The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

jolly ranchers

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!

How To Survive Law School Finals

My friend RJ knows that I was one of the least stressed people during finals week during law school. She asked me to share my wisdom with all of you. So here are my top 10 tips for surviving law school finals.

  1. Law School Textbooks

    Law School Textbooks (Photo credit: Jesse Michael Nix)

    Identify your Goals. You may have been at the top of your class in high school and undergrad, but in law school, you are surrounded by severely smart people and only one of you can set the curve. I went to law school to learn the law so my goal for every final was just to pass. For most people, that goal is enough, unless you want a judicial clerkship or a job at a super prestigious law firm that will only talk to you if you’re in the top 10% of the class.

  2. Study When you Can. There will be times when you can’t focus to save your life and you’d rather clean your house than read your outline. When those times hit, put down your notes and pick up a broom. Studying is about quality, not quantity. If you’re not being productive, take a break.
  3. Study Where you Can. Some people can only study in the library. Some people have to be anywhere but the library. Being in the law school tended to make me really anxious, so I avoided it like the plague during finals.
  4. Use Study Techniques that Work for You. Don’t feel the need to have big beautiful 100-page outline if something else works better for you, like flash cards.
  5. Don’t Bother Studying Right After a Final. Your brain will be toast. Go get something to eat and get a good night’s sleep before your next study session.
  6. Get to the Test Room Early and Set Up Camp. I didn’t like people too close to me during exams so I’d get to exams early and set up camp. I always had water, soda, apple slices, Jolly Ranchers, a sweatshirt, pens, pencils, my computer, and my notes. I’d spread my stuff out and put my bag on the chair next to me so no one could sit next to me.
  7. Make the Instructor Laugh. You will get more points if you entertain the person who is grading your test. My professor for civil procedure called parties in the cases we read “morons” so I looked for an opportunity to call someone a moron on my final. My trademark law professor had a tendency to swear in class so when he asked what I’d tell the client in the hypo on the final, I wrote, “I’d say, ‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding me if you think you have a case.’”
  8. Don’t Talk About the Test After the Test. Once you turn in your test and walk out of the room, don’t think or talk about the test. There’s nothing you can do at that point to change the outcome. I used to yell at people who talked about the test after the test.
  9. Don’t Panic. I wrote about the seven layers of academic hell during law school. The seventh layer is “Fuck It.” You want to get to that level as soon as possible. No matter what, stay calm while you’re studying or taking a test.
  10. Don’t Check Your Grades. After my first semester of law school, I never checked my grades. At the end of each semester I sent the assistant dean of my law school an email to make sure I passed. Since my goal was to pass, I never needed to know what my grades, GPA, or class rank were – and I was a happier person for it.

Good luck to everyone taking finals. Kick some ass!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Recap of the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam

I survived the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam!   I never want to do that again.  I’m grateful for the love and support of my family, friends, and professional mentors during this time.  I wanted to share my top 5 tips of what I’m glad I knew or wish I knew going into the test.

  1. An assortment of Jolly Rancher candies

    Image via Wikipedia

    Eat a Filling Breakfast: We had to be at the convention center at 6:45am on Day 1 of the test and we weren’t going to break for lunch until 12pm.  In the week before the exam I did a breakfast experiment and found that oatmeal made with ½ cup water, ½ cup milk, raisins, sliced almonds, and brown sugar kept me full all morning.  I was so nervous on both mornings of the test that it was hard to force myself to eat, but I knew that would be better than getting half way through the morning and being starving.

  2. Sleep:  I’ve heard it takes the body 2 days to feel tired after a bad night of sleep so the night that really mattered was 2 days before the test.  I often have insomnia, especially when I’m nervous.  I took a sleeping pill 2 nights before the test to ensure that my body and brain would get adequate rest.
  3. Take the Free LunchASU did a very cool thing and provided lunch for us during the bar exam.  It was nice not having to worry about getting lunch in just over an hour and having to deal with the general public.  ASU even humored a superstition that many people in my class have and provided Jolly Ranchers for us.  It was also nice to see some friendly faces from the school.
  4. Prepare for Arctic Conditions:  When the Arizona Bar Exam is in Phoenix, it’s held at the convention center, and it’s freeeeezing.  I heard about this and wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt on Day 1.  By lunch, my lips were blue and I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers.  I asked a proctor if we could raise the temperature in the room and she dismissed my request saying that “It’s always this cold.”  For Day 2, I wore a thicker fleece and I was more comfortable, thought by the end of the day, my feet had started to go numb.  I should have brought an extra long-sleeved shirt, fingerless gloves, and a lap blanket.
  5. Do What Works For You:  When I’m running in a race and being passed by other people, I often remind myself that I need to run at my pace.  The same idea works for the bar exam.  It didn’t matter how fast or slow the people around me were going.  There was no need for me to freak out when someone finished and walked out of the room with an hour left on the clock.  All that mattered was that I was thinking clearly and answering the questions to the best of my abilities, and ultimately passing.
Standardized Test

Image by biologycorner via Flickr

I gave it my all on this test.  When I walked out, I had no brain power left.  Since the test, I have been sleeping a lot and slowly been regaining my cognitive functions.  I’m glad that I’m spending my first week after the test on vacation where I don’t have to see anything related to law school or the bar exam.

To the loved ones of people taking the bar exam:  The best thing my family did for me during my bar prep was to give me space.  From the time I graduated until the bar exam, my family never called me.  I occasionally called them to let them know I was alive.  They knew to leave me alone and let me do what I needed to do.

I need to give a special shout out to the woman who went into labor during Day 2 of the New Jersey Bar Exam.  She calmly finished her exam, walked across the street to the hospital, and delivered a healthy baby boy 2 hours later.  You are a phenomenal person.  I hope the labor pains didn’t interfere with your ability to pass the test!

Enhanced by Zemanta