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Lyon alum achieves highest score on state bar exam

Cara Tomlinson Butler, ’16, received the highest score on the Arkansas Bar Examination.

Graduating from UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law in May, Butler took the bar exam this July and scored 351 out of a potential 400 points. A passing score in Arkansas is 270 or above. 

Butler was surprised to see her name at the top of the list when results were released Sept. 9.

“I was just hoping I passed,” she said. “The bar exam is 12 hours, so you don’t feel good leaving it. You feel like you failed.”

“When I saw I had scored the highest, I was shocked honestly! I stepped outside and immediately called my parents.”

Butler credits the study skills she developed as an undergraduate for her success. While most law students focus only on test prep programs, Butler also utilized flashcards and memorization techniques to review her courses.

“I’m so glad I did that now. The most important thing is being able to retain the information and apply it.”

Majoring in English and economics at Lyon, Butler learned “how to study and how to write.”

Those skills were valuable for the bar exam, which is split into six hours of writing and six hours of multiple choice.

“Thankfully, I’d already learned how to process a fact pattern and apply the rules I know to hypothetical cases,” she said.

Butler is currently clerking for Chief Judge Lavenski R. “Vence” Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. She was the only one in her class to receive a federal appellate clerkship.

“As an appellate clerk, I usually review the record from the trial court, review the parties’ briefs to the court, research the applicable law, and draft a memo explaining my findings for the judge,” she said.

“I will do the clerkship for a year, and after that my goal is to work with some sort of governmental agency. That’s what fits me best and what I’ve enjoyed the most.”

Butler said she appreciates her Lyon professors, like Dr. Terrell Tebbetts, who challenged her as an undergraduate and stayed in touch, supporting her through law school.

“That’s so rare. You don’t hear about that from people who went to bigger schools,” she said.

“Lyon professors are tough on you and give you so much feedback because they want to prepare you for grad school. I’m thankful I went to Lyon.”