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bar prep

We’re Done with the Bar Exam

The first rule of the bar exam is you don’t talk about the test after the test.
The second rule of the bar exam is you don’t talk about the test after the test.

Having said that, Rob and I are done with the California Bar Exam.
We gave it our all. We feel good about what we did. We hope it’s enough.
We’ll find out in about 4 months.

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

Off to Ontario!

Last Minute Studying
We flew into Ontario, California on Sunday afternoon. We spent Sunday afternoon and most of Monday alternating between meals and studying – reviewing our notes one last time. On Monday, we also took a walk over to the Ontario Convention Center so we’d know where we needed to be on Tuesday.

I didn’t study at all on Tuesday morning. I didn’t want to freak myself out heading into the test. Either we knew it, or we didn’t, and I was surprised by how many people brought notes to breakfast.

Last few hours of studying

California vs Arizona Bar Exams
We’re not discussing the contents of the bar exam. (I was annoyed with anyone who talked about the test after the test.) While we were waiting to go in for the second session on the first day, people were talking about the exam, and I muttered, “No no no no no…talk about puppies, clowns, or anything” to Rob who obliged me.

Thousands of people took the California Bar Exam at our testing center. Rob and I couldn’t figure out how testing numbers were assigned. We were seated a row apart even though our last names are half the alphabet away from each other. It was nice to give each other a high five before each session.

Unlike Arizona, we did not have to be wanded down before we walked into the testing room, and we were required to bring our own writing implements. We could also bring in pillows, lumbar support cushions, and foot rests if we so desired on the essay day. (Yes, we saw a handful of people walk in with pillows.)

Celebratory beverages: IPA for Rob, club soda for me

One-Day Test for Me
I’m so grateful I only had to take the essay portion of this bar exam. Those of us taking the one-day test had a green dot on our name tags and at our assigned seats. There were a handful of us near my assigned seat. I saw at least four green dot seats where the person didn’t show up. We wondered what would make someone sign up for the bar exam and then back out. I hope none of them were in a car accident on the way to the test. Rob and I couldn’t fathom the idea of signing up and not seeing this through.

Glad to be Done
It feels great to be done. We’re looking forward to going home, seeing our friends, and doing the things that we haven’t had a chance to do since early May.

We’ll check in again to let you know how life after bar prep is going, and probably not again until after we get results. Of course, I’ll keep writing about thoughts and activities in my life here on The Undeniable Ruth.

Final Days of Bar Prep

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel . . . and it’s not an oncoming train!

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

Going to the Bar Exam!

The California Bar Exam is less than a week away. Rob and I have our admission tickets and ExamSoft on our laptops (it’s the software we use for the test that locks us out of the rest of our computer), and I have M&Ms for our flight crews and Jolly Ranchers for test day. (It’s tradition, just got with it.) I also had a custom running shirt made for the bar exam that says “I Beat the Kobayashi Maru.”

(Rob says he doesn’t have any lucky charms, but he carries his ornate pocket knife – not his everyday pocket knife – for things like this. But, of course, we can’t carry weapons onto the airplane or into the bar exam.)

I’ve heard the Ontario Convention Center is historically freezing cold during the bar exam. Since Rob run warm and I don’t, I suspect on test day he’ll be comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt while I’ll be shivering while doing an impression of Kenny from South Park, or at least I would if I were allowed to put the hood up on my Scottevest.

1,000+ Barbri flash cards

Last Days of Studying
At this point, our job is to maximize retention of information. Over the last month, I turned all 15 Barbri lecture outlines into flash cards – over 1,000 of them. Each day, I review several sets of them, trying to lock in as much information as I can. There will be 5 essay questions on the test, and the only topic I can predict will be on there is Professional Responsibility.

Sometimes I like to walk when I review my cards, and since it’s blazing hot in the afternoon in Phoenix, I took my flash cards for a walk at Scottsdale Fashion Square. With earbuds in my ears and my eyes focused on the cards in my hands, no one paid me much mind. The clerk at the Lovesac shop was a bit confused when I walked in, jumped into a Lovesac, muttered through my Evidence cards to myself, and left without saying a word.

Rob-tastic’s reviewing his materials as well. As he goes through practice MBE questions, he said he has to remember to go strictly on the information given, and avoid implying outside information. He’s continuing to go through essay questions as well.

We got this.

We Know Stuff
Even when we’re somewhat overwhelmed by the volume of information we might be tested on, we definitely know stuff. Yesterday, we were easily spit balling back and forth the various rules that are different in California compared to the Federal rules, common law, or the model rules. This is a test where I’m not sure it’s possible to feel completely prepared, but we’re ready to go in and say something effective on every issue. That’s probably the most we can ask of ourselves.

As our Barbri instructors reminded us, we only have to get a D- on a test that’s graded on a curve. We don’t need the highest scores; we just need to pass.

Calling on Higher Powers
Not that I’m not above calling upon divine powers. At least thirty of my friends are actual reverends and pastors or at least ordained online. I’m not a religious person, but I called on all of them to send good vibes. The response was waves of love from officially recognized churches, including Christian, Wiccan, and Pagan, and some I didn’t know existed, including several blessing from The Church of the Dude.

We’ll take all the good vibes we can get. We’ll see you on the flip side!
Good luck to everyone taking a bar exam next week!

Bar Prep is Scrambling our Brains

One of my best friends is a fellow lawyer, and she’s pregnant with her first child. We had breakfast this week where we decide “pregnancy brain” and “bar brain” are remarkably similar.

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

We still find reasons to smile.

Brain Cramps
Rob and I are so distracted with studying that we suck at remembering mundane things lately. This past Monday, Rob packed is lunch for the office, and promptly left it at home. Likewise, I went to the office and left my cell phone and the power cord for my laptop at home. Later that day, I was giving the senior litigator an update on an ongoing matter. I told him that we granted the opposition an extension to submit their response to our motion, and he asked when our reply would be due. My brain cramped and went completely blank. The only thing I could say was, “Ask Amiee.” (Amiee’s our paralegal who does all of our docketing and sends us weekly reports with due dates for all our pending cases.)

I’m grateful for alarms, email reminders, and Sharpie pens. They make it possible for me to remember anything lately. The night before I had breakfast with my friend, I wrote her name on the back of my hand so when I woke up, I wouldn’t forget our date. I told myself that when I become an adult, I’ll stop writing on my hand.

Every little bit helps.

Study Study Study
Most of our time is devoted to studying right now. We’re staying on top of our client work, but putting off everything that can wait until after the bar exam.

The rule about the bar exam, is you don’t have to get an A. We have to get at least a D-, and it’s a test that’s graded on a curve. All we have to do is pass. Right now, we’re doing what we have to do to pass.

Rob-tastic seems to be focused mostly on the MBE subjects and starting to circle back to the subjects he watched early on in his bar prep. My energy is going into making flash cards. Making and reviewing them are the best way I know to memorize all the rules and tests. I think I’ve made over 700 cards so far. By the time I turn every Barbri outline into flash cards, I suspect I’ll have close to 1,000.

I added an element for positive feedback to my flash card work. When I start working on a new subject, I count the number pages in the outline and put that many pennies on my desk. As I finish each page, I put a penny in a cup. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction each time I toss another penny in and it keeps me motivated to keep going when I’m tired.

Flashes of Creativity
I think my “bar brain” comes with a dash of ADHD. As I’m studying, I’m being hit with fantastic ideas I want to work on after the bar exam, and they’re clear, concrete, actionable thoughts. I don’t know where these ideas are coming from by they are all over the board – the house I’ve decided I’m going to build, a new CLE I want to teach, and a “field trip” un-networking group I want to start are just a few of them. By the time we leave for the bar exam, I’ll probably have a giant Post-it on my wall labeled “After the Bar Exam” to capture all these ideas. (Rob says he’s feeling ADDish too.)

Less than two weeks to go! We’re both looking forward to getting this test behind us. For anyone else who is taking the California Bar Exam, we’ll see you in Ontario.

Postcards and Flash Cards

Rob-tastic and I are officially in the “heroin scratch” phase of bar prep. Our goals from here until the California Bar Exam are to learn and much as we can about what’s likely to be tested, and lock in our test-taking strategies to maximize the points we earn.

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

I got it right!

Practice, Practice, Practice
We’re lucky that Barbri gave us hundreds of practice multiple choice and essay questions. I particularly appreciate the online multiple choice questions where we can read the explanation about which choice was correct and why the others were wrong right after we submit our answer. Even though I’m exempt from taking the multiple choice portion of the bar exam, this helps me learn the nuances of all the rules. Every time I get a question right, I punch my hands triumphantly in the air.

Barbri gives us a full 6-hour MBE (multiple choice) practice test. Rob’s planning on taking it, but I’m not. He has to take the second day of the test, and since I don’t (thank goodness), my time would better spend focusing on the essay portion of the bar.

Making Flash Cards
Flash cards work for me. Making them by hand and going through them is the best way for me to memorize things. They got me through high school, college, law school, and my first bar exam. When I was studying for my first bar exam, I paced around the house going through my cards. I easily walked a mile a day. I even jumped in the pool and walked around the shallow end going through my flash cards until I learned all the rules for secured transactions. One day I lost my mind and took my flash cards for a walk because my 1,800 square-foot house felt too claustrophobic. I walked for over an hour in 110-degree heat going through the flash cards. I’m sure people thought I was crazy the way I was muttering to myself.

At the beginning of this bar prep, I bought 1,000 index cards. (I made just under 1,000 flash cards for the Arizona Bar.) I suspect I’ll go through them and more this time around. When everyone was enjoying their Independence Day holiday, I wrote over 100 flash cards on all the concepts for real property.

It turns out Rob was also studying real property over the holiday. He came in the office today and said, “No one should own Blackacre. That land is nothing but trouble.”

Sending love and thanks from Arizona

Sending Postcards to our Barbri Instructors
It’s lonely studying for the bar exam. We spend long hours doing practice questions and watching hours of Barbri lectures. With all the stress and hard work that goes into studying for this exam, we appreciate anything in this process that makes smile. Rob-tastic said he laughed when our Corporations instructor, Douglas Moll, started his lecture by saying, “You’re not going to be tested on California law with respect to corporations. You’re going to be tested on majority rule principles. . . . Purge anything you know that’s California specific. That actually won’t help you.” (Yes, we have to know non-California rules for the California Bar Exam. It doesn’t make sense to us either.)

We are grateful to the instructors who make dry topics bearable and complicated topics understandable. Over the weekend, I picked up some Arizona themed postcards to send to our favorite instructors to thank them for helping us through this. As the always-entertaining Chuck Shonholtz says, they’re setting us up to “beat the bar nine ways ’til Sunday.”

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.

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.