Running the Boston Marathon (on a broken leg) is easier than passing the California Bar Exam

And less time consuming.  On that positive note- the intent here is not to deter but rather to paint a realistic picture of what goes into writing- and passing- this agonizing exam from the perspective of a Canadian lawyer.  The good news:  it IS possible.  The bad:  it will humble you to your knees. 

The format of the exam may be familiar.  Similar to the Ontario bar exam, it is two full days long.  Unlike Ontario, the entire exam is closed book- it’s just you and your brain.  If you’ve followed a proper schedule and given yourself enough time to review, then you should walk into the exam with the confidence of Mariah Carey at Christmas.    One day is devoted entirely to essays (5 in total) and the second is comprised of multiple choice and a practical test.  Both days will fly by.  Once you’re done, proceed to enter the subsequent phase of superstition whereby you use every OCD trick to will your results into a pass. 

On its own, this exam can induce lunacy.  It is not easy, but it is feasible.  As I stepped onto the start line of the Boston marathon, I envisioned conquering what I thought was at one time an impossible goal.  Somehow, I overcame the pain from running on a broken leg and in freezing cold rain to cross that finish line.  I maintain my dramatic position that running on a broken leg is easier than this exam.  For some it might be childbirth or swimming the English Channel.  Regardless, finding your name on the “Pass” list as a foreign attorney with zero US training will be the ultimate life achievement.  When you do, drink all the champagne. 

Originally published in the Lawyers Daily Feb 18th 2021 at California bar exam vs. Boston Marathon: Which is tougher? – The Lawyer’s Daily (

Leave a Reply