Thursday, June 26, 2008

I have a plan

Since tomorrow is the last day of lectures, and our practice test is in a little less than 2 weeks, I made myself a plan. I'm not sure just how realistic it is, but it will give me a shot at going through everything once more before the practice test. Then hopefully that will give me enough direction to know what to really beat into my brain for the few weeks between the practice test and the real deal. Ever get the feeling that the bar is really just testing you on your time management and organizational skills... well, duh, that's what the MPT is, but the rest of it is really the same too. Because if you didn't have lovely time and org skills, you'd never be able to get enough of the law in all the million areas in your head before the bar.

Edited to add the plan, duh!

So I whipped out a calendar and scheduled a couple of things per day. Generally, for the next 5 days, I am taking one MBE subject a day and making flashcards based on the black letter law in the explanations to the answers of the MPQ1 tests that I have already taken. I'm trying to NOT get carried away because 1700 flashcards are a bit on the useless side. Instead, I am going through and doing cards for stuff that's kind of tricky (like exceptions to exceptions in topics I'm not as good at) and things that always come up as an answer but I don't know what it means. For example, in real property, negative reciprocal covenants came up as an answer (almost always wrong) on several MBE questions. So I made sure to get down what the heck it is and what the elements are for enforcing it. And now, I know it. :)

During those same five days, I will also be reading through my class notes on non-MBE topics that are always tested on my bar. It's just a read through for refresher, not for locking it into the memory vault.

After I'm done with the flashcards, I'm doing 1 MBE a day (some I've scheduled for 1.5) to make my first pass at reducing the classnotes and outlines into something more manageable and memorizable. I will also still be reading a set of non-MBE topic classnotes each of those days. And that pretty much takes me right up to the simulated test. Oh, and I will do an hour worth of MBEs

After that, my plan is less firm. Obvioiusly, I will need to reduce the non-MBE topics, and I will hopefully be able to see which MBE topics I need to focus on. But I hope to spend the bulk of the last two weeks before the actual bar taking a million practice tests. So there. This is all just the plan. I'll let you know if it's too much (or too little, but I highly doubt that).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Surfing the Benadryl Wave

Suck. I got a nasty cut from a can this weekend and got a tetanus shot yesterday. And a nasty allergic reaction to it. Sigh. So I took the benadryl they told me to take. And promptly napped for 4 hours. I've always been a light weight with any kind of "drowsy" drug. So, let me revamp my study plan for the day as I try to drag my sorry butt out of bed.

So glad I never took admin law in school

Seriously, I might have had to drink heavily before and during the class. I could not have been more bored at the Barbri lecture for it. Don't get me wrong. The lecturer actually was pretty good, but the subject seriously. Just too boring for words.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Eep! It's real! I'm taking the bar in less than 6 weeks!

It's odd, isn't it, the very strange things that make upcoming events finally seem real to you. I received an email from my state's bar several weeks ago letting me know that 1) I passed character and fitness, 2) I'd been issued an applicant ID and password, and 3) I was required to download, register, and take a mock test off software I would be using on the exam. I ignored that email when I got it. I wasn't ready for the sinking feeling that I knew it would give me.

Well, today, I could no longer ignore it as the deadline for completing those tasks loomed before me. So, I did it. And all the while felt my blood begin draining from my body and nausea set in. It's real. I'm taking the lousy bar. And it's coming up FAST.

On a helpful note though, thinking about the software deadline made me remember a deadline with my firm who wants several thing from me by the end of this month.

So the tip of the day: don't let studying for the bar get in the way of remembering what's important: being able to take the bar by completing the state's instructions in a timely manner and being able to start working after you take it by finishing the firm's instructions in a timely manner. :)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Catching the flashcard wave

Well after seeing Ks enthusiasm for flashcards and reading a great post on their usefulness (thanks for the link K), I decided to jump on the flashcard bandwagon.

So far, i feel like I am getting something out of it. But I think that I may be taking a back door, so I thought I would share my method. I'm going through my state and the MEE essay booklets and the MPQ book making flashcards out of answers to problems and essays that I have already taken and struggled with (although I am making a few for areas with lots of exceptions, just to be sure that I have them solid). It just struck me as a more useful place to start than just trying to go through the conviser or my class notes. I am also adding my state's law anywhere applicable (e.g., my state has a preponderance standard NOT clear and convincing for how to rebut the assumption that a husband is the biological father of a child where the mommy is married).

I like it so far because I feel like I am really concentrating on the nitty grittiness of the elements and I also have the impression (illusion?) that I am grappling with the material more because I am carefully evaluating whether I really understood something in an answer or got lucky. It also appeals to my lack of concentration in any one area sort of mentality these days because, for example, I'll get to a secured transactions essay and have to parse through 2/3 of the question dealing with contracts stuff and 1/3 dealing with secured transactions.

And most importantly for me, I feel no obligation to go through them again and again later. My learning style has always been: read it, hear it, write it. Which is very annoying because it takes a lot of time, but I am successful that way. And I shouldn't try to fix what isn't broken.

So hooray for feeling like I'm actually getting something out of today's study session.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I thank you, no. I'd rather drive.

I never thought that I would live to see the day that I would willingly, almost happily, decline to participate in any air travel. Naturally, for work, I will have no choice, but for personal travel, I don't have to do it. And unless it's an exceptional case, I'm not going to. This article illustrates why.

You know, I've put up with no longer being able to bring water with me to the airport that costs me a small per unit cost because I buy at costco and instead having to spend $2 at the airport to know that I can have a drink when I get thirsty on an airplane. Because heaven only knows when the flight attendants will get around to it. And I've put up with longer security lines, ridiculous rules about baggies, and having air shot up my skirt as part of the anti-terrorist campaign. Fine. A pain in the butt, you betcha, but fine. But I'm drawing the line now. I will NOT pay $2 on the plane for water or soda or $5 for some food on a cross country flight that isn't at a mealtime. I just won't.

I had big plans to go visit my dearest friend on the other side of the country right after the bar. We were going to boat, lay around, and generally let our small children make our plans for us for about two weeks. But I can't now. Not when it will cost nearly $1000 to fly myself and my daughter there... and of course, that doesn't include any baggage or comforts on the flight. I miss my dear friend, but I simply can't afford that price tag right now, nor do I have any desire to deal with the drama that flying has become.

In my early childhood, I lived overseas and travelled more miles than I can conceive of flying for the rest of my life. It was before southwest, even partly before the rules about no smoking on flights. It was when there were free headsets and you had hot meals and lots of snacks and drinks. It was when flight attendants were there, and knew that as their job description, to make the passengers as comfortable as possible. As I grew up and we moved back to the states, I travelled less and less and began noting the differences each flight that I took. All of a sudden, the seats were smaller, the leg room disappeared, the flight attendants looked bothered if you asked them for anything at all and sharply told you they were not there for your comfort but only for your safety. But air travel was less expensive because I could choose to be entertained and cattle-carred to my location on Southwest. And I didn't mind so much forgoing the hot meals and other nice amenities because of the price break. But then the price started creeping up and I noticed that everyone cost abou tthe same and every airline treated you the same (like shit) and flew even less. (I do like Jet Blue but even they are getting really expensive and they simply don't have enough routes to places I need to go yet.) And then there was 9/11. And the whole experience just became one uncomfortable pain in the ass.

We still flew, at least once a year, and then there was this spring. Our flights over the ocean and back again for our amazing vacation were a new low. Delta outdid themselves on horrid service and little to no amenities. I think the lowest point was where they put out a variety of 2 liter beverages, inclyding water and said "serve yourself" and so I did... and when I came back for my third trip in 5 minutes, I got a sternly worded "you're only entitled to your share." I haven't wanted to punch a woman like I did in that moment for years. And she didn't apologize when I explained how I was getting drinks for my whole family and that my daughter, who had SLEPT through the first beverage service was dehydrated and needed TWO WHOLE DIXIE CUPS of water.

So when I read about the baggage fees, I decided that I would pay more for a ticket on an airline that didn't do that. And then the thing with the drinks came out, and I just decided that it was enough. One of the airlines PR people said "oh, people won't stop flying; they'll just pack lighter." Really? Have you talked to your customers lately. I have several good friends plannig driving vacations instead this year. Even with the price of gas because the airline hassle is simply not worth it. And people are used to driving even long distances. In college I drove 6 hours home about once a month. In high school, I drove 4 hours to the beach about once a month. And on random vacations, I've generally held the rule that I can go anywhere happily that I can reach in about 12 hours.

So yeah, after the bar, I will be taking a vacation, by car somewhere I hadn't been planning on going. And I'll cringe at the pump and think "at least the airlines didn't get my money."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Open Letter to Barbri

Dear Barbri,

I am dissatisfied. I am dissatisfied with most of your product. I shelled out the couple of thousand for your bar review course for a couple of specific things: 1) the materials (books, cd/dvd, lectures), 2) the services ("grading" of practice essays and a simulated practice exam), and 3) your schedule. Allow me to illustrate why I am dissatisfied.

First, for being a gigantically, fear-instilling box of materials, they are, well, a little light on some of the most important parts. Out of the thousands and thousands of pages that you sent, maybe 200, if I'm feeling really generous maybe 300 pages are actually specific to my state. They are shoved at the beginning of my conviser, usually with no rhyme or reason as to where it goes in the big or conviser version of the main outlines. You rarely show us "hey, dummy, this is what is different!" This is what I needed from you. I learned the federal and majority rules and odd minority rules in law school; what I was expecting from you was help with my specific state's laws since you know, I am after all taking MY STATE'S bar! However, at this point, I do realize that however paltry your assistance is for my own state law, it is surely much better than I could have gathered on my own over the course of the summer.

The essays are maddening. The conflicting instructions from my essay lecturer to many of the comments given by the content lecturers are irritating. Should I or should I not argue both sides?

The lecturers. Hmm. Many of them are excellent. Some of them are less so. And a few are down right obnoxious. (Of course, maybe I wouldn't find them as obnoxious if the guy you hired to push the DVD in the player and click play wasn't hard of hearing and we didn't have to listen to the damn lectures at top decibel until our ears ring.) Almost all of the workbook fill-in-the-blank materials are great. In fact, I think the 4 lectures I had without that were the worst and bespeaks laziness on the part of whoever was responsible for creating them (which I have gathered is the lecturer).

Second, the services are half-assed. As I look at it, other than the "materials," you have said that you will grade my essays and practice test, provide proctors for the lectures, and a local attorney available to answer our local questions. It is not extraordinarily helpful for me to get the same grade again and again (which all my friends get as well, coincidence? I think not) that basically tell me, great writing, great organization, but the law is wrong. No kidding. The law is wrong? The law that YOU told me not to memorize yet??? Shocking result. And could we get a couple of proctors who, I don't know, do anything other than press play and volume up? I went to the night lecture a couple of times when I had conflicts, and I could kiss that proctor. He puts on the board at the get go: "This lecture is x minutes long." I like that because even if it's awful, I know BEFORE to call kiddie backup or can just mentally prepare myself for a nastily long haul. He also puts up a reminder of when the next essay is due or if something has come back. He's useful. He's not just taking up space, and his hearing, happily is better than his day time compadres. Now, I could harp on the local attorney thing, especially his particularly awful lecture on essays (all stuff you should have learned in high school), but I'll just highlight the main problem: coming in once a week (or more like every 9 or 10 days) for 15 minutes right before the morning lecture = less useful.

Third, the lectures run too long without warnings (and sometimes appropriate breaks) and the self-paced schedule is ridiculous in light of the goals YOU told us when we started.

When the lectures last more than the 3.5 hours listed on the schedule. We need to know about it--in advance. Why do I separate this out? Because it is not the lecturers' fault that you marked ONE SINGLE day on my calendar notifying me that we were going to go an extra half an hour. People have outside commitments: whether child care, work, or countless other obligations. If I'm told that the lectures will end everyday by 12:30, except for the one time noted on my calendar that will go until 1:00, then I PLAN MY LIFE accordingly. It has been exasperating to have lecture after lecture go anywhere between 15-45 minutes over the scheduled time. And in an effort to make up time, some of the longest lectures (I'm looking at YOU evidence) make the breaks only after much longer intervals than normal. This is hard stuff. A normal person only has so much room in his head and attention span to fill that space. It's no good to have the wiggles for 20 minutes at a time as the lecturer goes over and a student thinking: hope my babysitter can stay a little longer, or hope the partner will understand that I'm late, or dammit I have to pee! Now, I understand that because you retape new lectures every year (which I am grateful for) makes it impossible for you to know when you make up the initial schedules how long the time is going to run. But would it kill you to have a place on the web site that we could check for updates? Then those of us with other commitments could continue to plan our lives around you, but with far more accuracy.

And last, but certainly not least, and currently most dear to my heart, your self-paced program is unrealistic and fairly demoralizing. You should build a one day break in every week. People would perform better if they had a chance to rest. Or even use it as a chance to catch up. My biggest problem with the self-paced program is that it starts to feel like a bunch of meaningless exercises. You told us not to worry about memorizing right now. To be a robot and just follow the schedule, that July is the time for memorizing. And I get that to a certain extent. But writing essay after essay that tests me on the exception to an exception to the rule? It's just demoralizing. And panic-inducing. Maybe that's what you want: if everyone panics then they will try harder to be superman and keep your schedule. But, I'm telling you, it's a waste of time. Instead of coming to the exact opposite conclusion and spending a full 30 minutes articulating carefully the rules and the reasons why... only to discover it's some obscure rule that I read in the big outline and wasn't mentioned in the lecture and therefore not reviewable when I reviewed my lecture notes. I understand that those kinds of questions are fair game on the bar. But perhaps, for every one's sanity (not to mention making the grading a wee-bit more worth the time), how about assigning us the constitutional law question that talks about ANYTHING we covered in the lecture instead of some weird criminal law point on ineffective assistance of counsel and appeals. After all, I thought the point of the essays now was to get us used to the funky faux IRAC for the bar . . . and NOT to memorize and therefore be able to regurgitate the right answer to weird questions.


Yayarolly, one dissatisfied customer

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Being a law mom has always yielded unexpected benefits

And today is no exception. This week is my daughter's limbo week: school ended last week and camp doesn't start until next week. The first part of this week she went with the in-laws and her cousin to Yellowstone. And has come back acting more fiercely independent than normal. Sigh. In any case, I'm going to the Barbri night class tonight and tomorrow night since she is back now.

Plans for today: walk/ride to park and play for a few hours; catch a bus to the library/eatery/movie theater area for library browsing, lunch, and Horton Hears a Who (I'm too cheap to watch it in the expensive theater... my daughter thinks that movies only cost a dollar.). Then bus back and craft time to make something for daddy's day. And then make dinner together and play 1950s housewife and daughter with dinner ready when hubby comes home. Of course, reality will come crashing back rudely as I dash out the door with a tupperware of the hot supper and bolt to barbri class. :)

I think key to that laundry list 'o fun up there is the noticeable lack of study time. Which i had a little anxiety about until about 30 minutes ago when I talked with my daughter about today. And really, her excitement is too infectious to not get caught up in.

So today, being a law mom is helping me (forcing me) to take a much needed break and enjoy the day.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Procrastination Station

Arg! Must find a way to stop frittering time away! Seriously, I have been home for 2 hours since my Barbri class ended and have yet to crack a book. Mostly now I want a nap.

This whole lack of being able to concentrate thing does not bode well for when I actually start working for my firm. I can't remember the last time that I truly had to concentrate for 8-10 hours straight with little to no break. Sigh. I'm such a light weight now.

Ok. Ok. I'm cosing the computer and reading my damned evidence outline.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I can't be this tired of studying for the bar already

I thought it was really brain fatigue, but now I think it was just being sick of it generally. i thought perhaps coming up with a way to give myself every sunday or something like that off would help, but bloody Barbri's damn paced program packs a million things into the weekends. I honestly beleive that it would stick in my brain better if I took a break once a week. You see, I'm one of those types of folks who goes full tilt until I simply can't and then I stop. I don't slow down. I don't prioritize or re-prioritize. I just simply stop for a day or two or a week when it's been really bad and do nothing. Then I wake up finally feeling better and pick up the pieces and start again.

So I've revised my barbri commitment and I will do every last blasted thing on their blasted program, but it will take me a bit longer. I'm feeling good about that. My scores on all of the stupid multiple choices are several points ahead of average (except torts, which clearly I just do NOT get) and evidently I know how to write an essay. So I'm trying to relax.

A note on the essays: We had our second essay lecture this last week. 2 hours of "when you write the rule, list the elements and then make sure that you put your analysis sections in the same order as you wrote the elements." Seriously, um high school english there folks; if not then at the latest freshman english 101. And much, much more of the same. It was the biggest waste of time.

And on a rare comment into my mommyhood. I have more time this week to do the barbri thang (maybe even treat myself to a matinee) because my daughter is on her first vacation without me. She went with the in-laws by car to a vacation spot 2 whole states away. I know she's getting bigger and it's not like I haven't spent nights away... but there's something very different about watching her get into their car, buckle herself into her car seat, wave goodbye and drive off with the biggest grin on her face. I can't believe she was not quite 2 and a half years old when I started law school. Now she reads. She helps me cook. She has her own wonderful sense of humor. And I'm going to miss her desperately this week.