July 28, 2006

Bar: My take

I've heard many people describe the bar as an endurance test. I disagree. An endurance test is merely one of length and stubborness. It's you versus something you know and have the will to endure.

The bar on the other hand isn't actually that long. Maybe the studying is an endurance test. But, after 2.5 months of studying, the 6 hours a day of testing and 1 hour of listening to instructions for 3 days isn't that taxing. Sure, it's tiring, but it's not the test itself that's tiring you out.

What is taxing, instead, is the mental warfare. BarBri will succeed in their best efforts to freak you out -- that's how they make their money -- off the paranoia. I hate them. There are plenty of strategies that could help people learn about and understand how to take this test for exactly what it is -- a stupid test of tactics and a little bit of knowledge. BarBri does not teach any of those things. Instead, they will assign you to do things you are bound to fail at, which will freak you out. They will assign too much work and not enough strategy. Your fellow test takers will add to your stress levels with their comments and demeanor as well as the tales of their mishaps. And no matter how serene you generally are, you will wage mental warfare with yourself.

Finally, you should expect the worst because some of it will probably happen. How you handle these things is much more indicative of whether you will keep it together than how many of the BarBri assigned questions you did.

So, for what it's worth, in hindsight, myself and/or people I know would have been better off if we had made the following assumptions:

  1. They will start the test late and you will be surrounded by 1800 freaking out JDs waiting outside the doors that won't open. For an hour. With no explanation. In the heat wave.

  2. Your 3 least favorite subjects are going to come up 1-3 on the first day of essays.

  3. You will realize halfway through a performance exam that you are doing it ALL WRONG. If you keep your cool, you will have time to fix it. If you don't...

  4. At times, the air conditioning system will suck, alternatively cooking you and freezing you.

  5. Some proctors will think it's funny to make jokes like, "how do you think you are going to pass this test if you can't even get the right form in the right envelope?"

  6. Your computer will freak out and you will have to hand-write.

  7. You will get food poisoning on the night after the first day and you will puke all night, getting no sleep.

  8. You will be completely unable to sleep the night before the first day, no matter how well you handle stress.

  9. You will get in a car accident on the drive home from the bar exam (This one is a serious one to consider. Think about getting a ride. Many of my friends and I were brain dead and had tales of almost causing accidents. One of us did.)

This is not a test of anything other than your ability to put up with shit that sucks, a bit of legal knowledge, and your ability to write for people who aren't reading (a skill I'm betting most of us never really tried to develop before). I'd say it's 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.

BarBri and the California Bar would have you believe this test is mostly about the law. They lie. You can get the law wrong and pass. You just have to spot the issues they want you to spot, keep your cool, and get lucky on your MBE guesses and the grader who reads your essays. What a great filter for entrance to the noble profession! NOT!

Of course, if I pass, I'll probably move on with my life without doing a single thing to fight the obviously horrid process and make it better for those who come after me. Life is just too short. Sorry guys.

I'm feeling pretty cool. The cops showed up at my impromptu post-bar 30th birthday party.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would be the person I'd become. Amused does not begin to describe the feeling.

Oh, and also, the bar sucks. But it's over. More on that shite later. For now, I'm home, still in shock at the idea of having a life again, and apparently, working my way towards being a private nuisance.

July 23, 2006

Bar: Reality

After 9 weeks of straight studying, even if you've done everything you personally could have done, you did not, could not have, done it all.

So two nights before the exam, I keep studying, but lightly, and I'm doing my best to maintain the confidence that it's going to be okay.

Unfortunately, tonight is where I have to let it go and realize that there is a large element of luck in all of this.

Because all of what is necessary to ensure success will not fit in my brain. So I'm reduced to hoping that the stuff that's in there is enough to be okay.

I think it's healthy to face the demons. I'm glad I'm doing it tonight.

Here's to hoping tomorrow, or at least Tuesday, I'll be back in the zone.

July 21, 2006

Bar: in the zone

A week from now, I'll be on vacation.

I've just got to go through the motions of studying for 4 days and the test for 3. It's all scheduled except for packing and possibly buying one of the allowed timepieces.

I'm calm. It's the comfortable hyper-calm from sports.

I've never felt this way about an exam before. The forced high-performance calm had previously been reserved for sports where I could break my neck if I fucked up.

I can take the bar exam again. I know this. And yet, my body/brain complex has apparently been put under enough stress in this whole process to think it deserves the same level of controlled adrenaline as competing a trick on your own that you've never done without a crash mat and a spotter to save you.

I always understood how much of a mental game sports were. There were always a few people who were so confident and had so much mind-over-body control that they could return from a 3-month hiatus, 10 pounds heavy and out of shape, only to kick the ass of those who had been in the gym 6 days a week. In diving, the hiatus could be years (water hurts much less than ground).

Why could these bad-asses do this? Sure some of it was raw talent. But one thing they all had in common was knowing that they could do it. Those kids, they had this serene confidence that at times could be more important than preparation and strength. We often thought they were stupid for trying tricks that they clearly weren't in good enough shape to pull. They always landed and grinned.

It's fascinating that the bar is just as much of a mind game as successfully flipping and twisting your body in ways it shouldn't be torqued. It's just contorting your brain to store way more than is remotely comfortable in a way that you can access it all. And believing that a) the stuff is in there; b) you can get to it; and c) when you can't you're gonna fake it well enough that no one's gonna notice.

So my take home point is this: now that we're running out of time to prepare, it's time to believe.

July 19, 2006

Is this normal?

My mom's husband left me a voicemail this morning. He was somewhat frantic because he couldn't find my mom, didn't know where she was, and was concerned that perhaps something happened with my dad, or, uh... she just left, and, well, he'd called everyone, and, uhh...

Needless to say, when I got the message I immediately called my mom.

She was fine.

Her husband had found her hours ago. He'd forgotten that she'd told him goodbye this AM and she was at the meeting she'd told him she would be attending.

Is this going to happen to me when I get to be their age?

July 18, 2006

Bar: countdown

1 week from right now, I'll be in the stupid exam.

Thank goodness. It's about time to end this madness. I want my life back.

7 days. I'm so relieved. For me, the hard part is over. I found it difficult to motivate myself to put in the time to finish what I wanted to do for the last few weeks, but somehow I dug deep and managed to get most of it done.

And now, the motivation isn't a problem. This morning, I feel like how I feel with half a mile left on a run and I decide to finish at some ridiculous pace that I can't really sustain. I tell myself, you can do *anything* for half a mile, let's just get this over with. Then I just focus on my breathing, and before I know it, I'm done.

July 17, 2006

Bar: A pleasant surprise?

A few weeks back, I had to face the fact that I really needed help on the essays, so I ordered some more materials and added some additional essays to the already jam-packed schedule.

Unfortunately, something had to give.

So, I substituted bar essays for training for and running in a gorgeous half-marathon in wine country. This was the second year in a row where I'd paid the entrance fee to that race and then had to bail because life got in the way. (You can guarantee I'll try to do it next year, now it's personal...)

But, I found a way to replace my runs and study by doing walks and flashcards. Initially, I did it alone, babbling out loud to myself, and no doubt making my neighbors certain that I was crazy.

More recently, A and I go together. Every day, we quiz each other, we walk, and we vent. On average, we do about 1-2 hours of good solid review per day. It's a nice way to break up the day. And oddly, stuff seems to stick better with the change of scenery and the physical exertion.

Apparently, it's a nice way to get more exercise than I realized as well. I added up my mileage for last week and was shocked to find that although I only went for two runs, I managed to clock in 33.9 miles on the shoes.

At this rate, I should be on track to be able to run a half-marathon within a few weeks of the bar without any problem. What a pleasant surprise.

July 16, 2006

Bar: This sucks

I think this is another low point.

I can see the bar coming. It's close enough to have me mildly stressed. It's still far enough away, however, that I'm daunted at the idea of keeping this up for the remaining 8 days. Those 8 days seem very long.

Plus, my dad is still in the hospital and I'm just generally bummed about that. He's slowly getting better, but he's depressed and not as healthy as he wants to be.

I found out through the family grapevine that he got some mildly bad news a few days ago, which he has been hiding from me. Ordinarily, I'm in constant contact with the nurses and I know about his health better than he does. But right now, I can't do the multiple phone calls, the waiting on hold, the sweet-talking of the stressed out nurses. So I'm in the dark.

Even in the hospital, he wants to take care of me. He's my dad.

And I want to be there to take care of him. Being there seems more important than this daily onslaught of cramming and spewing law that wouldn't pass muster in any acceptable legal practice anywhere.

But, he's not in any state where I can do anything for him. I want to go for selfish reasons, to assuage my guilt, and to get away from all of this. He wants me here. Studying.

Like I said. This sucks.
Good Quote

Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance toward the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point. climb slowly, steadily, enjoying each passing moment; and the view from the summit will serve as a fitting climax for the journey.

-- Harold V. Melchert, courtesy of Jeff Adachi's intro to the contracts chapter.

July 15, 2006

Bar: New Least Favorite Subject

Dear California Bar Examiners:

Constitutional law is an extremely inappropriate subject to test under the "memorize an outline and spit it out" approach. You may have noticed that con law is a big grey box of wishy-washiness.

Unfortunately, your graders have 2.5 minutes per essay and need bold headings, tests with 3 prongs, and conclusive answers.

This makes Con Law my new least favorite subject.

Just thought you might want to know.



Our neighbor across the street is turning 15 today. He's out in his front yard with all of his friends. The boys are vaguely identical, each with black T-shirts that are two sizes too big and longish hair that falls in their faces. There are also a few girls who look about 5 years older than all of the boys.

Earlier this week, I found a piece of paper sticking out of the mailbox. Basically, it said:

"My band will be playing at my birthday party at 3 PM. Please come check us out. If you don't come, please note that the drums will be loud. Please do not call the police."

I'm all for it. I'm bummed I'm locked in the house. I think it would be fun to go watch and listen to a band of 15-year-olds play music. From what I've heard of his practice, they should be somewhat decent. Plus, for once, it's not us making the annoying noise.

Too bad I've got to stay inside and study Con Law. Which, by the way, contains WAY too many intricate details to fit nicely into the remaining open space in my brain.

Oh, there goes the band. Boy, they are loud. He wasn't kidding. At least I can listen and study...

July 14, 2006


The doorbell just rang. I'm looking pretty hot these days (Why yes, these are the same men's boxer shorts that I was wearing all day yesterday. Thank you for noticing.)

Needless to say, I didn't make the FedEx guy's day.

But he made mine. Big box full of candy, cookies, etc, from the firm!

I heart unexpected indulgence food while I'm studying.

Okay. Back to property.
Asian-inspired BBQ

In celebration of the night off I took last night, I present the beef recipe I made/adapted, which along with the spicy soba salad and macaroons made for a wonderful day of cooking study breaks. Today, the day of leftovers, promises to be more focused.

Lemon grass beef skewers

1 lb sirloin, trimmed and sliced into 1/8 inch strips
1/4 white onion, chopped into pieces that will fit on skewers (Approx 1/2 in X 1/2 in)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped into similar size pieces as onion
2 serrano chiles, seeded (or unseeded if you are a spice lover)
rice vinegar
olive oil
splash of red and white wine (if you have it laying around)
1 bunch of cilantro
2 stocks of lemon grass, outer layer peeled off and chopped
1-2 tsp sugar.

Directions: Put sirloin strips, onion and bell pepper pieces into a dish for marinating. Puree remaining ingredients in food processor and pour over meat and vegetables. Let sit in the fridge for a few hours. Prepare skewers by sticking the skewer through the meat at one end, then a piece of vegetable, then accordion the meat back, then another vegetable and so on until you need to use another piece of meat. Grill until the meat is done to your desired amount. Remove from skewers and enjoy.

Happy Friday!

July 13, 2006

Bar: hints for those who are dense like me

Say it with me now: DO NOT THINK.

The California bar wants to see that you can memorize an outline and do a cursory recitation and cut-and-paste.

Issue spotting is really just pasting an outline into the answer and filling in half of the items with, "this is not an issue because there are no facts to indicate..."

Take for example, an essay question that says, "Bob moves for summary judgment on the grounds that he was not legally responsible for Peter's injuries. Did the court properly grant his motion?"

Please forget about every motion for summary judgment you've ever read or written. This is not a motion for summary judgment on the grounds of lack of "legal causation." Sure, it might look like that is the issue of law upon which relief is requested. But no.

In bar land, a motion for summary judgment says to the court, "I say there are no issues of triable fact, tell me otherwise." The whole burden on the moving party thing... yeah, ignore that. The burden is never on the bar examiners.

Just follow the outline, do one paragraph with a heading for every element of negligence and ignore the fact that an MSJ usually asks the court to find identified and argued issues to be true or false as a matter of law. They wanna see their duty, breach, causation, and damages even if they don't ask for 'em.

They wanna see their outlines. I'm supposed to give 'em back their outlines. Why is this so hard for me to understand?

July 12, 2006

Bar: Multiple Choice Questions Question

Do any of you have an opinion about the "released questions?"

Seems to me like they are the easiest set of questions I've done for every subject that I've done 'em for. Easier than the BarBri simulated exam. Way easier than the PMBR questions, along the lines of the BarBri introductory questions for the topic, if not easier.

I've heard many people claim that PMBR questions are more indicative of the type of questions you will see on the MBE. But I was under the impression that the released questions in the Barbri MDR were actually NCBE questions.

So, I'd love some feedback from those of you who are in this madness or who've been there before.

If I only have time to do one set, should I take solace in the released questions or keep pushing through on the PMBR questions?

Thanks in advance.

**UPDATE: So, thanks to Frolics & Detours we have a theory: the released questions are easy because NCBE doesn't release their tricks. Makes sense. Also, I thought you could order actual MBE questions from them, but it turns out, you can only order "sample" exams, one of which is reproduced in the released questions in the MDR. So, PMBR it is.

July 11, 2006

Bar: the final ascent

Today was the last BarBri lecture. Now it's just me, enough books to load 2 llamas, and 336 hours 'til the exam.

Overall, I'm okay. Grumpy. Tired. Not excited about the next 14 days. But, I will do what I can do and that will be that.

On the bright side, I can already imagine what it's going to be like to have a life again. Evenings. Vacation. Cooking. Just not right now.

July 10, 2006

Pop Culture

I kind of missed the world cup.

But, I think I saw the cartoon version a while ago:

Hank Scorpio: By the way, Homer, what's your least favorite country? Italy or France?

Homer: France.

[Hank adjusts a giant laser]

Hank Scorpio: Heh heh. Nobody ever says Italy.

July 9, 2006

Bar: You're Kidding Me

Just got another essay back from the good old barbri graders. I passed! There's a first time for everything, I guess.

Only, I'm fairly certain I should have failed. Compared to the sample answer, I went off on quite a few tangents and didn't spend as much time on the "big issues." This has been the reason I've failed in the past and what I need to avoid doing on the bar.

Thanks for the positive feedback barbri grader, but I'm not buying it. Back to learning how to be a clone.
What you need?

Apparently, there was a piece on NPR about Bonobos. A stopped by last night and gave us her rendition of the interview. We laughed with E2 (who leaves for China today!) 'til it hurt.

The woman was crazy. She believed she was one with the Bonobos. They substitute sex for aggression. They throw feces. She taught them to give her their feces. So they did. Every time they saw her for 4 years. I'm thinkin' they were doing a little experimentation of their own...

July 7, 2006

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Last night was the best night I've had in a while. My top 10 favorite things?

1. A dream where I got to hang out with my Papa.
2. No studying after 5 PM!
3. A 4-mile run with E2.
4. Friends.
5. Cowboy Caviar.
6. Carne Asada Tacos with home-made guacamole from E2.
7. Spicy shrimp from D.
8. A sour cream chocolate cake.
9. Dark chocolate icing (in hindsight, I should have used the sour cream dark/milk icing recommended by Nigella, but I didn't have enough sour cream).
10. Staying up talking 'til 1 AM and then sleeping in my own bed with E.

I'm ready to put in a few good days of attack now (starting with a nap this afternoon...)

July 5, 2006


I am, you see, what some would refer to as wound up. Overly protective. I'm an introvert who often successfully masquerades as an extrovert. But even at my most extroverted, I have to think about the majority of the things I communicate before I let them go free. I'm often jealous of the spontaneous joy and sadness that my extroverted friends express in public.

But. I do not work that way. For the most part, I like to think about how I feel before I express it.

Which is why this whole spill my guts about the bar on the blog thing is weird. Often, I'm expressing my thoughts and feelings before I've had a chance to fully process them. I find my response to the bar is very human, the way I write about it on the blog.

I read my posts to see that I am being selfish. That I am focused on me and my life to the exclusion of humor or the news. I'm overly concerned with details that won't matter in the future and I'm talking about them. I'm silly. I over-react. I'm not thinking enough. I'm boring. And what I write doesn't sound like how I want my words to sound.

I'm sure this is a combination of many things (what I'm doing with my life on a daily basis isn't how I'd like to spend it, stress, and the fact that my filters aren't on when it comes to bar posts, to name a few...).

Regardless, I think one of the hardest things about the bar study period is that it brings out some of your worst qualities. On top of everything else. Who needs to deal with their failings as a human in the middle of this mess?

Oh. Right. That's how we grow into better people. Fun. Please excuse me while I go grow some more.

July 4, 2006

Bar: Sigh

Happy Fourth of July. I'm home. Exhausted, but happy to be home, despite the holiday of studying.

I take a small bit of pleasure in the knowledge that at least the poor folks at BarBri are working too. I received an emailed response to yet another essay.


At least I'm failing in the same way. I'm actually gratified to see that I think I've identified my problem correctly. This grader actually came right out and said,


Oh. Right. Silly me. I only gave it a general heading and two paragraphs. I wrote this essay back when I thought "BIG ISSUE" meant something that could go either way and was worthy of discussion. I thought they were looking for issues that were actually interesting to discuss, like something that would actually change the outcome of the case or go to court instead of settle.

But now, I'm slowly getting the point. "BIG ISSUE" means a big black heading in the BarBri outline towards the front of the topic. If I see one of those, I am to devote much time to its discussion, even if it's apparent from the facts that the issue is truly a non-issue.

Slowly, slowly, my practice exams are metamorphosizing into outlines with blanks filled in by a monkey with a typewriter. It's too bad a monkey isn't on the list of crap you're allowed to bring into the exam.

July 3, 2006

Bar: kick me while I'm down, why don't ya?

I think I've established that I suck at the essays. I've got a plan that involves much outlining, many practice essays, and much reading of sample answers.

But I thought I could at least relax about the MBEs. Guess Again. I just graded a chunk of 50 PMBR questions. I was looking forward to the break. It was one of my favorite topics. One of my strengths.

Or so I thought.

Try 44%.

Not 44% wrong. 44% correct.

Looks like I won't be swapping out the multiple choice for more essays after all...

***UPDATE: I counted wrong. The good news is, I'm back in the comfort land of passing this subject. The bad news is, I've lost the ability to count and do simple math, and I'm clearly lacking the skill required to evaluate things that seem out of the ordinary and look for facts that would explain their existence. Which brings me back to why I suck at the essays...

July 2, 2006

Bar: Romance

Last night, I drove to the nearest big city to my hometown to pick up E from the Amtrack station. From there, we drove to the cute old town area and picked a restaurant on the river for a late dinner.

A night off! A date with my husband! It was glorious.

Towards the end of dinner, we took our wine glasses outside to the balcony on the river to watch the fireworks display. We silently looked at the sky and held hands, basking in the sweet romance of the moment.

That is, 'til I busted out with,

You know...back in the day, fireworks were considered an ultrahazardous activity and so you were strictly liable for any harm that resulted from their use. But now, they are so common place that they are governed by ordinary negligence standards.

Do I know how to whisper sweet nothings, or what?

July 1, 2006

Quote of the day: Ecstasy-fed pumas

Valleywag's take on Marissa Mayer's (VP at Google) Businessweek interview:

[Google VP Marissa] Mayer says:

There certainly are some engineers who tire of working on one
particular task and want to move on to a new task.

Mayer means: "You've heard of Geek A.D.D.? Add that to a PhD and a sense
of entitlement, and 'herding cats' becomes a woefully inadequate
metaphor. Try 'herding ecstasy-fed pumas.'"