Monthly Archives: June 2012

5 Weeks Until the Texas Bar Exam

I am beginning to wonder if I am doing this whole bar studying thing, the right way.  I asked my study buddy if halfway through the bar exam cram I should be feeling alright with where I am, because truth be told, I am feeling pretty good. My percentage scores on the MBE (Barbri tracks these for you online and compares your scores with other Barbri takers so you can see where you fall in the rank) are, on the whole, good.

According to Barbri’s statistics, I’m in the “pass zone” on Evidence and Criminal Law/Procedure.  Torts and Property are on the cusp of the zone and Contracts (Ks) is my weakest area.  I have gained a new respect for my K professor, because those questions trip me up EVERY TIME!!!  He must be some kind of genius.  *Sigh*  I decided I’m going to take one of those subjects every day and do extra practice questions until I get those scores up.  I will not be denied.  It’s just not going to happen.

I have heard the horror stories of people that were so freaked out about how much there was to learn and how there was so little time that they were in a constant state of panic.  I personally know someone who claims to have studied from 8 am – midnight the whole time, never taking a day off, even Sundays AND the 4th of July. Hmmmm….

Before I got to this point I was kind of in awe of that kind of commitment, but now that I’m in the midst of this myself, I am beginning to think it was all a load of hogwash.  (Sort of like the stories that mothers with kids tell expecting mothers:  “Oh I was in labor 72 hours before the doctor got there and then it was too late for an epidural, so I just had to bite on a stick while giving birth.  It was excruciating!!!”–as she walks away with her 5 kids.)  I don’t want to say there’s “no way” someone could maintain that kind of  schedule, I’m sure it’s humanly possible, but whether it’s smart and whether it yields positive results in the end…well, that’s a totally different question.

Part of me thinks that these scare-tactics are urban legends passed down to give bar-preppers a healthy fear of the TBE–I mean, you shouldn’t take it lightly…you CANNOT pass this exam without a diligent amount of study, I haven’t even taken it, and I know that.  But as one of my law professors is fond of saying:  This is a minimum competency exam; it IS passable.  You have to score a 675/1000 points to pass; that’s a D-minus.  That’s lower than the lowest grade I got in ALL of law school!!  I guess my take on this experience is that there has to be a balance between study and everything else, otherwise 9-weeks of bar prep is nothing short of horrible.

Ironically, one of this last week’s lecturers confirmed something that I already suspected.  He said that the bar exam has nothing to do with being a lawyer or the practice of law. It’s more like a rite of passage .  He compared it to cavemen sending their young warriors out and telling them to go kill a bear.  They’d kill the bear, bring it back and they were welcomed back into the tribe having completed the task.  The bar exam is the bear.  (I knew it!!!)

Well, whatever you want to call it, the BEAR is now 5 weeks away (as in, that 5th week I will be killing the bear).  I got my admission ticket on Saturday and when I opened it, I actually got lightheaded and had to sit down.  It’s official:  I got my invitation to the party.  The Board of Law Examiners has affirmed I am fit, morally, ethically, legally and educationally to sit for the Texas Bar Exam. Wow.  It’s really gonna happen. AND, I got my first choice testing location so I’ll be taking the exam on my home turf.  Sweet!

I, of course, read EVERYTHING they sent in the packet…do this, don’t do that, don’t do that, don’t do that, don’t do that, and be on time. Really, there were WAY more “don’t do this” instructions than anything else.  I get the sense they are a little militant about how they run this rodeo.  Alrighty!  Good to know.

That’s fine, because I’m getting used to “militant” in the sense that I’ve been militant about my studying.  I’ve knocked out another three sets of P&E and now I’m up to the 2008 bar exam.  I’m self-grading and am doing better as the answers are starting to repeat and I’m finding that I’m remembering them the more sets I do.  Three more are on the schedule this week.

I also did my Sunday MPT and will forward that to my professor for review.  I’ve now done 6 and plan to keep to my Sunday schedule the next 4 weeks. Practice makes perfect!  This week I’ve logged in 51.75 hours.

I will say one last thing about studying for the bar that IS true and that’s the fact that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.  So, I’ve kept that in mind when planning my daily schedule.  I have treated it like my full-time job these last five weeks and I think that’s why I’m feeling good about where I am and what I’ve done thus far.  In the end, I can only do my best and hope that it’s good enough…for a D minus.  🙂

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6 Weeks Until the Texas Bar Exam

Finishing up this last week puts me nearly halfway done with my prep-time and although I did not put in as many hours as I have the last few weeks, I think that the hours I did do were very productive.  For starters, I should admit that I took a half-day off on Tuesday.  I studied almost 10 hours on Monday and went to bed with a headache that stayed all night and until about noon the next day.  (I think that’s due to the fact that my contact lens prescription is over 4 years old and with as much reading as I’ve been doing lately, it’s putting lots of strain on my eyes.  Mostly, I’m staying with my glasses and that’s really helped.)

The fact that it was tax day coupled with the headache didn’t inspire me to get out of bed, so I slept in an extra hour and then got up and watched the tax lecture online.  Then I got a snarky email from the Board of Law Examiners that “according to their records” I had not yet downloaded the software necessary for taking the exam on my laptop.

Well, according to my records they said we had until June 19th to do that and I hadn’t gotten around to it.  Something about sinking another $107 into taking this exam was just not motivating me to hurry up.  I had it on my To Do list and was going to get to it before the 19th, but they informed me that my bar exam admission ticket would not be issued until I downloaded (and tested) the software.  So, even though I had a whole week before their self-imposed deadline, I went ahead and did the stupid download.  And I did the three required practice tests (type one paragraph of whatever you want on three different screens) then uploaded said practice tests.    Consequently, it was way harder to study at home with all the constant interruptions and things demanding my immediate attention.

Friday, I decided that I needed to find somewhere else to study because the library closes at 6 p.m. and I need a place until at least 7 p.m.  So I decided to try an outside venue as I am really tired of being inside from sun up to sun down breathing re-circulated air. I found a nice place that was off the beaten path and except for the fact that there was no plug for my laptop, I could’ve stayed there all day.  I hauled myself and books there and although it was a bit of a walk, it was so nice when I got settled.  Here was my view:

I sat there in the cool shade and took a practice test and then graded my test.  It was so quiet with few people coming by that I could feel the stress just seeping away.  I was so relaxed I thought about stretching out on the table and taking a nap, but fought the urge.  Then, I had to go to the bathroom and it occurred to me that there was not one anywhere close by, so  after only about two hours I had to pack up and make my way back up to the surface.  And wow…the walk up was way harder than the walk down especially with my load of books and laptop.  I thought about the time I was “wasting” walking around trying to find a place to work, but you know what, that was the only significant amount of exercise I’ve had in weeks (I know this because it’s Sunday and I’m STILL sore!).  Suffice it to say, the afternoon was a change of pace and I still got plenty of work done. Sometimes you just need a change of scene to wake up the mind.

I’ve gotten several of my sample essay’s back from Barbri and I think it’s going well.  My lowest has been 16/25 points with my highest 20/25 points.  The key to these is learning the law, so as long as I keep doing that, I think I have a good shot at the Texas Essays.  I am still doing an MPT every Sunday and the last one I did I sent to my professor for review.  Afterward, I looked at the sample answer and I was right on point with my analysis, so that felt pretty good.  Lastly, I will finish ALL the AMP modules (finally) today.  I have one last module in Contracts and I will have done over 500 multiple choice questions in addition to those we’re doing as part of the Barbri paced program.

Wednesday of this week some of my Barbri friends and I are going to attend a free CLE class at a downtown law firm followed by a happy hour there.  We’ve been planning this for weeks, but we’re not going to neglect our studies.  We’re going to commandeer a conference room at the firm where one of the girls worked last summer so we can study for the afternoon before going to the CLE.  Bar prep never stops—even for happy hour!

This week I’ve logged a mere 49.25 hours, but I kept to my schedule with the P&Es and did three sets as I planned.  This week we start out with a two-day Torts lecture.   As this is one of my favorite subjects, it shouldn’t be bad.  Then we move into Evidence and Federal Income Tax.  More TAX!!!  I feel another headache coming on!  🙂

7 Weeks Until the Texas Bar Exam

Sleep, Eat, Study…this is my life for now.

Well, I’m just finishing up week three of Barbri which puts me about 1/3 of the way along in my bar prep experience (BPE).  I am getting tired of eating Elephant everyday.  It’s starting to take a toll in that I no longer even know what day it is; they are all the same.  Wake up at the same time, get dressed, get coffee, pack lunch, off to Barbri, have exactly 2 ten-minute breaks between 9am and noon, drive to the library, eat lunch there, study until 6 or 7 pm, go home, eat, study for at least another hour–maybe two, bed by 11.  Repeat x6 days a week.

Sunday is the only day that’s different because we go to church, have lunch THEN I study. All I think about is law, I read law, I see law, I dream about law.  Even though I studied hard in law school, this is a different level of studying.  If I’d studied this way all through law school I would have OWNED law review…all by myself!

Note that none of this is probably any different from the time, toil and effort that most other bar preppers are spending (and that I’d heard stories about from past bar-takers), but it really can’t be said enough:  Bar Prep is one huge beat down–maybe a right of passage.  Or sanctioned hazing.

Anyway, I start every day with a positive attitude determined to do my best work and give my best effort, but this week was rough, especially Tuesday.  It started out alright; we had an Essay Workshop with the head Barbri guy who is quite entertaining, so the material was fine. I got to the library and was ready to study by 1 pm and then saw that I’d gotten my graded MPT back from Barbri. You will recall that last week I felt pretty good about it (even though I haven’t even looked at the sample answer), but then when I saw I got a “3” I guess I just freaked out.   (MPT is graded on a rubric of 1-6, so a 3 is not so good.)  I tried to recover by doing another MPT that I’d already reviewed and annotated so I was ready to just do the writing part, but I got stuck.  Like I froze.

There I was in the library having a complete meltdown.  I have also been struggling with these stupid multiple choice (MC) questions and I guess I thought that since writing has always been my “thing” I’d at least do well on the MPT.  Not so much.

So, I did what any person in my position would have done:  I sat and felt sorry for myself for a bit.  (As a result, I had to subtract 30 minutes from my study time that day which only ended up being 8.5 hours after it was all said and done; that added insult to injury.) Then I emailed my Passing the Bar professor and he wrote back an encouraging email that it’s better to have the meltdown earlier than later.  He sent me a handout he’d given us in class for just these situations when we’d (inevitably) feel overwhelmed and doubtful of our skills.  When I read it the first time during the semester it made me cry back then!  But he meant well and it got me through. I took a deep breath and took out another MPT, did that one and sent it to my professor for him to review.    Melt down #1—CHECK!

I decided to get back to work.  I slowed down on the MC questions trying to really focus on getting the concepts and I started getting way more of them right.  Finally!  It sure made me feel better to see some stuff I knew (or could at least reason my way through) and by the time I left I was feeling a bit better about myself.

My hand, well mostly my thumb and the joint between my index finger and all the way down the underside of my forearm to my elbow have been bothering me lately.  I think the thumb thing is due to holding a darn pen for so many hours.  I’ve already run through an entire blue ink pen that died earlier this week.  It gave its life for the Texas Bar exam.  Let’s all give the blue pen a moment of silence.

And while we’re at it, let’s give its sibling a moment as well as it is also on life support and may not make it through Monday.  That’s two pens in 3 weeks of bar prep. Insane!

The best pen EVER!

Not to worry!  I have just gotten offline from ordering more pens (2 dozen) of my new favorite:  Bic Cristal BOLD in blue which, for some reason, I could not find at either of TWO office supply stores I visited this evening.  A friend of mine gave me a set of these pens in multiple colors and I absolutely LOVE them.  I have written and written and written these last 3 weeks and this pen has been all that’s stood between me and carpal tunnel.  The ink is super smooth which really makes a huge difference when you’re doing so much writing.  Two thumbs up on these pens because they are awesome and super cheap too.

At least my trip to the store wasn’t for ‘nuthin….  I took my flash drive there and had them print up copies of the Procedure & Evidence (P&E) portion of the bar exam all the way back to 2005.   They are all online on the Texas Bar Examiner website and I’m going to do them.  ALL of them–before the bar exam.  The P&E is the only portion of the exam that I haven’t started studying to this point.  I’m doing the MC questions, I submitted 4 essays last week and I’m doing MPT’s (at least) once on Sundays.  Now, I gotta squeeze in some time for the P&E.  If I do three a week I will have them all done by the time it’s two weeks out from the bar exam.  So, that’s the plan.

Update on the study music:  I have been using it daily and really liking it.  A lot.  Turns out that it does help me concentrate and stay focused.  But even if it didn’t, at least it keeps out the noise from all the people that never learned that the library is a quiet zone.  B-12…not so sure what that’s doing one way or the other, but there are several of us taking it, so no harm, no foul. Maybe I’m not taking enough. Hmmm…

I’ve logged in 57.25 hours studying this week.  Tomorrow we hit Family Law, the subject I avoided like the plague in law school just because it’s not my thing.  I worked in child support for about 7 years right after undergrad and it’s way too much drama for me.  But, alas we meet again…  Time to face my nemesis.  Until next week!

8 Weeks Until the Texas Bar Exam

Just when I thought that the Barbri schedule was busy, but do-able; we got into week two.  I was kind of surprised last Sunday when I looked at the plan for the week and realized that even though the lectures dropped from full day to half-day; the work multiplied. I sort of got flash backs to my 1L and 2L years when I was so overbooked that some Sundays I’d wonder if I would make it to Friday.  I reminded myself that I was eating the Elephant one bite at a time and decided that I could handle one day at a time and nothing more.

Me in Barbri Week 2!

So this last week we covered two days of Contracts lectures (approx. 6 hours total) and two days of Property lectures (approx. 9 hours).  Can I just say that it borders on cruel and unusual punishment to have students sit through a 6 hour (Satur)day of Property.  If someone had come in and offered to take me out of there if I agreed to a root canal, I would have given their offer some serious consideration.  The lecturer was alright (although my Prop professor at Texas Wesleyan was WAY more entertaining ) it’s just the subject turns my brain to mush.

We also had one day of a video lecture on the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) which is basically the “lawyering skills” portion of the Texas Bar Exam (TBE) where we’re given a case file and the applicable law and told to do any number of writing exercises from drafting a memo, to a client letter, brief in support of a motion or even open or closing statements in a trial. The MPT is given on the first day of the TBE and accounts for 10% of your total bar exam grade.

What makes the MPT a challenge is that you never know exactly what assignment you’re gonna get (like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates but less fun) and you don’t know the law that will be involved.  Instead, it’s all self-contained in the test booklet for you to read, understand, analyze, apply and draft…in 90 minutes…GO! Yep, it’s the time constraint on this one that is the most problematic.

So I watched the MPT lecture on Thursday, and again on Friday because I didn’t realize the handouts were online.  I decided that I would go back and re-watch the video WITH the handouts and do the work that I couldn’t do on Thursday.  It kind of de-railed my time this week to have to do that twice, but since writing is one of my strengths, the plan I’m working on is hitting the MPT and TBE essays really hard so that I can hopefully clean up on the points.  If I can do that, any extras will help me out on day two of the TBE when I tackle the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).  (You gotta keep all these acronyms straight if you’re gonna follow me; the TBE has tons of acronyms!!)  If all goes as planned, I’ll be doing lots of practice essays and MPTs over the next 7 weeks and getting my strategy perfected.

That being said, one of our Barbri assignments this week was to complete an MPT from our workbook and turn it in for grading.  Since I was fresh from the MPT video (twice) I went ahead and did the MPT.  I think I did a pretty good job, but we’ll see what the graders have to say.  More on that next time….

I’m still tweaking my whole bar prep experience  (BPE) but this week I added two things that I’m going to be monitoring to see if they help.  First, vitamin B12 which is supposed to help with stress and help keep you from being overly tired.  We’ll see how that works.

Harnessing my Brain Power!

Also, I started listening to some study music with binaural beats which is supposed to be helpful in calming anxiety, clearing your mind to focus and help with deep meditation and study; all things that would be really helpful to me in the next couple of months.  One of the mp3s I have also has subliminal messages (or so they claim):  “I am brilliant; I enjoy learning,” “I am relaxed, alert and aware;” “I absorb information effortlessly,”—well, you get the idea.  I’m not normally one for hokey new-age stuff, but hey, I’ll take whatever help I can get to conquer this beast. I listened to one of the mp3s while writing my MPT and I was so in the zone I didn’t even know the library was closing on Friday!

Mostly though, I just pray.  Today, I got up and went to church and thanked God for the opportunity to have a legal education, and for the gift of being in the position to study and sit for the TBE.  I asked that he just grant me the physical and mental ability to do all I need to do, one day at a time.  That’s all I can really ask for.

This week I logged 50.75 hours.  And tomorrow’s the beginning of another week in paradise!  Oil and Gas is on the schedule first thing in the morning.   Whooohoooo!!!!

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