|This post is a bit unusual for me and In fact, I think it’s in some ways unprecedented. Those of you that know anything about me may have inferred that I have fairly strong political views, although I’ve tried very hard over the 20 plus years that I’ve been teaching the bar review to keep my “snarky” comments to a minimum in the lectures and in the podcasts. That’s because I want the law to speak for itself and my goal is to be an excellent teacher and not a political commentator.|
|For those of you that don’t know much about my personal history, let me just share with you that in the last 10 years or so, my wife Sara and I have spent a significant amount of our time living in some of the poorer neighborhoods in the United States, most recently in Richmond, Virginia, working with youth in a place called Church Hill which is actually one of the poorest African American communities in the country. Prior to that, we were in financial ministry in the inner city of New Orleans post-Katrina, literally helping with rebuilding lives and families. In our experience and time in diverse communities, we’ve come to recognize the wonderful privileges that we have as well-educated, relatively affluent white Americans.|
But the truth is that I live in the same world that all of you live in, and it’s important to me and it’s important to us as a business, to recognize and understand where we are in the bigger scheme of things.
|Over the last month or so, since the last presidential election, it’s become increasingly clear that the rule of law is in danger. The things that I have presumed I would never see in my lifetime, we are now confronted with on a daily basis. The specter of racism, the clear implication of the white nationalist movement and its influence, the possibility of an attorney general who was so racist that he couldn’t be confirmed for a federal judgeship 20 years ago, and so on continue to dominate the news.|
|Now I recognize that in those statements I’ve just written, some of you have instantly decided that I am a bleeding-heart liberal, a Hillary supporter, and you’re never going to do business with us. I am sorry for that but I can not stand by any longer and be silent when fundamental Constitutional rights are in such grave danger. And I am confident that a diverse legal community is one of the most effective ways to stand against tyranny and despotic behavior, no matter its source.|
|So for over 20 years, one of the driving goals behind Celebration Bar Review has always been to bring people to the Bar who might not have otherwise made it to the next step in their career. We’ve made a point of reaching out into the minority communities, to women, to foreign-trained attorneys, to people who are marginalized because of race or sexual orientation, and tried to be clear that we want those individuals to become a member of their Bar. We believe that the Bar is better, the community is better, when it represents and is represented by people who look like the community. The reality for us is that when the Bar becomes nothing other than privileged white men over a certain age, we’ve lost something (And I say that as a privileged white man over a certain age.)|
|But I also recognize that it is vitally important right now that we have women in the Bar, and members of the LGBTQ community in the Bar. That we have Hispanics and African Americans in the Bar. That we have Muslims and foreign-trained attorneys in the Bar. And therefore, a major part of our work over the last few years, both in the bar review and in our personal lives, has been to empower people who might otherwise have not had that opportunity.|
|So why am I talking about this now? I think if you’ve been watching us at all, or following what we do, you’ve probably noticed a trend. I tend to highlight the stories of people who otherwise would not have been probably very successful, but they overcame great hurdles in society and in their lives, to become members of their Bar. You can find many of their stories here. That doesn’t mean we don’t interview straight white old men. We do. You can check out last week’s podcast episode for an example. But I also know that it’s important that we be able to demonstrate that there are people who don’t fit that mold who are becoming members of the Bar and this is, I think, a major part of our purpose and our mission now, and certainly for the foreseeable future.|
|I want to say to those who are reading this post today, who may have felt marginalized or set-aside or whose feeling is that because of your faith or your background or your skin color or your gender, that you are not being heard in the conversation about the law: The best way to get into the conversation is to become a member of the Bar. I think it’s great that you went to law school. I think it’s awesome that you’re in that position, and you’ve heard me say in other times and places that you’re already a winner just by having gotten to the point where you can take the Bar Exam.|
|But you cannot fully participate in this conversation about the law and the importance of the rule of law, whether it’s dealing with social rights or economic justice or literally business as it operates day to day, unless you’re in the game. And you can’t get in the conversation fully unless you pass the Bar Exam. That’s the way the process is set up, fair or not. And that’s why it matters who becomes a Bar Member.|
|Sadly, there are far too many people that should be Bar Members but are not. These are the people who are ripped off by the traditional approach to law school and to the bar exam. Perhaps you’re someone who went to law school and you put yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and then you took a “big-box-bar-review” and they did an information dump that just gave you all the information and then left you on your own, and at the end of the process you were more in debt, more confused, and still not a member of the Bar because you failed the exam.|
|That probably describes the circumstance for many of you that are reading this blog. If you’re in that situation, I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. For years, we have helped people climb out of that situation and pass the Bar to become productive members of their legal community. I’m so proud of those folks, and we’ve got a lot of their stories featured on our testimonials page.|
|If you visit that page and watch some of the interviews, you’ll see the amazing people who are now living out their dream to be part of the legal community. It’s inspiring!|
|My point in getting up on my soapbox is to tell you that I’m don’t intend to be quiet about this situation. I’m not going to sit back and let the rule of law be trampled in the name of political propaganda and fake news. I’m not going to stand quietly while people who otherwise would be qualified to be a member of the Bar be intimidated into silence, or to be told that they’re less-than their privileged counterparts or marginalized and taken advantage of, where I can stop it. I am going to do, (along with my staff), absolutely everything we can to help those individuals succeed. If you’re in one of those groups, or feel you’ve been treated that way in the past, I certainly hope you’ll consider our course.|
|I believe, as I always have, that society is better for all of us when we Celebrate our uniqueness rather than demonize it. If you believe that there’s room in the Bar for people of a wide range of faiths, religion, sexual orientation, age and gender, then really, isn’t it time that we work together to make that a reality for even more people?|
|I’m really troubled by what’s happened, as I know many of you are. I’m scared for the future, I’m worried about what it means for our country, for our security, for our family, for our children and for our grandchildren.|
But I am assured by the fact that every week I see bright, new faces coming to me who are saying, “I want to be a member of the Bar,” and they represent the entire spectrum of the human rainbow. And so, I’m really looking forward to the next year, to working with many of those individuals to help them pass their bars in California, in Texas, in Florida, in Georgia, in New York, NJ and DC in the 20+ states using the Uniform Bar Exam, and in the 49 states that test the MBE.
I hope that you feel the same way and want to join me on that journey together.
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