Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Texas Bar Exam Primer

There are a lot of non-law people around me who don't know much about this exam that has taken over my life (or should be taking over my life, but as I sit here watching So You Think You Can Dance with plans to watch the premiere of Project Runway Season 5, it's um, not). I actually graduated law school without knowing what was on the Bar, and I was several lectures into my review course (that's what barbri is - the big monopoly of a review course for the Bar, like Kaplan and Princeton for the MCAT or LSAT) before I knew the MBE was multiple choice. So for those of you living in blissful ignorance of what this horrible exam entails, here's a little Texas Bar primer* for you:

The Bar is given twice a year in every state (July and February) and lasts from 2-3 days. This summer's Texas Bar is 2 1/2 days on July 29-31. In general you must take the state's bar in which you want to practice. Some states have reciprocity with others (they accept other state's bar exam scores) but most only allow that if you've practiced for a certain number of years in the state which you originally sat for the exam. Washington, D.C. has the most liberal reciprocity rules and will accept any other state's bar exam immediately after you take it (assuming you pass of course). All this is why we are not leaving Texas for at least 5 years and even then we're only going somewhere with reciprocity. I refuse to take this exam again. Unless we can move to Colorado. I suppose I'd retake it if I could live near ski slopes, but it would be a close call. After all, that's what vacation homes are for.

Texas Day 1 consists of two 90-minute morning sessions. The MPT is the Multistate Performance Test. According to the TBE website it is "designed to test your ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation" (yeah, super realistic, you usually only have 90 minutes to start and finish a memo and you always get exactly the cases and statutes you need from the assigning partner). Anyway, you get an exam booklet with a File consisting of an "assignment" for an attorney, client, or judge and a Library with cases, statutes, memos, and anything else you may need to research and write the assignment. There will be stuff you don't need, of course, and it's up to you to figure out how to structure and phrase your work product, keeping in mind the particular audience you are given. It's pretty much like the first thing you had to do in your law school writing class and I'm ignoring it until maybe the day before. The MPT is 10% of your overall score.

The second part of day one is the Texas Procedure and Evidence Exam, which consists of two, 20-question short-answer booklets- one for Texas Criminal Procedure and Evidence and one for Texas Civil Procedure and Evidence. They are a combined 10% of your grade. Both will have a fact pattern that will take you through the initial filing of a criminal and civil case and ask you questions along the way - what motion should be filed (and where, when, etc), should this evidence be admitted, is jurisdiction proper, what should the judge say, what's the appeals process, etc. Even though you have like 90 seconds per 5-line fill-in the blank question, they all say "explain fully" so that should be fun. Despite my fear of facing questions I have NO idea how to answer, I'm also ignoring this part of the Bar. It's the only area where Civil Procedure is tested and that is such a complex subject that it's not worth the effort for only 5% of my grade. I did spend some time on Texas Crim Pro and Evidence rules so I'm hoping I'll remember enough Civ Pro from 1L year to not leave anything blank.

Day Two consists of 6 fun-filled hours of multiple choice questions. It's the MBE or Multistate Bar Examination and it makes up 40% of your grade. It covers the federal and common law of Contracts and Sales (including UCC Article 2 for the sale of goods), Real Property, Torts, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure (Modern Penal Code and common law crimes), Constitutional Law, and Evidence. This is all I've studied so far. I've dedicated 1 day to each topic and just got a 67 on my first real practice test since the workshop. That's what I need to pass (kind off, all your scores are given their appropriate weight and added together, if you're above a certain number you pass, so there is no "minimum" score on any section), so it's time to force myself to move on. The hardest thing about the MBE is the questions are absolutely ridiculous. You are never tested on the law- you are tested on the exception to the exception to the exclusion and often are told to pick the "best" answer, which means all of them suck and you get to choose the one that sucks the least- and all the while you want to yell, "I know the freaking rule, and all the exceptions, can't I just write them down for you?!!". But you do get to bring in your own special #2 pencil and I already have mine carefully selected from the firm's supply closet. Sometimes it's the little things that keep you going.

Day 3 is the Texas Essay Examination- 12 of them over 6 hours for another 40% of your grade. You can type or hand write this section, and I of course will have my computer. I wrote Landon's birthday thank you notes the other day and my hand crumpled into itself and went on strike by the end - there were only 7 and I wasn't exactly writing novels. The topics to be tested include: Bankruptcy, Business Associations (agency, corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, professional associations), Consumer Law, Family Law, Community Property, Real Property, Oil & Gas, Trusts & Guardianships, Secured Transactions, Commercial Paper, Wills & Estate Administration, and Tax (income, gift). You have 30 minutes per essay and many of the topics will be tested together (like bankruptcy and tax mixed into family law or business associations). I fear this section the most because almost all of these topics are completely new to me and I'm terrified of reading a question and having nothing to write down. At least with the MBE you can pick a letter and be done with it. You'd think this fear would have me working hard, but no, I haven't done anything for these topics. I'm starting tomorrow bright and early on agency and partnerships. Hopefully my tired little brain has room for all the information I'm going to try to cram into it over the next 12 days (note to self: more topics than days left before the Bar, holy crap, why am I watching Bravo?)

So that's it. We get our scores sometime in November so I'll start work not knowing if I passed (there's of course certain lawyerish things you can't do until you find out you've passed). I think I'm still in denial over the whole thing. I spent a lovely few hours this evening playing with Landon and pushing him around in his new cozy coupe. We're also knee-deep in dog research and are traveling to San Antonio on Saturday to possibly adopt this dog. I know, I know, this is so NOT the time to do that, but how can you look at that face and not want to bring her home immediately? Once you start looking at doggie profiles online it's very hard to stop- in three days I've lost hours of study time, but I'm rescuing an animal here. It's a higher calling. Although if I don't pass this exam, I won't be able to keep our newly rescued pup in the lifestyle in which he or she will become accustomed.

If my dad is reading this and freaking out about my lack of preparation, don't worry. I really am dedicating many hours a day to this thing. My brain needs breaks, especially breaks filled with a certain giggling 1-year old, and I'm sure our new dog will help me study. I'll get it done. I think. I hope. If I have to do this again I will cry, a lot, and no one wants that to happen- especially not me.

*do you pronounce that "primmer" or "prymer"? My Sexual Orientation and the Law professor said "primmer" and as much as I loved him and the fact that one day he left his cell phone on during class because he was waiting for an important call from the vet about his cat, and it rang proudly with a Cyndi Lauper song (could a sentence have more gayness in it?), I'm still not sure he was saying it correctly.


  1. Primmer. Paint is pry-mer. Don't remember where I learned that, but I am full of useless knowledge.

    Oh, and your post brings back memories that I have worked very hard to push from my brain. Thanks a lot! :)

  2. I concur with certifiable. It's prim-mer.

    I am so not looking forward to taking either the Texas or NY bar next summer.

    P.S. Cute dog!

  3. Good to know. I shall now say primer as "primmer" with a feeling of authority, even though it still sounds funny to me. There should really be another "m" in there. How do people learn English? It's a ridiculous language. Much like the MBE.

  4. Prymer. Primmer strikes me as affected and pseudo-British -- which is funny, because the Brits themselves pronounce it prymer.

    Are you taking the exam in Dallas or Houston? I was so hacked off when I got the letter about no computers in Austin -- but of course, they're going to keep my laptop fee.

  5. I'll be in Houston. It works out well b/c I can stay with my parents. My mom has already asked what special dinners I want each night. I think it will be a good time to be pampered a little :)

    JP and Landon are going to drive over on day 3 and then we're all spending a day or two at the lake house - lots of swimming, relaxing, jet skiing, and drinking. There will be very little using of the brain.

  6. can you PLEASE get that dog so I can live vicariously through you? Despite that whole bar thing, I want to be you :)

  7. I agree with Katemonster re "prymer".

    If you have extra time while you're in Houston, I'm still here. Unless I'm in labor then, in which case I'll be here, but busy. :)

  8. I'm with prymer, definitely. But then I have an English/New Zealand accent not a Texan one.

    We did talk about the first two years of primary school (pronounced pry-mry school or prime-a-ry but never the US pri-mare-ee) as primmer one and primmer two.

    Oooh, I'm glad the NZ bar didn't have a 3 day ordeal. Somehow 3 months of profs training with assessments dotted throughout was much easier.

  9. Ugh, that does sound very intimidating! You'll do great though. It's great you will have so much fun stuff to look forward to after it is over! Good luck.

    Now onto my dissertation...much less intimidating but still a lot of boring work!

  10. My head hurts just READING about all you have to do ... I can't imagine how YOU feel!

    It's primmer, as many other people have stated. ;)

    And can you please explain to me WHY the season 5 premeire of PR was on AT THE SAME TIME as the end of SYTYCD? I think my head exploded last night from the Flipping Of The Channels.

  11. i took the OH bar a few years ago, and two days before the test my roomate and i actually had a 30 minute conversation about all the fruits and/or veggies we liked because that was all our brains could handle! Good luck and that dog is very cute.

  12. I don't envy you. That sounds completely overwhelming. You will do great though. Primmer may be the correct pronounciation but in Texas I think the majority of people will say prymer.

  13. Pretty sure it is correct either way.

    Also, from someone who has taken two bars (OH and MN, in that order), and passed them both on the first time, remember, you just need to pass. You don't need to get an A. You don't give out your bar score. And, the second bar exam, should you ever be forced to move, is far easier than the first. Just because you know what to expect.

  14. You do need just to pass, like that commenter above said. In Texas they have this weird tradition where the person who gets the highest score on the exam (it's one of the few states that lets you know how you did if you pass) is expected to make a speech to the newly admitted attorneys. February of 2007, the guy said something like, "I am not nearly as smart as the person who passed the exam by only one point." Which is true - all you need is to pass. The rest is overstudying. :)

  15. Wow, you have no idea how much I needed this post. I'm studying for the Oregon bar right now, and even though we'll be taking different tests, it's nice to know that someone else out there isn't studying like 13 hours a day. I feel like I am the only person studying for the bar that still wakes up at 9:00, takes an All My Children break at noon (pathetic, I know) and when my Husband comes home from work, am lucky to get anything done.

    Good luck to you!

  16. I'm voting for "primmer," as Merriam-Webster indicates that the "prymer" pronunciation is "chiefly British."

    Hope is adorable and sounds like a great dog!

    Best of luck on your studying. I'm with those who have emphasized that all you need to do is pass. Anything more than that, and you've wasted time you'll never get back. (I am someone who wasted vacation days studying harder than I needed to for a certification exam, so I know whereof I speak--you'll be fine!)

  17. I think the pronunciation may be regional. I grew up in Dallas and say "prymer". I'm ridiculed daily in NYC where, apparently, it's "primmer". Which does make me think the rest of the sentence containing the work should be said with a British accent.

    Good luck on the bar! Happy bday to Landon - I've posted before - my son is 5 days younger than Landon and my husband and I are both Longhorns, so I am sure my son and Landon will run into each other on campus in 18 years ;-)

  18. The dog is gorgeous. As a dog mom of 2, one is sick, I know the pull of wanting an animal. They truly can brighten your day..and hey, they usually sleep through the night! LOL.

  19. I'm going with prymer. Maybe it's a midwest thing. But it makes me think of "prime" like first or a base for something...