends will remain in D.C. or Virginia.
The two biggest downsides are one, that I'll remain 1,000 miles from my family and friends in the Midwest; and two, the Virginia Bar exam. The latter requires me to learn things like Secured Transactions, Trusts & Estates, and Virginia Civil Procedure. Ugh. But of course, I hope only to have to take the Bar once. The family and friends part will be harder. I will continue to miss lots of birthdays, holidays and everyday life events. Without getting too emotional about it now, I'll simply say that it will be hard, and that I did not reach this decision easily. There was no right decision, only a choice to be made, and I was the only one who could make it.
So I'm committed to another two and a half months at my townhouse in Williamsburg. Starting May 24, eight days after graduation, I'll attend Bar prep class in the same room where I took Civil Procedure nearly three years ago, with some of the same people. Each day after class I'll come home to study, as if it were my job. In late July, I will drive to Roanoke, put on a suit—still a requirement in Virginia—and sit for the Bar exam over two grueling days. Then I'll wait, as will we all, for nearly three months, until the results are posted. This is the path to lawyerdom, the part they never told me about on Law & Order. Ah well. I'm ready.
One more paper, one more exam, then 3L year is done.
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