The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

BarBri

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.

Love & Support for Bar Exam Takers

Postproc by Kokotron Ruth Carter

Is this you?
Postproc by Kokotron

I’ve received three calls in last week from friends who are studying for the bar exam who needed advice and support. To everyone who is studying for a bar exam and starting to freak out, I know where you’ve been. I was you a year ago.

I definitely had my freak out moments while I was studying for the bar. If it was really bad I would call my friend Eric Mayer. Every time I started to panic he told me that I would be fine if I did whatever BarBri told me to do. It was comforting to hear that. I did always feel confident that I was studying enough, but hearing that following the BarBri plan worked for others was enough to convince me that it could work for me.

I had my biggest pre-bar exam freak out sometime after BarBri class had ended and I was studying on my own every day. I like to pace when I’m going through my flash card and that day, I felt claustrophobic in my home. It’s important to note that I live in an 1800+ square-foot home and it has an open layout. There’s nothing here that should make me feel claustrophobic. My perception was completely skewed by my anxiety.

I decided I needed more space, so I slathered sunscreen on my skin, put on my Camelbak backpack filled with water and a hat, and took a 2.5-hour walk with my flash cards on a 110-degree day. I’m sure I looked like a crazy person muttering to myself while walking up the street and flipping through my cards. When I got home, my shirt was completely drenched with sweat.  Even though I was having a freak out, it turned into a pretty good day. My walk took the edge off my fear and I learned a lot about commercial paper and secured transactions in the process.

Hand Hearts by Krystal T, Ruth Carter

Hang in there!
Hand Hearts by Krystal T

By the day of the bar exam, I was ready to hit it hard. I remember standing around the convention center before the test with some of my law school friends who were older than the average student in our class. We all remarked that taking the bar exam was a challenge, but it didn’t make our lists of the top 5 hardest things we’ve done.  If you have overcome hardship in your life or survived labor and delivery, you can get through the bar exam.

If you’re studying for the July bar exam, just stay the course. Do whatever BarBri tells you to study and do whatever you need to do to memorize the law. Whatever got you through law school will still work. Make sure you’re eating well and getting though exercise and sleep. The occasional ice cream indulgence also helps ease the pain of bar prep.

Bar Exam Wisdom from BarBri Instructors

The bar exam is a few days away.  All of our work for the last 4 years to get into law school, through law school, and through bar prep will come down to a 2-day test (3 days for some people).

Virginia Bar Exam

Image by Philip Larson via Flickr

I reached out to two of my favorite BarBri instructors and asked them to share some final works for wisdom about taking the bar.  Here’s what they had to say:

“Keep your wits about you, and always always put your faith in the curve.”
Douglas Moll, University of Houston Law Center Professor and BarBri instructor

“Bring earplugs – 2 sets.   1 set because you know you’ll be sitting next to someone with tuberculosis and the other set just in case someone ate a burrito for lunch.  Those suckers also can fit up your nose.

“Don’t carb out for lunch unless you want to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon session. Don’t drink a pot of coffee with breakfast unless you want to become a resident of the restroom.  For dinner, eat like a pig.  Carb out like crazy so that you get tired and can fall asleep, despite the anxiety you may be feeling.  In case of emergency, take half a Sominex.

“Bring a pocket flashlight!  True story: On my last day of the California bar, the lights went out during the final performance test for about 2 minutes.  Fortunately for me, someone had told me to bring a tiny pocket flashlight and I did.  Needless to say, I didn’t miss a beat while others around me were quietly cursing me for having one.

“On the morning of the MBE, do 10-15 questions before the test and make your mistakes then.  By the time the exam rolls around you will be properly warmed up.  This advice is gold for those in the parenthetical category.

“Finally, face the bar with a clear mind, a strong will and an open heart (for the hippies!).  It’s just a test.  Beat the living heck out of it.  God bless all of you taking the bar exam this summer, even the non-believers.”
Chuck Shonholtz, BarBri Instructor

Good luck to everyone taking the exam!  As my coach  would say, “Do what you know how to do.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Send Love To Stressed Out Bar Exam Candidates

The July Bar Exam is less than two weeks away.  For people who are taking BarBri to prepare, our lectures and classes are over.  We’re at the point where every day we’re given a topic and a simple instruction – “Memorize.”  It’s hard not to let the panic set in.

studying

Image by English106 via Flickr

From what I can tell from my classmates on Facebook, we’re all exhausted, stressed, and reaching the point where we just don’t care about these materials anymore.  My day still starts before 6am so I can workout before hitting the books.  I am studying by 7:30am and I spend most of the day going through my flashcards, outlining essay questions, and going through multiple choice questions.  I end my day by spending an hour writing flashcards for other topics.  My goals are to work efficiently these next few weeks and not burn myself out.

These days anything that takes away from studying or my daily routine, like laundry or errands, is a burden.  I’ve recently become aware that studying for the bar has diminished my ability to do normal things.  When I drive somewhere, I have to triple check that I put my car in the proper gear before taking my foot off the brake so I don’t inadvertently crash into another car.

Studying for the bar has definitely made me more irritable.  Everyone is glad that I have limited contact with the public in general.  The stupidest things annoy me.  My friend says I have crankypants.  My family barely hears from me.  My posts of Facebook and rare phone calls prove that I’m alive.  I made a brief cameo at the 4th of July family gathering and left before the fireworks.  I took a rare study break last week to go to Food Truck Friday in downtown Phoenix.  I didn’t realize how tired I was until I saw my friend and gauged my level of energy against his.

This week I realized that what everyone studying for the bar probably needs is a word of encouragement.  We’re focused on studying and don’t have the time to see our family and friends, but it would be wonderful to hear from you.  Please leave a comment for everyone taking the bar exam this month.  It will do wonders for everyone’s spirits just to know that we’re loved and supported while we’re going through academic-professional hell.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Day In The Life of Bar Prep

I’ll admit it – studying for the bar exam is hard, lonely work.   My days are long and boring.   I’m trying to keep my stress in check, and it’s starting to be a challenge.

I initially felt guilty when I banned everyone from house for the duration of bar prep, but now I’m so grateful I did that – and so is everyone else.  I can do my own thing all day without bothering anyone and then I decide when I interact with the world.  It sounds self-centered (and it is) but it’s necessary.

In case you wanted to know, here’s what a day in the life of my bar prep looks like.

  • 5:45am: Get up, Work out, Shower, Breakfast, Check email.
  • 7:30am: Study – often using the Pomodoro Method.  I turn the French doors into my to-do list every day.
  • 11:15am: Lunch.
  • 12:00pm: Meet up with my carpool group.  The highlight of my day is getting to play with my friend’s dog, Oscar.
  • 1:00pm: BarBri class.
  • 5:00pm: Relax, Dinner.
  • 7:00pm: Study, sometimes in the pool when I need to avoid all distractions.
  • 11:00pm: Bed.

Studying for the bar involves a lot of sitting which results in my body getting all types of sore.  During my study breaks, I often ice my sore back, neck and shoulders.  I’m grateful when my massage therapist, Thomas Porter, runs a special so I can afford him.  I told him that he needs to run one the week before the bar exam.

My one weekly indulgence is still watching Deadliest Catch on Tuesday nights.  It reminds me that studying is nothing compared to working on a crab boat in the Bering Sea.

Every so often I have a mini freak out and I reach out to my lawyer friends who have survived the bar.  Their calls and emails keep me grounded.  They all say that if I follow the BarBri program that I’ll be fine.

Here are my tips for everyone who has a loved one studying for the bar:

  • If you’ve never studied for the bar, you have no idea what this is like.
  • A lot of the time, we’re not in a good mood.  Don’t be surprised if we have a short fuse when it comes to distractions and annoying things.
  • Don’t take it personally if we don’t have time to hang out or even return phone calls.
  • We can be optimistic about passing the bar and not be pleasant to be around in general.
  • If we’re in a bad mood, it’s not your job to make us laugh.
  • When we take a study break, there’s a good chance we don’t want to talk about how studying is going.  We may have nothing to talk about because all we do is study so fill us in on what’s going on in the real world.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Guidelines for Studying for the Bar Exam

Today is my first day of BarBri class.  For the next 10 weeks, I will be on a regimented schedule of going to class and studying as I prepare for the Arizona Bar Exam.  Thankfully, I am a person who thrives in structure, so being on a strict schedule should work well for me.  I have been thinking about what guidelines will apply to my life during Bar prep.

  1. A Student of the University of British Columbi...

    Image via Wikipedia

    Stick to the BarBri schedule – go to class every day and study for a total of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

  2. Use study techniques that work for me: class, outlines, and flash cards.
  3. Everyone is banned from the house unless they have an invitation.
  4. Do 30 minutes of walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or yoga every day.
  5. Eat a balanced diet – lots of fresh fruit, veggies, and protein; minimal sugar; & plenty of water.
  6. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
  7. Avoid people and places that bring excessive drama to my life.
  8. No TV except for my weekly indulgences of House and Deadliest Catch.
  9. When I’m studying, I cannot have my cell phone where I can see or hear it.
  10. When I’m outlining on the computer, stay off of email, Facebook, and Twitter.
  11. If I realize that I’m just staring at my books without doing any productive work, STOP and take a break.
  12. The default response to any invitation to social events until the Bar is “No;” however there must be the occasional fun event to maintain my sanity.

I’ve spent the last few days getting the house in order so that I will have as few distractions as possible while I’m studying.  I have also been reading Chad Noreuil’s The Arizona Bar Exam: Pass It Now.  I’m grateful that my family and friends are being supportive of me and my process.  One of my friends has already put me on notice that if I’m too non-responsive to the point that he worries that I’m getting unbalanced, that he’ll stage a raid.  I doubt that will be necessary but it’s good to know that people care about me enough that they would be willing to do that.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Law School: If I could do it again . . .

Today is my graduation day from law school.  I’ve been reflecting all week about my law school experience . . . when I haven’t been running around like a crazy person taking care of everything that I’ve put off during the semester but have to get done before BarBri starts next week.  It’s been fun to remember the person I was when I started this adventure three years ago compared to who I am today.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Green

So the big question is, if I had to do it all again, knowing what I know now, would I have gone to law school?  Absolutely!  I went to law school because I was told it was the best education a person can get, regardless of whether they become a lawyer.  That statement is still true.  If I could do it all over again, I’d still go to law school, but I’d do it a little differently . . .

I would have skipped more classes. The American Bar Association permits students to miss up to 10% of every course.  I should have taken full advantage of that.  There were so many opportunities for law students to attend workshops and conferences; however I felt that I couldn’t attend them because it was drilled into my head that missing class would result in me not learning the material.  While I believe that going to class is important, some things are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that are worth occasionally missing class.

I would have published more papers. I’m graduating from law school as a co-author of a book chapter about government regulation of emerging technologies; however I have close to final drafts of papers on the legalities of organizing flash mobs, the legal side of blogging, and the legalities of GPS technology.  They are all on my back burner of projects that I’ll get to when I have time.  It would have been nice to have submitted at least one of them for publication in a legal journal.

I would have networked more. I have tried to seek out my fellow geeks in the legal community and people who have been successful following their passions.  I am glad to have been bold enough to reach out to some wonderful people during my law school career and develop some great relationships.  I wish I had had the time and energy to do more of it.

I would have started Sponsor A Law Kid sooner. I wish I had thought of Sponsor A Law Kid when I first started this blog.  This campaign has paid for approximately 1/3 of my tuition during my final semester of law school and it has provided the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and businesses.  It would have been amazing if I had been able to use this to fund my entire education.

I never would have looked at my grades. I went into law school like everyone else, thinking that you have to be in the top 25% to be successful.  It made me focus too much on grades and not enough of learning the materials.  Once I figured out that grades are meaningless, I stopped looking at them.  I switched my focus to learning the law, and I became so much happier and learned so much more.  I was more creative, efficient, and relaxed.  I have not seen my grades since my first semester of law school, and I’ve been told that my GPA has gone up every semester since.  Being in the top 25% is a requirement for some people’s professional dreams, just not mine.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Marathon of Bar Prep

I’m graduating from law school in 30 days, and I’m tired.

Usually around this time of the semester, I’m gearing up for the sprint to the end of the semester.  There are many late nights of studying and writing papers and excessive caffeination.  Once finals are done, I’m exhausted, and usually get to collapse for a few days if not a few weeks.

At the end of my first semester of law school, I went to my parents’ house for Christmas and I literally did nothing but sit on the couch for two days.  One day, I literally watched courtroom dramas (People’s Court, Judge Judy, Divorce Court, etc.) from 9am until 5pm, with the exception of one hour.  At the end of my third semester of law school, I drove for over 12 hours to my parents’ house and I was so exhausted that I have no memory of the trip.

I don’t have the luxury of burning myself out at the end of this semester.  Three days after I graduate I will start BarBri, the class that teaches you how to pass the Bar Exam.  For this semester, once I finish the sprint to finish finals, I have to turn around and line up for the marathon of studying for the Bar.

From what I’ve heard from other lawyers, all I have to do is follow the BarBri program and study schedule and I’ll pass the Bar.  My classmate looked at our study schedule and reported that we’re expected to study and/or go to class 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I did the math and considering study time, sleep, and everyday activities, I’m going to have maybe 4 hours a day for myself.  I suspect that my life is going to get really simple.

My friends and I have been formulating our plan of attack.  We will have a focused study group in the morning followed by class in the afternoon.  Everyone will be banned from my house unless a specific invitation is extended.  All stressful people, places, and events will be avoided at all costs.  I contemplated having someone change my Facebook and Twitter passwords, but I decided I needed the ability to see what’s going on the real world on occasion.  My phone is usually on or near my person; however, when I’m studying, it will be in a place where I can’t see or hear it except when I’m not studying.

I will still have scheduled relaxation and fun.  There are select fun events on my calendar during the weeks leading up to the Bar.  I’m hoping to keep a regular workout schedule – walking, hiking, biking, and/or yoga – to maintain my health and sanity.  I have great friends who will remind me how normal people live.  They are also on notice that when I finish the Bar Exam, one of them better be waiting outside the testing center with a strawberry milkshake and a hug.

There’s a saying in the Carter family: “You can do anything for 6 months.”  I only have to make it through the next 105 days.

Enhanced by Zemanta