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Barman: Ping-Pong, Pathos, and Passing the Bar Paperback – August 24, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

We enter Wellen's fascinating life when he's a second-year law-school student, in the middle of a grueling round of interviews for a summer associate position--a coveted post granted to only a select few, where struggling students burn the midnight hours for some big law firm the summer before their last year in exchange for a taste of a real associate's salary. Wellen had his share of not-so-great interviews but managed to land a good gig nonetheless, in spite of his being from a "Tier-2" school (an unfortunate designation resulting from the famous--or infamous, depending on your perspective-- U.S. News & World Report law-school ranking system). Wellen suffered through the summer and his final year of law school and, bam, the real battle began as he prepared for the New York bar exam. With wit and deserved irreverence, Wellen equates this nine-month ordeal with human gestation, even dividing it into three trimesters (taking the bar, waiting for the results, and being a licensed attorney). His portrayal of these unsure days is right on, evoking the turmoil and thrill all at once. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Alex Wellen is an excited, ambitious, and overwhelmed twenty-something law student trying to integrate into one of the most powerful and promise-filled cities in the world—New York. As he moves from graduating student to licensed lawyer—the second most important nine months he ever spent "gestating"—Alex fantasizes about the glitzy, high-powered lifestyle of a Manhattan attorney. He imagines hobnobbing with the elite, eating at the best restaurants, and being a guest at the most coveted social events—but in this city of overachievers, he is reminded every step of the way that he did not go to Harvard. Can he overcome the profession's snobbery by wearing overpriced ties from Barneys, seat-filling at the VH1 fashion awards, cavorting with B-list celebrities, and throwing TriBeCa loft parties?

Is it enough for him to look and play the part?

Along the way, we meet his fellow sufferers in the dread-inducing bar exam cram courses, his girlfriends and roommate, the law firm recruiters interested in hiring him (and those who aren't), and the new associates who work with him at a high-profile law firm, some of whom, the odds are, won't pass the bar.

Savvy and entertaining, Wellen's story is The Paper Chase meets Sex and the City—a career memoir for anyone who has discovered his or her life's goal, yet must overcome tremendous obstacles to attain it.

Barman is an honest, revealing, and hilarious portrait of a lawyer as a young man.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (August 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400048923
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400048922
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,416,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There comes a time in the education of all law school students when they ask themselves: is it too late to fake my death, change names and become a janitor? Alex Wellen's BARMAN perfectly captures the soul-sucking process that precipitates this question. In his very funny memoir, Wellen recounts dealing with the quiet humiliations of attending a second tier law school, scoring a demeaning summer internship, cramming for the New York bar exam and landing his First Big Job-- sorting through documents in a stuffy room without windows. A dash of "Sex in the City" is woven throughout as well, as Wellen grapples with the challenges of building relationships and a professional identity at the same time. Most of all, this is an awfully well-rounded coming of age tale that will appeal to everyone, but particularly to anyone mulling a legal career. Proceed not lest ye read this book!
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Format: Hardcover
picked up 'Barman' looking for information, any information, on what law school, post law school experiences were like for someone not coming from Yale or Harvard. What I learned from Alex Wellen's book was not just what the process of becoming a lawyer was like, because during the process--with he relates with wit and honesty--Wellen seemed to discover for himself that passing the bar, and becoming a lawyer didn't necessarily define who he was or his worth. It didn't change who he was. I think it's worth remembering for anyone considering law school. What I got out of reading 'Barman' was that if I try, whether I fail or succeed, I will come out a different person on the other side of the experience, but still a person; one with value and who deserves happiness. It's a healthy way to approach law school, life or any other challenge, and maintain a sense of self without getting swallowed up by the process. I'm sure it's a book I'll refer to again as I continue my own process of getting into law school, and beyond.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are a neurotic 3L fast approaching the bar like me, this is NOT a good choice for leisurely reading! Heck, if you are at any stage in law school, pre-bar experience, this is probably not a good choice. It will freak you out. Like crippling, must hide the book out of my sight NOW fear! There are detailed descriptions of how many hours a day he spent between BarBri and individual studying. There are detailed descriptions of the actual essay questions and how he approached them. We all know the bar will be tough and I found out that reading pages and pages of someone else's experience was not a healthy choice for my mental well-being. Maybe when I have passed the bar, I can pick this book up and chuckle about that rough patch in my life, but right now... I'm not mentally stable enough to handle that!
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Format: Paperback
It's nearly a decade since I started law school, and over five years since I sat for the New York bar exam. The novelty of "Barman" lies in the fact that its author, unlike the writers of "The Paper Chase" and "One-L", didn't go to a top tier law school. Alex Wellen went to Temple, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a second tier school. I can do the author one better -- my midwestern law school didn't reach Tier 2 until after I graduated, and dropped out again this year. I also didn't finish in the top 10% of my class, as did Wellen, and had to wait a lot longer to land with a NYC law firm. So my philosophy from the first chapter was that while Wellen may have had it rough, he still had a comparatively easy time compared to many of us among the great unwashed.

As I was familiar with Wellen's journey, I paid more attention to the mechanics of his writing, bearing in mind his opening caution that his book was inspired by true events. Most readers may not know, for example, that Wellen described taking a portion of the New York bar exam (the multistate performance test) that wasn't introduced until several years later. Also, the thinly-veiled description of his law firm becomes even thinner if you study the patent on the final page of the book (this may have been intentional, of course). Finally, after describing every moment of his nine month journey from law school graduation through swearing-in to the bar, Wellen informs us in a very brief quota that he quit the profession less than a year later.

I mention these points only to praise with faint damns. I can't think of too many other things wrong with "Barman". Wellen captures the emotional spiral of studying for the bar quite effectively.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was the most self-indulgent, meandering, boring piece of self-congratulation that I have read in YEARS.

** Spoiler alert **

The actual story in this book can be told in less than a page: Guy goes to a law school that he feels inferior for attending. He then takes the bar, finds it hard. He then gets a well-paid internship and waits months for the results while womanizing, drinking, and detailing every non-event in his narrow life. Many of his friends don't pass the bar, but guess what? Trust me, the end won't be a big surprise. When there's ten pages left in the book, and you still "don't know" if he passed the bar or not, it's natural to assume that the book won't end with our main character holding his head in his hands, mourning his failed career in law. (Although that would be the greatest ending EVER for this book, as it would provide some catharsis for the reader).

Essentially what grates so much about this book is not the painfully long boring asides about the author's mundane personal life (although the rambling, frat-boy anecdotes set my teeth on edge), but the sheer arrogance of the narrative voice. This is an author that uses cutesy names to express his respectful affection for his parents, and in the next breath explains how he and his buddies rank unsuspecting women at parties or on the street (using terms like "bring it" or "keep it") Ick. We are regaled with stories about his robust dating life, but these stories always end with character slurs on the women he dates, or some mutual parting of the ways (yeah, right), never a moment of rejection or honesty.
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