Despite Covid-19 attack a month before the exam
A University of Bristol law graduate has become one of the youngest wannabe lawyers to pass the New York bar exam aged just 21.
Jasmine Gratton, who finished her LLB last year, spent the pandemic boning up for the prestigious qualification and ended up smashing it when she received her results last week.
A celebratory LinkedIn post racked up nearly 1,500 likes in less than a week.
Gratton reckons she’s among the youngest people to have picked up the qualification, although the State Board of Law Examiners told us they don’t keep records like that and it’s not unknown for recent LLB grads from overseas to sit the exam.
It’s a serious achievement either way — especially given the Covid-related complications.
“I actually had a really bad case of Covid the month before the bar exam, so I was not hopeful,” Gratton reveals. “On the day of the exam, I felt so sick. I actually had a bucket next to me the whole day just in case.”
The exam itself was held entirely remotely because of the pandemic. Gratton sat it in her student bedroom at Fordham University, New York, where she had started an LLM a month before.
The majority of candidates for the New York bar have US law degrees, which are offered at postgraduate level, so tend to be older. Part of the reason Gratton ended up taking it so young — apart from possessing serious drive — is that she started her undergrad at 17.
“There is some debate among my family as to what happened, but because we moved around a lot [internationally], it looks like I possibly skipped the third grade by accident,” Gratton told Legal Cheek. That hasn’t exactly held her back academically — although being a 17-year-old fresher meant that a picture of her was hung behind the student bar as a reminder not to serve her.
The Australian-born graduate says she’s been inundated with messages asking for help and tips since posting about her achievement. She’s hoping to host an online Q&A session in the coming weeks with the help of legal education provider BARBRI, whose extended bar exam prep course she credits with helping her pass.
“I had the most amazing mentor,” Gratton says of the prep course. “The two weeks leading up to the exam is when things start to kick in mentally and you start to lose touch with reality a little bit, so having someone to check in with who had been through it before and was trained to support me was incredible.”
Asked about her career plans from here, Gratton says she’d like to work in intellectual property law, which she’s studying on her master’s. But first she wants to return to Australia to qualify as a lawyer there.
“I think that becoming dual qualified is almost going to be the expectation for lawyers in the future, as transactions become even more international,” Gratton reckons. “Especially with intellectual property law — it’s more and more a global phenomenon.”
There were 2,130 candidates for the New York bar in the February 2021 sitting. The overall pass rate was 49%, dropping to 43% among foreign-educated candidates.