Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Bar Exam

I haven't blogged since late July. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't driving me a little crazy. I have all these thoughts and no where to put them. Well, not nowhere, but paper and pen doesn't have quite the draw you might imagine it would. There's no feedback. No audience. No one to read it and go, "Hmmm."

But I needed to hit the reset button. And I am glad that I did. I'm back now. The title of this blog might be temporary. I'm not sure yet. I'm thinking this reset will be more generalized and broader subjects. Less specific whining about family, friends, life. More public content. Hopefully more travel stories. I don't know...I haven't really sketched it out yet. Let's just roll with it and see hot it goes, shall we?

So a lot has happened. Mostly the several meltdowns leading up to the bar exam. Then the bar exam.

About that hell, for those of you interested:

  • Day 1, essay 1: basic 1L torts negligence issue. Okay, we got this. (Torts, as I've been asked several times now, is a civil suit. Someone hits you and you want to sue for money, not just send them to jail? Tort. Someone negligently drives a car and insurance company sues? Tort. Faulty water slide design leads to you breaking your neck? Tort.)
  • Day 1, essay 2: Professional Responsibility. Not terribly difficult but not a lot to say. Can dispose of the issues pretty quickly.
  • Day 1, essay 3: California Evidence. BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I seriously almost walked out of the room. I thought, "You have GOT to be fucking kidding me! I can't do this!" But I composed myself and wrote whatever I could and left 15 minutes early because I just couldn't think of anything else to say.
  • Day 1, afternoon Performance Exam: 4 questions to answer on covenants, easements and restrictions in subdivision use (can someone stop someone else from building a tower?). Felt incredibly straightforward. A little bit frighteningly so.

I did not sleep well that night. I was physically exhausted, completely drained. And yet my brain was going a million miles an hour. I woke up feeling not at all refreshed and thinking there was no way I was going to survive the next two days. I texted Chuck that night and said, "I changed my mind. I don't want to be a lawyer anymore." He texted me back something reassuring. Woke up and tried it again...

  • Day 2: An entire day of multiple choice. The morning I went too quickly, as did a lot of people. I applied a lot of common sense and not necessarily a lot of rules of law. In the afternoon I slowed myself down to a crawl and applied more law and less guesses. There were some incredibly difficult questions. There were some really easy questions where you know the answer before finishing the fact pattern. There were sneaky questions where the bar examiners were throwing in topics that are not fair game for the Multistate portion (what up, will and civ pro questions?). I felt my brain hit max capacity at question 172. Holy crap I couldn't do that anymore!

Again, brain is running a million miles an hour and body is exhausted. Cheryl and I went to dinner that night together and did a little bit of post mortem. Cheryl is almost lower key than I am about law school so this isn't a full fledged digression of law but more, "That question was insane!" In order to get my brain to be quiet, I stopped by the store and grabbed some advil PM. I watched an episode of Friday Night Lights, took one and slept soundly, although I was preoccupied by a boy issue. Go figure. The thought of EVER having to go through the bar exam again made me want to vomit.

  • Day 3, essay 1: Partnership and Agency. I think I did okay but have obsessed a little bit about this one after the bar exam. I wish I had explained things a little more fully. Out of my hands now though.
  • Day 3, essay 2: Crim Law/Pro. 5th amendment search and seizure stuff. I BLEW this one. As badly as the evidence one. I just couldn't wrap my brain about it. While talking to Bill about it at the break I was like, "Oh. DUH!" but it was too late. I took a bathroom break during this essay and it got me a little help in that I paused to think about the issues. But this was not a good one. You aren't supposed to look ahead to the next essay, while working on the essay at hand. It's distracting and you start thinking about those issues. An hour per essay, move on. But I couldn't help it, I was sucking so bad! So I flip to the third page and all I see at a glance is the word "trust" and I literally swear out loud. "Trusts? FUCK!" I suck at trusts. But I compose myself, finish the 2nd essay and move on to the third..
  • Day 3, essay 3: The word trust? It was about the husband's trust fund because he was loaded! It's a community property essay! YYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSS! I can do this! And I knock out what is easily my best essay of the whole bar exam. You want to divide assets? Let's do this!

I was fairly certain I'd be just completely spent by the end of Day 3 and crawl into bed for the next week. But something else happens: adrenaline and euphoria kick in. You get giddy. I was bouncing off the walls right before the end of the lunch break talking to some of my friends from school. You can see the light. It's almost over! And you didn't curl into the fetal position and die. Like you wanted to.

  • Day 3, performance test: After the straightforward PT on day 1, we're all sort of anticipating some oddball issue, that the bar examiners will try to trip us up. And at first it seems that way, "Answer the questions of the attorney who came to us asking about collecting her fee from a non-paying client." But then they give you the questions to answer! So again, pretty straightforward. I spent a lot of time staring at my screen thinking A: I don't want to do this anymore and B: what else is there to say?

Time is called. The whole room, of about 1000 bar takers, erupts in cheers and clapping. Now all that remains is the waiting for the tests to be collected, a slow process. And then we are freeeeeee! At least until results come out on November 19th at 6 p.m.

After the exam, Cheryl and I head to Hillsdale Mall and grab snacks and bad Mai Tai's at Outback. Yeah, it wasn't a glamorous choice but it worked as I was heading further South to meet someone and she was headed back to the city.

Andy astutely pointed out before the exam that the anxiety of focusing on the exam is mostly about the sheer overwhelmingness of what happens AFTER the exam.

There is no way to possibly memorize every area of law that they could conceivably throw at you. 16 subjects to choose from and six essays. We didn't even hit civil procedure, something I was well versed in. Kind of a bummer. So you try to know what little bit you can about every area. But then it gets overwhelming. You're going to fail. You're going to disappoint yourself. You're going to disappoint those who believe in you. You are never going to get a job. You are never going to be able to pay back your stupid amount of loans. This leads you to bawling uncontrollably for no reason in the middle of studying contract formation. Even as emotional you is doubled over on the dining room table with gasping sobs, the logical part of your brain is telling you to knock it the fuck off, that your mother would be absolutely ashamed of your behavior. This will happen more than once. No one bothers to tell you this when they tell you about the bar exam.

After I got done with the bar exam and posted as such on Twitter Sarah said, "Now go get wasted so you can legit lie to law students about how awful it is." This is completely accurate. In all the lead up to the bar exam no one ever bothers to mention that it is just AWFUL. The prep for the exam is awful and the actual exam is awful. I mean, you sort of know this, but to be told, "Look, you are going to want to slit your wrists on a daily basis. You are going to alternately be way too nervous to eat and then want to eat everything in sight so long is it made of meat and cheese and comes from a fast food joint. You will cry. A lot. You will hate everyone and everything for reminding you that you should be doing it better, harder, smarter, faster, stronger. You will get mad at people with LIVES! The fog that hangs over the city of San Francisco, persistently, will make it easier for you to study and not need to be outside but will also crush your soul further, causing SAD in the middle of July. You will wonder how you are ever going to get through this, how anyone else ever got through this, and why the hell you ever thought being a lawyer was a remotely good idea."

The addendum to that of course is: You will then pick yourself up off the floor and get the fuck through this by focusing on the rules of law and what you need to learn and making charts out of pretty colors of permanent markers because focusing on the task at hand is a lot less scary than the big picture. You will do it because you have no other choice, even if your usual coping mechanism is sticking your head under the covers and your fight or flight response is definitely trending toward "flight".

Besides which: there are some EXTREMELY idiotic lawyers out there. If those fuckers can pass the bar exam, surely you can too. All you are aiming for is minimum competence. Thanks, someecards for saying it more succinctly than me:

I've now been done with the California Bar Exam for just over a week. And I have to say: I'm bored out of my skull. Go figure.

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