The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

CA Bar Exam

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.)

Positive Thoughts for Bar Exam Domination

During my first week of studying for the California Bar Exam with Barbri, I went to a valuable seminar called The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam taught by Chad Noreuil.

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

Noreuil’s pretty awesome. He’s a Barbri instructor (Criminal Law and Procedure), and he teaches legal writing at Arizona State University. I had the privilege of taking his class my 1L year.

I should have asked Noreuil to take a selfie with me.

Lessons from The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam
Since Noreuil wrote the book, The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam, I figured this seminar would be a good way to prime my brain for the marathon of bar studying – and it was! He shared three lists of top ten tips: for bar exam essays, for the MBE (multiple choice), and for the MPT (performance test). While this information is useful, the best advice I got at this seminar came from his reminders about how humans get their energy. We can get energy from four sources:

  1. Diet – food is fuel.
  2. Exercise – simple walking or stretching makes a difference.
  3. Sleep.
  4. Thoughts – even if you have bad diet, exercise habits, and sleep, your thoughts can carry you through challenges.

One of the biggest challenges I have during bar prep is managing stress. Noreuil reminded us that it takes discipline to keep out negative thoughts. Whenever I start feeling stressed about studying, I force myself to take a deep breath, sit up tall and confidently think, “I’m going to kick this bar’s ass.” I’m also trying to avoid negative energy – including listening to the news too much and sad or degrading music. Happy ’80’s dance music is my friend right now.

Setting up the coffee at Castle Carter before bed.

Decreasing Caffeine
You might think I’d be increasing my caffeine these days, but here’s another take-away I got from this seminar: caffeine has a six-hour half-life, and if you have more than 15mg of caffeine in your system, it can prevent deep REM sleep. I immediately started crunching the numbers on my coffee habit. I usually drink two or three cups (200-300mg) a day. (I also have a history with insomnia.)

Let’s do the math: If I drink 250mg of caffeine by 6am, I’ll have 125mg in my system at noon, 63mg at 6pm, and 32mg at midnight. My levels won’t drop low enough to achieve deep REM sleep until the next morning when I’m up again and already re-caffeinating.

After this seminar, I completely changed my caffeine intake. Each morning, I pour myself 8oz of coffee (using a measuring cup), add 6oz of cashew milk, and a spoonful of sugar. Since making this change, it’s been easier to fall asleep, stay asleep most of the night, and I don’t have any more problems than usual feeling alert during the day.

Where’s Rob?
No, that this Rob, our Rob. As far as I know, Rob-tastic is at the INTA conference in Barcelona. I sent him a note asking how things were going and I didn’t hear back – but I know he has a full schedule there, and he’s allegedly been in contact with some of our co-workers about client cases. If he doesn’t resurface in Budapest next week, then I’ll worry.

Getting Ahead on Barbri Studying

Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to study for the July 2017 California Bar Exam in exchange for sharing our story. He’s taking the attorney’s course and I’m doing the regular version of the course. My Barbri schedule doesn’t have me starting until May 22nd, but I’m busy and I don’t always have time (or mental stamina) to watch 3-6 hours of Barbri videos after a day at the office. Instead, I started early so I have more flexibility with my study schedule.

Her and His Study Schedules – According to Barbri

Two Lawyers – Two Approaches to Barbri
Rob and I have vastly different approaches to our Barbri schedules. I look at my schedule as a guide and recommended order of lectures. When I tweak it, I do things like take 4 days to complete the MBE Immersion instead of 2. I may not do everything on the exact day, but I presume the order was intentional, so I’m following it.

And then there’s Rob. He’s basically ignoring the Barbri schedule and doing topics in the order he wants, and selecting what to study each day based on what seems interesting in the moment. He spent part of the weekend watching the Essay Workshop and reviewing Professional Responsibility. (In case you were wondering, the rule for CA and AZ are the same: You can’t bang your client unless you were banging them before they became your client.)

Time Management with Meal Prep
The other thing Rob and I both did this weekend (completely independent of each other) was meal prep. He made himself a batch of jambalaya and I made myself lentil soup with spinach and a big tray of roasted veggies. It’s so much easier to work long hours and be healthy when you don’t have to worry about preparing food. Often times, I even portion mine out into meals using Tupperware so lunch and dinner are a heat-and-eat process.

Rosie the Pirate Basset Commandeered a Barbri Book

Rob is Hitting the Road
Bon voyage Rob! He’ll be checking in from the road for the next three weeks while he’s over in Europe for the INTA Conference and then going on vacation. Rob promised to send photos from the various coffeeshops when he’s studying.

I asked Rob about his strategy for studying on the road. He said his schedule for INTA is too demanding to allow for any time to effectively study, but he’ll study in Budapest and St. Petersburg. Rob said, due to constraints of space and weight, he’s only taking one of the Barbri books of outlines on this trip, and will rely on the Barbri online materials for everything else. I think that’s a gutsy move – I don’t think I would want to travel without the hardcopy of the lecture handouts. He promised to check in from the road.

So that’s what’s going on in world of Rob-tastic and Undeniable. Thanks for following our journey. If you have any questions about what we’re doing, please leave them below as comments. And head’s up: studying for the bar exam is a bitch, so I suspect in the coming weeks I’m going to ask to get postcards in the mail to give us reasons to smile when where in the thick of studying.

Teaming Up with Barbri for Bar Prep

I’ve already shared that I’m taking the California Bar Exam this July (July 25-26, 2017). What I didn’t share is that I’m not doing it alone. My colleague and fellow Venjuris attorney, Robert McGee (aka Rob-tastic – no idea why I call him that), is taking it too – and we’ve teamed up with Barbri to share our journey!

Partnering with Barbri
Rob and I both used Barbri to study for and pass the Arizona Bar Exam in 2014 and 2011, respectively. When we told them that we were taking another bar exam, they offered us a discount in exchange for sharing our experience studying for a bar exam while practicing law.

Done!

Rob and Ruth aka Rob-tastic and Undeniable

His and Her Bar Preps
Even though were taking the bar exam in the same state, we’re going to have substantially different prep and test experiences.

First, we’re taking different tests. Since I’ve been practicing law for more than four years, I only have to do the essay day of the exam. Rob’s only been in practice since late 2014, so he has to take the full bar exam: one day of essays, one day of multiple choice.

Second, we’re taking different Barbri programs. Rob is taking Barbri’s new Attorney Course. This is geared towards people who have recently taken another bar exam and likely remember a substantial portion of the information. Each subject has an assessment to gauge what you already know so you only have to focus on what you don’t remember. I’m taking the traditional Barbri course, because after being out six years, we assume I don’t remember much about the subject areas that are outside the scope of law I currently practice.

Third, we’re going to be traveling, especially Rob! I will be speaking at BlogHer17 in Florida for a few days in June, but Rob will be doing a 3-week trip to Barcelona for the INTA Conference followed by some much-deserved down time in Budapest and St. Petersburg. He’ll send photos letting us see where he’s studying.

Our boxes containing our Barbri workbooks arrived a few weeks ago. To celebrate the beginning of this adventures, we decided to bench press them:

Why Take Another Bar Exam? Why Now?
Almost everyone who hears that  I’m taking the California Bar asks if I’m moving. My usual response is, “I’m just expanding the kingdom, not moving the castle.”

California has strict rules about out of state lawyers taking on clients there, even for simple consults or transactional matters. I got tired of having to turn down opportunities for representation there, so when California announced that they were shortening their exam from three days to two, I decided to take it.

I asked Rob why he was subjecting himself to torture of another bar exam. He said, “Because I have the time to do it now. Five years from now, family or business obligations may be eating up most of my free time. Thinking long-term, you won’t get far in life thinking ‘I’ll just take the next opportunity to do stuff.’”

Last Hurrahs
Rob and I spent time with friends last weekend, knowing we won’t have time to see most of them until after the bar exam. Rob went camping with his friends and I did a Love and Complements Rally with Improv AZ.

According to our Barbri schedules, we don’t have to start studying until May 22nd, but we both want to get a jump on our work because we’re both going to be practicing law while we’re studying. I’m grateful to all my legal eagles who shared their tips for handling the daunting task of studying while working.

Follow our crazy journey! I’ll post an update every week through the bar exam. If you have any questions about what we’re doing, please leave it as a comment.

Stocking Up for the Apocalypse – I mean Bar Prep

A few weeks ago, I announced that I’m taking the California Bar Exam in July. One of the biggest challenges from the last time I studied for a bar exam was dealing with every day errands like laundry and grocery shopping. They’re not hard tasks, but some days, anything that takes me away from studying feels like a burden.

My plan for this bar prep is to stock up on the basics so when I have to go to the store, I won’t need much. Here’s part of my list:

Some of the things currently in my pantry

  • Canned beans
  • Canned pineapple
  • Cereal
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Tuna
  • Peanut butter
  • Frozen fruit and veggies
  • Toothpaste
  • Face soap
  • Rosie’s treats

I have two trips planned during bar prep – Orlando for BlogHer and then California for the Bar Exam itself. When I stock up on my toiletries, I’m going to make sure I have the travel-size toiletries I’ll need for these trips too – one less thing to worry about.

My goal is to have to run as few errands as possible while I’m working and studying between May and July. The more stressors I can wipe off my radar, the better. I want my life during bar prep to be as simple as possible, almost systematic so most of my energy can be used to focus on work and studying.

Don’t worry, I’m still going to enjoy myself when I can during this process. But those of you who have studied for a bar exam know how stressful it can be. Anything that can make the process easier makes a big difference.