Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Bar Exam Is Dumb

I have been studying, REALLY studying for 2.5 days now, and after reading a few outlines and doing a handful of MBE problem sets I have concluded this exam is stupid. Not just stupid because I have too much to learn and too little time to learn it or because it's keeping me in the office for 14 hours a day instead of chasing Landon around the downstairs- it's stupid because it's a TERRIBLE way to license lawyers. I now know contracts and torts- really know those areas of law. I could write you a small treatise and give you the exceptions and yet I still can't get more than 75% of those practice questions right. I come to questions where I recognize the issue immediately, I know the exception they're trying to test you on, and I read the answers and find either zero or three that appear correct. And even if you ignore how horribly written the MBE is (I know nothing about the MPT, Texas essays, or Procedure & Evidence exams because I haven't looked at any yet, but I'm sure they're badly written too), I still can't get over the fact that this has basically nothing to do with practicing law. I will not be a physician in the ER who needs to have facts and medical terms just sitting on the tip of my tongue. No corporate client will call me yelling "get me the answer to this corporations question STAT". There will always be time to double check, ask a colleague, or run a quick Westlaw search before calling them back. And most lawyers specialize - I will never need most of what is being crammed into my head (I'm looking at you, civil procedure and evidence).

But, despite the fact this exam is stupid, I'm plugging along fairly well in the studying for it. The office at the firm has been a godsend. It has floor to ceiling windows with a beautiful, calming view of Austin, no computer, and a door I can keep closed. I raid the diet cokes and hot tea from the kitchen, get lunch from the cafe downstairs, and grab hand fulls of chocolate from the employment office. When I'm taking a mini trip to get more food or caffeine, I am studying - reading outlines, reading the CMR (a very helpful little book!), doing practice sets, yelling at the answers in the practice sets... But I think I'm learning things - or at least memorizing things. In four hours I went from getting 8/18 in evidence to 15/18- and I still don't really understanding what hearsay is (I just know the rules that govern it).

I'm plugging through the MBE topics until Tuesday, and then I guess I'll tackle Texas Procedure and Evidence, and then the essays. The essays still scare me. I'm good at writing and making stuff up, but I feel like on the Bar the questions are so short and focused at one particular issue that it's hard to BS. You have to know things and know them quickly.

Tonight my sister came to babysit Landon for a few hours so JP and I could go on a date (Chuy's - very delicious). I had to limit myself to one margarita so I could keep studying afterward, but as always it was nice to sit and enjoy each other's company. My schedule is up with Landon at 6:30, soak him up until 9 when I go to the office, come home around 4:30 to play with him while JP goes to swim, go back to the office by 6:30 and stay until 10:30. I'm so happy that in stressful times like now I can completely rely on the strength of my relationship- I may worry about failing the Bar, but I don't worry about us one bit. Now I'm headed back to the office to finish Evidence. I hate ending each day knowing I won't get back to the topic until maybe the day before the Exam, especially because I don't feel any mastery of them, but there isn't time to give any topic more than one day of review.

So I'm pressing on. Not feeling great about it, but not feeling terrified either. At least not yet.


  1. Nothing worse than a dumb (yet big, important, scary) test. Hang in there! I know you'll do great!

    And also, mmmm Chuy's.

  2. Yum, I love Chuy's. Hang in there. I know you will do awesome. Just try to remember some day you will look back on these days fondly. It is a learning experience and it makes for good stories later.

  3. If it makes you feel any better, I've been studying, really STUDYING, for 3.5 days. It's a silly exercise. You'll be fine--even without those fabled test-taking skills.

  4. LL:

    The test is just a hazing; it has little to do with professional competence, but it does measure you under pressure. Lots of pressure.

    Work your MBEs. Thousands. (Really.)

    Best of luck,

    Jonathan Kramer, Esq.
    Kramer Telecom Law Firm PC
    Los Angeles

  5. I went to Chuy's for lunch today.

  6. Standardized tests, in general, suck. They just do. They aren't really designed well and how you do on them is not necessarily indicative of how well you will do in real life.

    Not that I have a strong opinion on the matter or anything ... ;)

  7. Yeah, not thousands. You're doing great. Do you have a target for what percent you're trying to get right on the MBE? Figuring out how the MA scoring worked has been great for me - like I said on my blog, if I get 2/3 right I can write some decent and some crappy essays, if I get 70% write I can write almost all crappy essays. That's all.

    Also, did BAR/BRI give you a page with what the most tested essays subjects are? In MA, Wills, Trusts, Domestic Relations, and MA Procedure are on virtually every test, so I learned them. Commercial Paper, Secured Transactions, and Fed Jur are rarely tested (and are HUGE CMR chapters), so I know basically nothing. I'm taking my chances and I think it's worth it as long as I'm holding steady on the MBE.

  8. I felt the same way- it would be MALPRACTICE for me to just dash something off the top of my head and not go and double-check to make sure I have the law correct, but that's how they license you? Sigh. You'll pass. It won't feel fun between here and there, but you'll pass.

  9. I work for a judge, and I've decided that, after working with several "baby lawyers," an intern/residence program similar to what a doctor goes through would be extremely helpful for the "practicing" part of practicing law. Especially if you're going to be a litigator.

    I can't believe how many lawyers have appeared in front of my boss who don't know the basics of courtroom etiquette, how to speak where the reporter can hear you, etc.

  10. I've taken the National Teacher Exams and the Licensure test for Professional Counseling, neither of which had anything to do with how well you will succeed in the actual occupation. I think licensing exams, on a whole, are stupid and ridiculous measures of aptitude.

  11. I don't know much about taking the Bar yet but if it makes you feel any better the two states my team hates doing deals in, is Texas and Florida. The attorneys and paralegals complain endlessly when they have to work in these states. Their laws are just really differenct than the rest of the country.

  12. Bar exams are such a racket. It's just a way for lots of people to make lots of money off of us. I'm not even taking one and I'm still bitter about them.

  13. So I opened your blog 5 days ago to catch up. I finally got around to reading this entry and just as I was going to respond, my interwebs browser quit.

    Anyway, how you feel about the bar is exactly how I feel about the licensing test for archs. I will never ever ever be planning a building's structure without references, notes, etc. Dumbest. Thing. Ever.

    Oh well... what can you do? I wouldn't worry about it because you're going to be a fabulous lawyer, just like you're a fabulous mom. :D

  14. that's great that you've got a dedicated area to study...and that it seems like it's not too far away since you're able to go back and forth for dinner/family time.