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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.

 

 

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.

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!!!!

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!!!

Crim Prosecution Clinic in the Blogs

So I know I keep talking about the “Criminal Prosecution Clinic” that I’m doing through the law school and in conjunction with the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, but it is by far the best experience I’ve had in all of my wonderful time at Texas Wesleyan School of Law.  I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to be on this team of just seven students.  Daily we are working with many of the best and brightest attorneys in the north Texas, if not in the whole state of Texas.  In my opinion, what makes the clinic experience so valuable is the opportunity we get to watch other  attorneys do what they do; this is really the only way to learn the art of lawyering.

Our class was recently visited by the DA’s Public Information Officer who subsequently gave our clinic a bit of a “shout out”  on the Tarrant County DA’s website.  The blog entry gives a little more background on our clinic, what we’ve done, where we’ve gone and the prosecutors with whom we work.  The blog includes a pic of us at our class this last Wednesday where we learned about voir dire and picking a jury.  There are way more layers and complexities to that than I ever expected.

I’ m really proud to be associated with this team; I think we’re pretty awesome and I know the work done by the Tarrant DAs is top-notch. Every day that I’m there I learn something new and have the opportunity to see how true professionals handle the day-to-day of practicing criminal law.  It is truly fascinating.

While there is no doubt in my mind that I could not fully appreciate what I’m seeing and doing now without a fundamental understanding of the basics I learned at the beginning of law school (Read:  Do well in 1L year Crim Law and Procedure), I have to say:  It is GOOD to be a 3L.  The lessons I’m learning and experiences I’m having in this clinic are  invaluable to those of us nearing the end of our time in law school.  This is where it’s at!

While they have not yet pushed us fully out of the nest, through Tex Wes Law and the Tarrant County DA’s office, we’re sure getting a chance to stretch our legal wings and get our feet wet!

My student bar car is burning a hole in my pocket…

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