Thursday, July 22, 2010

Testing Knowledge of Wisconsin Law, or Knowledge of Wisconsin?

Next week, across the nation, thousands of fresh law grads will be pouring into large conference centers, pouring all the information they’ve spent the last two months memorizing onto an answer sheet and watching the sweat pour down their faces.  With them will be a smaller, and theoretically less nervous, group of veterans.  Attorneys who have done this before; glutens for punishment that have found a reason to take another bar exam.

I’m one of them. Next week, I’ll be in the happiest place on earth, sitting for my second bar exam.  Wisconsin, here I come!


In preparation for this upcoming exam, I’ve been doing a bunch of essays from previous Wisconsin bar exams.  The hardest part is not going to be remembering the law, applying the law or finishing on time.  The hardest part is going to be remembering how to be a Wisconsonite.

The questions are full of language, incidents, names and the occasional joke, that will only make sense if you know Wisconsin.  Essentially, the questions are written in Wisconsin-eese (not to be confused with Wisconsin cheese).


Here are some examples of things that would have a non-Wisconsite surely perplexed:

Last Names, like Lomanski and Bielski, Backhausen and Mentzel.  More ski's than Tahoe, more sch’s than Cindy Brady.   String a bunch of those together and it’s enough to make most people skip over half the page.  But not in Wisconsin.  Not only can we read those, we can pronounce them, too!  Heck, we probably have a bunch of friends with those names.

 Geographical locations “Whiskey River,” image“Nonesuch County” and “Waukesha.”  That first one would stop most people dead in their tracks out of pure shock.  The second would leave them scratching their head and the third, although it’s a real place, would leave them tongue-tied.  (Trust me, I’ve heard enough out-of-staters try to pronounce it.)

Whiskey River falls into another category of things, the things I call the “wait, is that acceptable?” category.  Sample answers that begin, “My prayers and thoughts are with you” in a tax advice letter to a terminally ill client.  Prayers?! in what you’re supposed to write?!  Why that’s enough to make a Californian turn blue and pass out from shock. 

My favorite though was the answer that pointed out the police officer’s stop was probably a pretense for profiling, but then goes on to explain why that’s ok under the law.  I had started to write that in my answer and then thought, ‘no, wait, I shouldn’t include that, it’s not time to get on a soap box.’  Should’ve stuck with my gut, my Wisconsin gut.

Schuh Cousins in 60's Seemingly-crazy situations which really aren’t that crazy: a family with six children, each of whom has four to eight children of their own;  a foot of snow falling during the work day and a guy losing control of his car on I-94 driving home through the storm; an acre of quarry in the middle of a farm; or a person signing a check over to another person.  -  I once asked Mr. Trizzle to sign a check over.  He and the Legend looked at me like I was nuts, called me nuts, told me it wasn’t possible.  Hah! – These aren’t parts of the issues in the question’s fact patterns, just supplemental details, but they’d certainly trip up a non-Wisconsinite into going down a very wrong path.  (probably into Whiskey River).

Photo: My mom and most of her cousin’s on her mom’s side of the family (more were born later).  She’s one of 6, her mother was one of 9.

Oh, and then I musn’t forget, the questions that aren’t asked.  The Wisconsin problems tend to ask one, fairly specific question, when what’s really wanted is the answers to four questions.  This is different than the questions on other bar exams, for example the California exam, where there might be on big question that requires answering a bunch of small questions in the process. 

No, this is more like asking “did you go to the store” when you really want to know if the person bought pickles, if the new store next to the grocery, which is implied by “store” in your question, is open and if the cute cashier was working that night. 

It’s the sort of thing I do to Mr. Trizzle all the time.  And it’s taken him a long time to break me of the habit of answering all the unasked questions when he asks me a question.  He’s not from Wisconsin; he’s actually only asking me one question.

“Did you make it to work on time?” 

“Well, the original bus didn’t come, but I did get on BART, which then broke down, but it was ok because I left half an hour early because I had a good night’s sleep last night and had no trouble picking out an outfit this morning.”

The your-doing-it-again look shot in my direction…

“Yes. I made it to work on time.”

At least they throw in some nice midwesterner funnies, too.  How about a potentially unconstitutional diversity policy at Great Lakes State University?  Or a company in IL called “Flatland”?  The only way that could have been better was if it was Flatland International Bank, FIB.


Hopefully, my few extra days in Wisconsin before the Bar Exam will get me wholly back in the Wisconsin mind-frame needed for this exam.  Mommy, I think I better get some Leon’s and cheese curds when I arrive.  You know, to help me remember Wisconsin, hey?


Jeannie said...

So that's what you wanted a picture for! Glad no one knows which one is your lovely mother. ;)

Jeannie said...

Are you too busy with your real job and job-related posts to entertain us with your stories now? I miss reading them. :(