Happy. Healthy. Heathen.

Traveling, training, thinking, talking, typing


August 2012

Recap of the recap

Good Friday morning!

Same disclaimer this time:  if you’re not a fellow law student, this post will be uninteresting and law-nerdy, but I again promise I’ll be back to my usual adventure-blogging, kid-bragging, right-bashing, food-porning self on my next post!

A friend commented on my last post, and I then tried to comment on the comment.  WordPress was rude enough to tell me that my comment was too long, so I had to resort to an entirely new post.  Thank you, WordPress, but I’LL decide when I’ve talked too much!

Here’s Kayla’s comment:


First off, congratulations!! Having sat there through that test, i know what a dragon it was to slay so i commend you for doing it on the first shot! And enjoy the free books in 3L ;) Secondly, thank you for taking the time to lay out how you succeeded! Since i, unfortunately was not successful, i really enjoy hearing how others made it work for them…i have two months to re-prepare and am working thru 2L now, so hearing that it can be done is inspirational. I know that your blog is aimed towards a general audience, so any more detailed advice you have for this next go around would be highly appreciated :) again, congrats! And keep rocking it out thru 2l and beyond!

Kayla evans

Kayla —

Thanks so much for your comment.  I’m happy to tell you anything I can about what worked for me.  I mentioned in the first blog that it’s limited to just that, and that I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone what might work for them.  My undergraduate degree is in education, and while there are some fundamentals about learning that are universal, our backgrounds and experiences all influence how we learn and retain information.

Here’s more detail about what happened with me.  About halfway through 1L, I was getting the usual 65’s, and while I accepted that that was an average grade, I didn’t seem to be improving, and Concord’s guidance was…you guessed it, “Keep working on IRAC”.

(I even joked, any time an essay was due back from being graded, about making a drinking game out of how many times they would say that!  It cheeses me off because I think that’s a technical skill that a) is relatively simple to pick up, and b) is simple to refine once you have the skill to properly analyze the fact pattern.  However, I’m the student and they are the professors, and as a couple of them read my blog, I’ll keep my commentary to a dull roar, and trust that the years and years that Concord and its professors have been teaching have allowed them to refine the teaching process to be as successful as possible.)

Anyway, because my progress seemed to be so flat, I researched some outside sources and found, with my study buddies, the Checklist-type program I mentioned in the blog.  It held appeal because of the endorsement of so many students, both in their school exams and on the FYLSE.  I committed to it, paid the money for the books and the program, and implemented this Checklist as a way to issue-spot the tests.  I used that system all the way through finals in December (I’m in the class that had 6 months between the final and the FYLSE), but as I began studying intensely for the test in February, I began to realize that memorizing a checklist and really, truly understanding the material were 2 vastly different things.

So I scratched the whole program and started redoing my outlines based on the Concord First lectures.  I rewrote rule statements and restructured all my outlines. I listened to the lecture over and over, and did assloads of MCQs (how much in an assload?  about 1500, I guess).  And then it got really weird, but if you know me at all, no big surprise.  My kids are grown and I live by myself, but fortunately I have an old golden retriever and a young bulldog, so I could always claim I was talking to them.  I would verbally, formally explain different topics, as if I was trying to get someone to understand who didn’t know anything about them (and neither of my dogs even has so much as an undergraduate degree, so they cooperated beautifully).  Something about trying to articulate, say, every aspect of an offer, for example, really made me have to have a deep and thorough understanding of what an offer is, and every exception and detail about it.  It was a technique I learned through years of teaching, both at the public school level and in my personal training practice.  If you don’t understand something well enough to explain it, you don’t understand it.  That one exercise immediately revealed the holes in my understanding about a topic, and while it was important to the essay writing, I think it was even more important with the MCQ’s because that’s where the real substantive testing takes place.

Primary dog, Boo, and auxiliary dog, Darwin

On the mechanical side, I also wrote out my rule statements, one subject at a sitting, about 2x a week in the month leading up to the test.  That was clearly a skill for the essay writing; those rule statements practically typed themselves by the time of the test.  I’m kind of a data junkie, so after writing them each time (using 90+ minutes in the beginning, <45 after a few times), I graded them (with red font – once a teacher, always a teacher) and wrote the number of major errors and minor errors on my dry-erase progress chart.  (Are you gaining a deeper understanding of why I live alone?)

My CDO. It’s like OCD, but the letters are in alphabetical order, as they should be.

As I said before, I did every quiz and every essay I could in CF, and listened to the lectures several times.  The last month I even listened to them as I was going to sleep at night, and would start another if I woke up and couldn’t sleep.  (Funny story about that, Kayla, that I’ll tell you sometime after a beer or two).  But I’ll repeat here that the number 1 thing that helped me the most was listening to Prof. Bracci debrief all the past FYLSX essays.  There were in module 28 of Concord First.  As I listened to them, I made little tickmarks by the issue on my outline that was tested in that essay (ask me if the tickmarks were color-coded).   The second most important thing was probably compressing my 2L modules so I could study only 1L in the 4 weeks leading up to the test.  The payoff for that was both during those 4 weeks, and then when I restarted 2L in July after the test and was right on schedule.

I know I’ll think of some more stuff – I’ll try to just inbox you if I do.  If you have any specific questions, just email or IM me or whatever social network works for you.  This was probably waaaaaaay more info than you asked for – maybe WordPress knew what it was talking about.

Good luck and let me know if I can help.  Insert not-helpful cliche here about how smart you are, and how hard the test is, and how everyone will be pulling for you, blahblahblah.  You are, it is, we will.  Get this done.

As always, thanks for reading.


My FYLSX experience

Oh my goodness, I’m glad to write this post!
I’ve had it in my head for weeks, but I didn’t want to cast bad juju* on my results by even writing a draft of it.

I won’t redo the whole post explaining what this test is, it’s all right here.  And then I debriefed the experience here.

So here’s how the CalBar (hipster law-student speak again, for the California Bar) rolls.  The test was June 26.  These tests are hand-graded, of course, because of the nature of the essays, so the date the results are released is reasonable at August 10.  But this is where they lose me.  Instead of posting the results online, where the 800 students could log in and see immediately if they have passed, they instead snailmail the results letters from California on Friday the 10th.  Then, you can call on Monday the 13th if you haven’t gotten your letter (which most of us, especially the eastern half, won’t have), give your name, ssn, dob and hold your breath.

I was at daughter Amy’s house in Johnson City, with her guy and my guy, skyping with my study buddy and made my call.  Even after getting my YES, I checked the CalBar site over and over for the “Requirement Satisfied” status.  The statistics are not yet available for the June test; the most recent results are for the Oct 2011 test, which had an overall pass rate of 19.1%.  If you heard a scream or a shout around noon last Monday, it was moi.

Post-results day on the Nolichucky with my sweeties #letthedrunkchickguidetheraft

At this part of the post, if you are not a fellow law student, I don’t hold you accountable for not continuing to read.  It will be dull and irrelevant, and you are welcome to go have some strawberries and blackberries in cream.  Wait, that’s me.  Go have a snack of your own design, and I’ll meet you back at the blog when I’m ranting about religion or republicans or something.

I’d love to be able to give the top 3 Reasons I Passed.  Or some wisdom about how to budget your time, or write your essays, or practice your MCQ’s.  The best I can do is tell you what I did, and what worked for me.  And what didn’t.

  • Beginning in mid-January, I reworked my 2L schedule to be able to suspend my study for one month before the test and resume study in July without being behind.
  • Also beginning in January, I began the Concord First Program our school provided for us that consisted of an intense study program of the test subjects.
  • For 5 months, I dual-studied 1L and 2L (with 2L at a compressed rate).
  • I took my work schedule to half-time in March – I have the world’s best clients.
  • On June 1, I took the month off work, suspended 2L, and began studying 1L subjects 8-10 hours a day.
  • I chose to discard the external, checklist-based tutoring program I had used occasionally in 1L.  I feel strongly about this one, and I think I had to overcome this mentality to make the progress I made.
  • I wrote every essay and took every multiple-choice quiz in Concord First.
  • I accessed additional essays and MCQ’s and practiced those several times.
  • I listened to Professor Bracchi analyze all 4 essays for every FYLSE back to 2004.  If I had to pick one thing that was the most important, it would be this one.
  • I had the best study buddy on the planet.

There you go.  I know that there is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat – this is what worked for me.  However, not once after the test was I confident I had passed.  The area I thought I had done well in, the essays, were weaker grades than I expected, and the multiple choice, which could have been in Sanskrit for all I understood them, actually were what allowed me to pass.  I don’t know what the significance is of that lack of confidence, but until I heard the magic words, I didn’t think I had gotten it done.

Now it’s back to 2L, because those finals are around the corner in December.  Can’t close until I repeat, yet again, how much I love this school and the study of law.

Thanks for reading!

*you know I’m kidding about the bad juju, right??  What kind of rationalist do you take me for?

My take on the Chick-fil-A-holes.

AAAANNNNNNDDD I knew I couldn’t do it.  NOT comment on the Chick-fil-A thing.  Fail.  Oh well, I’ll try to be brief.

I am not boycotting Chick-Fil-A over the bigotry.  I’m not big on fast food in the first place, and that chicken sandwich is a little meh.  I’m a small business owner myself, and while it sounds cliche, I really try to make an effort to support small business.  In my small town here in the south, statistically, I’d be willing to venture that most of the CEO’s/owners/managers of these businesses share Dan Cathy’s worldview.  If I were to boycott every business I patronized in Middle Tennessee based on whether or not the staff opposed gay marriage, I’d be one frustrated consumer.  No, I’m not blogging about boycotting this chicken store.

There have been many bloggers and reporters who have covered the false First Amendment angle, so I won’t address that.  When Dan Cathy goes to jail, or is fined, or restricted from speaking about his bigoted position, I’ll write that blog.

So what’s my problem?

The thing that has bothered me more than anything else through all of this, the thing that has made me the saddest and most angry, has been the glee with which the Chick-Fil-A supporters have embraced this issue.

Let’s say you’re a believer.  Let’s say you have found some way to overcome all the contradictions, all the genocide, all the immorality, all the ignorance, all the misogyny, and you really truly believe the bible to be the true and only source for guidance in how you live your life.

How, with an iota of compassion in your soul, can you celebrate this as a victory?  How can you look at the LBGT community, your friends and family, your neighbors, and gloat and celebrate this?  If you believe marriage is an exclusive right for one man and one woman only, does your heart not break for your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?  Does it not bring you to tears to know that, according to your belief system, these people will never know the joy of the commitment of marriage, the profoundly exhilarating and humbling experience of parenting?  If you believe this, and you must see how painful this will be for this community, how can you post those Facebook statuses?

There are so many things that make me angry about religion, but this is one of the things that makes me the angriest.  Some of you are my friends.  I know you are not bad people.  But lifetime exposure to a book-based morality instead of a compassion-based morality has distorted your natural, beautiful, healthy drive to decrease suffering in the lives of your fellow humans, and to increase joy.

When I became a secular humanist, I promised myself that no matter how angry it made me, I would never cut myself off from dissent.  But when you take pleasure in another’s pain, that’s not dissent.  It’s disgusting.

Thanks for reading.

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