Friday, July 31, 2009

Bar Exam

Wow. That was … intense. Its been a little over twelve hours since the proctor last said “Time. Exam Takers will please stop typing.” I've had time to sleep on it, and here I am still feeling shell-shock over what the bar exam put us through. Like I avoided being a casualty of The Bar and can go home to my family while my comrades-in-arms lie broken and bleeding on a battlefield - that kind of shell-shock. At least it means I survived, right?

** Warning: What follows is most likely to be long, detailed, and whiny. I can’t stop myself from mental hemorrhaging right now given the stress I just went through and I find it therapeutic to rehash details of stressful events. Please feel free to read no further on this post, but merely copy and paste the following into the comments section: “You did great. You are a genius. I am sure you will pass.” Thanks. For anyone who decides to read on, brace yourselves for uncensored rambling. **

I haven’t the foggiest idea about how I did on the Bar, and I say that with despairing honesty. I wish I had some feeling that it is more likely than not that I passed, but truly I feel like things could go either way – maybe I passed, maybe I didn’t. And I don’t find out the results until November 20th at 6:00 pm PST. (Most of the exam consists of written essays that have to be individually graded and there are thousands and thousands of exam takers in California so it takes the graders a long time to get through them all). Until then, I plan on taking the phrase “ignorance is bliss” and running with it.

I will say that nothing really surprised me about the exam – the questions were mostly what I expected them to be like. What was really frustrating though was the fact that the Bar Examiners didn’t test any of the subjects I know best. No Wills, no Trusts, no Community Property, no Remedies, no Agency, no Partnership, no Corporations, no Real Property. And I spent HOURS, DAYS even studying those subjects during the months of May, June and July. And even the subjects they did test, like Torts, asked about the most random topic of all – Malicious Prosecution – that I maybe, maybe looked at once this entire summer on accident because it is not even included in the main Barbri lecture materials because its importance and frequency of being tested are so low. I mean, what the HECK? Instead, we were asked to pound out answers to Criminal Procedure (never took it during school and felt kinda fuzzy about my answer), Civil Procedure (I think – there really was a CivPro question, right? Right?), Professional Responsibility (TWICE! They asked us PR questions TWICE! Are you kidding me?!) and Constitutional Law. And the questions weren’t just hard – they were confusing. As in I would tread water for a few seconds after reading through a problem trying to figure out what in the world the question was about and what the examiners might possibly be looking for in our answers. Nothing was clear cut on the exam, not once.

But, all that aside, I will say that I felt like Tuesday, the first day of the exam, went well. In fact I left with a smile on my face thinking “I’ve got this thing in the bag.” Wednesday I left thinking “Ouch. But its okay because I did good on Tuesday and I didn’t do awful today.” And then after the Thursday morning essay session I was thinking “Crap. Looks like I know what I’ll be doing next February.” Thursday afternoon’s session was just “meh”. So you can see it could go either way for me – I could pass or I could fail.

Paul and I had an enjoyable time observing the bizarre behavior going on around us though. Like the total dork who wore the same khaki suit with a red handkerchief in his breast pocket every day of the exam. Or the guy who walked around with his shirt off at lunch working on his tan or something (because it was never hot outside). Or the guy who walked around with his Harvard Law t-shirt on and you could just see his mind thinking smug thoughts about how he was intimidating all the other examinees. Or the guys who threw a football back and forth during lunch trying to impress the circles of girls lunching on the grass but kept missing passes or throwing too short. Or the lady who sat directly in front of me during the exam and kept trying to sneak in food or talk on her phone while instructions were being given even though phones weren’t even supposed to be in the room.

There were lunchtime tailgate parties in the parking lot. Some people crammed. A surprising number of people smoked (Seriously? People who are supposed to be smart enough to pass the Bar are still smoking? What idiots. I have no patience for smokers – especially those who light up right next to me while I am sitting on the lawn trying to enjoy a cookie before the afternoon exam session.) There was also the spontaneous cheering and clapping at the end of the exam – which was dorky, but we’ll let that go.

Oh, and the BEST part about the bar exam was that Paul and I were seated right next to each other! I know that seems like a silly thing to get excited about, but we thought there was no way they would allow us to sit by each other. We submitted our applications to take the exam at the exact same time though, so I guess we just lucked out with the seating assignments.

Another interesting thing that happened was when our proctor – a 5th grade teacher with a masters degree in education (we chatted between sessions – she loved us) – came around and put smiley-face stickers on our identification tags before the last session. There were at least 50 proctors I would guess, and each one was assigned to about 30 examinees. As far as I know, only our proctor did this. I sat there looking at this pink smiley-face sticker thinking, “huh – I haven’t had a sticker for my work since maybe 2nd grade.” Then I thought it was funny that after taking the Bar – The BAR exam people – I was rewarded in the same way as when I did my 30 minutes of nightly piano practice when I was a kid. And then I thought about how it was really just a sweet and simple gesture from someone who was practically a stranger trying to offer me encouragement and congratulations on a job well done - or at least a job done – after watching me pull my hair, rub my eyes, and crack my back out of fatigue, stress and frustration for three days in a row.

Well. Anyway. That is the story of “The Time the Nashes Took the Bar.” O-bla-di, o-bla-da, right? Hopefully we never have to take this thing again. And by the way, I know I mostly wrote in first-person through this whole thing but Paul was right there with me and I think he pretty much feels the same about his performance and the whole experience, but I felt like it wouldn’t be right to impute all of my doubts on him as well. Because frankly my husband is a genius and I’m pretty sure he aced this thing. And he has been more positive about the experience than I have been, so I don't want to attribute my negativity to him.

Oh, and can I just express my gratitude to the universe right now that my computer didn’t crash? I have terrible handwriting and would have been devastated had I experienced technical difficulties.

Did you read all the way to the end? Really? Sorry if I bored you. Thanks for your support and prayers and well-wishes. We have a lot to do in the next few weeks what with cleaning and packing and planning for trips and basically trying to enjoy the summer while it lasts.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grown Up

When I was a finance undergrad at BYU, I had a method for taking exams in the testing center: Stop by the vending machine to pick up a package of Snackwell's creme sandwich cookies, sharpen my #2 pencils just before entering the testing center, sit down and then tell myself a joke. Really. I always told myself a joke to relieve the stress that I felt before starting a test. It was always the same joke too - "What do a Texas tornado and a Tennessee divorce have in common? ... Somebody's gonna lose a trailer!" (Paul is reading over my shoulder right now and just started busting up laughing and told me that I am such a nerd.) Well anyway, for the Bar Exam, we aren't allowed to bring in food, and we use computers instead of #2 pencils, but I can still tell myself a joke I guess. Although I don't think I will really need it because the watch I am taking with me to let me know how I am doing on time is pretty freakin' hilarious. Only non-programmable analog watches are permitted (and the face has to be smaller than 4 inches), and since I haven't had a functioning watch for years, I decided to buy the cheapest watch I could find at Target. $6.00 later and HELLO KITTY!

I am this close to being a lawyer and I have the dignity of a 5-year-old.

Anyway, we are heading into the home-stretch folks - this is our last week to study, then next Sunday we fly to the Bay Area. The bar exam goes all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Who knows if I will blog between now and then.

All I can say is that I am so grateful for Sundays because Paul and I don't study on Sundays. Instead, we went to church, then came home and had friends over for dinner and games. We played Mastermind, Blokus, and Rock Band, and it was so fun to get our minds off the bar for a little bit. One of them just finished law school with me, and her husband is just starting law school this fall at the Y. I'm sitting here now reflecting on our conversation and feeling slightly flabbergasted when I look back at the last three years of my life and see myself in his position as a 1L. Time really does fly, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The 4th

Getting up at 4:30 in the morning to take a photo is insane. But also a richly rewarding experience. The Fourth of July weekend was defined by what we did in those still early morning hours. On Thursday, we went to the annual hot air balloon launch in Provo at 6:30 am.

I could watch hot air balloons for hours I think,

but we had to head off to study before going to Barbri for a class on Community Property. Which, by the way, is a funny subject to study with Paul because we spend our time quizzing each other with hypos that usually start out, “Say you and I get divorced…” or “Now let’s say you die…”. Warms the heart, doesn’t it?

Anyway, as soon as class was over we threw our tent and sleeping bags in the car, then headed to Jackson Hole, Wyoming (studying Community Property law on the way up). What a beautiful place! It was only five hours away and I can’t believe I have never been there before.

The Tetons are amazing – more claw-like than any other mountains I have ever seen, reaching heavenward as though trying to tear open the sky.

We got up early every morning in order to try to get the perfect photo of these dilapidated barns on “Mormon Row”, named for the early settlers who worked the land there. The first morning was overcast and grey after a torrential rainstorm that kept us awake late into the night with lightning and thunder.

But finally after two more tries (and getting up before 5 am three days in a row) Paul captured the perfect image of the Tetons lit by the sunrise which also illuminated the weathered siding of the barn.

Just so you don’t think we are the only crazy people who tried this, every morning we were there at least a few other intrepid souls ventured into the early morning chill to try to capture the perfect image as well. This lighting lasted for mere minutes before either fading behind clouds or becoming too intense for the mountain peaks to show up well. I had no idea photography was so demanding an art.

I even tried my hand behind the camera lens and captured this image of the Grand Teton reflected in a beaver pond.

We actually studied every day for at least a few hours, but otherwise had a good time doing a six mile hike,

watching the Independence Day parade in downtown Jackson, and enjoying cowboy campfire music at the Bar J Wranglers Chuckwagon supper.

And if you ever get the chance, the fireworks show at Teton Village was one of the best we have ever seen. For every explosion, the echoing crack and boom off the Tetons made us think that the rocks and remaining snowpack was going to come crashing down on us. It was a great, mostly relaxing weekend despite the studying we had to do. Now it is time to get serious about the bar.