Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Advice to 1Ls: part one

So you've likely started or will within the next week. You're wondering what to expect: of your classmates, of your professors and classes, just how long will it take you to read all of your assignments, if you really need to read everything, how different it is from undergrad, and if you're making the right decision by starting down this path. This is all normal. In fact, a healthy worry will motivate you just enough to work hard without cracking. And without making enemies along the way.

First things first: get friends. I don't mean BFF types, I mean people who are in most or all of your classes who you think there is a shot in hell that you can trust. Exchange phone numbers and emails. This will make it easy on you when in your second week of school disaster seems to strike: hurricane Katrina, child ill with no other childcare, general feeling like you are well in over your head.

Second: decide to take the high road. If enough of your classmates do, you can really make your law school experience far more pleasant. Example: decide from the get go that if you notice someone is absent from class one day, just send them your notes. This will usually start a chain reaction. I thought that everyone in law school did this and was amazed to discover that not only does it not happen... it didn't even happen in the other classes at my school. Also, don't be the class gossip or be too quick to judge. I decided in my first or second week that I had the class ass in 3 of my classes. I didn't. I had a really wonderful person who genuinely, honestly knows just about everything about everything. He was an acquired taste, but no one who got to know him would have said that he was anything but a tremendous fellow. The type who would interrupt his own study time to tutor you on something if you needed help. Bottom line: give everyone a break and they'll give you one too.

Third: Don't let other people's study habits guide you. This is NOT undergrad. I repeat: This is NOT undergrad. This is much, much harder. Just because you didn't study in undergrad and got a 4.0 does not mean that is going to happen in law school. It won't. You will need to study. How much? I would recommend doing every last horrible thing that is on each of your syllabi, at least until you feel comfortable with everything. You don't know what's important yet. You don't know that you need to know one set of things to not embarrass yourself in class and a totally different set of things to get As on the finals. You also don't know how (likely anyway) how to study for a whole semester where your grade comes down to one lousy final. Be flexible. Come up with a plan and try it out. If it isn't working, you can change it. But be proactive. Try something for a week and if at the end it isn't "speaking to you," stop and change. I'd say you have until your fall break to hammer this down. I changed about 3 weeks in. I learned that unfortunately I'm a read it, write it, hear it kind of girl. Sucks. Takes a lot of time. But what I didn't understand until after my first set of finals was that my method:
  • Reading the cases (and highlighting with different colors to keep me actively reading),
  • Then briefing (more and more brief as I learned what my profs wanted when they would interrogate me in class),
  • Then attending class, taking notes, and participating, and finally,
  • Spending 5 minutes after class organizing my class notes with my own

made it so that on the finals, I really knew the stuff. Outlining was solidifying knowledge, not learning anything new. And I got more points on the finals because I didn't spend any time dithering around in my outline. I wrote the entire time because I knew it cold. In classes where I didn't do that, I simply didn't perform as well. End of story. That's probably overkill for a lot of folks, but it worked for me.

Stay tuned for part two.

Keeping in Touch

I'm getting used to the grown up's life again, and only paused for a moment this morning to realize that this is the first year that I wasn't down at my school either being oriented or being an orienter. :) It's the odd stuff that hits me now and again that I am really truly well and done with school and will only return for the occasional alumni stuff they host.

The bar is really just a distant bad dream now. I guess everyone feels that way now. I've had a few emails over the past few days from my little group of bar study buddies talking about getting together in the next month for a barbecue as a last gathering.

Finishing law school is so different for me than when I finished undergrad or even high school for that matter. I just simply never made friends as tight as I did in law school, but it's so different. It's more difficult to stay in touch with guy friends who are married or my single gal pals when I'm trying to figure out how to carve plenty of family time out of big firm living. I expect that in 10 to 15 years, law school friends will be much like my undergrad friends: I still regularly talk with 2 from undergrad (and 1 from high school). I think I just generally suck at keeping in touch. But I suppose I will run into people with relative frequency just in the course of practicing law. I think it's just a bizarre change whenever one set of circumstances so defined who you were and what you did just by the sheer enormity of the time and commitment it was and that those circumstances seemed to vanish in an instant.

I'm probably not making much sense. But it's been turning in my head, so I thought that I would share.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

So where do we go from here?

Well, I obviously go to work :) But I was actually speaking of this blog. I had thought that I would post one final post about how the bar went, but I feel like there is a little but of unfinished business. So, I will definitely come back to post if I pass or not. And if not, *gulp*, I will likely post about the re-studying process. I also plan to do so if and when I have to take another state's bar if we move (high likelihood).

In the interim, there is an assortment of "things I wish I would have known before . . ." posts that I will throw on here from time to time.

Thanks for tuning in.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The bar is over

Barf. It was hideous. It was heinous. It was horrible, and that's just talking about the head proctor (who we are all convinced would give Dolores Umbridge a run for her money!). Although after reading Jeanne's post about her experience, maybe we got Dolores-light.

The essay and "professionalism" tests were non-stop fun. I think I did ok on the MPTs. I was glad that I had done several practice ones and understood just how fine-grained they wanted the organization to be.

The essays were, well, shite--in a word. We had one particularly nasty article 3 meets article 2 meets agency question. But there were really only bits and pieces of questions that I felt unsure of. My ethics essay was not fab. I can never get straight all of the conflict rules. Perhaps I should have tried harder? In short, I felt like someone was beating me up all day. I encountered three different questions in different essays on areas that I decided were just so minute, so out of date, so obscure that they would never test them, so i didn't commit them to memory. Seriously! Argh! So ye-olde-essay day was thoroughly disheartening. But at least I didn't have computer problems like one of my friends did, which just sucks. I did get to answer everything... whether it was right is another matter entirely.

The fun part for me about the MBEs is realizing that our new out of state contracts prof who took the bar with us didn't even get all of the contracts practice test questions correct. Why is that fun? Because it is a testament to the fact that the questions are usually about some nitpicky little detail that you never learned because it's too ridiculous. Sigh. The morning session I thought wasn't too bad, and I had thought at lunch that I just might pass. But then the afternoon questions were about a million times harder. Everyone came out looking like someone had just killed their puppy.

Now 8-10 weeks of waiting. Nothing I can do about it now, right? The first thing that I did the morning after the bar was go pack up all of my bar stuff and tape and label the box. Hopefully I won't be cracking that puppy open for this same jurisdiction, but the spouse is pretty intent on going back to get his master's here in the next few years. And, of course, the program he's interested in we don't have in our state. Sigh. I won't think about that now.

Today is the first day that I've felt pretty damn human and normal since, well since I can't remember when. And it's nice. It's nice that it is well into the afternoon and I am still in my pajamas.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Oddness of Finality and Suprises

I'm about ready to pack up for what I am realizing is the very last time I will study at ye olde school. It's odd. When I cleaned out my law review office after graduation, it wasn't odd so much as relief. But as I was packing up my thousand barbri books and cleaning out my locker tonight, for whatever reason the whole "doneness" of it hit me. (Assuming of course, that I don't fail the bar anyway :|) It's the first time I've really felt that the whole law school experience has finality. I'm actually done. I have my diploma and at the end of this week, I will have no reason to regularly darken its hallways.

On another semi-related note. I ended up studying with a small group of people just by virtue of proximity than I had planned. It just sort of happened, and it was honestly the best part about doing this whole horror that is bar study. I knew them all before but was only close friends with a couple of them. I don't know why this turning out this way pleased me so much, but I found as I got ready to leave that in some twisted way, I was going to miss them. After all, I've seen them much more than I've seen my own fam for almost 10 weeks.

10 weeks. I hope it was worth it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I can do one more hour because I've done this for 2 bloody months

That's my rationale. That's what I am chanting to myself all day today, what I will no doubt be chanting tomorrow and possibly monday. Today was the first day that I have felt like i was about to vomit or tremble myself right out of my seat. The icky butterfly feelings in my forearms. The uncontrolled shivering that I notice when I'm not cold. The super shallow breathing just one step away from hyperventilating. That was today.

I've been worried before. I've been freaked out. But they were momentary break downs. This is all-encompassing fear. And I'm entertained at how distracting that is. I have a study list a mile long of "things to do before the bar" that is very clearly not going to happen. And I've embraced that. But I do have to get at least some of it done. Sigh. And that is why I'm chanting to myself: you've done this for 2 months, you can do another hour, another 30 minutes, another 5 minutes. My life is being measured from accomplishment of mini-goal to mini-goal.

I need this to be over.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tired. And almost beyond worry

So after my splat last week, the hubby put away my computer and books and made me play for about 18 hours (including 9 hours of rocking sleep in there). It was fun and much needed. And I think I've been overall more productive and sane this week because of it. Which is good because my beloved daughter did what she does when the stakes are high and murphy is just waiting for a chance to show me his mightiness: she got unbelievably ill. Sigh. She's on the mend now, but honestly, I could have called this. Without fail. And of course, hubby is in the middle of long work hours for his special projects that come up twice a year. Naturally. So it's been a kid-juggling fest. And that has not helped my anxiety. But it has helped me focus when I am working. Except for this particular moment :)

Earlier this week, I took last summer's PMBR simulated MBE, and I feel comfortable with my score. Not ecstatic, but it could ahve been worse. And it was a a good exercise because now I feel free to do one mixed set a day and other wise pick 3-4 subjects, take my reduced outline and reduce it to a page... then take that and put it on one note card. Then take at least 5 essays (just outlining at this point, who has time to write them out?). And then I get instant feedback on whether i need to add something to my cards. One card per topic.

Beginning sunday, all of my topics should be reduced to cards and then it will be all about remembering mnemonics and doing a million essays until I can't stand it Monday afternoon. And then, I'll stop. Nothing after Monday at 6 pm. I'll take my cards with me in the car to the bar exam, and i might sift through them because I'll need something in my hands, but that's it.

That's it. And that's why I say almost beyond worry... there isn't a whole lot that I can do about the big picture now, except keep to my plan.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


That's the sound of me hitting the wall. Seriously. I cannot feign indifference, cheerfulness, determination, or anything else that might get me through this particular moment. My concentration today is simply non-existent; my mind simply wanders away whenever I attempt to make it focus. I've tried to write an MPT, take MBEs, reduce a couple of big outlines and an essay. Nothing is working.

And the more that I focus on nothing working and acknowledging that I have the attention span of a 2 year old, the more depressed I get. i don't want to be here. i don't want to study. I called the fam to see what they were up too, and woke the spouse. They're having a nap. Doesn't that sound lovely. I just want to be doing something other than what I am doing. And I know that big picture, I only have to do this 9.5-ish more days (the study part... not the test part). But that doesn't change the way that I feel. It's getting to me. The monotony. The extreme boredom. The sheer level of difficulty that is prepping for the bar.

I'm not trying to have a whine here, although that's probably how it's coming out. I'm trying to express the blackness that has become my soul. Ok maybe that's overly dramatic. Just a tidge?? But this is the one thing that no one prepped me for with bar study: the total emotional upheaval that is my life hour to hour. That part is exhausting too.

End whine. (I know I said it wasn't one, but let's all be realistic, shall we?)

Statistics and other meaningless numbers

That's what my life has been reduced to these days. I'm holding at 60% with con law. I'm between 80-90% in Torts and Crim law. I've been too afraid to go back to evidence and see if my panic-induced 3-day evidence fest earlier this week was fruitful.

I've worked MPTs. I'm starting in earnest to essay a lot. (That was never a verb until the bar.) I've perused the stats from the simulated national Barbri MBE exam... where i was entertained and unsurprised to see that I was in the 10th perentile for evidence impeachment questions and in the 96th percentile overall for torts (are you kidding me?). It seems that my freak out and subsequent intense study of the 8.5 x 14 book for torts was not a waste of time.

I've got my day broken up into equal segments for studying. I'm carefully reducing my caffeine consumption so that the days of the test (where we are not permitted to bring anything at all to eat or drink into the test), I won't crash hard without my usual 10 am, 2pm caffeine fixes.

I'm sleeping, less or more or badly or not at all. I'm not seeing my family. My daughter is missing me. And I've lost count of how many times I've said "in August, we can do that sweetie."

And of course the most interesting number in my life at the moment: days left until the bar=10. It's a nice round number, isn't it?