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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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4 Weeks Until the Texas Bar Exam

Today is July 1 which means that in exactly 23 days I’ll be sitting for the Texas Bar Exam. Let’s just stop for a minute to let that sink in….

I spent eleven hours studying yesterday and as I drifted off to sleep it hit me that when I woke up time would start pouring though the hourglass even faster.  This is my last “full” week of Barbri, but really it’s just two days, the 4th of July, and then an all day simulated MBE on Thursday followed by two days analyzing that exam online.  Next week I have two class days and I’m done; then I will be on my own for the last 13 days leading up to the exam.

What can I say?  It’s been real and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun.  Actually, I take that back…this last Friday evening was fun.  Three of my Barbri friends and I got together for an MBE flash card study party.   We really did study and we also had a nice meal and shared a couple bottles of wine.  We were way overdue for some down time because we’ve all been burning the candle at both ends and we knew that once July hit, the bar would consume our lives for that month.  But…at the same time, none of us wanted to give up an evening of studying something so we compromised and did the flashcards.  It turned out to be a great night of relaxing and studying together.  Everyone was really happy about the time we spent and what we got done.

I’m really proud of us four because we’ve all made it to nearly every single Barbri class.  I think we have each missed only one, which is pretty darned good considering it’s so many weeks long.  My assessment is that YES it’s a pain to drag yourself there everyday, 6 days a week,  for approximately 7 weeks, but it is much more difficult to self-motivate and watch these lectures on video.  It’s good to have the option to see the video in a pinch when you have to miss class or to go back and catch notes that you missed in the live lecture, but in general, going TO the facility and being there in class makes it bearable.

I know that lots of places don’t have live Barbri lecturers.  I was really lucky taking it here in Austin that we had live lecturers for every single class.  It made a world of difference.  Many folks go to a venue and watch the videos together, which might make you think, “Why go to a place to watch a video when I can see that same video here at home?”  I hear you… and in that case it might be a harder sell for me to encourage you to GO anyway, but that’s what I’m saying.  In a nutshell, here’s why:  Misery Loves Company.

Since starting law school my circle of friends consists of more and more people “like me”—other law students, attorneys, judges.  It’s like finding a community of people where everyone just “gets it.”  It’s comfortable and safe and everything makes sense.  During my bar prep, friends within this circle have treated me with kid gloves.  Really, it’s kind of weird—in a good way.  Reminds me of how everyone was so nice when I was pregnant with my sons.  There have been emails and phone calls asking how I’m doing, asking if I need anything, offers of quiet places to study…just people going out of their way to encourage and be there for me in whatever capacity I need.  It’s because they remember how completely wiped out and scared and overwhelmed they were and they empathize.

In my experience I have discovered that when it comes to law school there are three categories of people:

  • (1) Those that have been there/done that—-they “get it” (See above)
  • (2) Those that don’t really understand the craziness of law school (and then the bar), but that’s fine; they are glad you enjoy what you’re doing and they encourage you to “do your thing,” and
  • (3) Those that don’t get what you’re doing, make no effort to get what you’re doing AND do everything in their power to be a hindrance to what you’re doing.

It is this last category of people from whom you need to stay away.  They will sabotage your life.  It’s hard enough to get through law school with these people constantly undermining your success, but when bar prepping and you have just a finite amount of time and energy, these people will suck you dry of both.  This is why those friends you make going to the Barbri lectures will be your lifeblood; they will not only feel your pain, they are right there with you…and there’s strength in numbers.

This is why when you start law school at some point you will hear about X amount of students who will get divorced during the process or break up with their significant other etc.  Law school is destructive to relationships because  you are on another planet and suddenly you are not the same person anymore.  If those around you aren’t willing to let you metamorphose and still love you after the transition, you’ve got a category 3 person in your life and studying for the bar exam is only going to make things worse.

Luckily, most everyone in my life is in category 1 and 2 above, and so I try and stay far away from the category 3 people.  Especially right now when I hear myself saying, “I don’t have time for this” it seems like all the time.  And it’s hard to explain to people that you’re not saying you don’t have time for that person, just that you don’t have time to give them intense shock therapy so that they can move from a category 3 person back to human being status.  If they haven’t “gotten it” by the time you get ready to study for the bar, you’ll just have to put  your head down and plow right through them and figure out how to clean up the mess later.  Seriously.

Like my bar prep professor is fond of saying: “The bar exam is the closest most of us will get to climbing Mt. Everest” and I am convinced that this is true.  The thing is:  Nobody but you has to “get” why it is you are taking on this monumental task— but it’s unfair and wrong for them to make a difficult situation impossible.

Just like it says in the old Tracy Lawrence song you find out who your friends are, I’m thinking the same goes for the bar exam.  That’s my take on it anyway.

I’ve gotten a lot of work done this week and logged in 53.5 hours.  I’m going to use July 4th for an organization day.  The plan is to put all my outlines into notebooks—one for each day of the bar exam and get the rest of my study materials together. Also, I’m going to start audio recording my rule statements onto files that I can add to my mp3 player and burn onto CDs for when I drive.  Much of July is going to be spent memorizing as soon as Barbri is done, so I want to be ready.

But too, I have to save room on the 4th to be grateful for the fact that I am an AMERICAN and thankful also for the men and women in our military, past, present and future, without whom none of the freedoms I have spent the last four years learning about would even exist. (A special thank you to Marlon Pugh who will come home from Afghanistan any day now!!)

I also promised my boys that we’d keep with our July 4th tradition of 1) watching the annual Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest (Go Joey Chestnut!!!) and 2) watching Jaws.  You can’t have the 4th of July without Jaws!!!  Lastly, we’ll get to enjoy the annual fireworks spectacular in my neighborhood where all that’s required of me is to put a lawn chair on my front yard.  That’s what I’m talkin’ about! (Who am I kidding?  I’ll for sure have an outline or two out there with me to review while waiting for the show.)

Thank you to all my category 1 and 2 people…this craziness will all be over soon and I will stop being so high maintenance, I promise!

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.  🙂

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!

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