The bar exam

It’s finally over.

Actually, it was over a week ago but I’m just now getting to the point where I’m no longer too exhausted to talk about it. I studied hard, did my best, and prayed. A lot. I’m still praying for favor over my exam since it has to be graded and I won’t get the results until November. Jesus keep me near the cross and the curve! Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of my experience.

 

Bar prep isn’t fun, but it doesn’t start out completely horrible. You can focus because the fear of failure is like your very own Strict Asian Dad, goading you into reading outlines when you’d rather be using the internet.

 

facebook study

 

After the first two weeks, I realized that the bar exam is creeping closer and maybe I didn’t remember as much from 1L year as I thought I did. My anxiety levels were starting to rise, but it wasn’t completely out of control.

KEEP_CALM_635084562334540000_jpg

A month out, the daily grind of waking up and studying all day was starting to wear on me. It was like reliving all the worst parts of law school without any of the breaks or socializing.

 

bar studying

 

 

At two weeks before the test it’s probably time for a nervous breakdown if you haven’t already had one. I didn’t shed any tears, but I did spend a whole day feeling sick and gave my husband the silent treatment when he dared suggest that the multiple choice portion of the bar exam couldn’t be any worse than the SAT.

are you serious

 

 

In the final week before the test, I alternated between complete apathy and utter despair.

not sure

eff this

 

The day before I took care of all the logistical details. including buying 2.5 gallon Ziploc bags to carry my laptop(!) in since apparently the Board of Law Examiners is worse than TSA. I was a little keyed up but managed to get a good night’s rest. Day 1 was a half day for the procedure & evidence short answer and the practical essay, which  I felt very well prepared for. Most of the questions coincided with my review so I was pretty confident at the end of the day.

 

tim-gunn-make-it-work

 

Day 2 was the MBE, which should stand for Most Blatant Evil. This was the multiple choice test that made me understand why so many people HATE multiple choice tests. Even the practice tests were hard. They’re super tricky even when you KNOW the law. And unlike the SAT, each question is its own separate fact pattern. And said fact pattern is sometimes so long that one question just about takes up an entire page. Although I made significant progress during bar prep, I honestly have no clue how I did. I couldn’t do anything but go home and hit a dramatic wall slide.

Wallslide-Cartoon

 

 

Day 3 was the state essays. Written tests are my forte because you can fudge your way through and still get points. It’s the old W.C. Fields strategy- “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” To put it in bar exam terms, make up a rule, throw in a dash of public policy and move on.

 

Razzle dazzle

Of course, 6 hours of feverish typing and thinking on the fly had me feeling like I was putting on a show.

mad men tapdance

The hardest part was managing my anxiety. I was so ready to be done that my nerves were shot and every little thing was irritating me. I had to call my husband and a law school friend on lunch break because my fellow bar takers were giving me homicidal urges. There’s always a few people who who take “dress for success” to an extreme conclusion and show up in a silk dress and pumps, or suit and tie. Then there are those who are either a) completely unbothered and feel the need to smugly announce how well they did; or b) completely freaking out. Either way, people from one or both camps will inevitably be sitting next to you or walking towards the exit with you on lunch break and making you want to punch them in the face.

stayoverthere

 

Finally, the test was over for real for real, and I had my life back. Or so I thought, since the bar examiner proceeded to keep us for another 30 minutes while the proctors painstakingly collected tests, counted tests, made us backup our tests to USB, etc. All very necessary things, but I didn’t want anything more than to be out of that room!

 
let my people go

 

And then it was done. I survived the bar exam! Let’s all pray that come November I’ll be Wifey, Esq.

 

Death to Socrates

Or at least the Socratic method. It’s week 5 of the semester and I’m hitting that same point I hit last semester where I just stop caring. Excellence in law school seems to demand an unwavering perfection, an obsessive attention to detail, and a commitment to conformity. Color me jaded.

The truth is, the study of law itself is not inherently boring. But it is taught in a way that discourages creativity and engagement. The Socratic method was, I’m sure, intended to be a tool in which students learned by thinking critically about their studies with guidance from their professor. In practice, it falls far short. We come in 1L year scared to death, knowing nothing, and then we find out we have to stand in front of the entire class and get grilled on a case. You don’t know where or when your name is coming up, but it’s coming. The dread looms over you and finally, when you get called on, you freeze.

At this point, whether you read the case immaterial because sheer nerves have you come off like a bumbling idiot (in your own eyes at least) either way. Your already fragile ego takes a blow that it doesn’t recover from until next semester, at which point you have realized that class performance is pointless because your entire grade is based on the final. By your second year, you have realized that with adequate notetaking and the help of a good outline (commercial or borrowed from an upperclassmen), you can pass all your classes by doing little more than showing up. This is certainly no standard to live up to, but when the classroom routine is “speak when spoken to” and you often don’t know how to word your confusion about the material into a coherent question, it’s reality.

One thing I miss about my undergrad days studying history is that professors only cold called on students as a last resort. Generally, my peers were enthusiastic about speaking. I have never been the class chatterbox–I learn by observation, so I prefer to mull over my own thoughts while considering new perspectives from others. Still, knowing that I was free to speak, or not speak, as I chose made me far more willing to do the reading and I participated a fair amount as well. Moreover, I never came to class feeling ashamed or worried about my ignorance of a particular facet of the material.The problem is, although class participation counts very little, if at all, toward your final grade, it is the only impression of you as an individual that your professors have. Many of the jobs and almost all of the scholarships you apply for require at least one professor as a reference, and of course you want to ask a professor who has a good impression of you!

Added on to that is the fact that I am not in the law school with the goal of becoming a traditional practicing lawyer and some days it’s just hard to shake off the apathy. Law school is just so far divorced from the reality of what lawyers do, and have the potential do. THAT reality is what really excites me and keeps me on this difficult path, because while a Master’s in Public Policy would have been easier and more fun, it would not have prepared me as well for the chameleon career I have ahead of me. And so, I keep on chugging…