Monthly Archives: May 2012

9 Weeks Until the Texas Bar Exam

Many times this week I had thoughts that I immediately wanted to stop and blog about, but I had to resist the urge.  Instead, I worked really hard at remaining diligent and focused on the task at hand which is to study like crazy for the upcoming July bar exam.  Looking back over the last week, I’m pretty happy with where I am.  I have in total, 9 weeks until the exam…well, actually today begins week 8 so this entry is obviously retrospective.  Here’s what I’ve learned to this point:

I am pleased with the amount of direction I’ve received from Barbri thus far.  Initially I was worried when I saw the bare bones schedule they posted online.  I fretted for a few days wondering if they were going to give me any more specific directions, but once the Interactive Pace Program went live I got much more information that told me what I was supposed to do before, during and after class.  Whew.

One thing I wish I knew before hand was that we had work to do prior to the first day of registration.  I guess since that was the norm in law school, I should have expected as much, but I didn’t.  Barbri has this really cool online program called Accelerated Memory Performance (AMP) that I have found to be really useful.   I highly recommend it.  Apparently though we were supposed to have done the majority of the AMP modules BEFORE bar prep even started.  Who knew?

We were told back about March that AMP was live and we could use it, which at that time meant nothing to me.  Once I got my detailed Barbri schedule and saw that AMP assignments were on there for the first day (when all we really did that day was register), I realized that according to the schedule I was technically already behind.  Luckily, I’d gotten anxious that week before prep class started and ventured into AMP on my own.  I did several modules, so on day one I had some of it checked off the list, but I’ve spent a good chunk of this last week fitting the rest in as much as I can.

I’ve finished all of the Torts, Evidence and Constitutional Law modules which is nearly 400 multiple choice questions. According to Barbri their studies have shown that folks that do all the AMP questions average 9 points higher on their MBE score, which is HUGE. Needless to say, I’m doing the AMP.

I decided as I did these questions that for each one I got wrong I would write it up on a note card hoping that this would help me retain it better.  Um, yeah… will probably be needing more note cards here soon.  I’ve gone through a stack and am not even done.  Yes, it makes answering the questions go way slower, but I go through all the answers more carefully as well and hopefully this helps it to stick in my head.

We took a simulated half day MBE (Multi-state Bar–the 2nd day of Texas’s bar exam consisting of 200 multiple choice questions over all manner of law not specific to Texas) on Friday and out of the 100 questions I got 57 correct.  I know, that sounds like it sucks, but really, for only having one week of lectures it’s pretty good considering I’ve not touched some of these areas of law in four years.  It gives me a good reference point as to where I started and the AMP questions really did help me recall some of these long-forgotten concepts.   I’ve also been listening to bar review CDs in my car at every opportunity.  I think it’s been working because I’ve been dreaming of law all this week.  It’s so weird.  I wake up in the night and the first thought in my mind is some random rule of law.

I need to buy this shirt…in several colors.

It’s like my mind was processing all the day’s information and filing it away in my mental file cabinet and when I wake, the last document that was getting filed is what is in my mind.  If this is going on after only one week of Barbri, I can only imagine how strange it’s going to be as more and more law gets shoved into my brain. God help me.

Also, I can’t help but “see” issues of law everywhere.  Over dinner the family and I watched a show on TV where these guys were trying to capture someone’s pet anaconda snake that had gotten loose.  One of the guys got bit by the snake and several others tried to pry its mouth off the man’s arm.  My family was “oohing” and “ahhing” about the incident, and I volunteered my unsolicited legal opinion that the snake’s owner was liable in strict liability because the snake was a wild animal and any injury caused to  a third party from either getting scratched or bitten was attributable to him.  (Also, if a person is running from a wild animal and gets hurt, that also is strict liability.)  My family was not impressed, they were just watching the show and I was sucking the fun out of it.  Oh well!

I guess that’s all I can fit in for the 30 minutes I gave myself to blog.  This last week I logged in 44.75 hours of studying and it promises to get more intense before it gets better.  Wish me luck!

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The End of Law School Blur

Obviously, things have been pretty hectic since my last entry.  I had to get through my last law school finals, graduation and all the while navigate the undercurrent of the impending bar prep class that looms in my not so distant future.  So, there’s  lots to blog about and not enough time.

Highlights: 

I’m spending this week planning, planning and planning as bar prep starts next week.  I’ve told the family repeatedly that there is no drama allowed this summer.  For once, ONCE, I am going to be selfish and I’m going to study for this bar exam like my life depends on it, because maybe it does.  I absolutely cannot afford to be unemployed one day more than I have to.  It is a constant worry in the back of my mind that failing this bar exam would decimate my finances.  Therefore, it is not an option.

I’ve got my mantra down:

I thought this was an appropriate mantra for me because if I even think of the 37 lbs of books staring at me from the corner of my room, I start to feel panic rising in my throat.  One of my professors drilled it into our heads that one key thing to passing the bar is not to panic.  I am nearly in a panic just thinking of prepping for the bar; I can’t even imagine the cold fear that will be present when I actually sit for the exam.  So, I have to NOT think of the exam or all the hours and hours of studying before I get there.  Instead, to keep the panic at bay, I am going to focus on the Elephant and the fact that nobody can eat an elephant whole.  It can, however, be done one small bite at a time.  Every day, I’m going to take a piece of it away and not worry about how much is left.  Every day my goal is “one bite at a time.”

Since this is my “dead week” I’m doing a lot of preparing.  I’ve done the monthly bills, organized my calendar, and am making lists of all the  last threads that are out there so I can get it all done before I leave next week.  Where am I going?  To bar prep hell, that’s where.   Once next week starts it will be all I can do to stay afloat and get to the other side.  But THIS TOO SHALL PASS; AND SO SHALL I!!

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In a word, graduation was “AWESOME.”  The day went by way too fast and I’m already wondering when the next appropriate occasion would be to wear my gown and hood. Maybe I’ll start a new fashion trend.

I ran for graduation speaker along with maybe 20 others in a class of just under 200 people.  I had no idea that there would be so much competition.  I ran a pretty cheap campaign through social media and did a flier for the school to send out via email.  Unlike many politicians of today I did not end up in debt in the end, but I didn’t win either.

It would have been fun and I’d been thinking about doing it for a while.  I even made my flier, set up my “campaign headquarters” and wrote my speech way back during Spring Break.  Unfortunately, I never got to give that speech.

I likely will get to blog infrequently from now until August simply because free time will be scarce.  I’m planning a schedule that gives me a little breather on Sundays, so if it all works, that’s when I might have time to post.  Even then, I will limit my blog time so likely the posts will be much shorter.  I do want to give a report from the trenches as I study though, so we’ll see how it goes.

I thought it would be a fitting way to end this chapter of my life by publishing what I would have said as graduation speaker for my law school class:

Good morning:  Friends, family, faculty, staff, and administration of Texas Wesleyan School of Law.  To my fellow graduates of the Class of 2012:  Welcome to our GRADUATION DAY!!!

Several of my friends here know that I’ve been thinking about this speech, this day, for a while now.  I’d say I first thought about running for graduation speaker in December of 2010.  In fact, I’ve been writing this speech, at least in my head, for a very long time. It was harder than I anticipated, but thank you to my classmates for giving me this honor.

How do you capture the essence of this law school experience that we are completing today in the words of a 5 minute speech?  How do you leave each classmate, each attendee, with a word of inspiration that resonates past this day?

Well, if Texas Wesleyan Law has taught us anything, it’s that we are wordsmiths.  The English language and how we use it within the context of our legal profession has power, meaning and far-reaching effects.  It was a major focus of our time here that we learn to harness that power and use it for the betterment of our future clients and the profession.

Like many of you, attending law school was a life-changing shift for me and my family.  It’s true what they say: We learn to think like lawyers and nothing is ever the same.  No longer can I answer a simple question directly because, in truth, the answer always, “depends.”  As family and friends, if you don’t believe me, ask one of these new graduates, “How does it depend?”  And they will gladly tell you.  You’ll try this experiment once and then you will see that the answer to ALL of life’s questions is, “It depends.”

But you know what?  “It Depends” is not such a bad answer.  Because it demonstrates a level of understanding that goes beyond surface knowledge.  It means that while the answer appears simple, it is in fact quite convoluted and complex. If your new graduate tells you “it depends,” he or she is offering to give you a new perspective that may change the way you look at your issue.  That’s what we do in this profession.

However, just as important is our ability to listen and empathize with those without a legal background, because their perspective is also relevant and vital to successfully working together.   Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, said it best:  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

As future lawyers, we have to maintain a balance between both states of being; otherwise we’re doing all concerned parties a disservice.

I am certain that our time at Texas Wesleyan School of Law has changed us all.  There is no doubt that each of us found our way here differently and we managed to navigate to this graduation day, differently.  Most of you spent three years here and there are a few of us “old-timers” that are finishing up a 4-year part-time plan. This class is as varied in its background, interests, strengths and weaknesses as any other, but I think in a school as small as ours, we are pleasantly surprised to find just as many opportunities for common ground.

This is what I love about this place.  I love that many of us are Facebook friends with each other and our professors and administrators.  Having people all over the school tell you “Happy Birthday” while in class or walking in the halls probably doesn’t happen in larger schools.  I love that pro-bono work is a graduation requirement, but by the time you endeavor to complete that task, it’s not so much a task, but a lesson in the value of service.  I love the community that continues to be built by each new 1L class because Admissions somehow finds the right people to add to our law school family.

Mostly, I love that the friends and colleagues I’ve met here will remain my friends and colleagues far past this graduation day.  I am proud to be a member of the Class of 2012 and I am proud of all the successes shared by this class in the past and yet to come in the future.

On behalf of myself and my classmates I want to take this opportunity to thank the many people that made up our support networks throughout this journey.  To our families, spouses, significant others, friends and mentors we could not have achieved this victory without your patience, understanding and unwavering support.  For this, you have our unending thanks and gratitude.

Please know that in the months to come we will depend on you to maintain your steadfast dedication to our success.  The toughest stretch of road is yet to come, but together we can reach the goal that is well within our collective grasp.  Together we can finish the task that is before us, and we can finish strong!

Certain of us, myself included, are celebrating this day without the presence of a loved one because he or she didn’t make it to share this day in person.  To you, my friends, I say: Our loved ones are here today in spirit and in our hearts.  In fact, they have the best seats in the house.  To my dad; thank you for being my biggest fan.  I love you.

Finally, to my classmates:  From this day forward, ‘it depends’ will take on a new and important role in completing this journey and taking us to our next destination. How will you or I do on the Texas Bar exam in July?  It depends.  How will this graduating class represent our law school in bar passage rankings?  It depends.  How will we go forth and conduct our lives as licensed members of the State Bar?  It depends.

The good news is that it depends on us.  We all had our share of challenges and pitfalls throughout law school, yet still we are here having achieved today’s milestone.  I dare say that this CLASS has the tools, the intellect, and the heart to achieve personal and institutional success beyond any that Texas Wesleyan School of Law has seen in its history. I wish you God-speed.

Congratulations Class of 2012.  We did it!!!

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