Thursday, July 31, 2008


On the third day of the California bar exam, my true love gave to me ... another contracts remedies essay question! Well, I guess trying to predict the frequency with which subjects will arise on the California bar exam is a bit like predicting, well, earthquakes.

The morning session was, as expected, quite a bit tougher than Tuesdays morning session, sans earthquake. But still, it wasn't what I would call "evil".

What was truly evil was the afternoon performance exam question. Never mind that the situation was set up such that it was very difficult to agree with the position we were supposed to take, but it was in essence a points and authorities memo in support of a motion in opposition to a motion to exclude evidence. We were given enough evidence only to realize that it was a "he said she said" kind of situation, with insufficient facts to really support either side. And, on top of that, there was no sample of what a points and authorities memo was supposed to look like!

Fortunately, such memos are the stuff of first year law school--except that was two years agoo!

At last, the dreaded "evil" written question has surfaced, in the last leg of this 3-day endurance test we impersonally call "the California bar exam".

Tidbits from the bar exam:

  • As we took our seats this morning, one of the proctors revealed that at one of the other testing sites, a bar applicant had been kicked out and disqualified because her phone had gone off 8 minutes before the end of a session. I don't really feel bad about that one, honestly.
  • We were told that another bar applicant had been kicked out and disqualified because when he fell asleep during the MBE, his snoring was bothering his neighbors. That's a little iffy, and I hope that wasn't true.
  • One girl started doing cartwheels just before the AM session.
  • Others were doing yoga. Wow.
  • Another girl started dancing in her seat at the end of the AM session. I wonder how she felt when she read the prompt for the PM session!

Anyway, the bar exam has been quite an experience indeed. That's really all I have to say about that. If you just finished taking the California bar exam, are near the downtown LA area, and need a stiff drink like I do, drop me a comment, and we'll figure something out!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On Day More

The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) was today, and it was a killer. There were varieties of forms, thus a variety of arrangements of questions. This was a lot harder than what we'd learned through Bar/Bri, as the questions addressed details of the law that we hadn't really covered to any degree. Fortunately, as Professor Honigsberg has said, "If you don't know it--NOBODY!"

Upon some reflection, I suppose the point is this: this is how the California Committee of Bar Examiners intends to break us down. I can throw in a lot of sports analogies, for both how I felt after the AM portion ("it was like I deviated from my fundamentals, tried to recover, set myself up for one good basket, bricked it, and then ran out of time to correct it and to score a winning basket"), and how I must treat this next step ("I've gotta have a short memory like a quarterback, and keep coming back, play after play, drive after drive").

It's late now, but I'm just here to remind everyone not to let today get to you for more than 10 minutes or so. Remember, today's over, and you have all of tomorrow. Don't give up, because you've worked so hard already. One day more, folks, one day more!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shake, Rattle and Roll

I had decided to go into Internet silence, but two things have compelled me to surface tonight. First, in order to finish submitting my answers from this, the first day of the California Bar Exam, I had to connect to the Internet and upload the answers. Second, I felt like I should comment about the earthquake that struck today, about 20 minutes before the end of the morning session.

There we were, in the Century Plaza Hotel, typing merrily away about implied-in-fact contracts, when the building started to shake. At first we thought it might be a semi rolling by, or the sound of construction. But then the pillars in my testing room began to blur. And this being only the first day of the bar, I knew it wasn't just my eyesight. It had to be an earthquake.

The room shook for a few seconds, then there was a second or two of relative calm, before a second convulsion shook the room. "You've gotta be kidding!" some people started exclaiming. I wondered if I was supposed to duck and cover, but decided instead just to keep typing, especially since there were no emergency announcements. The head proctor spoke at the podium a few seconds after we were sure there were not going to be any aftershocks and used the same reasoning. So 500 or so people kept typing away at their essays.

In the morning, some of us had bemoaned the fact that our testing room was in what seemed to be an old parking lot or storage room of some sort. We envied the other 500 or so people who got the ballroom, with the beautiful chandeliers. As it turned out, a piece fell from one of the chandeliers in the quake, and dropped on the table behind one of my friends, who only then considered doing the duck and roll.

As we gathered after lunch for the afternoon session, one of the bar applicants reported that she and her friends who were taking the exam in Ontario had spoken, and it turned out that they had to ride the quake for more time than those of us in Century City did, because they were closer to the epicenter. Despite Professor Honigsberg's anecdotes during Bar/Bri, the proctors did give the Ontario applicants extra time--all of two minutes.

On the other hand, the questions didn't seem particularly difficult, which is really only to say that there was nothing being asked that made most of us wonder where it had come from. As it turns out, students who had taken Fleming's bar review course knew the second question, which their instructor had predicted almost word-for-word. Bar/Bri students, on the other hand, had never seen the topic before, but were able to pull through using the reasoning they developed over three years.

All this might mean that Thursday is going to be the day of the really hard essay questions. But on this first day of the California bar exam, Tuesday 29 July 2008, the only thing that shook us was the earth itself.

Update: (2008.07.30.21:35 PDT) There's a great roundup of reactions from all around the blawgosphere at Ash Blog Durbatulûk: "Earthquake disrupts California bar exam"

Monday, July 28, 2008

Good Luck on the Bar, Class of 2008!

So the last-minute plan underwent some changes. Outlining took a little longer than I thought, but then, I was trying to cover 14 subjects, and did so at a pace of about 3-1/2 subjects a day. Nevertheless, the process of creating the comprehensive compact outline forced me to learn, and in so doing, substituted the efficacy of actually doing essays. And now that I have the huge outline, I've got all the subjects floating in my head; hopefully they'll stick around long enough for me to write about them for the actual bar. And, just for comfort's sake, I'm reading through some sample essays this morning.

But enough about me; this is about you, about us.

We've been through three (four, for some) years of law school now. We know how to do this. Most of the things we need to know are floating in our minds. We law students as a group tend to be a bit obsessive, so the entire feeling of not knowing what's going to happen bothers us. It's going to bother us, too, in November. But being bothered isn't going to help us.

What's going to help, in my personal opinion, is the ability not to freak out, or at least to bring things under control when and if we begin to panic. Like I said, we have the knowledge. But to an extent, a lot of us always seem to feel like nothing we do is ever good enough. Is that really true? Why not let the examiner decide that? Don't ever decide on their behalf that we're not good enough!

This past Saturday, I came home after 14 hours at the library, feeling fine physically, but emotionally drained, in the sense that I'd been giving so much of my mind and energy to finishing the monster outline that I hadn't really had time to step back and assess my own humanity. I had become a law machine. My friends and I had begun the summer joking about applying the law to every factual scenario that raised itself, including discussing how we could sue the bar association for intentional infliction of emotional distress, or California for imposing an unconstitutional speech litmus test on us. Or even wondering, yesterday, if the way the outer shell of a law school building was constructed might expose the school to liability should the wall fall on us (it cannot, unless the school had reason to know or could discover that there was a problem with the construction that poses an unreasonable risk of harm to us, invitees--and then we discussed whether we were invitees or licensees, in which case the school would only be liable for known risks of harm). Mo, Alex, Lety, Katie, Aleksey, Bear, I love you guys, but seriously, at that point, we were not human beings.

So my point is that on this, the last day before the three days that we've been preparing three years for, please remember to take a step back. My epiphany on Saturday night (well it was really Sunday morning because I'd stayed at the library pretty much until midnight) is that there's no way we're going to succeed without love. That sounds mushy, and warm and fuzzy, like Professional Responsibility, but I'll tell you why I think it's important.

The practice of law inevitably demands that we deal with people, many if not most of whom have only a superficial understanding of the law. They will come to us hoping for answers, and needing us to listen; they won't want to hear us ticking through the elements in a monologue as if reciting a bar essay answer. And while ticking through the elements is useful for the bar, it's counterproductive if it blinds us to common sense. And where do we get common sense from? We tend to get it from years of dealing with people, especially the people that we love and that love us, our friends, family, and significant others (for those who have one). They keep us grounded. They let us do our thing this summer (for the most part), and when we're done, they'll be there for us still.

On this last day before the bar exam, talk to them, if only for 10 minutes. Call them up, and offer your appreciation. You'll be refreshed by the love in their perseverance and patience. And, most of all, you'll remember why you made this undertaking to begin with. After all, in the end, this isn't just a degree, not just a license. Well, that it is as well, but it's more than that; my point is, no accomplishment is worth that much in the long run if you're not human, if you don't have someone to share your triumph with.

So call, and talk, about anything but law. (Yes, you can still analyze facts mentioned in the conversation under the law, but do it with your inside voice.) Tomorrow, you will be refreshed; you will be ready.

Best of luck to all of you, I wish you good fortune and much love, and I'll see you on the other side!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last-Minute Plan

Things seemed to go so well at first. Bar/Bri's schedule was not, in retrospect, terribly difficult to follow. Of course, on lecture days, it was a good idea to outline lecture notes before starting on suggested assignments. And many people let things slip, but by a couple of days after the end of lectures on substantive law, people were beginning to catch up.

But not everybody learns the same way. And I found myself staring at piles of essays, which Bar/Bri had recommended us to "outline". I had been overcompensating for falling behind earlier in the summer by actually doing full essays, sometimes even spending more than one hour on a few essays (and thereby practicing how not to do them).

Then, yesterday, the Tuesday night before the California July 2008 Bar Exam was to begin, I realized that there was no way I would remember everything if I stuck with Bar/Bri's suggested schedule. So I actually went home before 11 p.m. I rested a bit. I devised a new plan. And, as I enjoyed a late dinner at Denny's with my brother, the plan gelled in my head.

It's a bit late, really, to start coming up with a plan. But the process of coming up with a new plan, one that best recognizes who I am and how I study, was therapeutic. And simply knowing that I have a plan is calming, even in a sea of bar applicants struggling with their own misperceptions about their adequacy: they are all human, with idiosyncratic flaws, but lack of intelligence is not one of the flaws. And so, I stayed up until 6 a.m. the night before to start on the new plan, just to give it a foothold; and I came to the library late, giving myself a chance to stock up on some groceries and get some sleep. And on campus, though I couldn't really say that I was really better prepared than anybody else, I could at least say that I had a plan.

It's simple, really. I would execute a new outline, compacted from the lecture notes and adjusted to better fit Professor Sakai's outlines. And I would "outline" and read as many essays as I can through lunch on Friday. Then I would do a set of 100 multiple choice questions Friday evening, and review. Saturday would be given over to a practice performance question. And Sunday would be dedicated to doing a full essay from each area I feel weak in or that is most likely to be on the exam. Then, Monday morning, I would skim over the new outline, before quitting studying to hit the gym.

I honestly don't know with any certainty if this plan will work, or if I will pass the bar exam. But at this point, just having a plan is going to be helpful, because it puts me at a place where I feel I have some control. And that's really it, isn't it? Most law students, yours truly not excepted, are control freaks, compared to the general populace. And nothing terrifies control freaks like the bar exam, because we don't know what's going to be on the exam, the breadth is immense, and we won't know the results until just before Thanksgiving.

So this little island of calm will help at least keep me sane. And that's probably all any bar applicant can ask for, 5 days and 11 hours before the bar exam begins.