It’s a Sunday morning, and the weekend has been relaxing. I’m currently drinking a cup of coffee, hair pulled back after soaking in coconut oil all night, and husband in the kitchen cooking up blueberry pancakes. I know that sentence wasn’t parallel, but bear with me. This, my friends, is the complete calm after 3 years and 2 months of the two craziest experiences of my life: attending law school and studying for the bar exam. On October 1, just shy of 11 a.m., I received an email from the Illinois Bar Admissions office notifying me that bar results had been posted to my account after waiting for 2 months. For many young lawyers, such as myself, this is the first bar exam I’ve taken, and the official beginning of my legal career. Without passing a bar exam juris doctor owners cannot practice law. That means, I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to pass the bar on my first try. I wasn’t even home when I received the email that bar results had been posted–I was at the gym of all places. I refused to log into my Illinois account from my phone at the gym for fear that I’d fail and immediately turn into a crumpled mess of tears and sobbing. There is no crying at the gym! No, thank you. So, I went to my strength training class as originally planned, but my mind was elsewhere. Anytime I thought of failing the bar exam I could feel my heart plummet to the pit of my stomach. My cell phone blew up with text messages as my friends started to receive results, and of course, Facebook was the one place I knew I had to avoid if I failed. Checking Facebook after failing the bar exam is like intentionally pouring rubbing alcohol on a wound so large and deep that it really needs stitches instead.
This was it. This was my entire law school career culminating in one moment. I’m certain that my heart stopped beating for the entire 5 minutes it took for me to open my Internet browser and log in to my account. I took a deep breath and told myself that I would just have to dust myself off and get back up if I had failed. Then, there was a brief minute of panic. I’ve never studied for anything in my life like I studied for the bar exam. The bar exam was my life for an entire 2 months. I barely left my apartment, and I completely forgot I even had friends. I wanted this with every fiber of my being, but in my heart I knew that no matter what happened it would be a part of God’s plan for me. With that peace inside, I opened the message in my Illinois account, and there, in 12 point Times New Roman font, were the words “Ms. Reger, Congratulations on passing the July 2013 Illinois bar examination.” The relief I felt was indescribable, and I felt a few hot tears roll down my cheeks. I’m supposed to be here, and this is all actually happening. Let me say that standardized exams are not my cup of tea. I took the LSAT 3 times, and I still wasn’t happy with my score in the end. I also struggled on the SAT and the ACT. My standardized test scores never even remotely indicated my performance in college or even in law school. I severely outperformed my SAT and ACT scores in college, and I outperformed my LSAT score in law school. And because of this, the bar exam terrified me. I couldn’t measure my self-worth to this exam, and I knew that I had to look at it from a different angle if I was going to pass. I do have a dear friend who did not pass the exam, and there was also talk around the office at my current volunteering gig about students who didn’t pass the bar exam on the first try. My compassion for these people is deep. Illinois hovers around a 15% fail rate, and there is curving involved (scaling vs. raw, etc.). What do you say to someone who must put their legal career on hold to fight the battle again? I go into helping overdrive. I offer to be there, to hand over all of my bar exam notes and outlines. But in the end, I know that no amount of understanding will make re-taking easier.
Now, here I am, in the calm before the storm so to speak. I’ll be sworn in as a member of the Illinois State Bar on October 31, and “with great power comes great responsibility.” Being a lawyer means strictly abiding by all ethical rules, zealously advocating for my clients without promising a guaranteed win, and seeking help when needed. I have no idea where my legal career will take me or where it will start, but I do know that regardless as to where I end up I will always make time to help those who cannot otherwise afford an attorney.
I’ve always been incredibly career-focused, and my husband is the same, but we both do want a family. The kid talk has arisen a few times lately, and while we’re in no hurry, I think there might be some serious kid planning in the next two years. I often think about what it will be like to be parents, and I have some seriously awesome names picked out for them. Oh yes, their names will likely be inspired by video game characters. It’s a love my husband and I both share, and I just think it would be so perfect. When I think about kids, the thought is also pretty terrifying though. Kids don’t come with a how-to manual, and this experience will be so counter-intuitive to the “hyper-organized” lifestyle I currently live. Not everything will be planned. I know there will be so many moments that will be out of my control, but I hope that I’m able to let them fall, to let them learn for themselves, and yet still be that gentle guide in the background. I can’t wait either. I know that Dan and I will love these kids deeply, and while Dan and I have a lot of things to talk about in terms of how we will raise them, at the heart of the matter we will love them so much. We’re taking our time before we bring kids into our lives to somewhat get established and to make sure that our marriage is ready for this gigantic change. I can’t wait to see what this new chapter brings.