My Crazy Life Post Bar

In the approximately six weeks since I started working things have moved at hyper-speed because…

I literally have not had any downtime where I wasn’t just too exhausted to think anymore.  I’ve fallen right back into the groove of handling all the crazy legal issues that stem from open record requests.  Generally, people are surprised about just how many different areas of the law are captured by requests for information submitted to governmental bodies.

For example, since coming back to the UT family I’ve already written a slew (Legal term meaning: a truck-load) of legal briefs on all kinds of issues to include privacy, attorney/client communications, compliance investigations, donor information, intellectual property etc.  As many of these provisions are already familiar to me, I’ve already got a comfort level assessing these issues.  It is such a great feeling to know that you KNOW something, for a change!

What I love and hate about open records is that people can submit open record requests about anything under the sun.  In fact, this is what makes this area of the law both interesting and extremely challenging.  So, if I’m writing a legal brief asserting that requested information should not be released, I better understand the nature of the information and how the law acts to protect it from disclosure.  I have to quickly (there are pretty short time frames under the law) respond to the request and if I plan to brief it, I have to simultaneously get some basis of knowledge so that I can make a cogent argument. The idea is always to write that brief as if I am an expert on the subject at issue, and for the span of the 5-7 pages it takes for me to make my case, I am.   Or, at least, I try to be.

I’ve discovered that working on the front lines of the open record requests that come into the campus, the flagship campus I might add, is quite different from quietly doing the legal briefing at UT System in the office of General Counsel.  When I worked at System, we’d get maybe 5 requests a month whereas the campus gets 20+ per month.  People are constantly asking for information and just keeping all the deadlines straight is insane!

Presently, while the two System attorneys that typically do open records are out on maternity leave, I am also coordinating the System Open Record docket with three other attorneys.  So, I have MORE than enough work on my plate from both the campus and the System offices.

Even with the crush of work (BTW, I never retired my law school rolling bag…I got so comfortable dragging it behind me for four years that I continue to do so every day!) lots of fun stuff has gone on as well.

Football season started and so I’m all about Vista Ridge High School Ranger Band in Cedar Park, TX.  (Shameless commercial here:  Our band is in the running for a grant from Chase Bank and TODAY at 10:59 pm CST is the last day to vote.  So, if I have not already hit you up for a vote, please see the link HERE.   We plan to use the money to paint and update the inside of the band trailer so it’s not so hard for the kids to load their instruments.  Please vote and share the link.  Thanks!)

Every Friday night I am with my band kiddos.  I’ve been chaperoning on the busses, loading and unloading percussion equipment and helping move the same equipment onto the field for the halftime shows. I’m also the Executive Board Secretary and on the Marching Festival committee.  It is Vista Ridge Band all the time, every day. And it’s only September.  Wait until we add marching competitions EVERY Saturday beginning Sept. 29!!  It’s so life consuming, but so very much fun as well. When football/marching season is over it’s like someone took the air out of the balloon.  B-O-R-I-N-G

Since coming to work for the University of Texas, I also got the opportunity to attend a UT football game, which I haven’t done in years.  That was so great!  My boys loved it!  I also took them to the Alumni Center so they could see and feel what it was like to “belong.”  I don’t know, that’s really important to me:  that they never feel like higher education and the people that move in those circles are untouchable or unreachable.  Because clearly, that’s not true; I’m one of those people.

I hope that by my example they will grow up knowing that college (and any additional education they want) is accessible to them.  I always felt that way, but in retrospect, I don’t know from where that came.  Nobody in my family before me ever went to college or to professional school; nobody ever told me about the educational opportunities that were out there.  Still, I don’t recall a time when the idea of going to college, in particular, The University of Texas at Austin, was NOT the plan. I want that same thing for my boys; whether it’s innately something inside of them, like it was for me, or whether they will credit me with their aspirations.  I don’t care; I just want it all for them. So each and every time I can bring them to this University or take them to TexWes events, you can bet your last dollar I will.

Needless to say, we had a great time at the UT game and it was also my first payday as a J.D. so we went all out with food and new t-shirts and UT baseball hats.  I also bought myself the coolest gift ever:  Cowboy boots!!

What?!  I do live in Texas and work at the University of Texas, what else would I wear on casual Fridays during football season??

Also, for the record, I haven’t been totally slacking on my blogging.  Two new entries are posted on my TexWes Alumni Blog and can be found HERE.

Until next time!  Hook ‘em Horns!!!



And Just Like That: It Was Over

Once “Time” was called at the end of the afternoon session on day three of the bar exam, there was a restlessness in the room that was palpable.  We were all so ready to leave, but of course, several sections in the room took unusually long to account for all the paperwork and the state-bar-issued USB thumb drives. It took FOREVER….

Finally, the head bar examiner said the words that all of us had been waiting to hear:  “You are released.”  And what a release it was.  I wanted to jump up and cheer, but wasn’t sure if that would be too weird.  Apparently others felt the same way and gave in to the urge.  I just picked up my stuff and couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.  I looked over at my friend E.J. who, gratefully had been assigned to sit in my same section, one row back and two tables over, and we both just grinned.  We were done and it was such a great feeling.

Walking out of that convention center was so surreal.  I knew that I’d get asked, a million times between now and when bar results come in, how I thought I did, so I conducted an internal check right there in the moment.  My gut tells me I did my best and that’s exactly the feeling I wanted.  Whatever happens when results come in, I gave it my all.  Let the chips fall where they may.

I am grateful that I remembered some of the crucial advice given by my professor which was to remain calm and not panic.  He wasn’t kidding.  Panic is the enemy and luckily there was only one moment where it tried to derail my plan.

About mid-way during the MPT on day one I looked at my written outline and then glanced at the time.  Something in my head quickly determined that I didn’t have enough time to finish it all and at that moment I felt the panic rising up from my chest, up into my throat.  For a second I thought I was going to cry and just completely lose it, but then a voice from somewhere deeper within said, “NO!”  I pushed the panic down and, when I thought about it later, it was like I could physically feel it getting shoved down like the plunger on a hypodermic needle.

For those few seconds I felt completely out of control and at the mercy of panic, but then it was gone and never surfaced again for the rest of the exam.  It’s not that I wasn’t in a time crunch the whole rest of the week, but there was no other point during the exam that I let my focus shift from the task, to the time.  It was like I was working outside of myself—completely insulated from panic and fear and negativity. I am convinced this was the answer to a prayer, probably lots of prayers.  I know that I had many people praying earnestly for me and I specifically prayed for peace, wisdom and discernment.  I got the peace that I wanted; that I needed.  I guess we’ll need to wait and see about the wisdom and discernment when results come in!

After 15 hours of testing over 2.5 days I then had a three hour drive home.  I was running on adrenaline and just sheer happiness at being done.  I had a brand new Maroon 5 cd waiting for me in the car and was anxious to get it into the stereo so Adam Levine could keep me company on the long drive.  That was the best drive ever.  I had to take a picture of my first, After Bar Exam sunset.

I could’ve used a several weeks to recover from the whole “bar exam experience,” but instead I had a job interview the very next day and…got the job.  Last Wednesday I started working at the University of Texas at Austin, so I was unemployed for less than 24 hours after the bar exam.  Thank you, God.

It’s been so busy getting situated and re-discovering the ability to have a life outside of school.  I’ve had time to get my hair cut, volunteer at the high school for the band, attend Jazzercise, RSVP for a wedding, stay up late to play cards with my family and watch movies without the burden of having to study hanging over my head.  It’s been awesome!  I missed this stuff!

Things promise to get busier before they slow down…but I’m already planning a vacation.  I deserve it.

A special thank you to the faculty, staff and Alumni Association of Texas Wesleyan Law who showed up on Day 2 and provided a great lunch for all of us bar takers.  Yes, the food was good, but more than anything it was nice to see friendly supportive faces wishing us well at the mid-point of the exam.  As always, you guys never stop taking care of us.  Thanks a million.


It begins now….

As I am preparing to walk into Day 1 of the July 2012 Texas Bar Exam, I am reminded of quote I saw recently.  It is from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in his 1910 speech, “Citizenship in a Republic.”  While reading the excerpt it struck me as appropriate for this personal battle I have before me this week, and so, I decided to post it here as a reminder to myself that:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Deep breath.  Then…let’s do this.

Send prayers.  See you on the other side.

1 Week Until the Texas Bar Exam

Well, this is my last (hopefully) bar prep countdown blog.  I kinda missed my usual Sunday update, but figured that getting to sleep early was more important.  This last week was my final push to the Texas Bar Exam and I doubled my study time.  From last Sunday to yesterday I logged in 81.5 hours.

At 8 pm yesterday my study partner and I closed our books and said, “No mas.”  While we’ll for sure do some light review of our condensed notes the rest of this week, the intense and focused study time is done.  Thank you, God.

As we left the SMU Law Library that had been our home for the last 9 days, it was sort of bittersweet.  We’d developed our little routine, for the most part we got there at the same time everyday (after a visit to Starbuck’s ), we left there at the same time everyday, we sat at the same table and saw the same 5 or 6 people and we studied like probably neither of us has ever studied before.  I have come to realize that studying for the bar exam is unlike any other kind of studying I’ve ever done. Ever. And it’s because no matter how much you study or how long you study, there’s always more to learn.

I thought of it this way:  The “LAW” is as vast and deep as the ocean.  However, what law you need to know for the bar exam is only the surface of the ocean, maybe 6″ deep.  But how many of us, if challenged,would have more success putting 6″ worth of all the world’s oceans in our pocket as opposed to ALL of the world’s oceans?  The reality is, both tasks are just as daunting. You do what you can do and then you move on.

I started out this summer with a goal and that was to eat the elephant one bite at a time and I accomplished that. Now, I’m a day away from my bar exam and no matter what happens, I know I did all I could do.  I tracked my progress.  I had a plan for every day.  I sacrificed time, and sleep, and LIFE, for the opportunity to tackle the biggest, most important test of my life and to do it well.

No matter what happens the rest of this week and when results are released, I have no regrets and no reason to second-guess myself.  I can honestly look at myself in the mirror and know that I gave myself the best shot at doing this right the first time.

I am blessed to have so many friends and family and colleagues that genuinely supported me through this experience. Thank you to my wonderful study partner, E.J., here in Dallas who  was a pleasure to be around during this most stressful time.  Thanks for keeping us on a tight schedule and taking care of parking for us which made it so convenient.  I appreciate studying with someone who was as serious and diligent as I was (and sometimes more so!).  I also enjoyed the precious few breaks we took to walk  around and just laugh off some of the stress.  I am so going to miss seeing you!  I know you are going to do great on the bar; that’s just the kind of person you are. I’m glad you’re my friend.

Thanks also to my friend, L.H. with whom I’ve stayed for 4 years of law school and now up until the bar.  You have been wonderful.  These last two weeks I’ve been here you’ve taken care to be sure I had dinner every night and provided a calming environment where I could study undisturbed.  But too, you were there to remind me to take a break and have some ice cream:  The bar exam is just a test.  I appreciate the perspective, sometimes it was hard to remember that.

Well, after over 495 study hours, 20 or so practice essays, a dozen MPTs and over 700 practice problems all I can say is let the chips fall where they may this week.  If the Texas Bar Exam eats my lunch, it will be a long hard-fought battle, because I’m not going to make it easy.

I’m bringing everything I have and everything I’ve learned and every prayer I’ve sent heavenward throughout this journey.  And I’ve got any army of people praying for me this week and so I know, nothing is impossible.

“..being confident of this, that HE who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Phil 1:6″

This  week, I’m claiming this promise.

2 Weeks Until the Texas Bar Exam

Running short on time…  There’s probably nothing much to add this week except more of the same.   For anyone who is a SpongeBob Squarepants aficionado what is going on now, and clear through this upcoming week, is akin to “Squilliam Returns” (Season 3, Episode Six).  I wish I could’ve found a video illustration to link to this blog, but alas, I couldn’t find one quick and so decided to just link to a Wiki on it.

In short, SB is supposed to learn all there is about fine dining (long story, see episode for detail) and to make room in his head for all he has to learn, he has to dump what’s already in there:

Squidward tells SpongeBob to clear his mind of “everything that doesn’t have to do with fine dining and breathing.”  SpongeBob’s mind  is metaphorically portrayed as an office operated by little SpongeBobs.  The boss tells them to dump everything that doesn’t have to do with fine dining and breathing until further notice. They begin shredding all the documents, which represent SpongeBob’s knowledge, until SpongeBob just stares into empty space and doesn’t respond to anything.

Then it happens:  Someone asks SB…his name!

However, SpongeBob cannot remember his name, having discarded it along with everything else, and inside his mind, all of the little SpongeBobs are trying to find his name, which ultimately results in his brain snapping in half.

THIS is my brain on the bar exam; it is snapping in half!!  Truly I have found that in the last several weeks it has become hard to do simple things that I used to do well like, spell.  Suddenly I can’t remember how to spell “success” (are there two c’s???) but ask me to spell res ipsa loquitur, respondeat superior or res gestae and my response is, “Backwards or forwards?”  So bizarre!

Today, I spent three hours at school taking a simulated half-day essay exam and I felt pretty good coming out of that.  For some reason, studying last week I was starting to hit panic mode about the essays.  I feel good about the MPT and the P&E, the MBE is the beast that just eats everyone’s lunch on Day 2, but when I thought about what work I’d done on the essay section I didn’t feel like I’d done enough.

I did about 15 Barbri essays and submitted them for grading even though we were only required to do maybe 3-4 total.  The rest were optional and I did all but two on the list.  I may still do those last two this coming week just to say I did them all.  I was nervous going into this practice exam because I didn’t feel like I had enough law in my head to write an essay for these subjects, some of which I didn’t even take in law school.  Presently, I haven’t gotten my graded essays back from our advisor at school, so I’m feeling good about my work.  But, let’s see what the graders think….

My practice tests on the MBE are just all over the place.  I have good days in nearly all the subjects and bad days in the same subjects.  I have yet to get them to all converge at one time so I’m hoping that that convergence will happen a week from this coming Wednesday when I need all the stars and planets aligned in my favor.

I miss being at home and seeing my family, but I am noticing that my internal stress level has gone way down since coming up here and getting to focus on just this without any worry about anyone or anything.  My study partner and I have been at the SMU law library the last two days and will be there the rest of the week and it’s been great.  I forgot how much I missed being in an academic library.  I love the smell of musty books and the utter silence.  I appreciate that people don’t take cell phone calls and when they talk, which is not often, they…whisper.  It is the simple things that mean the most to me at this most stressful time.  I have also discovered that this craziness is pretty “normal” for those studying for the bar exam.  Whew!  Makes me feel better.

I’m losing track of time and what day it is, but I missed going to church today which is not a common thing for me.  As soon as I finish this blog, the last thing I plan to do before getting some hard-earned sleep is watch the online video of this morning’s service to complete my Sunday.

In life outside of the bar exam:  A job was posted last week in which I am interested.  I applied and hopefully will hear back on that soon.

This upcoming week is it; I have to finish strong and prepare myself mentally and physically to perform the way I know I can on this bar exam.  I have been in training the last four years and especially this entire summer for what will transpire next week.  Let’s go, last week of bar prep, give me all you got!

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