Friday, February 25, 2011

Bar Exam Debrief

All the gory details of the February California Bar Exam, in chronological order, as they happened, after the jump...

Day 1 lunch break:
Those of you used to my total and complete freak outs (see posts below), should be surprised to hear I feel surprisingly zen at this moment. Now, I’m not saying my answers are gonna win any awards or anything or were even right, but I’m not in full on freak out mode feeling all defeated either. At least not yet. I am in my adorable hotel room, alone, eating a banana and carrots and cheez-its for lunch. And other than the annoying time it takes to let them collect the tests and let us out, it was fine. My proctor happens to be from Shreveport, which I took as a good omen. Even if she did ask me which LSU (one of our satellite schools in Shreveport and Eunice the other options) I went to when I’m clearly donning the purple and the gold.

About that: Purple is my power color, this should be pretty self explanatory, and as I’m superstitious and need whatever luck or help from the universe I can get, I wear it to tests. That and I like to be as comfortable as possible so jeans, t-shirt, hoodie. I am not there to impress anyone. OH! But some auburn haired guy took off his sweatshirt before the test started and, ya know, his shirt slipped up too exposing his RIDICULOUS SIX PACK ABS! Sigh. (Yeah, even at the bar exam I’m checking out dudes.) Also: the only two people I have seen so far that I know are the hot guy from my Remedies class who went to SH, who I chatted with briefly, and then Chris who was in my small section. I LOVE Chris. He is just SUCH a good kid (I say kid because he’s like just 25). I was stoked to see him and we talked.

Anyway, I started to get anxious at the start of the test, tapping my foot incessantly as they read the 20 pages of instructions, when I silently started reciting prayers and calmed myself down. Freaking Catholic school. It is the default position. I used all 3 hours, something I didn’t do last time, and even went back and fixed some stuff. I also started to go, “Geezus, just let me get through today. I just want this to be over and to be on to day 2 and all the multiple choice questions…even though I suck hard at multiple choice…” when I told myself to calm the eff down and be present for THIS moment right here. That seemed to work.

Essay 1 was a wills issue. I hate wills but I actually thought I had a really coherent logical argument there and carefully explained everything so let’s hope so.

Essay 2: Fuck me and your Establishment Clause/Freedom of Exercise religion clauses in a conscientious objector as a defense. I know I’m supposed to love the constitution and hold it close to my heart and all, and I do, but fuuuuuuuuuuuu. I had no idea what to say. There can be no encroachment blah blah. I didn’t feel really good about that but I tried. *Shrug* (This one STILL bothers me. It’s the one stuck in my brain that I wish I’d say more about. I won’t look up the right answer either though. I’d rather not know.)

Essay 3: Lease covenants and assignments of leases. I *think* I got where I was supposed to go, even if I sort of backed my way into it.

The room is far less crowded than it was when I took this in July. And there a ton of old dudes who I just look at and am like “couldn’t pay me enough”.

I slept for shit last night too. Tossed and turned most of the night. Tried to quiet my mind but it wasn’t really working. Tried my imaginary conversations with imaginary people trick and even that failed me. I tried not to get frustrated about it and just sort of go with it though. I woke up all red eyed this morning but as of right now, with having just had a cup of awful in room tea, I am fine. Probably mostly adrenaline. We’ll see how hard I crash this evening. The “gym” for this hotel is on my floor, but, um, it’s kinda sad. I saw a 24 hour in my travels yesterday that is a couple blocks away, so I might do that instead. Might be good to be in the gym with other people who are doing normal shit and not taking the bar exam.

Day 1 evening
I got done with the exam, realized I was starving. I headed to Johnny Rockets and washed down my minimal calorie lunch with a milkshake, fries, and a burger. It was needed. The afternoon session was harder than the morning session. I was talking with the very nice girl next to me and she says, “It’s the same amount of time! I don’t know why it’s so much harder!” Her and I seem a lot alike in our approach to all this. This is her second time too. Oh, and I got an administrative notice to go report to the back of the room after the exam. It’s no big deal, just that I’m an idiot and in the morning session I inverted my exam number so that it was incorrect on all the paperwork. The exam number, which you write on everything all the time during the exam, is almost the same as my ATM pin. Also: I’m retarded.

Like I said, the afternoon session was harder. I know for tomorrow I need at least half a 5 hour energy. I was having trouble focusing and even remember saying to myself, “Focus, dammit! Focus!” It didn’t help that the subject matter was yawn inducing. This is stupid and hard to explain but: in the afternoon you do a performance test. You have 3 hours to read a file and library. It lays out the whole problem, like some complex analytical problem and it’s all in stupid legalese. You have to read memos and pleadings and blah blah. The “library” works as a closed universe so that you don’t have to bring in your actual outside knowledge of the law to bear on the problem. It should all be contained in the file. Except this time I actually did because there seemed to be some basic due process issues that were involved. Anyway, you have 3 hours to read all this crap and then synthesize it down into whatever they want. The last bar exam they were pretty straight forward about they wanted. “Answer these four questions”. This time it was a little more vague and you had to parse it out a bit more. There were also a whole ton of statutes that you have to read and figure out what they mean. You ever read a statute? Zzzzzzzzz. The reason lawyers get to stay employed is because we wrote the fucking statutes and we’re the only ones that can understand them. I didn’t feel like I was that coherent and I was just about done when I went back and read something and immediately went, “FUCK!” I’d totally misinterpreted something in one of the statutes and had to go back and change my whole analysis.

But as the girl next to me and I were discussing, you don’t dwell too much on it. You just move the freak on. I don’t feel half as exhausted as I did after the first day last time. In fact, I went to the gym to work off some of my excess energy. My brain feels tired but I also know it won’t rest. I’ll have to take some Tylenol PM to get a good night’s sleep (It’s already 11 and I’m nowhere near tired). I could use a good cup of mint tea. Oh well. (I’m also watching some super intense war documentary on HBO but I have no idea what it’s called. Stupid not having an info button.)

About hotels: this is a super cute hotel a couple blocks from the convention center. It’s a Joie De Vivre hotel, which is a cute boutique chain. But it’s a waste of a hotel room. Hotel rooms are for nights to get drunk and crazy hotel room sex. Instead I have 5 hour energies lined up next to bottles of water, bananas, and baby carrots.

Also: hotel wifi continues to be the bane of my existence. Drives me crazy everywhere, it seems. This one here doesn’t recognize that I am in fact in my room, registered under my name, even when I want to pay for the freaking wifi. Which is an annoyance in and of itself. I have to pay for wifi? I am already paying for a room. And even though not moving my car, I’m paying for parking because I wasn’t going to try to figure out self parking in some city owned lot. Anyway, the wifi won’t work which is flipping annoying, but I also don’t feel like calling the tech line to deal with it. I can upload the exam later. I saw a cute coffee shop around the corner tonight on my walk so I might go over there tomorrow night to upload my exam.

The sheer volume of stuff I brought is hysterical in and of itself, technology wise. I have decided my laptop is the grown up version of a security blanket. I can’t leave home without it. Because it’s not what I’m using for the exams. The program that you use to type the exam is not compatible with Macs, you have run windows, so I have the 20” VAIO with me to take the exam, my laptop to keep me company, my ipod to use at the gym and on the ipod doc and my cell phone. And now I’ve spent all day typing on the VAIO and trying to go back to typing on the MAC, hitting the wrong keys (first world problemmmsss).

Going back to that thing up above where I talked about what I wore today, so I have this totally ridiculous story: I got in here Monday and I walked over to the little mall thing by the hotel. It’s a Westfield but not really that spectacular. However, it has a Macy’s and I’ve been meaning to go to Macy’s to just buy some basic underwear. Anyway, the brand I buy at Macy’s had camo pattern. You bet your sweet ass I wore those to the exam. This is war, bitches! What, like you don’t call your makeup war paint either? Pshaw. You know you do.

Alright, I’m gonna try and get some sleep so I can rock Day 2. Wheee!

Day 2: lunch break
Trying to stay awake and focused for 100 multiple choice is painful. PAINFUL. And these aren’t your grade school standard multiple choice. These are assy lawyer multiple choice. I’ve bitched about it before but Imma bitch about it again. Choosing the best answer is some bullshiittt. Also bullshit: going outside the 6 subject areas available for MBEs. They sneak in civ pro couched in con law language. Or disguise wills as real property. I see what you’re doing there! Don’t think I don’t see it!

I was also dragging this morning. My wake up text didn’t arrive and I swear the alarms on all electronic devices hate me. But I finally got up at 7:30. Today is the day to run a little late. There is a half hour of instruction reading every morning anyway. But today it’s all #2 pencils and scantron so no technology to fidget with.

I took 2 tylenol PM but still wasn’t asleep ‘til about 1:30 so it was slow going this morning. I pounded a 5 hour energy but while that keeps you awake, it doesn’t always help with alertness.

AND! They didn’t give us a minute warning today, just a 30 second one. So I was scrambling to fill in the last few bubbles. Though: vast improvement from the last bar where I finished like 45 minutes early from the morning session, which meant I was clearly not applying enough law. This time I went more slowly and answered according to actual legal principles. Go figure! I’m not sure that will reflect in the score but let’s hope so. On the other hand, I also had to tell myself to trust my instinct. You start to get sucked in by a really attractive answer because “Oh! That could be true!” But no! Don’t! You know the law! Also: the amount of questions they put a shit ton of unnecessary information in that you then have to ferret out is also criminal. Because why make this straightforward?

Bouncing between subjects has also become painful. I didn’t do a straight 100 question practice in my bar prep (prep. Ha!) so going from contracts to evidence to torts to real property requires adjusting quickly and applying different principles also sucks.

But I did it. All 100 questions. Now to do another 100 in the afternoon.

Everyone walking of the exam kept saying, “We’re half way done!” Which is what the kid who caught up to me at the crosswalk before our hotel said. (We were carrying common ziplock bags of pens and pencils, making test takers easily identifiable.) I don’t know if I’m really reassured by that. Yeah, we’re halfway done. We also have halfway to go. And tomorrow I have to get up and make my brain do essays and a PT test again. Guuuhhh.

But then I get to go home and start the rest of my life! Wheeee!

Day 2 end:
Holy mother of god. I’m tired. Tiiirrreeeed. And I got back to the hotel after the exam, which I left the evening session early because I just couldn’t handle sitting there for anymore multiple choice, I run into someone who I’ve known from grammar school. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? Of course you’re not. Of course I am from the kind of teeny tiny major city where 90 miles away from home, exhausted and depleted you run into some dude you’ve known since you were 5. I HATE SAN FRANCISCO. I talked to him for a hot minute and even said hi but made the excuse of being exhausted and went to my room. But then I was shaking because of my low blood sugar and lack of actual food so I had to go downstairs. He was still there. You are not kidding me, universe, are you? So I duck into the bar wine tasting hour and have a two glasses before heading out for food, which ends me back up at the stupid brew co even though that’s not what I want. But frankly? You put anything in front of me at this point and I would eat it. I’m sorta tipsy but this is not making me sleepy (DAMN YOU, BODY!) when I head back to the hotel. Dude from grade school is still here. Still. Here. So we chat again. He’s going to be here for the next three days. He spends time guarding judges. Offfffffff course he does.

I’m too tired to talk about the exam, I’m gonna go watch Generation Kill but know that it felt like there were 40 property questions in the afternoon even though that’s impossible. I started applying Law and Order principles because I couldn’t make my brain work. “Umm, well, what happens on Law & Order?” I would run the scenario and answer accordingly. Because fuck all that. And I’m sure I was mumbling to myself. I would see answer choices and look at them and just be like “That is STUPID.” There are 4 answer choices for each question. I got a torts question which said, “Under which theory is the plaintiff likely to recovery?” I read the options and wrote in the question book, “E. None of the above.” Seriously. Some of these questions are stupid. So I’d had enough and couldn’t take it and answered as best as I could so I left about ten minutes early.

One more day of this. One more day and I can start the rest of my life. One. More. Day…

Day 3
It’s 2 a.m. I’m fucking exhausted but I also can’t sleep. I had turned off the lights and was about to sleep when the analysis for the con law question on Day 1 suddenly came to me and I realized quite vividly where I fucked up the analysis. Thanks. That’s AWESOME.

The bar examiners also win major asshat awards for the topics today. There is a serious prison rape joke/analogy to be made about how I feel about Day 3.

The morning session was brutal. Just BRUTAL. The first question was a straight Torts negligence question but you still had to run through and analyze all your intentional torts. And even with just a straight negligence question it’s hard. We all know it. Any 1L can run to you and be all, “Yeah, duty, breach, causation, damages.” But to type all that out? Mother of goddddd. It took forever. It’s the first time I’ve ever gone over on an essay (prudence suggests 3 essays, 3 hours, 1 hour per essay). But I wrote a lot so that’s good? I hope.

After the torts I flipped the page and saw corporations. Fucking corporations. Formation of a business entity. AND they threw in a fun little legal professional responsibility twist just for shits and giggles. Much appreciated. I don’t feel particularly fantastic about this one. Cross-over questions are evil.

Then. Then. Here’s a statement from Lindsey this winter, “Well, at least you know they won’t give you a California evidence question.” Oh Linds. Thanks for that double jinx. It’s a California evidence question. Whee! It wasn’t that BAD of a California evidence question, as it was grounded in civil law and not criminal law but there it was, none the less, an evidence question. AND it was a contracts question too. Awesome sauce. Now: I feel like I analyzed the evidence rules better than I did last time we had evidence but I still don’t feel great about this one either.

The girl who sat next to me for the whole exam was so nice and chill and we chatted and she was awesome. A lot like me, I thought. We’d make the same complaints and be all, “I know, RIGHT?!” I shoulda facebook friended her but I don’t know her last name. Oh well. We got done with the morning session and were both like “Ffuuuu.”

For lunch I had to check out of the hotel but it was nice to have it for a few minutes to just relax. Well, as much as I can amped up on adrenaline and 5 hour energy.

Final thoughts (Day 4):
The afternoon of Day 3 was another PT and this one…just…fuck man. They wanted a points and authority memo on an immigration case. And while I had no problem writing “The judge was a dumbass and this needs to be reversed” I could NOT make my brain synthesize all the information. It was just…too much. Huge long complicated statutes, combined with case law, combined with fact statements. I wanted to just punt and be done but I forced myself, as much as I could, to focus and just keep writing. I do not feel good about it. But it’s over. Yay?

I just woke up and am so exhausted still. Sore. The adrenaline rush is over. Mercifully I have the house to myself so that’s nice. I need to go to the gym but god that sounds impossible right this second.

Funny stuff happened Day 3 though. I don’t know if it’s my energy or what. I had on my grey LSU sweatshirt. It’s grey with bright purple embroidered LSU on the front lined in yellow (gold). It’s the LSU sweatshirt that definitely makes people talk to me the most. So I walk back from the hotel after lunch, stopping at a liquor store to buy another Perrier (I’m fancy) and some lotto tickets and the guys behind the counter want to have a twenty minute conversation/flirt with me. Older guys of some foreign descent. They ask me what the LSU stands for, I tell them. The older guy then asks me if I’m married, I say, “Hahaha. No.”  “No? You’re not married yet?” Me, “Yet? Never.” “You never get married? Not even to me?” Uncomfortable laugh, “No. Too complicated…I don’t like to share.” This makes him laugh. He asks what I do and I tell him and he says lawyers are awful and I say I wholeheartedly agree. The only thing I’ve learned after three years of law school is that lawyers basically kinda mostly suck. I leave the store. I walk about a half a block more and dude at the bus stop sees me and straight up gives me a “How you doing?” I get back to the convention center, which I’m early to be let back in to the test now that I don’t have a hotel room to hang out in and a guy stops me because he went to LSU too, like a million years ago. When the hell that is the bar exam was finally over, a guy stopped and talked to me to tell me about his daughter who was in college at the nursing school in BR.
    When I’m walking back to the hotel I end up talking with the kid from Reno who I talked to when we were half way done at Day 2 lunch. He’s ccuuutte. So that’s nice but he goes back to the hotel and I go to the coffee shop next door to upload my exam. Because as seat mate pointed out, in due diligence fashion, we had until noon today to upload our exams. BUT! If, say, you get in a car accident on your way home and your computer is destroyed without uploading the exam? You’re SOL. The bar examiners won’t care. So I went to the coffee shop, had the best chai latte I’ve ever had and uploaded my exams on their free network. I went back to the hotel and had two glasses of wine and chatted with the guy from San Clemente who was up in Sacto on business while trying desperately to ignore that the room lined with annotated codes and suddenly full of the judges the guy I know from grade school was guarding.
    I drove home at 7, through the rain, back to the city. Was home by 9. And despite the text messages assuming I was out drunk, I was on the couch catching up on the Vampire Diaries. And now…the rest of my life begins, I guess.
    I won’t answer how I feel about it. Because I have no way of gauging and frankly I’m only half joking about the prison/ass rape analogy. It was brutal. And there is way less relief at being done and feeling like you have accomplished something than there was last time. It’s just…over. And that’s about all I can say about it.

I do want to send out blanket thanks, though. To the emails and the texts and the general well wishes. You all are awesome, crazy, wonderful, beautiful people and you make slugging through all this a little more tolerable. SO thank you, thank you, thank you. It is all so very sincerely appreciated.

And now…well…I’m not really sure. (Actually, I kind of am. More to follow…)

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