My Bar Exam Results, and What They Mean for Life Raft

Note: This is written by Chris Woodruff, our Executive Director.

This Monday morning, I sat at the kitchen table, as I prepared to find out whether I had passed the bar exam or not. The night before, my heart had been under a lot of stress, but that was nothing compared to the toxic combination of adrenaline and cortisol that was now searing my heart.

A year ago, I was not even planning on taking the bar. Earning my J.D. from Georgetown would be enough to allow me to represent refugees so that they could get official status from the UN. Studying for, and taking the bar felt like a terrible, unnecessary experience that would only delay our long awaited move to Thailand.

But then I contemplated Life Raft’s legal work expanding. I imagined recruiting law students as interns, finding attorneys willing to do pro-bono work, and eventually hiring our own team of lawyers. If we were able to do that, Life Raft’s ability to help refugees would grow exponentially. Thousands more refugees could find freedom.

In order for these dreams to be realized, I would need to licensed as an attorney in the US. And in order for to happen, I would need to pass the bar exam.

So in late May, after officially graduating from Georgetown, I hunkered down, deep in my fortress of bar-prep books, and studied. And studied. And studied. It was terrible. I had to memorize the law of 13 different legal areas in 2 months. It was like 2 years of law school crammed into two months. I didn’t get out much.

So as I sat at my computer, it felt like 2 months of my life was at stake. Not only that, but friends and family knew how hard I had worked, and how important it was for me to pass the bar exam. Letting them down was the most terrifying, stressful thing.

I opened the letter that would determine my fate, and read painfully meaningless words and numbers. Finally I saw the fateful phrase: “this is a passing score.” A tidal wave of relief and excitement washed over me. It is done. It is finished. It is time to start working on the dream.