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Bar Review, California Bar Exam

By the time you read this, I will have taken the exam, and possibly have gotten the results (depending upon when I publish this). This blog post was started on December 10, and it’s my intent to add to it often up until the time of the test, with pictures and thoughts.

I’m keeping an old school diary of the whole experience, so I’ll add a little information from the previous two months as well.

One of the 7 dry erase boards in the Bar Cave.
One of the 7 dry erase boards in the Bar Cave.

I’m using Kaplan Bar Review, for multiple reasons, but I think any upper tier bar review would provide the tools necessary for success. As much as it seems to be the opposite sometimes, there really is a finite amount of material, there are techniques to learn that will give you an advantage, and anyone is capable of the skills with enough practice.

Here's another. Early on.
Here’s another. Early on.
Final statistics
Final statistics

Kaplan markets its Bar Review program as an 8-week intense, 7-day-a-week, 12-hour-day effort. I’m sure thousands of folks have had success doing it that way – I can’t imagine it. My brain is done and done after 8 hours in a day. I have known for a long time that I am a morning person, have high energy and go strong until about 2pm, when I start a long, slow slide into evening. Therefore, I took Kaplan’s 8-week program and turned it into a 16-week, 6-8 hour a day schedule. I’ve been totally happy with it.

Color-coded, dry erase life.
Color-coded, dry erase life.
January and February
January and February

My life circumstances are favorable for this study schedule. I’m not working, my kids are all grown and independent, I live alone, my honey lives in another state and comes and visits occasionally. I have a small hobby farm in middle Tennessee with cattle, donkeys, goats, chickens, which all require maintenance and care, but that’s minimal, and the balance is they are a delightful distraction and helps to ground me.

Elvis, the longhorn steer.
Elvis, the longhorn steer.

My study partner and co-student Liz is on the same schedule, and I don’t want to underestimate her contribution to my progress. It’s not that we study together that often – it’s more passing questions back and forth through instant messaging, and the solidarity and companionship of a fellow student. She and I have shared rants about everything from tedious lecturers to impatient family to poorly-written hypotheticals to stress management tricks. She has not only made it tolerable, but has been fun and funny and a huge academic help. (*6/5 edit: Liz was one of our co-valedictorians at graduation – how lucky am I?!)

Liz, the legal brainiac!
Liz, the legal brainiac!

My posse of friends have been beyond supportive. Last fall my honey put out the word that he was seeking help with a 100-days-of-encouragement calendar. The response was overwhelming, and opening each envelope in the morning before study begins is my favorite part of the day.

String of support
String of support

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1.4.15

I’ve been eating Paleo for years. Meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds. I still loves me some onion rings now and again, and wine is a food group as far as I’m concerned.

I knew before I began bar review that I needed to be careful about medicating with food. I know the physiology of the sympathetic/parasympathetic systems, and that food elicits the relaxation response that I would desperately need undertaking this monster. I know I sleep better, concentrate better, everything better when I eat clean. The extended nature (4 months) of bar review could lead to a disaster of biblical proportions (pants-wise) if I entered the venture unprepared for the phenomena.

So why do I want macaroni and cheese, cornbread, apple crisp, hashbrown casserole, and snickerdoodles? I have never wanted comfort food as badly as I want it now. I’m sure it’s about the insecurity I’m feeling, the anxiety about the test, the need for everything associated with that food – the caretaking that went into that food, both when I was the consumer and the creator, the memories of the family environment that accompanied the meal, not to mention the actual food, with its taste and effect of excitotoxins that evolved in the grains to make me want to eat more to distribute the seeds for the immobile plant.

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But in my effort to avoid emotional comfort eating, I’m undereating, and having a weird aversion to eating anything, for fear of medicating with food. So in this whole psycho Bar Review process, I’m having to revert to old-school, food-logging, calorie-counting, structured eating, because I’m not able to properly assess if I’m hungry, or stressed, or full, or whatever. Sheesh.

My sweet hens looking out for me.
My sweet hens looking out for me.

 

1.19.15 MCQs

Gah. What an experience. I’m at the 5-weeks-out point, and I alternate between panic at how fast the time is passing to not being able to face one more day and can’t wait for the end of this intense academic challenge.

I’m doing between 8-10 hours per day now, and the schedule is strict and tight. I take one half-day off per week, which requires a whole other post to describe the significance of getting in my car and driving, seeing people, buying food. As of today, I have 37 days left to prepare for this undertaking. I cannot yet say that I’m confident I’ll pass. What I am confident of is that I am doing all I can to prepare to be ready. It is not hard for me to stick with the schedule. I’ve done an Ironman, and I know what discipline is. What is hard is doing it with a positive spirit.

No, the schedule is not the challenge. The challenge is the beatdown.

So here’s how it goes. I do 50 multiple choice questions every morning between 6 and 7:30am. I did well in law school, graduated with honors, passed what’s know as the Baby Bar on the first go (California’s First Year Law Students Exam, required when you attend a freaky-deaky online law school like mine). I consider myself a smart person. The detail and the volume of information one must know on these multiple choice questions is staggering. The bar review course I’ve chosen allows the option of practicing the MCQs in timed mode, or in what they call tutor mode, where you can reveal the answer after each question, absent the ticking clock, with the explanation of why the correct answer is the correct answer.

On tutor mode, the 1-2 paragraph question has 3 or 4 potential points of law, and of course the answers each address one of those potential issues. Sometimes there is more than one correct answer – you must choose the BEST answer. The Corrector answer, as Colbert might say. Before I select, I get my outline out, look at my rule statements, read and research each possible answer of the 4 choices, finally make a choice (this process may take 10-15 minutes). Choose. Check answer. Wrong. Review the answers – why correct is correct, why wrong is wrong. Notate outline/rule statement. Recite aloud what I didn’t know that made me choose the wrong answer, and what I now know about why the right answer is right. Move to next question. Repeat. Times fifty. Times every day.

All of that work for that one answer, memorizing the issue, correcting misinformation, adding minute detail to the already vast accumulation of knowledge from 4 years of law school and 3 months of bar review. Then, move to the next question, until cycling through to a similar question as the one I described first. Read the fact pattern – I know this! I just figured this out a few questions ago! Let me check to be sure I understand it … review all 4 answers, refer to outline, select, check…wrong.

And that is just the multiple choice portion of the test.

That’s what I mean by the beatdown. There are 8 subjects tested on the MCQ, 14 on the essays. That’s a helluva pile o’ facts to cram into one 6-pound brain.

6am-7:30   50 multiple choice questions

7:30-8:30   chat with honey, feed dogs, let the chickens out, make coffee, check email, troll FB

8:30-12:30    review 50 questions, review essay topic, write 1 essay, review, read/outline 2 essays

12:30-2:00    feed/water barn animals, laundry/housework, take dogs for walk while listening to lecture or chatting with one of the kids, have lunch

2:00-5:30   review essay topic, write essay, review, read/outline 2 essays

5:30-6:30  chat with honey, feed dogs, make supper, put chickens up in coop

6:30-8:00   another 10 questions, clean up anything unfinished, plan out next day

8:00-10:00    return phone calls, check email, watch MSNBC and try to care about something else, troll FB

10:00   turn on lecture and fall asleep, listening to the voices of my instructors, trying patiently to explain to me the difference between the Privilege and Immunity Clause of the 14th Amendment, and the Privileges and Immunity Clause of Article IV.

 

1.26.15 Essays

Essays.

Law school essays.

The heart and soul of the California Bar Exam.

So here’s how it works. There are 14 subjects that can be tested on the essays. Unlike undergraduate essays, this is not about chatting on for an hour about everything you know relating to say, criminal law. Law school and bar exam essays are precise, highly structured, strictly-timed essays testing on issue-spotting, concise statements of law, analysis of the facts in the hypothetical to the rule of law, and a reasonable conclusion.

There are 6 essays on the exam – 3 on Tuesday morning, 3 on Thursday morning. Here are a few to look at, along with CalBar’s opinion of 2 passing answers. Even if one is able to write 2 essays per day during Bar Review, it still takes an entire week to get through all the subjects. The components of practice include a sufficient set of rule statements, which are better understood as definitions of issues….maybe it’s better to show by example:

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress:  Intentional Infliction of emotional distress requires (1) extreme or outrageous conduct (2) intentionally or recklessly caused (3) that in fact causes extreme emotional distress.

Extreme Conduct: P will argue that B’s saying “You made me mad so now I’m going to shoot you” is extreme and outrageous. It would be outrageous to an average person, because they might think they were going to die. They might think about their children or live lives, and be very disturbed. Therefore, this is met.

Intent:  B need not have intended to cause extreme emotional distress, he just need have recklessly done so. Recklessness is extreme indifference and beyond gross negligence. A person would clearly know this action would cause extreme emotional distress.

Emotional Distress:  P will claim this is met because she fainted, and the court will likely agree. It may be bolstered by psychiatrist testimony.

Conclusion:  Therefore, P will succeed in proving this tort.

 

 

Sometimes the particular rule statement needs to be dissected further, with sort of mini-analysis of each element of each rule. 3 essays per session, 1 hour each essay, one session on Tuesday morning, one on Thursday morning. While one may choose to spend more time on one essay, mathematically that subtracts time from one of the remaining essays, and we have heard repeatedly from professors and bar review materials to strictly limit oneself to one hour per essay.

 

2.2.15 PTs

PT is short for Performance Test.

It is the most lawyerly portion of the Bar Exam. I’ll take the liberty to speak for my fellow test-takers and say that this assignment would be delightful – a gratifying challenge allowing us to shine and show the bar graders our brilliance as legal strategists and negotiators – were it not for the fact that we have to show all this genius in 3 hours.

Upon the word GO, and within 180 minutes, the 30-page packet is opened, the assignment is read, the file is reviewed, the library is studied, the task is outlined, and the paper is written. In our 3rd year, my fellow students and I spent 6 months, SIX MONTHS, on one brief.

Here are two, plus passing answers, from July 2012. There is a one PT on the Bar Exam on Tuesday afternoon, and one on Thursday afternoon.

6.6.15

I realize this post is all out of sequence, and is a hodgepodge of entries.  Here are the related posts regarding the test itself, and my initial mini-Bar Review summary. And graduation!

 

And on the 15th of May, 2015, at 8pm, I logged into the California Bar website and…

AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!
PASSED!!!!!

 

 

Thanks for reading!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful.

It has been 16 days since I learned that I passed the California Bar Exam. I have been celebrating and traveling and celebrating again since then, but I’m settled for a while (a short while) now, and I want to try to express something.

I’ve written other posts, and am still working on yet another, about the study and test experience, so I don’t want to go over all that here.

What I want to try to do with this post is to express how grateful I am for the people who surrounded and supported me while I was on this journey, and how critically important they were to the success I had on the test. I know it sounds melodramatic and cliche to say that I couldn’t have done it without them, but that is so completely and fundamentally true, I don’t care.  I’ve hesitated writing this post for fear of leaving someone out, and if I do, please forgive me. It’s not that I have forgotten your kindness, it’s just that my brain is still recovering from the test.

String o' love
String o’ love

Facebook family and friends from all over:

If one were to scroll back through my Facebook pages over the law school years, hardly a day would pass without finding some word of encouragement. Add in snail-mail, texts, email, phone calls, and I’ve been marinating in good wishes non-stop. Just before Bar review, my honey put the word out that he was compiling a test-countdown calendar, to be composed of daily words of affirmation for me to read every day for the 100 days leading up to the Bar. The response was overwhelming, and that set of 100 calendar pages will be a treasure to me for the rest of my life.

Dodge and Jamison. 2 of the best.
Dodge and Jamison. 2 of the best.

My professors:

My freaky-deaky law school has awesome professors. Who knew? They were patient and accessible and, because they are on the cutting edge of the online education experience, really concerned that we students did well. I have no frame of reference from a brick-and-mortar school, but compared to my undergraduate experience, my law school professors were much more engaged and invested. Additionally, as online professors, they must overcome those issues inherent in virtual classrooms and distance learning. I’m grateful for their teaching and their guidance and counsel.

See!? There's Gabe!
See!? There’s Gabe!

Classmates:

Sometimes you just get lucky. For my season of law school and Bar review, I found myself in a group of strong, brilliant, exceptional women. When you understand that most of us attend online law school because we have jobs, families (in that sweet spot of caring for children and parents), mortgages, and a thousand other obligations, it makes this group of women in more impressive. (Disclaimer: we had brilliant men in our class too, but somehow our little study posse ended up estrogen-heavy.) The ongoing joke is that online law school limits one’s ability to form lasting friendships and study partnerships. Nothing is further from the truth. Whether scratching our heads together in Evidence, or ranting about Remedies, or freaking out during the process of law review, this group of forever friends gave and gave and gave. Whenever one of us was down or frustrated, all the others jumped in to support and encourage. What a joy and pleasure to have gone through this with them. I am grateful for their friendships, and the privilege to call them professional colleagues now.

Me, my girl, and her girl
Me, my girl, and her girl

Rosine:

Rosine is in a category by herself, both in this post and in life. Rosine and I started out together in law school and were study buddies the first 2 years. Rosine hit a bump in the road and couldn’t continue with law school, but she hasn’t relented in her cheering and support for me. She never let a significant date – finals, new law school year, bar review countdown – pass without reaching out by phone/text/skype to tell me she believed in me. There had to have been a personal price for this, but she never let on that there was, even coming to my graduation and celebration. I am so lucky to have had her as my study partner, and even more so to have her as my friend.

Because when we agree to meet, it's always "whatever-o'clock-ISH"!
Because when we agree to meet, it’s always “whatever-o’clock-ISH”!

My Ish sisters:

Oh my girls. This is my friends’ group in Murfreesboro, the ladies that kept me on track by making me laugh and cry and laugh some more. During my bar review, these girls held me accountable for taking one half-day off per week, when all I wanted to do was stay glued to my desk and do just one more essay. Our Days-Out, whether pizza and beer, wine and cheese, or just gathering at one of our homes, were consistently the highlight of my week, and a re-charger for the next. Susan even got to come out to California for my graduation (and took most of these pictures), and was with me when I logged in for my results. They committed to our schedule in spite of jobs, kids, hubbies, and all the other competitors for their time, and I am so very very grateful to have these women in my life.

Whole lotta love at that table
Whole lotta love at that table

My kids:

I know, I know, I do this all the time. This isn’t my usual my-kids-are-so-great-and-perfect-and-I-love-them-so-big post. This is to say thank you to them for not only inspiring me with their own accomplishments and kickass lives, but also for their constant words of encouragement and support. Never once did they question their 50-year-old mother going to law school, or choosing an online program, or getting a California license while living in Tennessee! They have celebrated every victory along the way, and I am grateful to them and for them for their complete and total awesomeness.

My honey pie
My honey pie

Eliott:

In a post full of mush and gush, this will be the mushi- and gushiest. My honey, who is not known for his patience, was the kindest, most tolerant, loving, supportive partner I could have asked for. For the last 4 years I have taken books on every work trip and every vacation we have had. I was psycho about my study schedule, both during law school and bar review, and never once did he complain or push back or even roll his eyes (outwardly, anyway) when I spread out on hotel desks, or found the library, or had to attend class. He prepared endless meals and brought me snacks and rubbed my neck and shoulders. He took on all the farm tasks when he was in town to give me a break from those. He endured my meltdowns, and when I needed to talk through a legal concept, he listened AND paid attention so he could ask me questions to make sure I understood. He was everything I needed and then some.

Hard work? Yes. Study? Yes. Sacrifice? Yes. But the real key to the success I had in law school and on the bar exam was the love and support of the people I’m so fortunate to have in my life. Thank you from the bottom of my very grateful heart.

Thanks for reading.

Bar Review Summary

This post is the third in the series linking to the actual Bar Exam experience and law school graduation. I’m going to hold off on commentary until results are released in May, 2015, so it will be void of helpful hints and suggestions. I kept a journal during Review that I plan to post later; until then this is simply a summary and description of what I did in the months and weeks leading up to the California Bar Exam.

I attended and graduated from Concord Law School. Concord is a non-ABA-approved online law school. Graduates are allowed to sit for the California Bar Exam, and with a passing score, are allowed to practice law in California. Some graduates have been admitted to Bars of other states, although on a case-by-case basis.

I chose Kaplan Bar Review for my review program. Most law students choose a commercial Bar Preparation program. It’s a review of all the law learned through the years in law school, in a format designed to prepare the student to take the Bar Exam of his or her state. Typically these programs are marketed as a 2-to-3 month, 6-day-per-week, 8-10 hours-per-day review.

Let's get this out of the way. I'm a color-coded, dry-erase, schedule junkie. This is early review.
Let’s get this out of the way. I’m a color-coded, dry-erase, schedule junkie. This is early review.

I began my Bar Review in October, in preparation for the February, 2015 Bar Exam. The months of October and November were spent in a soft review of all of the testable subjects, on about a 6-hour-per-day schedule. In December I transitioned to longer days and more intense study.

I stuck with this pretty closely; I know once you begin negotiating with yourself, everything gets too loose.
I stuck with this pretty closely; I know once you begin negotiating with yourself, everything gets too loose.

There are 3 portions of the California Bar Exam, each of which requires a different type of study. Additionally, there are about 14 topics upon which the testing can be based, and the California Bar does not reveal before the test the subjects that will be tested. Predictions are made, some with more accuracy than others, but ultimately, students have to be prepared for any subject that may appear on the test.

A very important part of Bar Review: Vaughn and Darwin. My constant companions, exercise buddies, room odorizers, bed warmers, and rule statement practice audience.
A very important part of Bar Review: Vaughn and Darwin. My constant companions, exercise buddies, room odorizers, bed warmers, and rule statement practice audience.

On a personal note, in October, my honey reached out to my social networking family and sought a little note of encouragement – one for each of the 100 days leading up to the Bar Exam. He got an overwhelming response, and each day’s study began with the opening of the envelope. Each note was encouraging and sweet and kind and loving and supportive, and I am grateful to him for starting the project, and to everyone who participated!

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Besides the world’s best partner, I also had in place a tremendous support group in family and friends. I live alone, which is very conducive to study, but left to my own devices, I would overstudy and underrelax. My kids checked in with me regularly, and my local girls’ group (the Ish Girls: we meet a noon-ish, for a glass of wine or 2-ish, for a couple of hours-ish) held me accountable for taking some down time. Emily, Susan, Caroline, and Maddie Mae – you will never know what that half-day off per week meant!

November. I had lovely, lovely people taking care of me to be sure I didn't stay hermitted up in my home, which is my inclination.
November. I had lovely, lovely people taking care of me to be sure I didn’t stay hermitted up in my home, which is my inclination.

Because each segment of the exam tests a different set of skills, each must be studied differently. For the most part, I followed the guidelines given by my Bar Review.

 

ESSAYS

The essays use compound skills, and each skill must be developed both separately and jointly. Legal essay writing is not like college essay writing, where those of us with the gift of gab can just prattle endlessly about any one topic for an hour. Legal essay writing is structured and concise, and requires recognizing a legal issue, declaring a memorized statement of law, analysis of facts to that law, a reasonable conclusion, and so forth, catching all legal issues in the hypothetical.

The skill of essay writing has been practiced in law school, and becomes refined even further during Bar Review. There are anywhere from 60 to 160 statements of law, so to speak, in each subject, for a total of about 1400 statements. Do you have to memorize them all? Only if CalBar tests them. So yes.

There is debate about the detail and length of the definitions. CalBar clearly states that the analysis portion is much more important than the memorized rule statement, but the analysis can only be done if the elements of the statement are present.

During the course of my Bar Review, I submitted 60 essays for grading, and outlined nearly 40 more.

Another shot of my support team.
Another shot of my support team.

MBE

MBE stands for Multi-state Bar Exam, which is the multiple choice segment of the exam. These questions are written in a manner to test very fine distinctions of law. I once heard a lecturer say that the answer can turn not just on one sentence, not just on one word, but on ONE LETTER of one word. (The defendant LIVES in the house with his girlfriend/The defendant LIVED in the house with his girlfriend: in one sentence the defendant has standing to object to an unconstitutional search, in the other he does not.)

There are hundreds of concepts which can be tested, and thousands of ways in which to test them. There may be a more productive way to study for these without practicing them, but I don’t know it. My posse of fellow students all experienced a similar phenomena in that, toward the end of bar review, after having practiced piles upon piles of these questions, they became the most “enjoyable” part of our daily study. I think it was because they were short, and contained, and eventually you begin to get good at them.

I worked over 2500 multiple choice questions over the course of my review.

December. What would I have done without my girls? For one delicious half-day per week, I ran away from the books and lectures to these beautiful faces.
December. What would I have done without my girls? For one delicious half-day per week, I ran away from the books and lectures to these beautiful faces.

 

PERFORMANCE TESTS

The final segment of testing is the Performance Test. We call it the most lawyerly portion of the test. If you’re interested, they’re posted here, complete with 2 good answers for each test. If you weren’t under such time constraints, they’d be fun; it’s a puzzle with clues to the answer, and it’s a challenge to find the answers. However, when you feel the pressure of the minutes ticking, it takes a little of the joy out.

Bar review suggests working 2 PTs per week for the 8-10 weeks leading up to the test. I submitted 12, and outlined 12 more.

Brought out the big guns for January.
Brought out the big guns for January.

In January I transitioned from 6-8 hour days with a focus on review and outline construction to 8-10 hour days of skills and memorization.

Oh well, good study weather.
Oh well, good study weather.

 

Did you doubt my devotion to the Almighty Dry Erase?
Did you doubt my devotion to the Almighty Dry Erase?

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My study group was a fabulous bunch of brilliant women from law school. In particular my study buddy (and class co-valedictorian), Liz, was patient and tolerant as we messaged and skyped and emailed questions back and forth. Our freakouts parallelled, and having someone who understood where you were, what you felt, and the emotions you were going through was one of the most valuable things I took away from Bar Review.

 

February. Ran out of propane on the day of the big ice storm. Oh, hello, Murphy.
February. Ran out of propane on the day of the big ice storm. Oh, hello, Murphy.

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A last few shots of the Bar Cave:

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Law school in a bookcase
    Law school in a bookcase

 

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Off to California!
Off to California!

Thanks for reading!

The California Bar Exam

This is my experience taking the California Bar Exam in Ontario, California, in February 2015.

This post belongs to a trio of posts about my Bar Review, the test itself, and my Concord Law School graduation. They are out of chronological sequence on my blog, but I’ll link them all up with an edit when I’ve got them all written. I’m afraid it will be a tad esoteric, but it’s probably only fellow students who will be reading anyway!

The CalBarX is a 3-day test offered twice per year to certified law school graduates, and a passing score is necessary to practice law in California. There are several testing sites in metropolitan areas, and roughly 4500 students take the test at the February administration. The test before mine, the July 2014 test, had a 48% pass rate, but the rate through the years has ranged from 27% (probably an anomaly) to 63%. Concord’s statistics are an overall pass rate of 51%, but that includes first and repeat takers.

The test consists of 3 different segments: essay writing, Performance Test writing, and multiple choice questions. The National Council of Bar Examiners administer the multiple choice portion of the test, which falls on the middle of the 3 days. All of the segments are considered together when determining the grade, which CalBar labels “minimal competency”, or 65%.

Most students take a Bar Preparation course, offered commercially in person or online. I took Kaplan Bar Review, post to come. The material is the same subject matter that was studied in law school, but without all of the history, philosophy, debate, and discussion that accompanies classes in law school.

I left my home in Tennessee the Saturday before the test on Tues/Wed/Thurs. It had been along, cold, brutal winter in TN, full of long hours of hard study, and while I was apprehensive about the test, I was glad to see my winter of Bar Review come to an end. We had had an ice storm a couple of days before I left, and it knocked my pasture fence down.

Farm troubles
Farm troubles

I got the cedar cleared, and the housesitter situated before I left town. My sweetheart came to town from Austin, TX to drive me to the airport and put me on my plane. Just his presence calms me down, so he flew all that way to kiss me good luck and send me to slay the dragon!

I got to Ontario Saturday night, unpacked, spread out my outlines on the bed, and tried to stay up late enough to transition to Pacific time.

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So of course I was up by 5am on Sunday morning. I tried to go back to sleep, but finally gave up and ran through some multiple choice questions and essays before venturing out to the grocery store. I needed my usual brain food snacks of cheese, nuts, olives, sardines, sparkly water, fruit, and veggies. (I also found a Hispanic market that had the best ceviche I’ve ever eaten. We had a little language problem so I ended up with both the shrimp and fish versions, but I was glad to try both. It ended up being my evening meals for 3 days. I’m still thinking about it.)

 

Sunday afternoon I studied, walked, soaked in the jacuzzi, studied some more, visited the convention center test site, texted my family, skyped my honey, and was generally restless and out-of-focus all day. I had been advised to expect that, so I didn’t freak out too badly. And when you’ve put in close to 800 hours of study, the final 10 don’t take on huge importance.

Little hotel desk. Somewhat similar to little home desk, only few marks on the surface from my forehead.
Little hotel desk. Somewhat similar to little home desk, only fewer marks on the surface from my forehead.

I did a little better sleeping and felt like I was nearly on track Monday. Monday was a repeat of Sunday, pacing the minimal square footage of my hotel room, outline in hand, reciting rule statements, then sitting and doing 10 or so multiple choice, then restlessly pacing again. I went to bed Monday night with no less than 4 alarms set: my phone, the front desk, the hotel alarm clock, and my honey.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the test center. We were prohibited from bringing in phones of any kind. It was in the Ontario convention center, with 1300 students in rows and rows of tables facing front. Here’s a shot of my CalBar-approved ziplock bag:

This was before I left home. My little stick friend had to wait in the hotel room, along with my pink 3x5 note cards. The glasses, earbuds, and pencils were all allowed.
This was before I left home. My little stick friend had to wait in the hotel room, along with my pink 3×5 note cards. The glasses, earbuds, and pencils were all allowed.

 

Were I a more creative writer, I could better describe the palpable, almost visible blanket of tension in the room. After producing our ID and entry ticket, we worked our way toward our seat assigned for the duration of the test. Some of us reached out to our left and right neighbors (Larry and Brittany), and tried to calm down. I emptied my ziplock bag, lined up my pencils about a thousand times, opened my laptop and the file for the test essays, and attempted to access my relaxation techniques. The instructions were clear, written by and for attorneys, and long. I had a little chuckle when our proctor said: “If you can’t hear me, raise your hand.” Finally: “You may now begin.”

I pushed in the stem of the 2 analog watches I had set to 12:00, and the California Bar Exam, February 2015, had begun.

Tuesday’s essays were –

Full disclaimer: I did not remember all the essay topics. I remember feeling that they were straightforward with no real surprises. I remember working close to exactly 60 minutes per essay. I remember vividly certain words and phrases, topics, and “calls-of-the-question”, but I had to reach out to my law school posse for help. Erin, Dawn, and Liz, all honors-winning graduates, were part of my study group, and they helped me retrieve the essay subjects and topics. They will be posted at the CalBar website after results are released in May.

Tuesday’s essays were:

Contracts – UCC performance and remedies, Real Property joint tenancy/right of survivorship/recording statute/bona fide purchaser/quitclaim deed/landlord-tenant/breach of covenant/adverse possession, and finally CivPro/discovery/physical-mental examination/motion to strike/demand for jury trial. I know that’s a lot of legal gobbledy-gook, but they were pretty good as far as essays go.

The proctors said: “Stop!”, we all put our pencils down, and we were 1/6 finished. I ran back to my room, pulled my snack food out of the fridge, called my honey, texted the kids, and it was time to go back.

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Tuesday afternoon was a PT. For the uninitiated, a PT is a roughly 30-page closed universe legal task that includes the task memo (usually a letter from the senior attorney in the firm), transcripts (trial, deposition, interrogation), Columbia statutory code (our fictitious state), cases (persuasive and controlling), and 3 hours to craft whatever it is the senior attorney has requested. Here’s a couple. Here’s a couple more. The answers that are posted are good, passing answers to each Performance Test. For some students, this is the favorite part; for others, the worst. For all of us, it’s the most lawyerly thing we get to do on the exam.

Tuesday’s PT was about a lawyer holding some stock in escrow blahblahblah. Like the essays, I don’t have the ability to recall completely all of the details. I remember I thought it was tough. The organization was fairly easy to discern, but the transcripts/code/cases had a lot of extra info to distinguish. I outlined for the full 90 minutes, then set to writing and did not finish until I heard the 5 minute, then 1 minute, then 30 second warnings.

I returned to my room, kind of dazed, but knowing I had 2 more days. Another restless night of sleep, 4 alarms, and on to Wednesday.

 

A little more study.
A little more study. Starbucks.

Wednesday is multiple choice day. Most of us have done 2000+ questions in review for the test. They’re tricky, and test extremely fine distinctions of law. Once you get a little good at them, they became “fun” (keeping in mind my perspective of “fun” was skewed by 10-hour days of relentless study), but it’s easier to show than to tell:

A man is prosecuted in a federal district court for income tax violations by consistently altering the accounting books of his business to show income lower than income actually received. The man’s wife assisted in falsifying his accounting records. Subsequently, the couple divorced. At the husband’s trial, the prosecutor calls the ex-wife to testify as to her ex-husband’s accounting practices. The ex-wife refuses to testify on the grounds of both the spousal and marital communications privilege.

How should the court rule on the objections?

A. Overrule both the spousal and marital objections.

B. Overrule the spousal objection, but sustain the marital objection.

C. Sustain the spousal objection but overrule the marital objection.

D. Sustain both the spousal and marital objections.

 

Law school students all over the blog are chuckling at this. This is an easy one. We had this answered in far less than the 1.8 minutes allotted to each answer. Scroll right on down to the bottom for the explanation. I sure hope Kaplan won’t sue me for posting this. This is Kaplan question. It comes from the Kaplan material. Please don’t sue me, Kaplan.

100 questions in the morning, 3 hours. Lunch. 100 questions in the afternoon. Every 20 questions I stood behind my chair, did a few squats, deep breaths, neck extensions, and sat back down in the chair. You’re welcome, fellow test-takers. I’m sorry, I was as quiet as I could be – no time to run to the bathroom for this. No penalty for wrong answers, so the name of this game is to mark an answer for every question. Those 2000 practice questions faded into the past and it’s just you and the paper and the pencil. This day had a time warp all its own as it took forever to get through all these, yet the time just screamed past.

Wednesday’s arrival back to the hotel came with a treat: Kid #1 (of 4) and his partner had a care package delivered to my hotel. Ben and Kirsten – you will never know what that meant to me! Between the Bar Exam and the trip to Vegas, I think we used everything. Except maybe the jumprope.

Included antacids, ibuprofen, a jumprope, and coffee. My kids know me.
Included antacids, ibuprofen, a jumprope, sweet note, and coffee. My kids know me.

But Wednesday night came with another surprise. My honey, the honey who had poured me on to an airplane in Nashville, the one who has been my champion and supporter for 4 years, the one who has cooked and cleaned and cooked some more during this phase of law school, came to Ontario. A knock at the door, and there he was. What a delicious and unexpected surprise. To sleep in the arms of the man who loves, supports, and believes in you most, has a calming power that no pharmacological agent has yet to reproduce.

Coffee at 6, shower, and the final pacing/rule statement begins.

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Had I been remotely conscious, I would have been able to take in the beautiful view behind me. This is the Ontario location, so if you’re more aware of your surroundings than me, keep this in mind!

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Thursdays essays were (see posse, above) Real Property, with emphasis on equitable/legal remedies, then General Partnership and liability, and Wills and Trusts with a focus on charitable/cy pres. Once again, they were straightforward and expected. Lunch, and back for one more set of instructions, one more lining up the pencils, one more round of eyerolls to my classmates and fellow test-takers, and it’s time to begin.

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The last PT of the day was a criminal case with our client accused of the murder of his parents: write an objective brief opposing the admission of evidence of the 911 call from the father, and the non-verbal, possibly assertive conduct, of the dying mother. 90 minutes outline, 90 minutes writing, 5-minute warning, 1-minute warning, 30-seconds, and the February 2015 California Bar Exam is over.

First moment:

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Second moment:

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Third moment:

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Make sure to link to the pre-Bar blog and the post-Bar blog (Graduation) for the whole story. I promise to come back and post my results, good or not so good, in May. If you’ve hung with me this long….

Thanks for reading!

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Answer: A. There are 2 testimonial privileges. This is Evidence 101, and if you truly, seriously want more than this explanation, ask the nearest law student. One privilege protects testifying against one’s spouse in a criminal proceeding, but only lasts for the duration of the marriage. The other privilege protects communications between spouses while married (that was intended to be confidential), and lasts beyond divorce, but does not apply if the communication was related to illegal activity. Hence, in this case, neither privilege applies. Please don’t sue me, Kaplan.

 

 

 

 

 

Graduation

What a day.

Today I graduated from law school.

I have been thinking about this day literally for 4 years, and in the abstract for over 50.

Graduation for Concord Law School is held at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. It’s always held on the Saturday following the administration of the California Bar Exam. See an earlier post about that experience.

Beginning with the Thursday night at the close of the test, my large and expanded family began arriving. First on the scene were my twin girls. Amy lives and works in Eugene, Oregon (this, this, and this), and Glenda lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada (this, this, and this). I was so happy to see their beautiful smiling faces after the 3-day beatdown.

Feelin the love
Feelin the love

Friday morning was transition day, from the test site in Ontario, California, to the graduation site in Sherman Oaks, California, just outside LA. But first, a quick trip to the airport to get my Steen. Her name is Susan, and we’ve been friends for years. She is as sweet and lovely as I am loud and snarky. I think that’s how we work so well. We share a love of eating well, of reading, and of writing (here’s the link to her column in our local newspaper). She is also a fabulous professional photographer, and produced most of the grad pics here and on my Facebook page.

My beautiful friend Steen
My beautiful friend Steen

Steen brought along our friend Flat Emily. Emily and her 2 beautiful babies and ever-loving and patient hubby John live in Murfreesboro. Steen, Emily, and I make up the Ish sisters, which is part support-group, part wine-tasting, picnic-sharing, group-texting, mother-daughter-sister love fest that meets regularly to laugh and cry and share and partay. Emily and the fam cheered me on from Tennessee, and on her Flat Emily stick girlie!

Ish girls
Ish girls

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Flat Emily enjoying her salad!
Flat Emily enjoying her salad!

Friday night was the Grad Bash. Because my school is online, our students reside all over the world. The night prior to graduation, our Student Bar Association sponsors an evening at the pub for graduates and alumni. For some of us, it’s the first time we’ve met face to face! And an added bonus for us: a classmate of the girls’ from high school in Tennessee, Kim, who now lives in LA was able to meet up with us!

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Sweet Siegel girls!
Sweet Siegel girls!

And this is where Ben and Kirsten (this, this, and this) come in from Colorado!

Great big happy!
Great big happy!

Back to the hotel where the last of the Jordans arrived – Sam and Jess from Colorado (this, this, and this), and my law school bestie Rosine (this) and her wife Myra from Castro Valley!  We must have been partying pretty hard, because evidently we didn’t have time for pictures that night. The next morning brought champagne toasts at 8am and dressing for the ball!

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All my beautiful people!
All my beautiful people!

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This was without a doubt, one of the most spectacular days of my life. I am so grateful – to Concord for the opportunity to go to law school, to all my professors, to my friends and family for being so loving, and to my honey for being so patient and supportive. I am still so overcome with emotion from the day, I don’t know how long it will take me to process everything. During the weekend, I tried to open my senses and memorize everything – what I was seeing, and hearing, and tasting, and feeling. It’s my plan to take this memory out of storage over and over and relive every moment.

The day was everything I wanted it to be, and so much more. To have my tribe with me for this event, both in spirit and in person, after this long, arduous, gratifying, challenging journey was beyond anything I could have hoped for.

And not to forget my support back home:

Mom and Dad in Georgia
Mom and Dad in Georgia
Sassy Em!
Sassy Em in Tennessee!

Thanks for reading!

 

Teaser

I know it’s not news that I’ve been out of the blogosphere.

I’ve been in the clutches of Bar Review for months. I took that bad boy last week, and I’m just now lifting my head up and noticing there is a whole world going on around me!

So here’s the thing. I kept a log of the Review, and I’m working on trying to get that one ready to publish. I’ve got a lot to say about that.

Then there was GRADUATION! The kiddos, my honey, and friends made the trip to LA and I’ve got LOTS to say about that!

Then that same group motored over to Vegas for 5 days, and I have a crazy LOT to say about that.

I’m in Austin with the honey for a bit, and it’s my plan to get some writing done over this next week. They’re gonna be all out of sequence with no spatial or time continuum, so brace for that.

To get you to come back, here’s some pics:

14 outlines. 4 years in the school. 4 months in the review. 3 days in the taking.
14 outlines. 4 years in the school. 4 months in the review. 3 days in the taking.

 

If I pass, it will be because of the power of the whiteboard.
If I pass, it will be because of the power of the whiteboard.

 

Oh happy day!
Oh happy day!

So check back! I have missed writing for pleasure, and I’m not sure I won’t break out into Issue-Rule-Analysis-Conclusion right in the middle of a post!

Thanks for reading!

Family swag

I just got home from the most epic-wonderful, non-stop, loud, proud, can’t-get-enough graduation weekend!  Oldest son Ben graduated from the University of Colorado last weekend.  He may have been the last of the 4 to graduate, but he did it in fine style!

All of the kids have humored their parents and grandparents and have participated in the graduation ceremonies.  Since they all attended large universities, the graduations were similar – hundreds graduating, thousands attending, prestigious speakers, interminable list of names called, the pomp and circumstance of it all.  Ben’s main graduation ceremony was no different, but because he was in an honors program, we were treated to a few more festivities.

But first:  getting there.

Ben and his SO Kirsten live in Loveland, CO.  They have a darling little house with a garden and a guest room and 2 precious dogs.  She drives north to Fort Collins where she works as an architect, and he drives south to Boulder for school.

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River and Susie
River and Susie

Our family lives…everywhere.  Graduation was to begin on Thursday.  Travel started on Sunday.

SUNDAY:

My parents headed out in their SUV from Peachtree City, Georgia

MONDAY:

I left my sweetheart in Austin, Texas to travel to Eugene, Oregon, where #4 has been.

TUESDAY:

#2 and his SO left Salida, Colorado heading for Loveland.  Amy and I made it from Eugene to Salt Lake City.  Parents made it to Loveland.

WEDNESDAY:

Jesse, Anna Leigh, and Aden left Murfreesboro to fly to Denver to rent a car to drive to Loveland.  Amy and I made it to Loveland.  #3 and her SO left Las Vegas at 5am, right after she got off work at the casino, flew through Salt Lake City to Denver to Loveland.

We have a couple of folks yet to arrive, but off we go to dinner.

Grandma Glenda, me, Amy, Little Glenda
Grandma Glenda, me, Amy, Little Glenda
The man of the moment and his very loving, very patient, very supportive girlfriend
The man of the moment and his very loving, very patient, very supportive girlfriend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam and Little Jess
Sam and Little Jess
Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and Grandpa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday morning brought the first of the official ceremonies:

 

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Ben’s Honors Thesis was entitled:  A Dangerous Conflation of Ideologies: The Nexus of Christianity and Neoliberalism.  I know, everyone’s dying to read it, but he wants to get it peer-reviewed and published, so he’s not quite making it public yet.  You can trust his mother – it’s brilliant.  His plan is to go to law school (University of Washington?) after a year off for LSAT study and travel.

Then the obligatory cheese and fruit reception

 

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Thursday night was our cooking extravaganza, and I don’t have many pictures of that because I was…cooking.  What a feast we had!  Everyone pitched in – all of us in the kitchen at once, cooking, mixing drinks, dancing, and I know it will surprise everyone, but we are a little loud when we are all together, so I remember a lot of shouting.

Late Thursday night brought in Amy’s squeeze, Alex, from Eugene, Oregon, after a little tense pass travel experience going through Salt Lake City.  Then Friday was the big show!

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And then there he was!
And then there he was!

Next was a reception for his department, with a quick stop in the bookstore on the way

Aden and Ralphie
Aden and Ralphie

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We grabbed this moment for the group shot:

 

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This one I call My Honeys with Their Honeys
This one I call My Honeys with Their Honeys

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And whattyaknow, we have time for a quick drink before the final event of the day!

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Then, the last event – his graduation with his Political Science Department

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BBQ and friends, my honey got in late, food and drink for everyone (and a little storytelling…), and then back together again for breakfast before everyone had to hit the road for that traveling in reverse.

Breakfast bunch
Breakfast bunch

Ben, we are profoundly proud of you.  Not only did you get it done, you got it done magnificently!

Thanks for reading!

 

Vaughn and Lucy

I loved Edwin Kagin.

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Edwin died on March 27.  I loved him.  I loved his big, fat, beautiful, juicy brain, I loved his irreverent, dry, southern sense of humor, and I loved his unrelenting compassion, desire for justice, and concern for children.

Edwin was the legal director for American Atheists from 2006 until his death.  He and his wife Helen were the originators of Camp Quest, a secular summer camp for children.  It had grown from a brilliant idea in 1996, to overnight and week-long camps located in many states, and UK and Switzerland.  Camp Quest offers children the summer camp experience including educational activities that promote critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, and philosophy.   Edwin was the brilliant legal mind behind many civil rights and religious freedom lawsuits over the years, but I believe it was Camp Quest of which he was most proud.

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I met Edwin in Des Moines at the American Atheist convention and was captivated by his charm.  He was lovely and encouraging to me as a first-year law student.   Edwin could be funny and serious and blasphemous, all in one sentence.  He was the quintessential cantankerous and curmudgeonly crank whose eyes twinkled behind his glasses under the brim of his leather hat.

Edwin was also an author and bloggerHere is a post he wrote about the death of his lovely wife Helen.  Not long after I met Edwin, he sent me a copy of his book Baubles of Blasphemy.  I rationed the readings of his writings because they usually had a profound effect on me as a new freethinker just coming out of the daze of religion, and I needed the extra moments to digest the profundity.  We corresponded through email and even in this cold, impersonal digital format, his warm, witty personality peeked through.

Edwin and I saw one another at various freethinkers conventions, and always stole a moment or two to catch up.  He never failed to ask me about law school and how I was doing and what my plans were.  I saw him last in Austin, Texas, and was looking forward to seeing him again in Salt Lake City in April.  Edwin died on March 27.

But my sweet Edwin left behind not only a legacy of epic proportions in the way of Camp Quest, but also his two canine loves, Vaughn and Lucy.  Edwin’s family put out the word that these two honeys needed a home, and they needed to stay together, if possible.  It took me about 10 seconds of reflection before I knew I wanted to provide a home for these babies.

So I introduce to you:  Vaughn and Lucy.

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Big Vaughn
Meeting Elvis the steer
Meeting Elvis the steer
Hot mess of Freethought canines
Hot mess of Freethought canines
The sweetness that is Lucy.
The sweetness that is Lucy.
Precious Vaughn
Precious Vaughn

We’re getting to know one another.  When they learn to trust me, I plan to solicit any legal genius that Edwin shared with them, but I can be patient.  Right now we’re working on positioning in my office while I’m studying, and smelling everything that can be smelled on a farm.

What a delight these two furries are.

And what a joy and an honor and a privilege to have known this man.

Thanks for reading.

edwin-of-the-andes

Before you return to wherever you were before you were born, it might be a good idea to so live that people remember you fondly. This is not a dress rehearsal. Life ends / Tao flows.
Don’t take life too seriously; you won’t get out of it alive anyway.

Edwin Kagin

 

 

Get busy livin or get busy dyin

I know I haven’t blogged enough when I am tempted to title the post as “An Update”, but there could be no more boring a post title than that, and I refuse.

I’m in my fourth and final year of law school.  This year’s subjects are Wills and Trusts, Remedies, and California Community Property.  Our schedule is a little different this year: these 3 classes finish in September, and Sept-Dec we have Capstone, which is a course intended to prepare us for the Performance Test, which is a portion of the Bar Exam.  Then in December I begin my Bar Review course, and take the Bar in February.

Exactly one year from today will be the Sunday evening before Bar Exam week.  The test is 3 days, Tues/Wed/Thurs consisting of 6 essays, 200 multiple choice questions, and 2 Performance Tests.  Just describing it is enough stimulation for now, and I’ll post more about it in the future, but after this week’s applicants take it, my countdown begins.

That’s enough about school, except to say that I still love everything about it.  I say with no disclaimer that I am going to miss it.  I’ve loved gaining the knowledge, studying the cases, and sharing with my classmates.  Here’s my post of when I announced I was attending – see if you detect any less excitement now than when I began.

And in other news, last year, darling son Sam, who is also an endurance athlete said to me ever-so-sweetly:  “Mom, I want to do an Ironman with you before you are too old.”  Without even the faintest tinge of humor.

In what turned out to be a much, much bigger commitment that I imagined in my wildest dreams, I once made a promise to my children that whatever they would ask or allow me to do with them, I would do.  It was based on my belief that you meet your children where they are if you want to be close to them.  This promise has taken me to the top of black diamond ski runs, down rapids in a kayak, to art museums in New York City, to road trips across America.

So, on September 7, 2014, Sam and I will be competing in the Rev 3 Cedarpoint Triathlon in Sandusky, Ohio.  Just to refresh:  It’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.  I started training in January in Tennessee; Sam’s doing his training in Colorado.

Distance training involves a progressive program of adding longer/more often/more intense workouts over time.  Over the months leading to September I plan to do several shorter triathlons.  There’s one in Tullahoma in June, a great race in Chattanooga in July, and I’m looking for a half-Iron for August.  I’ve done a couple of half-marathons since the new year, with a couple more coming up.  I’ve got some 5, 10, and 15ks mixed in as well, and then triathlon season starts this spring.

Watch for race previews, race debriefs, and pics of the adventure.  Suggest a race if you know of a good one.  And you’re welcome to come to Ohio in September – the race is held at Cedar Point Amusement park, which is where my team support will be as Sammy and I are out on the course!

Thanks for reading!

 

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