Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bar Exam, Day 2

Today we had the Multistate Performance Test--the same one taken by almost every wannabe-lawyer in the country. It's a grueling 200-question monster of an exam. And while PMBR and Bar-Bri try to prepare you, it honestly doesn't matter how many practice questions you do. Ultimately, there will be some you think you got right, some you think you got wrong, and a lot where you just don't know.

I finished both the morning and afternoon sessions with 30 minutes to spare, so I had time to go back over some questions here are there. Changed a couple. I had lunch with a couple of other examinees and they said they were close to panicked about the morning exam, but I honestly didn't feel that way. Not that I think I aced it. They way they write the questions, so many of them can be misleading. Anyway, I'm putting it behind me and turning to my last-minute study notes on essay topics. There are 12 essays in all. You get six essays in the morning and three hours to complete them. That's 30 minutes per question. The day will fly by.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bar Exam, Day 1

Last night I couldn't sleep (they told me that would happen) and I finally got up about 1:00 am and watched about a half an episode of Monk. The mattress hurts my back, and I've thinking wistfully of those Doubletree(?) "get a good night's rest" commercials. The morning began with a "contenental breakfast" of some terrible coffee and a banna-nut muffin. I think.

The first thing people probably want to know is "how was it?" And I can say that it was about what I expected. The first part of the test was the multistate performance test, in which we are assigned a task to perform. It was a memo. I think I did OK on it but I was running out of time and had to cut it short. Everyone was typing right up until the end. Well, except for one guy whose computer seemed to have issues and the Examsoft geeks in attendance couldn't fix. He had to hand-write his answer. A few other people had problems with it as well, but I guess those were resolved since he was the only one I saw handwriting.

Then they brought out the Texas Procedure and Evidence portion. I knew most of the answers, and made wild guesses on a couple. Probably the same as everyone else. I came out of there feeling more hungry than beat down, and I was hoping some of the people I knew there would want to get lunch. I was disappointed no one lingered to talk about lunch plans. Everyone ran out of there for points unknown.

So I drove around. Some of you remember I lived in Austin for a couple of years, but that was in the 1980s. I don't remember my way around that well. I drove around looking for a restaurant, I wasn't finding anything on the interstate, so I used the force and followed my instinct. It led me to a Chinese buffet on a small hill that I had forgotten about.

Ever since I signed up for the laptop exam I kept getting emails and letters from the Board of Law Examiners. They would tell me "You no longer need a floppy drive to take the laptop exam." Then you read down and it says "bring your laptop, power cord, mouse, and floppy drive." Wha? So when I got there I asked them. Official position: you don't need it.

Tomorrow is the multiple-choice portion. It covers six topics (seven if you count criminal procedure separately from criminal law). The questions are supposed to be randomly mixed among the topics but from what I hear I should expect an easier morning of criminal questions and torts, then a killer afternoon of lengthy contracts and property questions. I can already tell you that I will have no idea how I do on those. You can think your answer couldn't possibly be wrong, and yet be wrong! I'll look over some of it after a nap.

I know this is a somewhat random and cranky post; I'll try to do better tomorrow!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Bar Exam, Day 0

I arrived in Austin about 2:30--excellent timing, since traffic is still pretty manageable. It's very hot here and it's not even March yet! The hotel is seedy, but about what you'd expect for being $50 a night downtown. You can measure the quality of a hotel by the restaurant the guests* walk to for dinner. Fine hotels, you take the elevator to the top floor restaurant. Good hotels, you take the elevator to the ground floor restaurant. Decent hotels, you go the the Shoney's or Denny's across the parking lot. Looks like I will be eating at CVS Pharmacy. There is also a Wendy's on the way back from the Convention Center, and a BBQ place I probably won't try. And there's alsways pizza delivery!

There was some drama as I was unloading the car. On one trip, I got to the door and when I tried to open it, the sliding latch somehow caught onto the door and I was locked out! So I had to go get management, and they had some kind of forked prybar thing that they used to get the door open. So now I am able to get into the room, but I don't feel so safe with the sliding latch on the door anymore!

I am eight blocks from the Austin Convention Center and I've already made a dry run, so I know where I'm going and where I'm supposed to park. They told us in an email that we would be pretty much on our own for lunch, and that there were restaurants all around the Convention Center. Not that I saw. There are a couple of fine hotels right beside the convention center; I'm sure they have restaurants inside them (where the lunch menu starts at $25, no doubt). There is one other restaurant beside the Convention Center, and I imagine it will be packed the next three days. It's a little fancier than I would want to do this week but I may not have a choice.

How am I feeling? OK. Not panicked. I have plenty of time to review the civil and criminal procedure outlines before tomorrow, and tomorrow I'll have a half-day to review for the multistate. It's enough time to go over the things I know are rough areas and do the short-term memorizing thing.

*For MBE purposes, of course, I am not a guest. I am an invitee, and the management owes me a duty to inspect and warn of any dangerous conditions... Sorry, just practicing. :-P

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Freaking out now...

Today I was going through the Bar-Bri model answers to the essay questions from the 2006 Texas Bar exams. Then I thought maybe it would be a good idea to take a look at the bar examiner's published comments, which they post after every exam. For each essay, they make general comments on the quality of the answers and point out common mistakes.

Imagine my consternation to find that sometimes the Bar-Bri answers ARE WRONG. Now I'm very unhappy. I'll provide two quick examples from July 2006:

No. 10 says there is a divorce and are several things in dispute [that goes without saying], and the only evidence adduced at trial relating to them is as follows: before they divorced, Wife's Mother conveyed Blackacre by deed: "For good and valuable consideration, Mother does hearby grant, sell, and convey unto Wife, as her sole and separate property and estate, Blackacre." Husband claims Blackacre is community property because it was conveyed during the marriage. Is it community property?

Bar-Bri launches into a big discussion about whether Blackacre was a gift or a sale of property, and if it was a sale whether the funds used were separate or community proeprty. The answer discusses what she would have to prove to make it separate property. But the Examiners say that would be a WRONG answer because the question stated that this info was the only evidence adduced at trial! So you can't worry about what other evidence there could have been; just make a decision based on the facts provided. (I would say community property because it was acquired during the marriage and there is a presumption of community property. She hasn't proved it was separate!).

No. 12 says that X conveyed Blackacre to Y, reserving one-half of the royalty under any present or future mineral lease. Y conveys Blackacre to Z, reserving 1/4 royalty, but does not mention X. Sooo... who has what? Bar-Bri that the Duhig doctrine didn't apply, but the Grader says it did! "Many examinees did not seem to recognize that Y conveyed a greater interest than he owned and did not correctly apply the Duhig doctrine."


Thursday, February 22, 2007


My phone gives me a text message horoscope every day. Usually it's completely nonsensical and I would stop the messages if I could find the option on a menu. But today's was nice: Brain and muscle memory are sharp. You retain all the data. Names, faces, and stats match easily. You're poised for your next big victory.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The Law Center is gearing up for the annual commencement ceremony. We got an announcement about it via email. They want me to pay $90 to rent a "Tam, gown, and hood." I didn't even know what a tam was until I just looked it up. Apparently it goes on your head. I would have thought the hood went on my head, but it doesn't. I think I still have my undergrad robe; can I wear that? (No, because it comes with a cap and not a tam!)

We can order invitations, announcements, etc. I'm almost surprised they didn't hit us up for a class ring. In case you can't tell by my general tenor, I'm inclined not to go. But, I don't have to RSVP until the 9th.

Thoughts on attending the ceremony?

Monday, February 19, 2007

T minus 1 week

Seven days from now I will be going to Austin to sit for the bar exam. For those who don't know, it's about a 3.5 hour drive from Houston to the state capital. They do offer the bar exam in Houston (well, Pasadena), but they only let us type it in Austin. For some reason, they still offer the option of typing the bar exam. On a typewriter, I mean. I imagine someone coming in with a big old Smith-Corona. It would blow their minds. I'll probably go in the early afternoon and get oriented, and then read over the outlines for the Day 1 exam materials.

Of course, this week will be the intensive-study week. Now that the countdown is in the single digits I feel somewhat more motivated. Some people are going on vacation after the bar, but not me! I'll be coming home to catch up on the housework that I've been neglecting since, um, 2003?

And there's that little matter of finding a job. :-]

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


That's what the little grey word says in the little grey box. Awarded. This morning it said Pending. But now it says Awarded. Right under the red words Degree Status. That means I'm officially a J.D. w00t! Even though it posted today, they backdated it to December 15, 2006. That's exactly 15 years and two days after I got my undergrad degree. But we won't talk about that! Now I can go back to studying for the bar exam.

We finished the Bar-Bri class up yesterday. Today there is a workshop going on for the Procedure and Evidence essays. I paid the admission but decided not to go because I already had the materials and I could study at home while saving the two hours I would have spent in the car. The Civil Procedure outline is 81 pages. It took me four and a half hours to go through it today. On the exam it will be all of 20 short-answer questions. I would complain but I know I'm in good company. That's the one good thing about classes like Bar-Bri. When you look outside and the sun is shining and you're trying to remember which one is Impleader and which one is Interpleader, it's good to know you're not alone.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Tax Season Woes - Already!

It's only February but the filing headaches have already begun! I recently got my W2 from my former employer. Where my SSN should be, they listed the first five digits of my phone number. My readers will remember, this company cut another guy and me loose this past summer. When they mailed me my last check back in July, they attached a final statement to it with my YTD income and taxes. Except it wasn't mine, it was the other guy's. Now here comes my jacked-up W2 in the mail. Either they are highly incompetent or they are having fun with me.

Hypothetically, what would happen if I didn't tell them to fix the W2? Could I just pretend that income never happened? Of course the answer is no, because (1) that would be unethical and (2) the IRS would catch on in 2009 and then back-bill me with two years of interest and penalties! In the meantime, would the IRS go after some poor guy whose social security number matched my phone number and ask him for the money? No. No one has that SSN. The first nine digits of my phone number are not a valid SSN yet. It will be issued, years from now, to someone in Ohio. Which brings up an interesting question. What does your SSN mean? How is to derived?

The first three digits of your SSN tell where it was issued. Nowadays it's issued based on the zip code of your mailing address. My phone area code is 281. A SSN 281 prefix is issued to people in Ohio. The second two numbers are a batch number. The 281 group is only on batch 11 now, and my next two digits are much higher than 11. Speaking of SSNs, you can read some interesting but useless trivia on the history of the social security numbers, including who had 001-01-0001 and how much was the first social security benefit check, at this site.