Denver Bar Association
August 2002
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More Bar Exam Tales

by Don Peterson

Proctor Jokes

Fortunately, the Colorado exam was the smoothest. I do, however, have horrid stories from New York, where the lecture hall we were taking the exam in was under construction and there was drilling on the roof above us during the exam portion. Also, in Arizona, a pigeon flew into and was circling the room while we were taking the MBE. The proctor got on the loud speaker and said something to the effect of "I don’t think our visitor has an exam pass." —Jay M. Tiftickjian

Ear Plugs Would Be Nice

For my part, I took the bar exam during the hot month of July 1976, under a Notice that advised that the exam would be administered over a period of two days, at Lincoln High School.

Having spent the early part of the summer studying for the bar exam, and having been roundly regaled by John Moye in the Bar Refresher courses (Everyone affectionally referred to these courses as the "Bar Depressor"), held at the Jewish Community Center, I thought that I was ready for anything the examiners could inflict. I was wrong!

On day one, Multi-State Day, I arrived at the non air-conditioned gym, which smelled of old sweat socks and had a present atmosphere of panic, which was almost palpable.

Although we knew ahead of time that the Multi-State Exam was given on the same day and hour all across the nation (to prevent cheating), we were surprised shortly after receiving the examination and the proctor’s call to begin when one young male examinee in the front suddenly tossed all of his papers into the air, screamed and ran out the front doors!

There were bewildered and frightened looks all around, and we have always wondered whether the escapee was a plant from the bar examiners, just to test our mettle and fortitude, or simply an early burn-out victim.

On essay day, I came prepared with both an electric and a manual typewriter.

I immediately determined that the typing room was significantly hotter than the gym, and that there were many more typists (approximately 60 in all) as compared to the mere 30 typing tables. Additional tables were scurried in, together with a web of extension cords.

Essay day consisted of three questions for the morning session, and three more for the afternoon. After the questions were handed out, there was a blissful silence while the typists read each question, gathered their thoughts, and then slowly, one-by-one began typing their response.

After all, we were concentrating on including as many "buzz words" as possible in our answers, which we had been told were the absolute key to obtaining a passing mark.

Unfortunately, as each of the electric typewriters was fired up, the clacking sound became more intense, turning first into a drone, and then into an ear-shattering clamor, of a decibel level reminiscent of a B-52 aircraft takeoff.

The horrified looks on the faces of my fellow typists said it all. We were unable to concentrate and thought that nothing could be worse. Then, mercifully, the power went out and a deafening silence descended on the typing room. Alas, the number of electric typewriters, coupled with the maze of extension cords resulted in blown fuses. The proctors quickly dispatched a runner to the janitor’s room in the bowels of the basement, where the fuse box was hiding, while the rest of us continued with the exam. Smugly, I pulled my manual typewriter from its case, thinking what a good Boy Scout I was to come so well prepared! However, as I continued my morning essay questions as the sole, manual typist, I became increasingly aware of the cold stares and menacing looks I was receiving from all around the typing room. Having been subjected to tornado-like noise previously, it seemed odd to now type as quietly as possible, so as not to disturb my fellow examinees.

After an inordinately long delay, the power was restored and the other typists began switching from their interrupted essay answers (now hand-written), to typewriting once again.

By noon, we were exasperated, and it was no surprise to see several of the typists returning from lunch, equipped with earplugs, cotton balls, and the like.

The prize for ingenuity went to the motorcyclist, who returned with his helmet strapped on, having stuck large wads of tissue into and the ear holes. Although he sweated during the afternoon essay questions, he seemed less disturbed by the now, well-known turbulence, than the rest of us.

Apparently, most of us were successful in our completion of the examination, as the majority of us were sworn in by Chief Justice Pringle at Phipps Auditorium in the fall. Maybe the boisterous hardships we endured on essay day were meant to prepare us for practicing law "in the trenches."


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