Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bar exam: pressure mounting, five weeks to go

This morning I'm sitting in a second-floor classroom at the U of L law school, doing what I do pretty much every morning: preparing for a marathon lecture about the bar exam. For the next three and a half hours, a curly-haired professor from UNC is going to talk about the ins and outs of constitutional law, from privileges and immunities to interstate commerce and the First Amendment. Earlier this week it was a guy from Yale talking about real property. Before that we marched through the laws of evidence, agency, tax, torts, corporations, and contracts. The material for the bar exam is vast, and the preparation seems endless.
The crazy thing is that we haven't even really started. A lawyer friend who lives in my neighborhood says it doesn't really begin until the "twenties" of June. One of the partners at the firm where I work says the go date is July 1, when I'm supposed to go full time on bar prep. So far, preparing for the bar has been not too different from working as a law clerk. Both require the ability to focus on countless mundane details for hours at a time, and then be able to analyze and remember those details weeks later. This weekend we're going to take a practice run at the MBE, a 200-question multiple choice monster that spans six core topics. The other half of the bar consists of 12 essays, each lasting 30 minutes. So far the summer hasn't been too bad. I've been busy at work, handling helping clients in personal injury and mass tort cases, answering discovery, filing lawsuits, and getting ready to start practicing in earnest this fall. But as we get deeper into studying and the real date of the bar exam draws closer, I can feel the pressure mounting. Full-time bar prep for me starts in less than 10 days, and then it's a month-long slog to the finish line. In times like these, I am grateful that there are other things that fill my life --- kids, wife, a house to worry about, lawns to mow, Monday night soccer, cleaning the swimming pool, etc. Diversions keep me sane, even if time for diversions soon will be precious.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shift from law school to law job is humbling, hard

Ever heard of the 10,000-hour rule? The idea is that, in order to master a specific skill, you must put in the equivalent of 10,000 hours of practice, or roughly five years of full-time work. The rule is staring me in the face as I begin the steep climb to competence as a rookie lawyer. The members of the Class of 2012  at U of L, myself included, spent the last year as 3Ls, the top dogs in law school. Now we're starting all over at the bottom. Louisville did a great job teaching me the law, but the field is so vast and there are so many things to learn. What's the difference between filling out a summons in state court compared to federal court?  How do you write a claim for loss of consortium? How does Medicare subrogation work?
Bar exam: that's me in eight weeks
Part of me wishes that I could push the fast-forward button and get to the point where I feel at least semi-confident about the areas where I will be practicing. For now, however, practice is not even my biggest worry. Bar prep started a week ago, and the exam itself is looming less than two months away. Listening to the Barbri lectures is like taking a mental stroll back through the first two years of law school. It's mildly interesting to remember all the cases that we read in order to learn tidbits of Contract law and Negotiable Instruments, but for the most part it's a painful process -- four hours a day of lectures so we can remember who gets priority in a fight between two creditors over a secured transaction (the perfected interest, of course), or whether a defendant's rights are violated when police conduct a stop and frisk search without probable cause (no, so long as there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity). In addition to the lectures, we're supposed to be spending another four or five hours a day reviewing and outlining our subjects. Then there's the four or five hours a day I'm working at the firm that was generous enough to give me a job. How many hours are there in a day again?
Lots of people have given me advice about studying for the bar this summer. They've told me not to worry too much. They've told me to worry a lot. They've told me it's a marathon, and not to get burned out early in the summer. All in all, I've heard way more horror stories than pleasant memories. At least it's comforting to know that Louisville has a high pass rate, especially for students who did well academically in law school. It's also good to know that you only need a score of 75 out of 100 on each essay in order to pass the Kentucky portion of the exam. Then again, there are 12 essays, and only 30 minutes for each. Screw up just one, or fall behind on your timing, and you are in serious trouble. In the end, I imagine that bar prep, and work as a first-year lawyer, will be much like law school: a long and grinding path, with plenty of frustrations along the way but rewards at the end for those who persevere. Final note: I've updated the title of this blog because I am technically no longer a law student, and I've changed my profile accordingly. However, if you are interested in law school at U of L, or in the legal market in Louisville, you can still contact me with questions or thoughts. My email: