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Mission Accomplished!

Things have just moved by in a blur since I got my bar results on Nov.1.  I received my actual bar notice from the Texas Board of Law Examiners (“BLE”) the very next day.  It was a nice fat envelope…sweet!

Inside was an official letter of congratulations from the State Bar of Texas that simultaneously informed me not to forget to pay my:

  • Membership dues ($78 at least for the first 3 yrs. of practice, then it goes up!!!)
  • Occupations tax ($200, but pro-rated to $116.69 for November licensure), and
  • Legal Services fee ($65 and no explanation what this covers.)

Luckily, as a government lawyer, I fall into a statutory exemption category and only have to pay the membership dues.  Whew!  That was a nice surprise.

I also got my bar score from the BLE and a nice letter from the clerk of the Supreme Court of Texas regarding my attorney’s oath and when I should receive my official license (suitable for framing!!).  Since there are currently vacancies on the Court, our licenses are going to be somewhat delayed until later in December.  BUT, assuming we pay all our fees and get sworn in, we are considered licensed and eligible to practice law in Texas right away, even without the paper license.  Awesomeness!!!

My head was swimming and it took me several reads of every letter in the packet to digest it all.  I also found out that within my first year of licensure I have to take my first “official” Minimum Continuing Legal Education (“MCLE”) class on Ethics which is required of all baby lawyers…that’s another $125.  Money, money, money…it’s no wonder lawyers charge so much for their services.

With regard to MCLE I say “official” because as soon as I paid my dues I was able to access my MCLE account where I had already banked 12 hours during the time leading up to the bar exam.  Since new lawyers have 2 years to meet their first 15 hours of MCLE (after two years we need 15 hours per year), I am just a few hours short of being MCLE’d up until 2015.

I don’t know that reality has really and truly set in with me yet.  I am still hoping that I’m not dreaming and that I am in fact DONE.  It is the strangest feeling to be looking forward to Thanksgiving for nothing more than THANKSGIVING.  For the last 4 years my Thanksgiving was spent trying to squeeze studying into every spare moment without totally blowing off my family.  I had a final exam each and every Monday after Thanksgiving all 4 years of law school.  This year I will not only get to fully enjoy the holidays, but I will get to join the black Friday craziness that I’ve had to skip for so long.  Basically, I have my life back.  Oh and I’m now a lawyer, an attorney…ESQUIRE.  What a weird feeling. I smile every time I think about it, but am still in awe of what I accomplished.

Case in point:

I met with a professor the other day that came by the office to review his promotion and tenure file.  When we were done, he got up to leave and, noticing the glass name plate/card holder on my desk said, “Thank you, uh….  What do you call attorneys?  ‘Ms.’ sounds so disrespectful.”  I paused for a moment and confessed, “You know, Professor…since I just got my bar results less than a week ago, I’m still getting used to being an attorney myself, so ‘Ms.’ is just fine.”  He smiled and I smiled and once again I felt that little thrill run up my spine of knowing that yes…I DID IT!!!  I am a TEXAS LAWYER!!!

Me in front of the Texas State Capitol–Austin, TX

The. BEST. Day. EVER!!!!

Today is one of the best days of my life.  Bar results came in.  I PASSED!!!!

I am still in shock and will reflect on my thoughts and feelings more in the coming days when I am sure I will write more.  But for now…champagne is in order:

And, if that wasn’t awesome enough, Texas Wesleyan School of Law scored 90.07% in its bar passage rate….THIRD in the state of Texas (out of 9 law schools).  Awesome job Tex Wes Class of 2012!!!

I am so happy, grateful and thankful to God.

 

 

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.

July 2012 TEXAS BAR EXAM

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.

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