A Helpful Hint?

Why isn’t the bar exam open book? Why isn’t it open library or open internet? Practicing law, after all, is open book, open library and open internet. You’d probably get sued for malpractice if you relied on your memory.

This occurred to me last week after the State Bar of California revealed that it accidentally sent out a list of July bar exam essay topics — not the actual questions, just the general subjects — to a group of law school deans, a few days before the exam. There was no evidence that any of the deans gave that information to test takers, but, “out of an abundance of caution and fairness,” the Bar decided to email the same information to everyone taking the test.

There are many takeaways to be had from this fascinating revelation. My first was: They don’t trust the deans!

I should note here that these aren’t just any deans. No, they are “Selected Deans of California Law Schools.” It says so on the document sent to them. This document goes on at length about confidentiality, noting that “it is essential that the integrity of the grading process be maintained.”

And they still don’t trust those guys!

Just how untrustworthy are law school deans?

Is that why they’re at schools instead of practicing law?

Next question: Why did the State Bar decide to tell everyone about the leak (which probably didn’t get to any students at all)? Did it hire a public non-relations firm?

The Bar could easily have ignored this and no one would have noticed or cared. Instead, it got news stories, and a lot of reaction. Just check out Twitter if you dare for a taste. There may be litigation over nervous breakdowns.

I have no idea why people on Twitter are complaining, except for the fact that that’s what Twitter is for. The bar exam isn’t a competition. If more people win because of the tipoff, there aren’t more losers.

But maybe there is something devious going on here. What if those leaked topics aren’t the real exam topics? This could be either a psychological experiment, a form of torture, or a test of would-be lawyers’ ability to adapt when faced with the unexpected.

And what do real lawyers do when faced with the unexpected?

They don’t write an essay – they do some research and take their time to get things right.

Bar exams should be open-book and take up to a year.

Is this real? By the way, the California State Bar last week issued a tweet saying the notice about the test subjects was not a hoax – “yes, the email you received this evening regarding bar exam topics is authentic. This account has not been hacked.”

But wouldn’t you say that if you had hacked it?

Don’t worry, though. The California Supreme Court has announced that it “will ensure that there is a thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disclosure, and that appropriate steps are taken to protect the integrity of the bar examination and identify and address any consequences.”

Apparently some hardworking, independent investigator is going to have to make a call or two to find out who sent out an email early. Thoroughness should be easy unless this was Russian interference. Could Russian operatives need help passing the bar? Probably.

The more intriguing issue is how to address the “consequences.” What exactly are they? And how do we know who suffered the consequences?

Theoretically, the sufferers will be future clients hiring lawyers who shouldn’t have passed the exam this time around.

Who are these skin-of-their-teeth lawyers who benefited?

They’re the ones who barely passed the exam.

But would they have barely passed anyway, or did they pass because the subjects were revealed a couple of days early?

And do you tell?

I can’t wait for the thorough investigation report.

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