War Stories from the Frontlines

Just had a nice lunchtime conversation with my co-workers about their varied bar experiences:

1. Director of our office took his bar exam on a typewriter, lost one of his earplugs half way through day 3 and became MacGuyver in his quest not to go crazy from the clickety clack. He took a bathroom break, bummed a cigarette off of someone and used the filter of the cigarette as a makeshift ear plug.

2. Another attorney took the bar while 7 months pregnant and swore she was going to get shot by test takers annoyed by her multiple bathroom breaks in squeaky shoes.

3. The friend of an attorney began hyperventilating during the bar exam due to stress and had to be taken out by ambulance. She later passed on her second try and is now a reputable member of the bar.

4. Another attorney was sitting two seats away from a diabetic man who passed out during Day 3 of the exam. Proctors would not let anyone assist him and would not stop administration of the exam. Attorney attests conversation at the break was not regarding the man's condition or prognosis but rather "Is he going to be able to finish?"

All of these stories were of course concluded by telling me "you'll be fine though." Yeah, thanks.


How to pay off your law school debt

I have a new plan that will pay off my $125K in law school loans. I am going to write my own bar prep book. They all essentially say the same thing anyway. I am currently reading Jeff Adachi's "MBE Survival Kit". I am on page 27 and so far it's just absolutely crap. He has so far said brilliant things such as "Success on the bar examination is a direct result of preparation," and "The key here is to carefully evaluate each selection before making your choice." Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?!

Man, I just don't know what I would do without this enlightening advice. So I figure if this guy is making big bucks with his "SURVIVAL series", then why can't I say equally generic stuff and solve my financial woes?

Book Report and Misc. Notes

I have finished reading John Talamo's "Mastering the MBE". I had heard mixed reviews prior to reading it. I thought it was a great book for a very limited purpose. It gave me a good general overview of the MBE and some strategies for studying for it. It is a good book to read before doing any serious MBE study- which having done a grand total of like 3 MBE questions, is where I currently fall.
The following are what I see were the highlights of the book:

  • There is a very important distinction between PRACTICING and STUDYING. In your few weeks of bar study, you should just be studying- Start of with 10 questions at a time, do one question and then read the complete explanation of correct and incorrect answers- regardless of whether or not you got it right. When you start getting 50% right, then move on to sets of 20 questions. Eventually, you also start to practice for the MBE. This means doing 20 questions timed- 1.8 minutes for each. But even when you are practicing, you should study the answers afterwards, first re-reading the question. I think this is the general approach I will use to MBE prep.

  • If you notice that you're first few questions are always rough, consider doing a warm-up for the MBE- do 10 questions or so in your hotel room before you head down to the testing center. I like this idea, but wonder if it will stress me out more on test day.

  • Don't expect to learn a subject in a day if you've never seen it before- there has to be a memory to refresh. This convinces me that in the two weeks I will have off before PMBR starts, I need to devote some serious time to Community Property and Wills/Trusts (which I never took) and probably to Evidence (which I took, but never paid attention to).

  • The Teaching Method- My good friend, Dargahi, has already agreed to be my student this summer. This really is an effective way of learning- If you don't understand some concept, explain it to another person and then let them ask you questions on stuff they understand. Darg and I used this technique a lot in college, and it definitely works. Lucky for her she gets to study for the bar exam this summer too- vicariously of course, and with no law license at the end of the rainbow.

  • Good reminders for the Performance Exam- don't distance yourself too much from a client you don't like- he's still your client. On the flip side, don't become so zealous that you become unethical for your client.

I didn't find much value in the substantive stuff in Talamo's book, except for a few general hints, like always looking for the required mental state in crim questions. Some of his multiple choice techniques were also a bit remedial for anyone with test-taking experience (I worked as a Kaplan instructor for 4 years on 5 different tests). But all in all, I good buy if you can get it used. Amazon says a new edition is coming out in May- I'm not sure how similar or different that one will be. I do like that he ended the book by saying "Finally, let me wish you the luck that always seems to follow careful planning and hard work." I like that and I think all of my friends and family members should memorize that and use it as a mantra when they talk to me this summer.

In other news, I finished the con law PMBR CDs today on my way to a lunch meeting. It kind of took me by surprise how short the last CD was. I was not prepared for this- my property and torts sets are at home and not yet ripped to my mp3 player. On the way back to work, I was sort of at a loss... I listened to music.. on the radio. It was weird. I'd sort of forgotten how it felt to be in the car and not listening to a law lecture.

Two notes on Con Law itself. Texas and Illinois bar-takers- I hate you. You don't even have an essay component to your bar exam? I guess writing abilities aren't required to be a lawyer in those states. Grr... Also, I thought it was odd that when I saw the news about the recent Supreme Court decision on partial birth abortion, my first thoughts weren't really on the implications of the holding, or my personal beliefs it, but rather outrage that the Supreme Court would throw a wrench in a tested area of constitutional law less than a month before our bar review starts.

That's about all that's new here. I'm starting to draft a handout to give to my family and friends and my graduation that says "Leave me the f*@! alone until July 27th" in a nicer and less combative way. I'm thinking of a fact vs. myth type set up- i.e. MYTH: If you did well on your SATs and LSATs you will do fine on the bar. FACT: The Bar Exam is a different monster entirely and cannot be conquered with Kaplan techniques such as 'backsolving' from the answer choices. Or maybe a list of things not to say to me, i.e. "Well, it's nice you'll have the whole summer off before you start your job." Any other suggestions?


I am certifiable

I think I was overstressing the whole examsoft registration process because I'm OCD when it comes to anything remotely related to the bar exam. I got my new laptop over the weekend but it wasn't really fully functional until today b/c my dear husband/computer tech had to install office, transfer all my files, etc. He didn't finish it last night (i.e. the first chance I could have done the examsoft registration) and he was looking like it wasn't going to happen tonight either until I started yelling/crying about him not being supportive. Oh boy- he's in for a long couple of months. I think if a marriage can survive bar prep, it can probably survive anything.

On a related note, I owe my loyal reader(s) a few book reports. I'll do that tonight or tomorrow.


Is this thing on?

eXTReMe Tracker

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See post below... I'm trying to use extremetracking.com so I can check out how people are finding my site... It always sounded so interesting when A Girl Walks Into a Bar (Exam) did it. Am I doing it right?

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$50 well spent

Apparently Mary Campbell Gallagher's "Under, Here, Therefore" approach from her book about bar exam essays really works. I used the technique in a recent memo to my externship supervisor regarding 4th amendment suppression issues. He just came by my office and told me that he is impressed by my writing style- it is very clear. Let's hope the bar examiners agree.


One month to the start of bar prep...

It's been a busy few days on the bar prep front:

FRIDAY: Drove to Davis. (Yes, that is where I go to school, but I worked the system so that I could do a full time externship this semester in Fresno where I will be doing bar prep and working post-bar.) Professor Fessler (Contracts PMBR Lecturer) and I don't quite see eye to eye on the village full of happy bicyclists he so loves. I tend to think it's a tiny village full of rich people masquerading as liberals but then refusing the development of affordable housing in their village. But I digress. So I had to drive to Davis for an award interview and to tie up some loose ends before graduation. I used the 6 hours in the car to finish the evidence PMBR Cds and begin the Con Law set. Mr. Con Law is so far just as scintillating as Mr. Evidence, which isn't saying much. I also discovered that our library has on reserve the full PMBR CD set including wills, trusts, and criminal procedure- three sets that do not come with the course. Unfortunately, I discovered this late in the afternoon and was only able to rip wills to my computer before I had to leave. Oh well- maybe I'll have another chance- if not, I think I'll survive.

SATURDAY: My long awaited first installment of my bar study loan came from the morons at Sallie Mae. Husband and I headed straight to Costco, where we've been eyeing their laptop selection. You see, my Dell has survived 3 years of law school, but come out quite battered and bruised. The screen no longer stays open without propping it against something and can actually separate from the entire unit altogether if I so desire. None of the arrow keys work and that paralysis is slowly taking over the lower left quadrant of my keyboard. So long story short, the bar exam deserves better. And so do I! My new laptop is a glorious Hewlett Packard model. I don't know all the specs- just that my computer engineer husband approved, so that's good enough for me. Tomorrow I will attempt to register it with Examsoft. The examsoft website now says that Vista is ok... I'm a little skeptical, but I guess we'll see. I'm also a little concerned about battery life. Best guess is that mine has 3 hours in it... but that's sort of risky. So I think we'll splurge and get the $130 12-cell ion-lithium battery that doubles that battery life and quickens the recharge time. What are others doing about this problem? And more importanty, What would the Energizer Bunny do?

SUNDAY: Listening to my con law CDs on the way to church this morning, the lecturer went on a bit of a side note tirade about how to study/practice multiple choice questions. He recommends doing 50 at a time in 90 minute intervals and specifically not reading each answer after doing each question. Now this is quite in conflict to how John Talamo has been telling me to master the MBE. Talamo says you should start off 'studying' the MBE by reading each answer fully after doing the question and then building up to timing yourself. Opinions?

In other important news, I beat the medium level of Guitar Hero 2 and began playing on hard. We have also acquired a second guitar controller so the hubby and I can play face-offs. If this whole lawyer/bar exam thing doesn't work out, the Mr. and I will just become rock stars.

Off to work out and listen to more about the dormant commerce clause...


PMBR Rocks!

Ha- I spoiled the ending of the PMBR Crim Law CD series. Yes, my friends, he actually says "PMBR Rocks." I finished the crim CDs at the end of last week and eagerly started the evidence series. Now, I should note that I learned absolutely nothing from my evidence class in law school except that my professor was very angry that they were making her teach it. So this is all new to me.

It's going well so far. Mr. Evidence is no where near as funny as Mr. Contracts (Fessler) and no where near as enthusiastic about PMBR as Mr. Crim Law (Feinberg), but he'll do. I wanted to spend my two hour trek down to Bakersfield for Easter and two hour trek back listening to them, but alas my dear passengers (husband and sister) were not having it. Oh well, hopefully I can finish evidence this week when I trek up to Davis on Friday. I'm nominated for a graduation award and am going up for an interview- cool to know that at least somebody recognized I did something other than complain in my three years of law school.

Other news on the bar front... I'm seriously considering photocopying the previously mentioned "how to be supportive to your friend, the bartaker" flier after talking to family yesterday. My aunt's exact quote (bless her heart) was "I bet you could not study at all and still pass- you're so smart and good at tests." I wanted to laugh- my husband did. Clearly, he's been listening to me. I also realized yesterday that four of my close family members (1 aunt, 2 grandmas, and possibly my mom) will be having major surgeries this summer (1 stomach and 4 knees amongst them). Did they not get my memo about putting their lives on hold until July 27th?


Summer Vacation Itinerary

Barbri sent out the class schedule. This was very exciting for me since I am an obsessive planner by nature, and it was driving me crazy that I just had these two and a half blank months in my palm pilot. My class is all by video so it starts May 23rd. It doesn't look as bad as I expected. We get Sunday off every week, we get Saturday and Sunday off several weeks; and we even get 4th of July off! Unfortunately for my dear husband, his birthday falls squarely during a 6 day bender which includes the simulated mbe and two day review. Sorry sweetie- don't expect a big fiesta this year. Regardless, I am glad I was finally able to fill in the blanks in my palm pilot.

I'm also a little more than half way through the PMBR criminal law CDs. Definitely less entertaining than contracts, but I surprisingly feel like I'm learning more. Feinberg repeats all the big points at least seventy seven times each. His teaching style is also reminiscent of my crim law professor from 1L year who was 80 years old and so cute I wanted to put him in my pocket (Jim Hogan- he was actually referenced in one of Fessler's contracts hypos). Also, I just love to hear Feinberg say "intentionally, wantonly, recklessly" as if he's reading some scathing piece of feminist poetry. These little bits of joy are the things that will get me through July.


We are in BREACH.

Finished the Contracts PMBR CD set today. I still have 5 other sets to go, but this was the longest set- 7 CDs. The lecturer was good- apparently used to teach at Davis and likes that "village" a lot more than I do. It at least made the material interesting though. I love how he says "we are in BREACH" as if breach is like a code word for "nuclear holocaust" or something. I think my biggest concern about contracts (one of my stronger 1L subjects) will be the UCC/Common Law distinctions. Next up is criminal law...

Also, I've been reading a few of the random books that I impulse bought from amazon. Don't buy "Pass the Bar"- It's basically like a lame text book they'd make you buy if your law school offered some sort of pre-bar-prep class. Lots of useless advice like "don't stress out too much". I do, however, like the handout they have included- ready to photocopy- that you can give to friends and family so you can say "leave me fuck alone- I'm studying for the bar exam" in a nicer way that won't damage relationships in the long term.

In other news, I have four weeks left in my externship. I'm still fairly certain that half the office doesn't know my name... I'm not exaggerating- my client called the other day and once he was put through to me he told me that the secretary said "We don't have an Amanda in this office." He had to say "the law student" so she would remember who I am. Oh well, I didn't want to work there anyways. The firm I'll be working at after the bar only has two other attorneys and a handful of office staff... hopefully they'll all know my name.

Finally, my husband bought Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360 today. That game may be the death of me during bar prep.