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June, 2017:

Life Doesn’t Care We’re Studying for the Bar Exam

There’s an old proverb that says, “Man plans and God laughs.” That’s been Rob and my experience with this bar prep.

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

My friend, Jeff Moriarty dressed as Jesus to encourage marathon runners. The message works for the bar exam too.
Used with Permission

Conversations with God
If I believed in a traditional all-powerful deity, based on this proverb, I suspect these would be our conversations in recent weeks:

Me: I want to make my life simple so I can put my energy into bar prep.
God: You’re going to get hit by a car, live with daily pain, and have multiple appointments every week with the chiropractor for most of bar prep.

Me: I’m going to work on flash cards during my flights to and from BlogHer in Orlando.
God: You’re going to spend half a flight helping a dad flying with three small boys and one of them will be having ear issues from swimming.
(I have no regrets about this one. Helping a child doubled over in pain trumps studying any day.)

Me: I’m going to get a full-night sleep every night.
God: Your basset hound is going to get colitis so you’ll spend three nights taking her out every few hours plus about six hours taking her to vet and switching her to a cottage cheese, chicken, and white rice diet.
Me: I warned you what would happen if you do anything to Rosie.
God: By the way, your gymnastics coach/maternal figure passed away.
Me: Go fuck yourself.

Yeah . . . bar prep has been more challenging than expected, mostly due to events outside my control. It’s been exhausting couple of days. I spent yesterday working at home so I could work, study, and rest as I needed while sticking close to Rosie.

We got this.

Reminding Friends We’re Not Available
Rob-tastic doesn’t spend much time on Facebook, but he uses it to coordinate activities with friends. After getting several invites to spend time with friends, he felt compelled to send another reminder that while he enjoys spending time with them, he’s not available for fun and shenanigans until August. It’s not personal, he’s just studying.

I’m on Facebook nearly every day, so my friends know what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis. They still invite me to events and parties, but I automatically hit “Can’t Go” if it’s scheduled before the bar exam. I don’t have the time or energy for anything extra right now.

Pulling Back from Lawyer Work
July starts the weekend, and Rob and I are both pulling back from client work. Of course, all of our obligations to current clients will get done, but we’ll be spending more time out of the office to focus on studying. Rob said he wanted to spend whole days out of the office to focus on studying, and I can easily work on a client’s contract from home for a few hours in the morning and then study 7-8 hours during the rest of the day.

My goal is to be out of the office completely after July 7th until after the bar exam. The only thing that I can think of that would compel me to go into the office is if I’m working on a filing for the court. Senior litigator, John Mascari, is co-counsel on all of my cases. When I write a draft for the court, he and I sit down, each with our own copy of the document, and review it line-by-line. It’s easier to do this in person than by phone or email.

Barbri instructor Doug Moll said July starts the “heroin scratch” time of bar prep – meaning, all of us taking a bar exam may be extra agitated. Hopefully Rob-tastic and I can stay the course, focus on locking in the material, without getting to distracted by nerves. If you want to send us good vibes via snail mail, that’s always welcome. Send us postcards at Ruth and Rob, c/o Venjuris P.C., 1938 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016.

If you have a friend taking the bar exam, cut them some slack, even when they are an irascible prick. (They’ll bounce back after the bar’s over.) Send them a note to make them smile. It makes a difference. If you want to be a super-friend, and offer to help clean their home or do their laundry. Anything that makes their life a little easier will be deeply appreciated.

Ontario Baby!

While Rob-tastic was in Europe, we found out we were assigned to the same testing center – Ontario, California, baby! We were glad to get confirmation that we’d be taking the bar exam in the same city.

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

If Rob and I were driving to Ontario, CA, we’d get to see part of Joshua Tree National Park.
Image by Ken Lund from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Since Rob was out of town, he trusted me to pick out our hotel . . . well, I booked two rooms and he didn’t object when he got back. We’re both good budget travelers and done our fair shares of staying in hostels, but the bar exam is not a time to skimp on comfort (and control, for me).

Rob and I agreed on three things for the hotel: quiet environment, comfortable beds and it had to be within walking distance of the convention center. I had two more requirements: hot breakfast available on-site and our rooms had to have refrigerators (so we could get pick up something for lunch during the bar exam and keep it in our rooms).

By the way: Rob thinks announcing that we’re taking the bar exam in Ontario is going to lead to an impromptu fan meetup – “6 random lawyers and law students coming by” as he put it, hopefully to buy me drinks which he knows I’ll slide across the table to him.

We also agreed we’re flying to/from Ontario. Once the bar exam is done, neither of us will be any shape to drive five hours to get home.

Undeniable’s Turn to Travel
I’m going to the BlogHer Conference in Orlando, Florida this weekend to speak on the legalities of blogging. Looking at the schedule of events, it’s going to be a fantastic event, but bar studying doesn’t take a vacation. I’ll take the lecture handout workbook with me to watch lecture videos in my room and my goal for the flights is to work on my flashcards. I suspect it’s something I can do in my coach seat without bothering my seatmates. I made close to 1,000 flashcards when I studied for the Arizona Bar. I suspect I will make the same amount for this test.

Yay Studying!

Catching Up is Hard to Do
Rob and I are both still trying to catch up on our respective study schedules. He lost time during his travels and I lost a few days while I was bogged down in motion practice. I’m more diligent about watching lectures during breakfast and getting out of the office earlier in the afternoon, but it’s still hard to do all the assignments.

Rob said his biggest challenge lately is not confusing the federal rules and common law with the exception to those rules in California. There’s no easy pattern or system for remember these things. It’s just a matter of memorizing everything – including rules that we will never use in real life. Who gives their property away as a life estate with a vested remainder in fee simple subject to executory interest?

Neither of us are freaking out about all we have to do and learn. There’s over a month to go, and we both know that we will do 100s of hours studying between now and the bar exam.

That’s all for this week. If you have any questions about what we’re doing or how we’re doing, leave it as a comment below. If you want to send us good vibes via snail mail, that’s always welcome – our stress is kicking up – or send us ice cream. (It was 119 degrees in Phoenix this week.) Send us postcards at Ruth and Rob, c/o Venjuris P.C., 1938 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016. (If you have a friend taking a bar exam this summer, send them one too. They’ll appreciate the love.)

Rob-tastic’s Back!

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

Statue of Anonymous in Hungary
Photo by Rob McGee

After three weeks in Europe and Asia, Rob is back in the States and back in the office. He walked into the office on Monday upbeat and refreshed from his travels with lots of pictures and stories. Rob’s a history buff, and he said that “Hungarian history is about 75% fighting Turks and Germans, and 25% building statues memorializing those wars.”

He told me about the statue of Anonymous in Hungary, created in honor of the unnamed chronicler (or possibly chroniclers) of the earliest Hungarian history. According to local folklore, if you touch his pen, it grants inspiration and writing ability. Of course, Rob touched it. That seems like a good omen heading into a bar exam.

Rob Went on Vacation and all I got was this Shirt
When Rob was at the INTA conference, one of the vendors was making personalized “.Sucks” shirts for attendees. He had them make a “Studying.Sucks” shirt for me. No one studies for a bar exam because it’s fun.

Thanks Rob!

Side note: I don’t think this vendor’s first language was English. Rob’s pretty sure the vendor thought he asked them to make this tiny shirt for him to wear.

We’re Both Behind on Bar Studying
Rob and I have both been dealing with schedules and circumstances that make it difficult to keep up with the demanding Barbri schedule. Rob was traveling with only one Barbri book and relied on mostly online content to help him study.

Rob and I are like yin and yang this week. He’s energized and I’m exhausted. I’m still a few days behind the Barbri schedule, due to obligations to clients and needing to exercise some self-care. Studying for the bar is a marathon and it wouldn’t do me any good to burn out so early on in this process. I’ve had to take some time to get some much needed rest and relaxation. As one of the members of my mastermind group reminds me, “You can’t draw water from an empty well.”

This past weekend, I studied 8-9 hours each day, trying to keep up and catch up and hit the ground running at work on Monday. By Tuesday, I was exhausted again. I’m someone who tends to use mantras to stay focused, but I was so drained on Tuesday, my mantra was “Don’t throw up, don’t pass out.” Thankfully, by Wednesday morning, I had my mojo back and my mantra was, “Hold my beer.” (No, I don’t drink. It’s just a euphemism for “I’ve got this.”)

On the flip side, I’m working like gangbusters on client projects. Right now, due to all my obligations, I’m trying not to take on any new clients except those that fall into one of my niche areas of practice. For other prospective clients who need help from my firm, but not necessarily me, I pass along those calls and emails to a colleague with more available bandwidth.

The one thing that’s become obvious with this round of bar prep is there’s no time to waste. (Self-care is not wasting time.) There’s so much time and so little to do!

Strike that. Reverse it.

Bar Prep Is Officially Stressful

Studying for the bar exam is challenging. Balancing work and studying is brutal.

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

Ruth is Stressed
This is what I posted on Facebook at 8am yesterday morning:

Dear God:

They say you don’t give us more than we can handle. Thank you for your faith in me to handle:
1. A high-stress job,
2. The California Bar Exam,
3. A car accident,
4. Questioning everything about my gender, and
5. A maternal figure [childhood gymnastics coach] with terminal cancer.

My hair was already turning gray without your help. Now, there are times I want to tear it out. [And I’ve shaved my head before.]

If you do anything to Rosie in the next year, I will fucking kill you.

Me

Photo by Roger Griggs

Needless to say, it’s pretty stressful in the Land of Ruth, and that was before the opposition filed an unexpected memo in one of my litigation cases. So, I spent the day writing our objection to that instead of working on the client work I currently have on my plate: drafting a motion for summary judgment, reviewing a client’s contract, drafting a custom contract for a professional creative, and submitting a demand for arbitration.

My day was hijacked. I planned to leave the office by 1pm to keep up on studying, but I didn’t settle in to watch the lecture on civil procedure until 4:45pm. This week will be the first time I’m officially behind on the Barbri schedule. I had to submit an answer for a performance test question (like writing a legal memo) for grading and I took way more than the recommended 90 minutes to do it. I hope I can catch up this weekend.

I got an extra fan for my office to keep me cool while studying. Rosie approves.

One of the challenges of bar prep is there are no days off. I can’t “push through” and do a late night tonight because I’ll set myself up to be too tired to work and study effectively tomorrow. There are no days off, so it’s best to be mindful of diet, exercise, sleep, and avoiding distractions each day.

Speaking of exercise, I miss it. For me, not exercising is not an option, except for times like now when I’m recovering from a car accident that messed up my neck and back. Running gives me the outlet I need to keep my stress in check. During my last bar prep, I ran, rode my bike, or did yoga every day. Thankfully, I’m finally feeling like my body is healing from this accident. I hope my doctor releases me to start jogging again soon.

Rob sent this photo from St. Petersburg. He said it’s the view of an Orthodox church and the Museum of the Battle of Leningrad taken from the café where he was studying.

Rob says Hello from Russia with Love
Rob-tastic is still across the pond, in St. Petersburg, Russia for the last week of his trip. He’s dealing with his own type of stress over there, as he said he hasn’t slept much in a few days because one of his roommates at the hostel, “snored like he was laying down suppressing fire.” He “coffee-zombied” through some studying, but mostly went sightseeing.

One thing Rob and I both noticed this week is that having experience doing litigation makes it easier to understand this subject – especially for Rob because he has experience in both Arizona and Federal Civil Procedure. (I only have experience litigating in state court.) It’s easier for him to differentiate between the two rule sets and understand the corresponding vocabulary.

Civil procedure was challenging for both of us in law school. Having real-life experience to draw from makes studying for this portion of the test less challenging than when we studied for the Arizona Bar Exam.

That’s all for this week. If you have any questions about what we’re doing or how we’re doing, leave it as a comment below. If you want to send us good vibes via snail mail, that’s always welcome – especially as our stress kicks up. Send us postcards at Ruth and Rob, c/o Venjuris P.C., 1938 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016. (If you have a friend taking a bar exam this summer, send them one too. They’ll appreciate the love.)

Long Days of Bar Prep – & Some Fun

One of my contacts at Barbri asked me how I’m managing to study and continue to practice law. The only phrase that came to mind was, “Not gracefully.”

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

Presenting at Phoenix Comicon 2017.
Photo by K Royal, used with permission.

Busy Life of Bar Prep
I’ve never said that I was graceful or eloquent, and it becomes more apparent when I exist in a state of stress. My days are full, and even fuller than I originally expected because a few weeks before I started studying for the bar exam, I was in a car accident. So, instead of having a schedule of client work, studying, and exercise, I have client work, studying, chiropractic appointments, twice daily sessions of icing my back, communications with my attorney, and dealing with daily pain.

My days are long: up at 4:45am to walk and feed the pirate dog, ice my back, and get ready to be at the office by 9am, work until 2pm on client work and upcoming presentations, go to the chiropractor, get home by 3:30/4 to walk and feed the pirate dog, study for the bar exam, ice my back again, and hopefully be in bed by 10pm.

On the days I don’t have the chiropractor, I try to be out of the office by 1pm to do a longer day of studying. It’s comforting when I see that I’m ahead of the schedule set by Barbri. I try to stay about 5% ahead of where they say I should be.

One of my flaws is I’ll push too hard too fast and burn myself out. My tell-tale signs of stress are purple under my eyes from lack of sleep (“black eye syndrome”) and my tongue will have little groove marks along the edge from my teeth. I try to be careful not to stay up too late and whenever I feel stress taking a hold of me, I try to shake it off with a deep breath and think “I got this.”

Meeting the Minions!

Hurray for Phoenix Comicon
Thankfully, I got a respite from studying this past weekend at Phoenix Comicon where I spoke on two panels: Comic Creator Rights and Copyright and Fan Art/Fiction. It was wonderful to see and hug some of my friends, and the people watching was fantastic. There are some talented cosplayers in the Phoenix area. (No, I don’t dress up when I speak.) I was giddy happy when I got to meet the Minions. (Did I mention stress makes me more weird than I usually am?)

This was the last big thing on my calendar until the BlogHer conference in late June. I’ll still see some friends on occasion, but those will be special events for me. (It’s for the best. As I get more stressed, I get less tolerant of crowds, noise, and annoying things.)

Church in Budapest
Photo by Robert McGee, used with permission.

Rob on the Road
Yay Rob’s alive! After a successful INTA conference in Barcelona, Rob-tastic sends his best from Budapest where’s he’s alternating between studying California law and geeking out over the Hungarian architecture. Rob sent me an email and said, “The most difficult part of studying on the road so far is, predictably, the lack of books. Listening to the lectures and taking notes as I go is great, but I’m more of a visual learner than an auditory one. I did bring a book of outlines relevant to California law in particular, so I’m not totally without my preferred medium, but it limits my ability to review the bigger subjects.”

Rob’s doing the attorney’s course with the diagnostic pre-tests that gauge how much you recall from your last bar exam. He said these make it “easier to pinpoint the blank spots in your good subjects, while letting you know what your bad subjects are more efficiently. I dislike admitting when something is difficult for me, or when I don’t know something. It’s a character flaw. These tests don’t care, they’ll tell me exactly what I’m doing wrong with all the loving tenderness of a machine. It works.”

That’s all for this week. If you have any questions about what we’re doing or how we’re doing, leave it as a comment below. If you want to send us good vibes via snail mail, that’s always welcome. Send us postcards at Ruth and Rob, c/o Venjuris P.C., 1938 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016. (If you have a friend taking a bar exam this summer, send them one too. They’ll appreciate the love.)