I recently sat through a presentation on wedding planning. The presenter spent twenty minutes listing all the things that had to be done before the wedding, and then ended the presentation on the wedding day. Having been through my own wedding, I can say without pause, that the presentation left out a lot of information. There are so many things that need to get done after the wedding is over that nobody tells you about during wedding planning.
The same is true, oddly enough, about the bar exam. There is so much emphasis on preparing for the bar (with good reason, of course), and then how to handle the wait for results, but there’s very little said about what happens after you pass.
Well, here’s some insight into what happens after you get your passing score.
Okay, this part is obvious. At least, I hope so. But, just in case, definitely take the time to celebrate your achievement. I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate either time I took the bar exam right after the exam was over. For me, the hard part of waiting was knowing there was nothing more I could do, and this was harder than the study period.
But, once you get those passing results, take the time to enjoy your accomplishments, especially with the people who helped you along the way. Very few people take and pass the bar exam completely on their own without some kind of support. Your loved ones who helped you will want to celebrate, too.
Get Sworn Into The Bar
Here’s the catch to celebrating, though. Don’t celebrate too hard. Depending on your jurisdiction, you will need to get sworn in to the state bar. And, the process of getting sworn in may not be cheap.
I was sworn into the Virginia Bar about ten years ago. The ceremony then was held in Richmond, Virginia, about a three hour drive from my home. This January, I was sworn into the New York Bar, and just like ten years ago, I had to drive (this time four hours) from home. The swearing in ceremony in each jurisdiction was held only twice per year. If you miss it right after you get your bar results, you’ll have to wait roughly six months for another opportunity to be sworn in.
Pay Bar Dues
In New York, I was surprised to learn that in order to get sworn into the bar, I needed to pay my bar dues first. Here, the bar collects two years of dues at one time. The bill came to just under $600. Add that to the hotel costs for two nights in Albany where I got sworn in, gas and food for travel, and the price tag just to get sworn in tipped over $1,000. And, we’re not done yet.
Take CLE Courses
You may have just finished law school. Then, you studied for the bar until you thought your eyes might bleed. And, you thought your days of studying law were over. Think again. Here in New York, now that I’m sworn into the bar, I have to complete several hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits specifically tailored to new attorneys transitioning into the actual practice of law. I have a year to complete them, but I hate to leave these kinds of things until the last minute. You never know when a CLE class will be full, and you definitely don’t want to start your law career out by being negligent in your CLE credits and getting in trouble with the bar.
Now that you are sworn into the bar, take the opportunity to network with your colleagues in your local bar association. When I became a licensed attorney in New York, the rules and regulations here were vastly different than what I was used to in Virginia. But, developing a network of other attorneys who were kind enough to answer my questions has made all the difference in my practice. Thanks to the many helpful attorneys in my local bar association, I have already gotten referrals for my practice, been able to qualify to become an Attorney For the Child, and been able to observe real cases in a meaningful way.
Your Bar Results Are Just The Beginning
The reality is, as a lawyer, you are never going to stop learning. There is always a new angle to an old problem. There are new regulations that change the way things used to be done. And, there are always new situations to navigate.
When you pass the bar exam, you will go through costly steps to get licensed, but in the end, you will be on the path to the rest of your law career. Enjoy it. Passing the bar exam isn’t the end of the road. It’s just the beginning.