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Bar Exam: The Documentary

Poster4_1 "A Lawyer Walks into a Bar ..." sounds like the start of a bad joke, but in this case it is the name of a soon-to-be-released documentary. The bar in issue is in California and serves up not alcohol concoctions but essay questions to lawyer wannabes. The film, A Lawyer Walks into a Bar ..., follows six aspiring lawyers as they prepare for and take the California bar exam. The filmmakers describe it this way:

"The documentary features a cast of characters that runs the gamut -- from a type A 'gunner' hellbent on rising to the top of her profession at whatever cost, to a former Marine who has taken the bar exam 41 t imes.  (Yes, 41 times.)  Cameras were rolling for six months of tears, hysteria, hypnotherapy sessions and 'Lamborghini lessons' as our subjects traveled through the nine circles of hell in a quest to fulfill their collective lifelong dream."

That's not all. In following these six, the film also "takes a whimsical look at lawyers, law and litigiousness in America." It does that, in part, through cameo appearances by legal "luminaries" and legal observers, among them actor and comedian Eddie Griffin, attorney Robert Shapiro, CNN’s Nancy Grace, Court TV’s Catherine Crier, novelist Scott Turow, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, Texas trial lawyers Joe Jamail and Mark Lanier, Comedy Central’s Michael Ian Black and ABC’s John Stossel.

You might think that watching a film about taking the bar exam would be about as engaging as watching people play Scrabble. As it turns out, the film's director, Eric Chaikin, previously directed a film about people playing Scrabble, Word Wars: Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Circuit, with notable success. The film made its debut at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, won honors at other film festivals and was nominated for an Emmy.

Chaikin is not a lawyer and has no plans to become one. A co-producer of the film, Evan Fitzmaurice, is a lawyer and practices with an entertainment firm in Los Angeles. In an e-mail, Fitzmaurice notes that the film deals not just with the bar exam but with other "hot button issues in our profession." He writes:

The film is non-ideological and exceedingly balanced in its treatment of these issues, which include, among other things, stress, big firm economics, substance abuse, law as a calling, frivolous litigation, bar exam economics, women in the law and other threads that you can likely intuit.

The film makes its premiere March 13 and 15 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Until then, you can view the trailer and clips at its Web site, where you can also read more about the characters and the filmmakers.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 22, 2007 at 06:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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