The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

Rob-tastic

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.