Question: What event lures legal eagles with queries from various pockets of pop culture?

A bar exam of the trivial sort

November 07, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

They labored over admissions tests, filling in those circles with the press of a No. 2 pencil, knowing the score would determine whether Harvard Law School was in the cards.

And the bar exam. Hours and hours of multiple choice and essays.

The legal set must like tests.

No wonder nearly 100 lawyers, judges, clerks and other legal professionals gathered Monday night at Annapolis' Galway Bay restaurant for the third Anne Arundel County Bar Association pub quiz.

Some of the region's most sound legal minds competed in the quirky trivia contest played like a team sport, generating impassioned discussion.

The host, Galway owner Fintan Galway, said the tradition can be traced to Ireland. Using encyclopedias and the Internet, Galway compiles questions for his regular patrons on Tuesday nights. The bar association, looking to raise money for charities, asked Galway a few years ago whether it could hold its own quiz there. A partnership was born.

"Lawyers are competitive by nature, so we took it and made it our own," said Katy Byrne, a lawyer specializing in land use and civil litigation. "We like to think we know a lot about certain things."

The teams pay $30 to play, with most of the money benefiting the bar association's Scholarships for Scholars program, which awards $2,000 annually to a high school senior in Anne Arundel County.

"It's a nice opportunity to see people who you would only normally see inside a courtroom or during a deal," Byrne added.

Topping the list of printed questions for the bar association's quiz were the rules for play, laid out as clearly as jury instructions:

Rule No. 1: No "lifelines" allowed. Anyone using text-messaging, calling on cell phones, pub phones or pay phones will be eliminated from competing.

Rule No. 2: Teams are allowed no fewer than two players and no more than six.

Unlike the more solitary Jeopardy!, pub quizzes are a team sport; collaboration is encouraged. But whispering is routine to discourage eavesdropping.

At one table, three lawyers, a retired judge and a realty broker tackled the questions. The team was named "Rasin Hell," in a nod to the de facto team captain, Martha F. Rasin, retired chief judge of the District Court of Maryland.

Question: What nonfiction book lingered for 226 weeks on Publishers Weekly's best-seller list, longer than any other book in the 1990s?

A couple of lawyers from the Greenbelt-based law firm McNamee Hosea suggested that it had to be some sort of self-help book. Maybe a diet book.

Question: Before the introduction of the hair dryer in 1920, what common household appliance was promoted for its hair-drying ability?

Rasin mused about how girls back in the 1970s ironed the curls out of their hair.

Question: What was the first X-rated film to win the Best Picture Oscar?

Without hesitation, Stanley Robbins, a Baltimore County public defender, offered up an answer: Midnight Cowboy.

Then Galway read the questions and gave the answers.

Question: What does B.B. King call his guitar?

"Lucille," Galway said.

A round of cheers erupted, mixed with an occasional "Yes!" Apparently, that was an easy one.

But when he joked to the crowd that it was St. Gerrard, not St. Anthony, to whom the faithful pray to find lost items, he was met with fierce booing.

"See the way they get so vociferous?" Galway said.

After two rounds of 15 questions, the team headed by Court of Special Appeals Judge Timothy E. Meredith placed second. On his team were lawyers who had clerked for him, and two of his current clerks.

The young legal minds are important for more recent trivia, the judge advised.

Question: What fitting label did Tupac Shakur record for before he was shot to death?

Answer: Death Row Records.

In the end, the team fronted by Rex Caldwell, an Anne Arundel County attorney in private practice, took top prize: a $50 Galway Bay gift certificate.

They did answer some questions incorrectly.

"We were only one floor off on the Empire State Building," Caldwell said.

And for those wanting to know: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus was the longtime best-seller; the vacuum cleaner was the early hair-drying tool; and the public defender was right about Midnight Cowboy.nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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