Notables Who Failed the Bar Exam

GEO_edited-1From time to time I meet with young men and women who dream of becoming a lawyer and seek encouragement or advice on their journey to the bar. I believe the legal profession, although often maligned, is a noble calling, and to those lawyers who much has been given, much is owed.

A recent conversation with the eighteen-year-old daughter of a client, caused me to reflect on the process. After the completion of an undergraduate degree and successfully passing the Law School Admission Test, three years of law school follows. With a law degree in hand the only impediment to calling yourself a lawyer is the passing of the bar exam.

It is at this point where many people run into a roadblock. Certain of the bar exams are notorious for their difficulty, including the tests required in New York and California.

The top spot for lawyers who have failed their bar exams goes to MAXCY DEAN FILER who obtained his law degree in 1966, but failed the California Bar Exam 47 times before finally passing the exam in 1991.

By the time he was permitted to practice law, both of his sons were lawyers. He worked with one of his sons for about five years before striking out on his own. His other son is now a judge in California.

But there are many more lawyers who struggled for the right to practice law, but were forced to retake the exam. Some of the notables include:

1. MICHELLE OBAMA- A graduate of Harvard Law School, Ms. Obama failed her first try at the Illinois Bar Exam, said to be one of the easier bar exam States;

2. HILARY CLINTON- Former Secretary of State, former Senator for New York State, candidate for President of the United States, First Lady during Bill Clinton’s presidency, attended Yale Law School, wrote her bar exam in Washington DC and failed. Around the same time she wrote and passed the Arkansas Bar Exam, practicing patent law and intellectual property law. Her pro bono interests were in the area of child and family advocacy;

3. THE MAYORS- RICHARD DALEY of Chicago, ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA of Los Angeles and ED KOCH of New York;

4. THE GOVERNORS- JERRY BROWN of California, PETE WILSON of California, and DAVID PATERSON of New York;

5. PAT ROBERTSON, founder and host of the 700 Club and leader of the Christian Coalition, graduated from Yale Law School but failed the bar exam. He then abandoned law and obtained a Doctor of Divinity degree. Leader of the christian right, he is a successful businessman and entrepreneur, who founded Regent University which includes a Judeo-Christian law school.

6. KATHLEEN SULLIVAN, former Dean of Stanford Law School, Marshall scholar at Oxford, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1981, constitutional and appellate law expert, often mentioned as a candidate for the United States Supreme Court, failed the California Bar Exam, but rewrote it in 2006 and passed. Many years earlier she had been admitted to both the Massachussats and the New York bar.

It is clear that perserverance is the cornerstone of success. To all my friends, young and old, who have a dream, remember these words:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful
people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is
almost a proverb… Persistence and determination alone are
omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

GEO#1PT Barnum of circus fame is credited with saying “There’s a sucker born every minute”, and that’s just what hucksters and fraud artists count on.

Here’s the email I received today…

“I hope you get this email on time, I made a trip to (Philippines) and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and credit cards in it. Went to the embassy and they are willing to help me by issued me a temporary passport but i have to pay for a ticket and settle my hotel bills with the Manager here. Unfortunately for me, I can’t have access to funds without my credit card, i was wondering if you could loan me some few $ through western union money transfer easy for me to cash here and pay bills and get back home, I will definitely refund it back to you as soon as i get back safely.

let me know so I can forward you the details to wire it to me. Susan”

Oh, yes, I think I’ll contact Western Union right now!

I also recently received an email from a woman in Japan who wanted to retain me to assist her to collect a large sum of money from her ex-husband who happened to live in Vancouver. She asked me to begin by writing to her ex to determine if he would pay the sum he owed voluntarily or whether it would be necessary to commence a court action.

From the get-go it smelled like a scam, so in return I sent her an email advising her that in British Columbia we have “know your client” rules which require that she provide picture ID to show who she was.

Not a problem. Within a day I received a copy of a passport and an official ID card in her name with a photo of her. Her emails were all unfailing polite and to a less suspicious individual she appeared to be an ideal client as she informed me that upon my successful collection of the monies owed I would be paid my legal fees in a generous amount.

At this point her scam was no longer amusing to me and I ended the email conversation. She contacted me several times thereafter wondering why her Vancouver lawyer had not been in touch.

Had I carried on with her she would have excitedly told me that my letter had served its intended purpose and that I should expect to receive a large cheque from her ex and would I kindly deposit it to my trust account and send her my trust cheque for the monies, less my generous fee.

Had I complied, she would have received her money from my account and I would be left owing my bank a large sum of money once it became obvious that the deposited cheque was worthless. The financial consequences to me would pale in comparison to the humiliation of being so thoroughly scammed.

This scenario is just one of the hundreds of internet swindles floating through cyberspace.

Have you heard of the “grandma” scam where a young adult posing as your grandchild, obtains enough information from Facebook and other social sites to pepper her email solicitation with accurate family information. She is in trouble and needs money to either get out of jail or purchase an airline ticket to fly home to escape a dangerous situation.

The “Nigerian” scam is so old it is truly surprising that it still nets internet crooks millions of dollars a year. If you could only send money to this Nigerian diplomat, he could obtain millions of dollars that belong to his family and share it with you!

The FBI reports that between 2000 and 2009 internet fraud accounted for $1.7 billion in financial losses to unsuspecting consumers. The best way to avoid being the victim of internet fraud is to assume that every email overture concerning money involves a criminal looking for a victim. Don’t let it be you.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Misery of Hoarding

BarristerHe shuffled into my law office for his 10 am appointment, his shoulders were hunched over and he looked completely defeated. I asked what brought him in to see me and he quietly removed some photographs from a yellow envelope and set them up like a slide show on the desk in front of me.

I had never seen anything like it. A living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, all piled to the rafters with newspapers, junk mail, pizza boxes, dirty laundry, bags of garbage, kitty litter and much more. A trail through the house, no more than a foot wide, was left open as a passage way. In one photo a little girl in a pink dress sat smiling, leaning on a tower of junk.

He was embarrassed as he told me that his wife had transformed their home into a waste pit, that she wouldn’t or couldn’t stop accumulating stuff, refusing to throw anything away, and he was worried sick about his three-old daughter.

He said he loved his wife but believed the home environment was hurting his little girl. He asked me whether he should take his daughter and move out.

I was stymied. This was long before television turned hoarding into a spectator sport and intuitively I knew his wife’s behavior was an extreme form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I sent the photos to a child psychologist and asked his opinion. I expected him to tell me that my new client had a legal and moral obligation to rescue his daughter from the chaos of their home. But he surprised me. He said that removing the little girl from her home and her mother would only increase her anxiety, for after all, what she knew was a crowded, dirty, infested home.

My client got his answer and I didn’t see him again.

I didn’t question the psychologist because after all, he was the expert. But later, after scanning Kimberly Rae Miller’s book entitled “Coming Clean”, her personal story of her childhood, I wondered how that little girl was, the one in the pink dress.

Author Miller describes her wretched childhood: the rats, the bugs, the insecurity she felt as a result of her parents’ activities. Her mother was a compulsive shopper, her father a hoarder, and between them her life was isolated, secretive, and shameful. In her late teens Ms. Miller had a breakdown, overdosing on pain killers. That’s when she finally left home and began living in her car. Yes, a car she vacuumed every day.

Family law lawyers see the best and worst of domestic life. That day I saw the misery of hoarding.

Divorce Drama a Shakespearean Tragedy

DSC00280I first wrote about the mega-divorce of British couple Scot and Michelle Young in August 2013 after Mr. Young was sentenced to six months in jail for failing to pay $1 million in support. I predicted that by the time the matter went to trial he would “lawyer-up” with the best attorney money could buy! But I was wrong… Scot Young acted for himself in his divorce trial in October 2013, a move that fit his litigation strategy of “I’m broke”.

The outcome? Here’s the Young divorce, “By the numbers”:

$6.5 million Legal costs expended by Michelle Young

$5 million Legal costs ordered to by paid by Scot Young to his wife

65 Total number of court hearings

20 Days of trial

13 Sets of lawyers hired/fired/discharged by Michelle Young

6.5 Years it took to resolve the case

4 Sets of accountants hired by Michelle Young

$300 million Amount of money sought by Michelle Young

$32 million What Michelle got from the judge

10,000 Pages of court documents

6 months in jail for Mr. Young for failing to produce financial documents, but he only served three months

British newspapers reported that Michelle Young was angry that the court refused to find that her husband was hiding a billion dollar in assets and called the decision a “disgrace”. She also said her next herculean task was to collect the money she is owed.

As for the trial judge, Mr. Justice Moor remarked that the Young case was a prime example of how not to conduct divorce litigation.

While Young plead poverty throughout the divorce proceedings it was reported he purchased a six-carat diamond engagement ring for his girlfriend, British reality star, Noelle Reno.

But no one could have guessed the last chapter of this British drama. In 2014 Scot Young tragically flung himself out of a window of his $4.5 million dollar London apartment and impaled himself on the railing below. Rumours abound that his apparent suicide was in fact retaliation from the Russian mafia who he allegedly owed millions of dollars.

Mr. Young left two beautiful daughters. Even Shakespeare couldn’t have penned this modern tragedy.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Alaska Introduces Pet Custody Laws

phoenixIs it just me or does it seem there has been a pet explosion in North America? The American Pet Products Association reports that pet owners spend almost $60 billion dollars a year on pet industry products for their four-legged friends.

There certainly can be no doubt that our pets are a part of the family and like children, they are often overindulged. Little outfits, santa claus hats and hallowe’en costumes for our cats and dogs are old hat, now you can pay for pet massage, pet travel agents who arrange transportation for pets, snake-training for pets, and pet funerals.

Of course, pet owners are now also litigating who gets to keep their beloved animals upon their separation and you’d be amazed how often pets become a major issue in divorce matters. So much so that there are now lawyers who only do “pet law”.

So it is not surprising that several jurisdictions are considering amending their legislation to include laws governing pet custody after marriage breakdown.

Alaska appears to be the first state to introduce a bill that would deem “pets” to be divisible family property upon divorce, with the best interests of the pet as the guiding principle.

Representative Liz Vazquez introduced the bill, with bipartisan co-sponsorships.

The bill defines animal as vertebrates, such as dogs and cats, and specifically excludes fish.

It also would add a pet-related section to the rights of victims of domestic violence, allowing abuse victims to file a petition with the court to obtain custody of an animal living in the same household as the abuser and/or preventing the abuser from disposing of the animal. So many times I have heard stories of pets being abused, stolen, or worse, as retaliation for a relationship gone bad.

With North American’s zest for pets, these laws will likely be introduced in other states and provinces. Needless to say, pet litigation should be avoided and separating pet owners should work out a schedule to accommodate the sharing of their pet. Just like shared parenting!

PS The puppy pictured above is Phoenix, a cockapoo, age 8.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bruce Jenner Gender Bender

DSC00507 (2)You can’t open a newspaper or magazine today without reading about Olympian Bruce Jenner’s sex change. At first I didn’t believe it, but with his longer hair, nail polish, adam’s apple and facial surgery, together with his mother’s remarks to the media, I now believe it’s true. I also understand that he remains sexually attracted to women and so will live as a lesbian. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to commit to this transition so late in life.

His story, however, reminds me of an article in the New York Post about a gender change involving prominent ABC network news editor and producer, Don Ennis.

One morning in 2013 Mr. Ennis arrived at the ABC New York studios wearing a tight black dress and a long brown wig and advised his colleagues he was transitioning to a female. He asked to be called “Dawn”.

“Please understand,” he said in a statement, “this is not a game of dress-up, or make-believe, it is my affirmation of who I now am and what I must do to be happy, in response to a soul-crushing secret that my wife and I have been dealing with for more than seven years, mostly in secret.”

He left his wife of 17-years and began living as a woman however, the “change” lasted only three months when he realized he had made a mistake. He was a man.

Apparently Mr. Ennis was a child actor whose mother gave him female hormones to extend his modest acting career. Over the years he felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body and eventually had a breast augmentation.

After suffering from what he describes as two days of “transient global amnesia” he realized he was not a woman and had been misdiagnosed. His letter to friends and workmates to announce his second gender reversal read:

“I am writing to let you know I’m changing my name . . . to Don Ennis. That will be my name again, now and forever. And it appears I’m not transgender after all.

I have retained the much different mind-set I had in 1999: I am now totally, completely, unabashedly male in my mind, despite my physical attributes,

I’m asking all of you who accepted me as a transgender to now understand: I was misdiagnosed. I’m already using the men’s room and dressing accordingly.”

Mr. Ennis sought professional help at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda Maryland to understand why his mind and body changed from male to female. He was told he had a hormone imbalance. After his bout with amnesia he suffered a “drastic loss of memory” and could only remember himself as a man, hence the second gender reversal.

Medical literature describes the amnesia suffered by Mr. Ennis as related to emotional instability triggered by a phobic or challenging precipitating event.

Unfortunately for Dawn/Don, he changed his mind again and showed up at work in his female attire. It may just have been bad timing, but shortly thereafter he was fired from ABC for “performance issues”.

Not hard to understand that his mind may not have been on his work! Hopefully for Dawn/Don he will receive the support and treatment he so sorely needs.

The statistics on sex change reversals are highly controversial. The transgender community asserts that reversals are rare, however, website SexChangeRegret.com disagrees.

While in the past the media rarely reported on these stories, more recently they have been making news, including the fate of the transexual Belgian man who was permitted by Belgian authorities to participate in legal euthanasia.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang