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Your Guide to Being a Virtual Law Student: Mindset Edition

By April 23, 2020 May 7th, 2020 No Comments

The first concept taught in law schools is pretty simple: “Think like a lawyer.” This axiom, repeated breathlessly by professors and administrators alike, appears self-explanatory at first glance. Anyone can think like a lawyer! That just means being tenacious and argumentative, right?

Of course, like most aspects of law school, “thinking like a lawyer” is more complex than it seems. As law students make their way through the curriculum, professors guide them with an analytical framework that requires students to state the issue and rule of law of a particular legal question BEFORE making any legal conclusions. This process is commonly known as IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion), and gradually all law students realize using this method is “thinking like a lawyer.”

As you can probably see, thinking like a lawyer isn’t helping many law students struggling with the effects of a global pandemic. And it’s not hard to see why. Thinking like a lawyer depends on two things: (i) having access to all the information you need to analyze something and (ii) analyze it under a previouslyset standard. A sudden pandemic halting the economy is quite literally unprecedented, so thinking like a lawyer won’t help. But what will?

Instead of thinking like lawyers, it’s time to try out thinking like scientists to deal with these uncertain times. Scientists have their own version of “thinking like lawyers”: the scientific method. Collecting data to form a hypothesis about what might happen with the bar exam is far easier than IRACing your way there.

What do we know? 

The NCBE 

The NCBE writes and distributes the UBE, MBE, and MPT materials. However, the NCBE does not handle the licensure of lawyers. Lawyers are licensed on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis, and these jurisdictions are the final word on whether a bar exam will happen as planned. The NCBE has a page here with updates from jurisdictions on their plans for the summer bar exam.

Jurisdictions 

Jurisdictions have been responding to the pandemic without uniformity, but some major trends have emerged.

Supervised practice: Some jurisdictions, including New York, have opted to forego the July bar exam and administer another exam when able, allowing lawyers to practice under supervision in the meantime. 

Diploma privilege: Utah has opened a pathway for graduating 3Ls who attended a school with an 86% bar exam pass rate to practice without sitting for the bar. Read more on this here.

Fall bar exam: The NCBE has indicated they are working on making a fall bar exam available on two different dates. September 9-10 and September 30-October 1. Read more about this here.

What predictions can we make? 

Because decisions are being made by individual jurisdictions, we can’t expect top-down announcements about the July bar exam. Moreover, because the decisions are being made by some state supreme courts, they can be updated and overruled quickly. This puts prospective bar examinees in an unclear position, to say the least!

New research about COVID-19 is being uncovered all the time, and federal, state, and local governments have been acting as quickly as possible to contain it, which leaves people like law students in the lurch. However, the most helpful action you can take right now is (pardon the pun) become more adaptable. When you expect the unexpected, stress around uncertain times can start to melt away.  

Here are some ways to help yourself become an adaptable future attorney during the pandemic: 

  1. Practice mindfulness: Even though you’re going to crush the bar (someday), remember to be kind to yourself.
  2. Be informed: Stay on top of the latest updates in your jurisdiction to avoid being surprised by any sudden deadlines or changes. 
  3. Get into a routine: You’ve heard it before, but now you’ll hear it again! Developing and sticking to a routine is the best way to become an adaptable and accomplished attorney. 
  4. Find fun: Whether it’s sharing a laugh with your partner, cooking a meal you love, or reading your favorite book, don’t forget to find joy in your day to keep you going

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