Friday, November 16, 2007

Good night and good luck...

Much has happened in the year since I drunkenly stared at the phrase “…is not on the pass list” on my laptop. Congratulations to those of you who don’t find yourself similarly situated tonight. But to those of you who likewise find yourselves in the same position I found myself in, I hope that this blog is of some use to you as you begin the process of picking yourself off the mat and start contemplating what steps you will take moving forward.

Now that I’m able to look back on the experience with a degree of hindsight and distance (If you read this before you check your results I hope you don’t feel that I’m fucking with karma) the following are a few things I wish I’d known in the aftermath of failing.

From experience, I know how easy it is to beat yourself up over the results. I felt stupid, isolated, depressed and found it virtually impossible to talk to any of my fellow classmates who passed. It wasn’t until I joined a few study groups and met a few others who had failed (all with topnotch credentials) that I realized that the bar is not in any way shape or form an intelligence test. Just know that you are not alone, failing the bar is not easy for anyone and no matter how isolated you may feel there are literally thousands of equally well qualified and intelligent individuals going through the exact same emotions that you will likely feel should you not pass this time around.

To be sure, weeks after learning that I had failed were nothing short of miserable as I was left to ponder the prospect of having to relive what had previously been the three shittiest months of my academic career. I also wanted to go postal on anyone and everyone who felt compelled to recount inane anecdotes concerning about the bar or ply me with innumerable questions concerning whatever it is caused me to fail. But life does move on and things will get better with time.

Fortunately, once I started studying for the February exam I found that I was able to block out much of the embarrassment and misery associated with failing as I began to focus on how not to turn my experience into a trilogy. To be sure, studying for the bar the second time pretty much sucked, but as much as I hated the material, studying was infinitely better than wallowing in my misery.

In the midst of the agony associated with failing, it was hard not to view failing as nothing but a blown or wasted year, and in some ways, I still feel this way. I was also very worried that failing the bar would be akin a millstone hanging around my neck preventing me from progressing with my career. Fortunately, after a shitload of interviews, I feel that I can safely put this fear to rest. To be sure, I’ll never work in biglaw, but my law school grades had already taken me out of the running. Few if any employers seemed to give a shit about the fact that I’d failed. I was asked about it a few times but the questions were always easily disposed of and were usually part of the inane thread of interview questions along the lines of what did you learn from the experience etc.

I sometimes wonder how I’ll look back on the past year in the future. After re-reading some of my posts today, much of the angst expressed feels more like distant background noise than anything. Concerns about whether or not I did enough MBEs, how irritating fellow bar takers can be, the weird after affects of taking the bar and the agony of waiting for results a second time have been replaced by more mundane worries such as how will I ever pay off my private student loans and am I hitting my billables this week. Life does truly move on, time heals all wounds and all that bullshit but I doubt I’ll ever be able to wholly forget my experience with failing the bar.

Since this will almost certainly be my last post, I want to thank my fellow comrades in arms who shared their experiences going through the strange trip that was the bar by blogging, commenting and/or emailing, it was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one struggling through a particular subject area or combating the inevitable burnout during the doldrums in early February. To the few of you who stumble onto this site in the future, I hope this site gives you some encouragement that you’re not alone and that the shittiness of failing will eventually pass. The bar is a giant crap shoot and nothing more than an evil hazing ritual that has no bearing on one’s ability to practice law and/or have a successful career. I still believe that there is a special place in hell reserved for the evil minions responsible for creating the bar and for the equally malevolent assholes who bilk thousands of law grads each year by playing on the fear and anxiety that naturally flows from rolling up three years of law school into three hellacious days of meaningless essays, performance tests and multiple choice.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings, best of luck to you all.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Good Luck

Best of luck to everyone starting the endurance challenge better known as the bar tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Squirming in front of the silver screen...

Watched the movie Little Children this week on Netflix. Obviously, movie reviews are largely outside the purview of this blog, but the movie included a story line, involving a character who was studying to take the bar for the third time, that hit a little too close to home. I have to say that the movie more then adequately captured the embarrassment, feelings of dislocation, and general disconnect that comes with failing the bar. It was also somewhat cringe inducing to re-live the experience through the character. The movie was otherwise okay, but it was interesting to see the topic of failing the bar sort of addressed outside the narrow confines of the legal community.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Notes from the other side

[note: I’m on deadline at work so please excuse the million typos and syntax errors]

I haven’t posted since bar results due to a seemingly never-ending stream of work, personal, and a various other commitments.

It was hard to overestimate the absolute feeling of relief that came after learning that I had in fact passed. I didn’t feel joy, or elation, just absolute and utter relief. I spent the long weekend sleeping and adjusting to a life without the 800 pound gorilla that was the bar that seemingly loomed over and influenced every aspect of my life for the past year.

I want to congratulate everyone from the bar blogosphere (and everyone else) who passed, but more importantly, to those who failed express my deepest condolences. I still can’t shake the unmistakable feeling that in the game of chance that is the bar that it just as easily could have been me considering the horror of having to re-take the bar while any of you could just as easily be viewing life from the other side.

A few quick notes on what I believe I did right the second time around. I tried as honestly as possible to sit down and assess my weaknesses and then figure out what I needed to do to strengthen them. I also wholly abandoned BarBri’s methods and went back to square one.

I kept up with the paced program the first time but had the feeling that I was merely going through the motions for the sake it. I dutifully handed in my assignments, attempted to cram through whatever outline was assigned for the day, and tried to pay attention in class as much as possible. Unfortunately, this ran counter to the various methods that had successfully took me through law school and I think in the panic inducing environment that encompasses the run-up to the bar I failed to adequately sit down figure out what I really needed to work on, and what I could let slide. I’ve never been one to take much away from lectures, I wish I did, but my brain just doesn’t absorb much from them. I learn by reading, synthesizing outlines, and practice. Unfortunately, the lectures themselves are long and strangely exhausting. By the time they were over for the day, I was mentally shot and perhaps not at my best when it came to actually learning the material and the gamesmanship behind the bar.

After getting my results from the first bar, I knew that the essays were my biggest weakness (I won’t reprise my rant about BarBri’s graded essay assignments, you can read it here) and planned my study schedule accordingly. I didn’t want to drop the cash for another review course or become a professional sperm donor to pay for a tutor, so I created my own self-study schedule and tried to stick with it as best I could.

I spent almost no time learning the law, and instead religiously wrote out as many essays as possible. I cherry picked some of the tips from Adachi’s Bar Breakers series (if anyone lives in San Francisco and wants to buy mine, drop me an email), but for the most part I practiced using IRAC with as many headers as possible until it became close to second nature. As the exam drew closer I stopped writing full essays and tested myself by outlining the issue and writing out the rules for the issues I spotted before checking to see if I had hit them. I don’t think I knew the law as well the second time, but I did feel much better about the essays going in.

I did next to next to nothing for the MBEs, and perhaps averaged 20-25 per day. I did well enough the first time (139) to make a calculated risk to focus on essays and hope that my MBE score would more or less hold through.

The PTs worried me in that I bombed one and aced the other. I ended up taking John Holtz’s PT workshop and give it a qualified recommendation. I felt his system was unworkable, but believe that the true value of the workshop lay in the shear number of PTs that he forced us to go through. I came out of the workshop feeling that I had a much better understanding of what the examiners actually look for when grading the exam. I found Honigsberg’s approach to be useless and thus would recommend Holtz if you are concerned about the PT.

In the end I don’t think there is a magic bullet when it comes to studying for the bar. There isn’t a secret method, obscure book, or magic tutor that will get one through. Although BarBri works for many, it didn’t work for me. I think, for me at least, going back to basics and figuring out how I learn best and then building a schedule to accommodate my strengths and weaknesses was the key in getting me through the bar the second time.

I don’t know how failing the bar will influence my career moving forward, or how I will look back on the past year down the road. But what I do know is that failing the bar was emotionally devastating, a financial disaster, and a total waste of a year.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thank god

Drip, drip, drip

Took off work and have been pre-gaming (i.e., drinking) for a while. Have spent more time staring at my laptop then I'd care to imagine. Could definitely do without this wait.


I'm starting to believe that even a bad result would be better then the agony of watching this day inch ever so slowly towards 6pm...