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The Undeniable Plans for 2014

I recently asked my readers what they wanted me to write about and someone suggested I share my 2014 plans. That gave me reason to pause, because in 2012 I was focused on getting the law firm off the ground and last year I spent the beginning of 2013 getting ready to speak at SXSW. This year I don’t have a big event or activity taking up all my time. I think I get to just live for year. But of course I have plans for how I’d like to spend my time.

My legs after  a session of ASTYM.

My legs after a session of ASTYM.

1. Get Healthy. Years of gymnastics and running has resulted in a buildup of scar tissue in my lower legs. I finished my last half marathon with so much pain that I thought I had three stress fractures. Instead of training for the 2014 race, I’m in physical therapy. They’re breaking up the scar tissue with ASTYM and dry needling, building up my strength, and working on my running posture. They said I should be good to go to run a 10K in March.

2. Separate Work from my Personal Life.  Carter Law Firm got a brick and mortar office in December 2013. To go along with that, I want to work on keeping work at the office and not work once I’m home for the day. This includes not working on the weekends and getting all my blogs written during the week. (When I was writing books last year I’d work on the books during the week and blogs on the weekend.) I got used to working all the time and it’s time make more time for fun.

More Adventures = More Handstands

More Adventures = More Handstands

3. Go on More Adventures.  Going to law school really got me out of the habit of having a life on the weekend and it’s too easy to fill the weekend with work stuff, so this year I want to make it a point to do more new things during my down time. There are so many wonderful places and events in Arizona I’ve never experienced. I’ll be using Roadside America and community calendars for inspiration but I’ll be starting the year by doing the Polar Plunge in Tempe. And I definitely want to see Bisbee this year and take advantage of the night in Sedona I won during Indie Week.

4. Continue to be a Minimalist.  I made a huge donation run to Goodwill a few weeks ago. My backseat and trunk were packed with stuff I don’t use anymore. Since then, I’ve already started the next pile of stuff to be donated. I will continue to be mindful of what I do and don’t use and periodically do a sweep of the house to get rid of things that don’t add value to my life. Next year will also start with the reversal of all my closet hangers. Every garment will have to earn its right to stay in my wardrobe again.

5. Release my Next Book.  The American Bar Association is publishing my next book – The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers. It’s expected to be released in February 2014. I’m excited for it to be released and I hope it will open more doors for me to do more professional speaking.

Those are basically my plans on top my standard events, activities, and goals of having fun and being productive. I hope your 2013 is winding down on a high note and that you have an awesome year in 2014. I’ll keep you in the loop about my adventures.

MBE Score: To Look Or Not To Look

The Arizona Bar Exam has three sections.

  • Multistate Bar Exam (MBE): 200 multiple choice questions (6 hours), 50% of your score
  • Multistate Essay Exam (MEE): 6 essay questions (3 hours), 30% of your score
  • Multistate Performance Exam (MPE): 2 practical questions (3 hours), 20% of your score

This is my actual MBE score, still in its envelope.

You have to get a score of at least 410 out of 600 to pass the bar. The results of the exam will not be out until October; however, five weeks after the exam, we received our MBE scores in the mail. It is possible to bomb the MBE and still pass the bar, and it’s possible to ace the MBE and still fail. I decide the stress of not knowing anything was less than the stress I would feel if I opened my MBE score and I wasn’t happy with the result. So, when my score arrived, I put it in a drawer instead of opening it.

A lot of people heard about what I did and couldn’t believe that I had enough self-restraint to not open the envelope. Many of them asked if they could open it or at least hold it up to a light bulb so they could know what it says. These people are all banned from my home until after the final bar exam pass list is posted.

Fortunately, I have significant experience with being academically stubborn. During law school, I never checked my grades after the first semester. After each semester was over and final grades were posted, I emailed the assistant dean of the law school. He checked my grades for me and let me know that I passed and that I was in good academic standing. I never knew what my GPA or class rank were and it made me a happier law student.  My focus shifted to learning the material and my stress level dropped significantly. I have a copy of my final transcript on my computer in case a future employer wants to see it, but I’ve never looked at it.

I decided not to open my MBE score because knowing this information would not give me any definitive answers about my bar score. It’s a bit cruel that the powers that be tell us what 50% of our score is and make us sweat it for another 5 weeks. I’d rather take the bar exam and forget about it until the official pass list is posted.

To anyone who would not react well if they score below average on their MBE, I recommend not opening your MBE score when it arrives.  All that matters is that you get the total score you need to pass.

Bar Exam Wisdom from Arizona Lawyers

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).

I went to Arizona State University for law school.  Most of my friends and I are taking the Arizona bar exam next week.  In preparation, I reached out to some people who practice law from Arizona, most of who have previously passed the Arizona bar.  I asked them what advice they wished someone had given them before they took the test.  Here’s what they had to say:

Saguaro Sunset

Image by Saguaro Pictures via Flickr

“The absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is speak with any of your fellow test takers about their experience with any portion of the exam.  They will have wax convincingly about seeing issues you did not spot, making you question whether you really studied at all.  Chances are high if you did not see the issue it’s because it was not there.   There is no need to peck away at your self-confidence this way – just turn the subject to something non-exam related, or just walk away.   This is especially good advice after the exam is completed.  Remember, you’ll have long weeks sweating out the results.  There is no need to add to the tension because Billy Bob, who never scored higher than a 72 on any law school exam, uncovered a hidden corporate duty of loyalty issue in that First Amendment question.”
Bill Richards, partner at Bade and Baskin, earned the highest score on the AZ Bar Exam in July 1990

“Before I took the bar, a good friend who had previously taken it told me to trust all of the studying I had done and go in there confident and with guns blazing. That really stuck with me and I took that advice right into the exam hall. I dared this exam to try and stop me from passing! Your state of mind is so very important on the day of the exam. I had people sitting next to me who were completely flustered and wound up missing whole questions on the exam. If you must listen to some arrogant rap music to get your confidence up (Kanye, anyone?). So stay confident and calm (do a yoga class the day before to get centered – I totally did this!) and remember that you worked hard and are ready for this.”
Rachel Rodgers, principal attorney with Rachel Rodgers Law Office

“You will never feel like you’re prepared enough, no matter how much you study. Just accept that! Do your best to remain calm because freaking out just makes you lose focus and forget things. You will, most likely, either run out of time on some questions, or get questions that really throw you for a loop, or both. But remember that EVERYONE is in the same situation, and NO ONE knows the answer to everything. Even the highest scores aren’t ever perfect scores. You only need a D+ to pass, that’s all. Not an A, not a B, not a C. Most of you have never even written C answers in law school, so have confidence in yourselves and know that you can do it! When it comes to the week before the exam, please don’t spend all of your time cramming. At that point you know what you know and cramming will just exhaust you. Focus on your problem areas for one last refresher and try to get out and do some fun things to relax you. The last thing you want to do in the days before the exam is burn yourself out. Lastly, you WILL feel like you failed when you get out of there. It is just part of the process. So don’t be like me and spend the whole night crying and looking into other careers, because chances are you rocked it! Believe in yourself and whatever you do, DON’T talk about the exam when you’re done! You can’t change your answers and usually the people bragging about what they wrote are wrong anyway. Ok, that is all the wisdom I have so good luck and hang in there. It will be over before you know it!”
Jeni Christopher, associate at Schlesinger Conrad, passed the Arizona bar exam in February 2011

“Whatever got you far enough to take the bar exam will see you through it — and allow you to leave the indignity of it far behind.”
David J. Bodney, partner at Steptoe and Johnson 

Good luck everyone!

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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Is That Legal – Internet Wedding

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  This blog should not be viewed as legal advice.  It is simply my experiences, opinions, and information I looked up on the internet.

Photo by Sheila Dee

My friend, Evo Terra, is an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church.  If you have five minutes and an internet connection, you can be ordained too.  He’s performed a handful of marriages over the years but this weekend he performed a most unusual marriage ceremony.  The bride and groom were in North Carolina and he performed the ceremony over the internet via webcam.  When he agreed to perform the ceremony, he put the responsibility on the couple to make sure that the marriage is legitimate.

In California, Colorado, Montana, and Texas, you can have a marriage by proxy, where a third person stands in for the bride or groom who is unable to be there.  If it’s possible to get married when the bride or groom isn’t physically present in the room, is the marriage valid if the minister isn’t physically present?

According to the law in North Carolina, all you need to have a valid marriage is a marriage license and a consenting heterosexual couple who freely, seriously, and plainly take each other as husband and wife in the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination.  The law does not provide any specifics regarding where the minister needs to physically be during the ceremony.  I would not be surprised if the couple signs their marriage license and sends it to Evo, who then signs in and sends it in to the appropriate recording office in North Carolina, that they would accept it without batting an eye.

This issue boils down to what is does it mean to have a marriage ceremony in the presence of a minister.  I could not find a definition for “presence” in the North Carolina marriage laws.  Is a being present live via web cam enough or must the minister be physically present in the room?

This issue reminds me of the use of proxy signatures on a will.  In Arizona, if a person cannot sign their will themselves, they can direct someone else to sign it for them in their “conscious presence.”  The requirement of conscious presence could not be fulfilled over the telephone, and probably not via web cam according to my Decedent Estates professor.   North Carolina only requires a proxy signature on a will to be completed in the person’s presence and at their direction.   I don’t know if the definition of “conscious presence” in Arizona is the same as “presence” in North Carolina.

Did my friend perform a valid marriage ceremony this weekend?  I don’t know.  I called Wake County in North Carolina.  Someone there said that the marriage laws have not been changed since they were enacted; therefore the marriage isn’t valid unless the minister is physically in the same room with the bride and groom.  She basically said that since marriage couldn’t be performed over the internet in the past, they can’t be performed over the internet now.  I think that answer is incomplete and that this issue deserves some exploration.

I don’t think this issue is going to have a legal answer unless someone goes to court and claims that their marriage that was officiated via web cam wasn’t a valid marriage.  That probably will not happen unless a spouse who was married over the internet dies without a will and someone who would get a larger inheritance from the deceased’s estate claims that the surviving spouse should not inherit from the estate because the marriage was not valid.

SALK Day 78: Arizona Animal Races

Today’s sponsors are Micah and Danielle Larripa, two of the most wonderful people I’ve met during law school.  Micah is my classmate and a proud member of the U.S. Marine Corps who is perpetually “living the dream.”  Danielle is his beautiful wife.  They asked me to write about the “awesomeness of obscure animal racing events in Arizona.”  I did some digging and here are the top 8 animal races in Arizona.

  1. Just anther day at the Ostrich Races

    Image by Zach Inglis via Flickr

    Ostrich Races:  The ostrich races are part of the annual Ostrich Festival in Chandler.   There are races where ostriches pull chariots and races where participants ride the giant birds.  It’s a hilarious crazy event where you’re likely to see the birds spinning in circles and races where every jockey falls off their bird.

  2. Pug Olympics:  I had to throw in a pug event for the Larripa’s pug, Scout.  This annual event takes place every January in Mesa.  From what I can tell, they let the dogs run wild on agility equipment.
  3. Dog Sled Race:  This race is part of the annual Winter Games at the Hon-Dah Resort Casino in Pinetop.  The Winter Games also raise money for the local humane society with a purebred dog show a “mountain mutt” dog show, and a dog weight pull competition.
  4. Pig Races at Schnepf Farms:  The pig races are part of the pumpkin and chili festival every October.  Hillbilly Bob calls the races as the little pig race around the dirt track.  This is a great family event where attendees all get pig noses for being there.
  5. Desert Dachshund Race:  This event looks adorable – dachshunds zipping down a race area in little colorful race bibs.  This race occurs every October and benefits the Sahuaro Dachshund Rescue.
  6. Goat Dressing : This isn’t a race, but it’s an animal event that was too hilarious not to put on the list.  The Arizona Gay Rodeo Association hosts the Road Runner Regional Rodeo for the International Gay Rodeo Association every February.  Along with the standard rodeo events (bull riding, barrel racing, roping, etc.), they have Goat Dressing – an event where teams of two compete to see who can put a pair of panties on a goat the fastest.
  7. Mascot Race:  Ok, so this is not exactly an animal race, but I’m sure that there are people dressed up as animals.  Mascots from local restaurants race one mile as part of the annual Gilbert Days every November.
  8. Warrior Dash:  The Warrior Dash is an event for humans with animalistic spirit.  This hellish 3.4 mile race is peppered with twelve obstacles including a cargo net, a river, barbed wire, and fire.  Participants receive a Viking helmet and a beer upon crossing the finish line.  The Warrior Dash has races in 30 cities in and out of the U.S.  It’s coming to Arizona for the first time this spring.  And in case you were wondering, yes, I’m doing it.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Micah and Danielle Larripa.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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So I Have A Gun . . .

There is a time and place for guns.  I live in Arizona – a big pro-gun state.  We love guns so much that the state legislature is in the process of having the Colt revolver declared as the official state gun.  When you go shopping, some stores have signs that say “No handguns” because we can carry our guns just about everywhere unless they specifically tell us we can’t.  My school is even considering allowing guns on campus.  They’ve tried  to outlaw cigarettes on campus but guns are ok.

I moved to Phoenix shortly after my grandmother died.  Since I didn’t have a job yet, I was the one who was responsible for being on site for the cleaning out and selling of her house.   When I was doing my final walk-through to make sure that we had everything out of house, I discovered an oddly shaped fabric case on a high shelf in her closet.  It was my father’s hunting rifle.  I never knew he had a gun.  I took it to my house and it has been in my closet ever since.  It’s a beautiful weapon, but I don’t fire it.

guns and ammo

Image by darkly_seen via Flickr

Now, I am all for responsible gun ownership.  I have shot a number of guns: rifles, handguns, and an M-16.  People laughed very hard at me when I learned the hard way that I didn’t have my gun pulled all the way into my shoulder before firing it.  I have had my fair share of gun-related bruises.

I heard that a friend of a friend always opens her door holding her gun.  It was handy for making solicitors go away.  I don’t like being bothered at home, so I decided to try it.  The next time the doorbell rang, I opened the door with my dad’s gun in my hands (just holding it, not pointing it at anyone).  There was a little Hispanic man going door-to-door offering to help with my lawn (and I don’t have a lawn).  He was so surprised to see a person with a gun.  He looked so scared.  I realized at that point that I don’t want to live in a world where people answer their doors holding guns.

I think one of the problems with the U.S. is that we’re conditioned to believe that the unfamiliar is scary and that people inherently want to hurt each other.  It lends itself to always being on guard and looking for the bad instead of being rational and enjoying the good in life.

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SALK Day 22 – The Foster Group

Today’s sponsor is The Foster Group, a new and unique law firm with offices in Arizona and Indiana.  Founded by Troy and Kristen Foster, The Foster Group is staffed with exceptional lawyers with big firm experience who want to provide the individualized service and care of a boutique law firm.  These lawyers are former partners at large national law firms, have worked for federal and state judges, and have represented large international companies.

Troy Foster’s career has focused on education and employment law.  He has been named one of The Best Lawyers in America for many years.  Troy has also received the highest ratings for ethical standards and substantive ability by his peers.  Kristen Foster specializes in labor and employment law, trust and estates, education and special education law, family law, and media relations.  One of her previous positions was an Assistant Attorney General for Arizona, where she represented Child Protective Services. Along with being on the Boards of Directors for numerous organizations, the Fosters recently founded Henry’s Hope, an organization that is dedicated to the needs of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

The core principles of The Foster Group are commitment, hard work, trust, and dedication.  Their goal is to understand their clients’ needs and to provide them efficient and practical solutions to their problems.  The Foster Group is focused on providing high-quality, cost-effective services and being attentive and responsive to their clients.

The Foster Group specializes in labor law, education law, family law, trusts and estates, civil rights, and transactional corporate and real estate law.  It has a Human Resources Solutions Group that provides trainings, internal investigations, policy revisions, or high-level consultation work to companies.  Recently, The Foster Group has offered trainings in Arizona regarding the recent legalization of medicinal marijuana and its effect on the workplace.  It is also dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of individual who want to have their story heard in the news media, in print, or published in a book.

Troy Foster also offers his services as a mediator. He has experience mediating employment, civil, tort, legal and medical malpractice disputes.  His thoughtful nature and compassionate heart make me an ideal person to help parties resolve their problems.

The Foster Group is a unique and desirable place to work.  Unlike other firms that work their lawyers to death, The Foster Group only requires lawyers to bill 1600 hours per year.  Other firms require their lawyers to bill 1850-2200 per year, which is one of the reasons why lawyers are rumored to be addicted to stimulants and have heart attacks when they are 40.  The Foster Group also has a fun, event-driven bonus system, such as trips to Hawaii.  Additionally, the firm plans to launch a Community Involvement Program where it will hire an attorney to work full-time on pro bono cases.

The Foster Group can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is The Foster Group.   For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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Poolside Studying

I live in Arizona.  It gets obnoxiously hot here.  Since this semester started, the coolest day was still in the high 90s.  It’s not uncommon for the high temperature for the day to be around 108 degrees.  In the past, I joked about laminating my flash cards and studying in my pool.  I decided to put that idea into action this week in regards to reading.

A few days ago, I was frustrated from being cooped up in my house all day, reading my casebooks.  The sun was starting to set, and it was beautiful outside.  It was too much for me to keep looking at my pool through the living room window.  I put on my swimsuit and grabbed a casebook, my highlighters, a bottle of water, and a towel, and headed outside.

I folded my towel into fourths and laid it at the edge of the pool.  I needed something soft underneath my elbows.  I put  my book in the middle of the towel and my water and highlighters on the side and got back to work.  I’m pretty short, so I had to stand on the bottom step leading into the pool or else I couldn’t see my whole book.  This system worked out remarkably well.  Without the distractions of my cell phone, computer, and household chores, I got through my reading faster than ever.  This system worked equally well at night with the help of the outdoor lighting.

Yesterday, I couldn’t focus in the house, so I headed out to the pool in the middle of the day.  It was about 103 degrees outside and the sun was glaring down on me.  It was so hot that my highlighters were almost too hot to hold.  Previously, I purposely kept my hands out of the water to avoid getting my book wet, but the sun was too hot to stay focused.  I periodically took a 2-minute break to fully submerge myself in the water and cool off.  It was so refreshing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a big fan of swimming or pools but this is where I’ll be studying for the next few weeks.   My plan is to be back in the pool sometime in April and to use this as a primary study location until I take the Bar in July.