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College of Law grads, alumni bond over bar exam

Law Student Reads Textbook Between Class

WVU College of Law alumni Ben Vanston and Jacob Trombley became friends through an unlikely matchmaker: the West Virginia bar exam. They met through a new College of Law initiative that pairs recent graduates with newer alumni to mentor them and provide support as the bar exam approaches. About 40 WVU Law graduates participated in the pilot Peer Bar Exam Consultant project.

Vanston, who graduated in 2021 and now works for a Charleston law firm, was paired with Trombley, a 2023 graduate now working in Kingwood. Beginning in May, they talked weekly —sometimes for up to two hours — about the rigor of the test and the effort needed to pass the July exam.

About halfway through the summer study marathon, Vanston said he realized that Trombley was scoring well on practice tests and was likely to pass, so he shifted his attention to helping ease the stress and mental exhaustion of preparing for a three-day exam.

The alumni mentoring program was spearheaded by Professor Kirsha Trychta, who directs the law school’s Academic Excellence Center. WVU College of Law currently offers many options to help students prepare for the bar exam, from on-campus meetings with the West Virginia Board of Law Examiners to for-credit academic courses. In addition, students have access to personalized counseling sessions with Professor Trychta. In June and July, most of the College of Law faculty also volunteered to be sounding boards and cheerleaders for the Class of 2023 as the exam approached.

“The students need as much support as we can offer,” Trychta said. “Through this new program, we wanted to show them maybe someone who wasn’t necessarily at the top of the class or someone who was working while studying who had passed to assure them that they too could pass if they put in the work,” Trychta said.

May graduate Trombley said Vanston was particularly valuable in helping him strategize for the multi-day exam, which consists of both multiple-choice and essay questions. “Having someone who could show me there would be a light at the end of the tunnel was huge,” Trombley said.

The night before the exam, Vanston took Trombley to dinner at Pies & Pints in Charleston, calming his nerves over a chicken gouda pizza. The weekend after the exam, they celebrated together at PNC Park in Pittsburgh with a Pirates-Phillies game. A few weeks ago, the pair got the happy news that Trombley had passed, and ironically, with the same exact (very high) score as his mentor.

“I would one hundred percent do it again,” Vanston said. “It was a great opportunity to meet new lawyers coming into the bar and be a positive influence for them. And I made a friend.”

If you’re a College of Law alum who has graduated in the last ten years and is interested in mentoring a law student through our Peer Bar Exam Consultant, please contact Professor Kirsha Trychta at  

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