Monthly Archives: November 2011

Blessing Revealed

My closest friends and I have often reflected on my law school journey.  There is no disputing that it  has been a time of stress, anxiety, excitement, adventure and constant change.  But too, we marvel at the fact that my path, for all its twists and turns, has been custom-made for me in a way that would not work for many others.

Looking back over these last 3.5 years I cannot imagine how all the pieces fell into place, but yet I know that they did.  Before I even thought about law school, I met people that I needed to meet, made friendships that I needed to make, and built bridges that I needed to build.  I had no idea that later on all of these connections would tie together and build for me a safety net that has yet to ever fail.  That’s God.

Along with all the legal lessons I’ve learned as a law student I have more than anything learned a lot about me and about faith.  I’ve learned that when I think I can’t do any more, there is still more I can do.  I’ve learned that patience, although one of my most challenging hurdles, is essential to fully receiving and appreciating God’s blessings. It’s not about me, but about Him.  Whatever plan I can devise to reach my goal, God’s is always infinitely better.  I need to remember that.

Illustration:  As I get closer to graduating my thoughts have shifted to what happens afterward.  I know that I will be busy through the end of July, but once the bar exam is over you’re left in post-graduate limbo.  Yes, you’ve got the J.D., but you’re not licensed to practice–few places will hire you in that interim.  The prospect of getting a job is daunting enough for those not in limbo and for those with only themselves to worry about, but takes on a heightened urgency when, like me, you have a family to help support.  By the time I’m done, the family will have been waiting over 4 years for a return on its investment in me and in law school.  No pressure.

Ashbel Smith Hall, U. T. System complex, Austin, TX

I have been so blessed that I have been gainfully employed every semester break and every summer break during all of law school.  Never once did I have to take an unpaid job and it’s these jobs that have kept my family afloat between financial aid disbursements.  This December is no different.  I am returning once again to work at the University of Texas System.  Moreover, I inquired about working there after the bar exam while waiting for my results.  They have agreed to hire me during that time as well.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness.  I freely admit that a good deal of tears fell as I read the email.

It occurred to me that for as much as I seek to protect my children from stress and worry in their lives, God continues to do the same for me.  Even though He wants me to fully trust His plan for my life every single day, He realizes that I am merely human: I worry, I stress, I waver.  In His infinite wisdom He knows just when to reveal a corner of His plan to me so that I glimpse into my future and am assured that He is in control.  I love that.

I am wonderfully and uniquely blessed.

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Applying to Take the Texas Bar Exam: Not the “Fun-est” Thing Ever

Just over a week since my dad passed away and life goes on.  Strange.  Thanksgiving came and went; it was a subdued event with time for smiles and time for tears.  Mom and I toasted dad over a glass of white wine; then we cried.  He was supposed to be here.  I wanted to show him my graduation pictures and my graduation ring that got delivered this week.

Even the endless list of things to do didn’t seem to be enough this year.  I wanted my mind to be busy so that things would feel normal again.  Even though every year I’ve been in law school I’ve had a final on the Monday after Thanksgiving (and this one is no different) I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that Thanksgiving Day is a bust for getting much studying done.  It only took me 4 years to concede this as fact.  I’d already scheduled something to do for this day (that didn’t involve studying) even before dad passed away, but turns out I really needed the distraction.

So this Thanksgiving I filled out my application to take the Texas Bar exam.  I think I spent a little over two hours on it and it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated.  Actually, the worst part is probably the $300+ it costs to pay for the exam including the cost for “permission” to take it on a laptop–which is an extra $50 on top of the exam fee.  Once you purchase permission to use a laptop then you get to pay for the necessary software and license for your laptop.  I’m told the software is something like another $100 or so, but I’ve not gotten that far yet. One more reason why you only want to have to take this exam once.

In Texas, once in enrolled in law school you get to fill out an Intent to Study Law (which I think is a misnomer because if you’re already IN law school how can you advise that you “intend” to study law when you’re already doing it?!?).  I’d never heard of this before the fall of my 1L year and thought it was a huge pain to have to fill out this seemingly endless paperwork for the State right in the middle of my first year when I was busy trying not to drown.  From this end of the journey though, I’m glad I did.

The Board of Law Examiners (“BLE”) uses the Intent to Study Law packet to conduct a preliminary background check (figurative proctology  exam) on every student who thinks they might some day want to sit for the Texas bar exam.  We had a very “official” meeting at school with a representative from the BLE who tells all the students about how important this paper work is and how it’s in  your best interest to be honest.  The message is clear:  Nearly anything you have to disclose is “fixable,” but what will kill you is any attempt to cover it up.  Tell the truth, tell it all, before the BLE finds out.

Although it was no picnic to fill out all the paperwork:  aliases, civil litigation history, criminal history, job history, schools attended, addresses etc., I was pretty lucky in that I have always been a rule-follower.  Thus, my background was squeaky clean and probably pretty boring for the BLE.

Fast-forward to Thanksgiving Day 2011 and filling out my application to take the Texas Bar exam was a smaller version of the Intent to Study.  In fact, you have to start the bar exam application with any activity since filing your Intent.  If you kept your  nose clean and stayed out of trouble, it’s not so bad.  I did find it interesting that in addition to revisiting the information in the Intent, the bar application wants to know if you’ve had issues with alcohol or drugs, certain mental conditions, allegations of fraud, bankruptcy and yes, even if you’re caught up on your bills.  Geez!

My Texas Bar Exam application and copy of my Intent to Study Law from 2008

It pays to be a little OCD when it comes to filling out this paperwork for the state.  I kept a full copy of my Intent and was able to pull that out and confirm that what I was filling out now matched what I filled out then.  That too is a red flag to the BLE:  Why did  you say A then and now  you’re saying B???  I didn’t want any of that.  I still had my LSAC number (yes, even 4 years after getting that number assigned to me when applying to law school, it is still relevant to getting out!), my old addresses, my old jobs, everything.  So in all,  the time I spent could have been worse.  I was really proud of myself for thinking forward, keeping copies of my documents and filing them in a place where I had no trouble getting to them again.

This week I’ll get the affidavits notarized at school and have this ready to drop in the mail on Nov. 30.  This is the earliest postmark the BLE will accept for the July 2012 exam.  Wow, my stomach just dropped.  That’s kind of scary. Um…on second thought, I may just drive downtown and hand-deliver it myself so I can get my file copy date stamped.  OCD.

Meanwhile, I’ve got three final exams to get through and the first one is tomorrow.  I’ve got to get on the road to Ft. Worth in a bit so I’ll already be there in the morning.  All prayers and positive energy is appreciated.

Things You’re Unlikely to Hear from Your Law School Dean

I came back to school yesterday after being away for almost a week.  It feels odd to have disconnected from law school so suddenly and so completely.  I get this feeling between semesters and over the summer, but in the middle of the semester (or in this case, right before finals) it’s strange.  Funny thing is, I didn’t even think about school for the few days I was down helping my mom with dad’s arrangements. I took my wheelie bag and had all my books, but I just sat there on the couch looking at them from across the room.  Instead, I played solitaire.  I needed that.

I’ve had so many emails,FB messages, text messages, and phone calls from friends wanting to check on me or offer their condolences. I knew I had friends, but I guess I didn’t realize how many.  Thanks to all of you for caring about me and for those that shared with me a cherished memory of my dad.  I have kept these in my heart and they bring me comfort.  He was a good man and lots of people know that.

Of  course, as this is the first day of finals prep week the question of what will I do about my finals has come up.  The first is next Monday.  I got an email from one of our Deans late on Sunday.  He said he was checking on me, wanted me to know that they are there for me and that they care.

In my reply email I told him that I’d all but decided to go ahead with finals as scheduled.  Thinking about pushing the first one back just puts me on top of the following two.  I nearly break out in hives thinking about these looming exams sticking around and looming longer than necessary.  My shoulders will need to be pried out of my ears if they get any more tense!  I thanked the Dean and in closing confessed that I think ending up at Texas Wesleyan Law was definitely a “God thing.”

Initially, I thought I wanted to go to ABC law school (shall remain nameless) and door after door got slammed in my face.  It became clear that ABC was not the place for me.  During my time at Texas Wesleyan it has been made more than clear to me that THIS is the place I was supposed to be.

Today, his reply: “And we definitely love you more than ABC would have.  That’s for sure.  : )  Seriously, I’m thrilled you’re one of ours.”  Brought tears to my eyes.

Daddy’s Girl

One of our summer baseball trips--Dad in his Yankee blue!

Last Tuesday night I went to sleep with a heavy heart. My dad was in the hospital and had just been put on a ventilator. By 4 a.m. while getting ready for my drive to Fort Worth, we got the call. I cried and cried, torn about what to do.

I knew my dad would’ve wanted me to carry on with the day’s plans: go to class and attend an important scheduled meeting at the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office  (DA), but I didn’t know how I’d hold it together. My mom convinced me to go. I don’t remember most of the drive to Fort Worth; my mind was elsewhere.

I remember at fourteen wanting to go to a school dance and asking dad first because I knew he’d convince my mom; he did. I remember that vast parking lot where, at sixteen, he showed me how to drive. I recall how patient he was with me driving that old Chevy truck and how, because of him, I’ve gone my whole life a safe and careful driver with not so much as a parking ticket to my name. I remember him running up and down the street along with the marching band —he was one of the dads that hauled the water jugs to make sure we all had enough to drink during those long, hot parades.

As a grown up, we often laughed about the side jobs he used to take—hauling brush and junk for other people. Even when he was working, he’d always stop in time to pick me up at the high school. That truck would come down the street, overflowing with limbs and trash, and pull up in front; I was mortified. I’d rip open the door, fly into the cab and scoot down on the floor board telling him to hurry up and go. Instead, he’d park and look to see who was chasing me—ready to take on anyone who wanted to hurt me. Me: “Uh, dad…nobody’s chasing me, I just don’t want to be seen in this junk truck!” He’d throw his head back laughing. Those were good times.

In the last several years we started a family tradition of going to see the Yankees play the Rangers every summer; he loved that. I would buy the tickets right around this time every year and tell dad so he’d be looking forward to it for months—we’d go to celebrate his birthday in May. Last summer was to be our last.

Dad was one of the only people that never questioned my decision to come to law school. He always told me how proud he was of me. At the funeral, many people knew about me because of him; he apparently talked about me a lot. I’m heartbroken that when I graduate in May, he will not be there. I picked up my graduation pictures the very day he passed away. I also went to the DA’s Office and nailed that interview. The following day I got an email that I’ve been accepted into the DA’s Criminal Prosecution Clinic next semester. There were only six spots available and on one of the saddest days of my life I still managed to make my dad proud.

This one’s for you, Dad.  I love you.  Jose E. Paez, May 4, 1936 – November 16, 2011.

Bar Myths

I want to talk about a touchy subject: bar results and passing the bar. Results came out November 3rd and I realized that next year I’ll be looking for my name on that pass list. Suddenly, this bar exam urban legend is very real and very scary. Time feels like sand escaping through my fingers and no matter how I try to slow its progress my own bar exam gets closer each day.

There are plenty of things in life that people can’t understand until they’ve been there; law school is one. For we who experience and survive its challenges, the next formidable hurdle is the bar exam. I have many classmates who have passed and a few who haven’t. It’s hard to know what to say in the latter situation—there are no words to make it better. The reality is 88.36% of those that took the exam in Texas last July, passed. But a little over 10% did not—that’s for all law schools; none had a 100% pass rate. No matter what law school you attend, the bar exam is a difficult beast for everyone and no one is immune from its sting.

It is a misconception that if you get through law school passing the bar is easy. Only another lawyer or law student really understands. Those who pass the bar are listed, by name, on the Board of Law Examiners webpage. I hate that it’s done this way mostly because Texas Wesleyan is such a small school and it’s easy to determine who’s missing. Imagine if someone took your salary or your list of debts and put them on the web for all to see; that’s the kind of personal invasion I’m talking about.

The bar exam is not your friend, it’s a beating…as Professor Chambers says, “They want to BAR you from the profession.” All we can do is prepare well, have faith in our abilities, and let the chips fall where they may. If I can walk away from that exam and know that I did my 100% best for 2.5 months of bar prep and those three days of testing, people can think what they want. I’ll have nothing to hang my head about. Congratulations to our recent TWU bar passers and much love and admiration to those still fighting the fight.

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