Chicken Little Was Right: Sky Falls During Bar Exam

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By Gayle Cinquegrani

As if taking the bar exam isn’t tough enough, a group of aspiring lawyers in Colorado felt the world come crashing down around them.

It happened July 24 at the Denver Mart, a half-century-old conference center in the Mile High City. Ceiling tiles rained down because of a leak in the HVAC system.

Everybody got an unexpected 40-minute break, but testing resumed, Jessica Yates, who’s in charge of administering the Colorado test, said.

There’s a good chance that all those in attendance can debate whether a tort occurred.

The bar exam is nothing if not an endurance test. Recent law school graduates typically spend the summer back in a classroom, taking practice tests and committing to memory things like the three requirements for a valid contract.

Pass or fail, those Colorado test-takers have a tale to tell. So do lots of lawyers who survived the rite of passage known as the bar.

Joseph Mariano, president of the Direct Selling Association in Washington, also got dripped on while taking the Maryland bar in 1983. The ceiling leak was like a slow “water torture reminding me of the hours of hell before me,” he said.

‘Alexa, Do Tenants Have Squatter’s Rights?’

Joey Wright was already licensed and practicing in Kentucky when he decided to take the Indiana bar. It was hard to find time to study, and the exam was scheduled as he was doing trial prep.

He did what he could with borrowed bar review materials but was distressed to learn a week out that Indiana might throw him a landlord-tenant question. “They had removed some subjects I had already studied,” Wright recalled. “After I got over the initial freakout, I literally began Googling “Indiana landlord-tenant law.”

“It’s terrifying in the moment but hilarious in retrospect,” he said.

Yearning to Breathe Free

Logistics were a bit challenging when Hogan Lovells senior associate Sean Marotta and his fiancee checked into a hotel in Atlantic City to take the bar exam. Upon learning at check-in that they had been assigned a smoking room, Marotta’s quick-thinking companion told the clerk that room was unacceptable because of her asthma.

“You have asthma?” a surprised Marotta blurted out. That brought a “death stare” from his lung-disease-free intended, but they were upgraded to a nonsmoking room, he told Bloomberg Law.

The other memory Marotta took away from the experience: “You can tell who’s taking the bar exam at 7 a.m. in a casino hotel because they’re the only people not in front of a slot machine.”

The Wait Begins

Leonard Lucchi headed for the post office rather than wait for the mailman to deliver his results in the 1980s. Back then word was that if the envelope was thin, it meant you passed. A thick one contained instructions for trying again.

“It was thick, so I threw it in the trash can,” said Lucchi, who practices with O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore P.A. in Annapolis, Md.

His girlfriend retrieved the letter, which contained good news. The thickness was information about applying to the nearby District of Columbia Bar, which had just eased its admission requirements for those who earned high scores in other jurisdictions.

In most states, it takes three or four months to get bar exam results.

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