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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Harvard Grad Who Flunked Bar Sues Over Loss Of Big-Law Job

WycheNational Law Journal:  Harvard Grad Who Flunked Bar Sues Over Loss of Big-Law Job, by Karen Sloan:

A 2013 Harvard graduate who twice failed the bar exam has sued the New York State Board of Law Examiners, claiming its refusal to provide testing accommodations derailed her career at Ropes & Gray.

Tamara Wyche, who alleges she suffers from anxiety and cognitive impairment, asserts that the board’s decision not to grant all of her requested accommodations the first two times she took the exam led to her termination from the Boston-based law firm. She passed the exam on the third try in 2015 with additional accommodations but hasn’t been able to find work at a large firm, according to the complaint, filed June 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. ...

Wyche, 29, claims she was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a first-year law student at Harvard. She also suffered several head injuries that resulted in memory problems and cognitive difficulties, according to her complaint, and took several leaves of absence. She returned to campus and earned her law degree in 2013 while receiving doctor-recommended accommodations including 50 percent extra time on tests, a separate testing room, and extra break time. Due to anxiety and panic attacks, she also was exempt from “cold calls” by professors.

When Wyche applied to take the bar exam in July 2013, she asked for the same accommodations Harvard had provided.

The board initially denied all her requests but upon appeal allowed her extra break time and a smaller testing room, her suit claims. She failed after having panic attacks during the exam, she alleges, and her standing as a “star” associate at Ropes & Gray took a hit, she alleges. (The firm did not respond to a request to confirm Wyche’s employment.) She also failed the July 2014 bar exam after the board granted her 50 percent extra time and a smaller testing room, but denied any extra break time. Ropes & Gray terminated her employment after her second failure, Wyche claims.

The board granted her request for double time on the February 2015 bar exam, and Wyche passed, according to her suit. “[Wyche] was gratified to receive notice in April 2015 that she had passed, but her career already had been damaged beyond repair by the Board’s inexplicable failure to provide her with appropriate accommodations,” her complaint reads.
Wyche has thus far been unable to secure another large-firm job because of her bar failures, and has been working in temporary positions, according to her suit.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/06/harvard-grad-who-flunked-bar-sues-over-loss-of-big-law-job.html

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Comments

Is there any empirical evidence analyzing how successful folk are who receive accommodations during law school/the bar exam?

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Jun 15, 2016 5:21:52 AM

I can just imagine.

Partner: "We're closing today. Did you get the signatures on those rep certificates?" Associate: "Sorry, I had a panic attack." Partner: "Don't you worry; just take as long as you need to."

Posted by: Matt | Jun 15, 2016 6:39:32 AM

By filing this lawsuit, doesn't she publicize her name and situation? Isn't that publicity counterproductive?

Posted by: Andy Patterson | Jun 15, 2016 7:07:45 AM

Ropes & Gray was probably glad to rid of her. Anyone who can't handle anxiety has no pace in the profession.

Posted by: sullivan2day | Jun 15, 2016 8:05:55 AM

Either she or her lawyers slept through Palsgraff. A non-Harvard schlepper three bill retail theft lawyer like me knows that there are Elements that must be satisfied for there to be liability. She is missing DAMAGES! She has a gig at Cantor Fitzgerald. She probably makes more coin in twenty minutes than I do on a couple of Revoked License matters that kill an entire morning. Professor Kingsfield is rolling in his grave.

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | Jun 15, 2016 8:06:01 AM

Anyone who supports providing extra time to a student on the bar exam has no right to ever complain of professional incompetency that they experience.

Posted by: JM | Jun 15, 2016 8:13:49 AM

Good for her. The bar exam does not prepare you to practice law. It is simply a barrier to entry the legal profession. The board should have been more accommodating.

Posted by: Justin | Jun 15, 2016 9:50:55 AM

Good for her. The bar exam does not prepare you to practice law. It is simply a barrier to entry the legal profession. The board should have been more accommodating.

Posted by: Justin | Jun 15, 2016 9:50:57 AM

My first reaction is that she made a questionable choice, b/c she made public her personal medical information.

I'm seeing a lot of hate for accommodations for exams, and would really like to see empirical data on career performance difference among accommodated students and their peers.

Mental disorders are very real, and the pressures generated by exams are very unique, and unlike anything they will ever experience again if they pass.

Posted by: Nate | Jun 15, 2016 12:09:59 PM

Did Ropes & Gray and does Cantor Fitzgerald tell their clients that their matter was or is being handled by someone with cognitive impairment?

Posted by: guy helvering | Jun 15, 2016 2:23:21 PM

Quote: "Tamara Wyche, who alleges she suffers from anxiety and cognitive impairment"

Could someone explain to me why, with these problems, it makes sense for almost any law firm to hire her. They have work and that work must be done properly and under often demanding time constraints.

I can see her working as a lawyer, but perhaps only for clients with the flexibility to cope with her serious shortcomings. If I needed a will written and was in good health, I wouldn't mind if she took weeks the set her anxiety aside and get her cognition working. Both most legal practice isn't that flexible.


Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Jun 15, 2016 2:25:07 PM

"she suffers from anxiety and cognitive impairment"

Potential clients thank you for the heads up, Tamara.

Posted by: Gary | Jun 15, 2016 3:32:03 PM

It could be worse-she could be a cardiac surgeon who, because of cognitive impairment, is given extra time to perform heart transplants.

Posted by: Jack | Jun 15, 2016 3:39:57 PM

This is where you want beclowing on both sides.

On one hand, she only got into law school due to being an AA two-fer. Since the bar exam does not have AA, she naturally was exposed as not really qualified.

On the other hand, the bar exam is a scam and a barrier to entry. It should be abolished.

Posted by: Took | Jun 15, 2016 3:40:08 PM

So now we have reached the point where a job at a firm like Ropes & Gray is an entitlement.

Posted by: Brendon Carr | Jun 15, 2016 3:43:16 PM

How could Kurt Vonnegut be so silly on so many subjects and still write the brilliant "Harrison Bergeron"?

Posted by: Rob Ives | Jun 15, 2016 3:49:05 PM

No one is going to hire this person. And rightly so.

Posted by: Nyota Uhura | Jun 15, 2016 3:52:00 PM

All the comments are well and good but honestly the way law is taught and tested has nothing to do with the way it is practiced. In fact the key with the bar was just not to worry that much.

Posted by: astro | Jun 15, 2016 3:59:03 PM

She make the perfect government lawyer.

Posted by: Bob | Jun 15, 2016 4:03:12 PM

I am quite sure she has been way out of her league for a long time. I might sue anyone who assigned her to my account if they represented her as equal to any other lawyer who didn't receive such accomodations or flunk the bar several times.

Posted by: mace wolf | Jun 15, 2016 4:20:30 PM

She sounds like a prime candidate for the Obama DOJ.

Posted by: Ralph Gizzip | Jun 15, 2016 4:27:52 PM

Your honor, you are NOT allowed to ask me a question in this hearing! That's just like a cold call in class! I AM to be accommodated!! You are to submit your questions in writing and give me extra time to answer. Of course, the same rules do not apply to my opposing counsel so fire away!" THanks, Tamara

Posted by: Lisa | Jun 15, 2016 4:34:35 PM

Love to know her undergrad GPA and LSAT scores.

Posted by: motionview | Jun 15, 2016 4:37:41 PM

To everyone thinking that she won't be hirable after this, I say, "Think again! DOJ will regard her as a marquee hire!"

Posted by: boo | Jun 15, 2016 4:42:31 PM

"She make the perfect government lawyer."

If she runs as a legislator, "I need 50% extra time to write legislation, so I'll only pass 66% as much legislation as my opponent!" would win my vote.

Posted by: Ben | Jun 15, 2016 4:47:15 PM

Maybe its just me, but - the former student involved in this situation is just a useless oxygen thief, but is small potatoes, in the big picture of things. What is far more significant to me (and presumably also to some future employers of Harvard Law grads) is: this episode has reflected tremendous discredit upon Harvard Law. Up until now, I would have expected a Harvard grad to have at least a reasonable level of "Paper Chase" robustness. But - by letting this dysfunctional snowflake graduate with a Harvard Law sheepskin - the institution effectively just broadcast to the world that they will allow affirmative action cases to matriculate regardless of how weak and unprepared they are for the rigors of the real world business environment. In my eyes, Harvard Law is now compromised, and damaged goods.

Posted by: Steve | Jun 15, 2016 4:47:40 PM

What is cognitive impairment other than not as smart or as willing to work hard as peers? I know some Marines with brain injuries from ieds who wouldn't ask for "accommodations" for a job they could no longer function in. Yes DoJ will find her a perfect candidate.

Posted by: Gracie | Jun 15, 2016 5:08:15 PM

Uhhh.... Professors couldn't ask her questions in class because it would cause anxiety? Seriously? And when the judge asks her a pointed question? I'm all for some accommodations for learning disabilities (dyslexia) but some people are simply not suited for certain jobs or professions.

Posted by: fred | Jun 15, 2016 5:10:32 PM

I wonder if Ropes & Gray knew of the accommodations Harvard was making for her when they hired her. If so, they deserve what they get. If not, they should be suing Harvard for misrepresenting her abilities.
Law firms should avoid hiring law students that can't meet standards just as I would never hire anyone with a gender or ethnic studies degree. They have spent their college careers learning how to categorize everything as an offense and file complaints; they are problems waiting to happen.

Posted by: pca2002 | Jun 15, 2016 5:34:25 PM

Of course the Bar Exam is a barrier to entry. Just like a commuter in a Camry can't sign up to drive the Indy 500. I would like to fly a plane too. Would United allow me to give it a shot? What about the NBA? I could use the money.

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | Jun 15, 2016 5:57:13 PM

Why would anyone hire this delicate snowflake?

Posted by: Dave72 | Jun 15, 2016 6:16:07 PM

Anyone want to guess why a checkered student was able to get a big law job to begin with?

Posted by: Bob | Jun 15, 2016 6:17:38 PM

Ben says: "If she runs as a legislator, "I need 50% extra time to write legislation, so I'll only pass 66% as much legislation as my opponent!" would win my vote."

I'd certainly vote for her; ANY libertarian would like the legislature to pass 1/3rd less paralyzing and stupid legislation than they do.

Posted by: Ken Mitchell | Jun 15, 2016 7:07:56 PM

But ...but ... Harvard Law !

Posted by: HenChap | Jun 15, 2016 7:25:34 PM

"Mental disorders are very real" - yes, they are. I just don't feel I should pay the going rate for a functional lawyer and get someone with a mental disorder. Are you OK with your surgeon or your airline pilot having an acknowledged mental disorder? Alright, let's take some less life-dependent field - as April 15 approaches do you want an accountant with a mental disorder who retreats to her "safe space" and refuses to talk to you as the deadline and attendant penalties for late filing loom?

Posted by: BDR | Jun 15, 2016 7:30:54 PM

BDR,

My friend, you simply request an extension. Just fill out the form and tell the IRS you're waiting for paperwork. Simple accommodation.

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | Jun 15, 2016 8:12:07 PM

BDR,

Maybe Professor Caron can assist you with that extension.

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | Jun 15, 2016 8:13:22 PM

These stories make me smile. Those big law firm's like Cantor would never ever ever hired me out of law school. Harvard laughed at my application. Today I run my own firm and don't answer to anyone. Ha ha Ha ha ha

Posted by: Brian | Jun 15, 2016 11:11:03 PM

Reality-what a concept

Posted by: corwin | Jun 16, 2016 7:23:31 AM

Do we really need a "cognitively impaired" lawyer?

Posted by: Jane | Jun 16, 2016 7:30:02 AM

Politically connected:
https://www.bates.edu/news/2008/05/23/tamara-wyche/

Posted by: Xavier | Jun 16, 2016 8:23:00 AM

Transactional law at a big firm is insanely stressful. It's not a place for anyone who is prone to breakdowns and anxiety attacks. It's clear from her own statement of facts that she would not succeed in that situation. Her current position at an in house legal department seems much more appropriate to her condition.

Posted by: stinkfoot | Jun 16, 2016 11:32:22 AM

She shouldn't practice because she's not cut out for the profession due to her overwhelming sense of entitlement - not because of her race or cognitive impairments; just as some of the commenters above who believed that by the mere fact that she is African-American or received some type of help as a result of affirmative action need not practice because they are purely tyrannical elitists who believe that only men who fit the criteria of the old boys club are qualified to think. The nerve of some people!

Posted by: Wow | Jun 16, 2016 12:20:43 PM

Idiots are admitted to the bar every year. Nothing noteworthy there. The only fact drawing attention to this particular idiot is that she graduated from Harvard.

Posted by: TaxAtty | Jun 17, 2016 1:19:08 PM

Instead of being the lawyer who failed the bar exam twice before passing, now she will be known forever as the lawyer with severe panic and anxiety attacks brought on by stress.
Great plan, Ms. Wyche.
Maybe her attorney should have spent a little time explaining the collateral consequences of her short-sighted lawsuit seeking cash.
If she's lucky, she'll net $350k and have a much more difficult time getting hired. Now she's at risk of losing her current position after her firm finds out about her disabilities and fires her for "unrelated reasons".

Posted by: Jeff | Jun 28, 2016 3:26:09 PM