Greetings again from the darkness. Very interesting, but rather odd documentary from Eric Chaikin ("Word Wars") was screened at the AFI Dallas Film Festival. I say odd because there is no obvious agenda other than providing an expose on the stress caused by the preparation for the bar exam. The film could easily serve as a character study in how varying personalities react to stress and how the legal profession views itself.
The film follows the paths of six very different individuals as they spend the 10 weeks prior to the exam preparing for the make-or-break moment. These individuals range from recent law school grads to a really nice guy on his third attempt to an artsy, near hysterical young lady to a guilt-ridden mom to a never-say-die older gentleman on his 41st attempt. As a viewer, we get enough of each of them to feel their pain and understand how they deal with the pressure. Silently, we find ourselves pulling for some ... and the others, not so much.
The brilliance of the film stems from the insightful meanderings of those practicing in the field of law and those on the periphery. Most effective are the legendary Alan Dershowitz, Robert Shapiro and Texans Joe Jamail and Mark Lanier. Others offering commentary include Nancy Grace, John Stossel, Catherine Crier and Scott Turow. Vernon Jordan also recalls his bar exam and how racism played a role.
The film needs to be viewed by all law students as both a "scared straight" warning on exam preparation and valuable insight into the profession of law. In particular watch Mark Lanier's eyes as he makes his point about how he connects to a jury. It is a frightening moment that displays why he is one of the most powerful trial attorneys working today.
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