Myself and countless other law students will take the MPRE this week. I should probably be more worried about it, but I think my 3L apathy may be kicking in a little early. I’m still in summer mode — anxiety and stress belong to the other seasons. I took a legal profession class last semester that was basically a review of the model rules, with a midterm and final consisting solely of old MPRE questions. Those feeble defenses for my lethargy aside, probably the most substantial factor in my readiness to take the test is putting an end to the countless jokes from my father and others about lawyers and ethics (“Lawyers and ethics — those are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence!” “How can you take a test on ethics? Everyone knows lawyers don’t have any!”). Simply put, I want the damn ethics test – and the jokes – behind me.
Of course my lack of concern cannot be applied across the law school spectrum. Like the bar exam, not everyone passes the MPRE the first time. In true law school form, I’ve observed the slow but steady emergence of the MPRE in social media. From studying schedules and complaints to sample hypotheticals, I am perpetually reminded of the pseudo-obsession at the opposite end of the spectrum. A habitual pattern from finals is returning: people seem to think their studying counts more if they let all of their friends know that’s what they’re up to.
None of this is to say that I won’t get last minute paranoia or apprehension, perhaps some trouble sleeping the night prior to the test. It happens with almost every exam, like some sort of emotional procrastination. The closer the exam gets, the more real it and its consequences become. A few days from now, maybe I’ll feel differently. Surely, the night of the MPRE I’ll celebrate like it has been some great onus, a burden to bear, the bulk of the rules of ethics weighing on my shoulders, and all these encumbrances relieved, afflictions lifted as soon as the test is completed. But really, the real “problem,” if you will, is the jokes.
The two primary reasons I am ready to take the MPRE don’t have anything to do with preparation or confidence in my mastery of the nuances of ethical rules. The first is so I can stop explaining what MPRE stands for and what it is. No matter how I describe it (“it’s an ethics test” or “MPRE stands for Model Professional Rules of Ethics”) the end result is usually a slightly puzzled expression, followed promptly by the second reason I’m ready to take the test: so I can stop hearing the overdone, un-amusing, jokes about lawyers and ethics that every person who isn’t a member of the legal community is so fond of proffering, almost always with that pleased with themselves expression that tells me they think they’re funny and original. Polite smiling and laughter have never been my fortes; my grin typically comes off as more of a grimace and my laugh is a forced out “ha” just a second too late, sounding more like I’m clearing my throat post-choking. Which is probably more apt; I’m always trying to stifle my desire to tell people I don’t want to hear it.
I have so little tolerance for and interest in this joke that I wince in anticipation as soon as I see it start to spew out someone’s mouth. I never quite understand why as soon as reference is made to the legal profession, people immediately make jokes belittling it. I don’t mock any of the professionals I encounter that require some kind of specialized degree: doctors, dentists, orthodontists, speech language pathologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, engineers, etc. I’m not sure what it is about the legal profession that draws in this kind of jest. I understand there have been a few bad apples, that many people with law degrees have made very significant blunders; I just don’t understand the general comfort of others in ridiculing the occupation. (Well, that is, unless you are in the profession; this is Bitter Lawyer after all.)
So, while I may be apathetic (possibly turning apprehensive) about the test itself, I’m certainly enthusiastic for its end, so hopefully I can lay these jokes to rest and stop having to explain the test, if only for a little while.
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