High Stakes for UMKC Law Student Depending on Passing Bar

In the second story in our series of graduates who overcame challenges to pass the bar examination, Darrell Smith (J.D. ’18) met the bar driven by fear of losing everything and faith.

Darrell Smith Family

Darrell Smith is no stranger to overcoming adversity in order to succeed. Smith took the bar examination in July 2018, and he put every ounce of time and effort he could muster into making sure he would achieve his goal.

He enrolled in the Kaplan Bar Prep Program and used supplemental AdaptiBar materials that asked multiple choice questions and outlined his weaknesses. Fear and faith drove Smith through his summer of studying.

“I’m not well-off, and I’m from a low-income background,” he says. “A lot of money, time and effort was put into getting me to this point. I had to make it happen.”

He made it through law school without ever having a car, and when he was unable to find someone to carpool with to Columbia for the bar exam, he picked up a ticket for a Greyhound bus. Smith also ended his last semester of law school without a laptop and studied solely at the law school building all summer.

“I viewed it like a job: I was there all day, every day,” he says. “It was my only access point to study. You figure out how to work around it.”


Darrell Smith with nephew

The fear of “blowing it” and losing his post-graduate job only pushed Smith harder.

“This was all leading up to me being a licensed attorney and it all being worth it,” Smith says. “I knew I couldn’t let the fear consume me. I had to let it drive me like adrenaline.”

Smith’s friend, Kennae Grigsby, who graduated in Dec. 2017 and passed the Feb. 2018 bar exam, offered Smith advice that he carried with him.

“She told me ‘Look, there is nothing I can say to make you feel better, but what I will say is this: do you feel like you’re putting in the time? Do you feel like you’re putting everything you have into this?’ I replied to her yes, I did feel that way. She told me that I should rely on that feeling when I am discouraged; remind myself that I am doing my best and that is all that I could do at that point. Therefore, win or lose, you know you went all in and gave it your best shot. That really helped build my faith up.”

That didn’t mean bar prep wasn’t without its doubts. During bar prep, he received multiple low grades on the practice exams, and he rushed to Professor Wanda Temm for guidance.

“She calmed me down,” he says, “and she reminded me that ‘practice is practice.’ You learn from the mistakes you make so you don’t fall in the same trap.”

Smith says that Temm, as well as Professor Jamila Jefferson Jones, were a strong source of support.

In September, Smith found out he passed the bar, and he is now a law clerk for Judge David Byrn of Division 3 of the Jackson County Circuit Court.

Published: Nov 29, 2018