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NC Bar Exam 2012 Postmortem

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 25, 2012 in The After-3L Life

[CORRECTION (07/28/12): Madame Prosecutor informed me that the +$125 extra that computer users get charged is actually the ExamSoft licensing fee, and not extra cash going to the NCBLE as I surmised near the end of the Day 1 rundown. I’ve left the original blog entry as-is for posterity but wanted to ensure the wrong info was corrected. :) ]

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And that’s a wrap: after 3 years of law school — including extra summer sessions both summers, plus bar prep every day since graduation — I’m officially done with the 2012 North Carolina Bar Examination! :D

It was also apparently an unprecedented clusterf*ck :beatup:

 

DAY 1: “Electricity? You mean, that’s important?”
Things started out pretty well on Tuesday morning. I had taken Samson down to a pet-sitter in Raleigh on Monday night, checked in to a hotel a few minutes away from the test site, and took the evening to relax.1 As I left my room the next morning2 I saw a guy all the way down at the opposite end of the hall getting ready to leave as well.  I hate waiting for the elevator myself, so I decided to hold the elevator for him. He got on, asked if I had any exciting plans for the day, and when I told him I was taking the bar exam he goes “Just remember, there is no failure. The only failure is not doing it.”

It was a random encounter, but good vibes heading over to the test site. :D

When I got to the NC State Fairgrounds around 7:15am there were already hundreds of other test-takers already lined up at various entrances to the Jim Graham Building, sorted by starting letter of everyone’s last name. I wandered around until I saw some NCCU Law classmates and we waited in line for an hour or so as folks eventually got checked in. Most of our professors were there talking with Legal Eagles in the different lines, including The Chief and our new Dean,3 encouraging all of us not to stress out and to do well. :)

After checking in — and getting fussed at because I had inadvertently kept my NCCU Alumni hat on4 — I found my seat near the back side of the Jim Graham Building and waited through nearly an hour of instructions on the documents we were being given, what needed to get filled in where, and all the other oodles of stuff the NCBLE is required to announce to ensure everything is done fairly (even though most of it was in printed material sent to us before we showed up). Then we got to open our essay packets and get to typing.

The essays were split into four parts, with two parts per session (AM and PM). For the morning session we were tested on:5

  • Civil Procedure:  π files a wrongful death suit against a company on the day the SOL expires, then later amends to add that he’s suing as representative of the estate and names two additional ∆s; lawyer for ∆ company opposes arguing they’re futile due to SOL lapse. Which, if any, of the 3 amendments should be allowed?
  • Contracts:  Underage ∆ (claiming he’s 19) enters into referral agreement with temp employment agency π, who gets ∆ a job as a photographer for a child porn syndicate. Can π recover the referral fee ∆ was due to pay?
  • Evidence (2-part):  ∆ charged with second-degree murder following accident while intoxicated says during interrogation “I’m not drunk”; ∆’s lawyer tries to get the statement in during cross-examination of the police officer, and prosecutor follows up by trying to introduce ∆’s prior DWI to prove malice. Which, if either, of these two items should be excluded?
  • Family Law (3-part):  ∆ and wife separate; wife has 1 child not adopted by ∆ from prior marriage, 2 more children with ∆, and doesn’t work because she and ∆ agreed at time 3rd child was born that she’d be a housewife until child starts kindergarten.  Does ∆ owe support for unadopted child, can he force wife to go back to work to support kids, and what of ∆’s various items of income will be used by the court in determining child support?
  • Professional Responsibility (2-part):  Prosecutor loses bond hearing against defense counsel; within minutes he finds a state statute (partially quoted) after returning to his office, then approaches judge ex parte to ask for new hearing under the statute, and gets original bond reinstated. Did he violate the RPC in asking for the new hearing and/or getting the bond reinstated?
  • Property: Easement on parcel of land recorded 75 years ago; BFP acquired parcel with no mention of easement in deed. Can successors in interest of owner of the dominant tenement enforce the easement?

I finished the first set of essays about 45 minutes ahead of time, then we had a break for lunch until 1:45pm. The law school had a particularly tasty selection of deli sandwiches, sweets, fruits, drinks, and so on. It was unexpectedly good, and filling — I’d been expecting something low-budget in light of the state’s budget cuts but was pleasantly surprised. :spin:

After lunch we all filed back into the warehouse for the afternoon session. In that one we were tested on:

  • Criminal Procedure: DV victim consents to search of apartment for abuser boyfriend; officer discovers marijuana in cigar box under the bed and charges DV victim with possession. Should the cigar box contents be suppressed?
  • Torts: π loses medical malpractice case against doctor. What does he need to prove to succeed in a legal malpractice claim against ∆ lawyer?
  • Constitutional Law: Kelo v. City of New London question; city condemns π’s property under eminent domain as part of economic development project getting turned over to private developer. What are π’s odds of successfully enjoining the condemnation?
  • Agency: President of ∆ corporation enters into contract to buy expensive equipment from π, even though bylaws prevented her from doing so, π knew of bylaws restriction, and Board voted to defer all equipment purchases until next year. Is the contract enforceable?
  • ZombieLaw: Pastor owns rental properties as tenants by the entireties with mentally incompetent wife, joint checking account with right of survivorship with one son, life insurance policy naming both sons as beneficiaries, and modest home; son holding durable power of attorney changes life insurance policy to name himself as sole beneficiary; pastor’s will splits estate between both sons; pastor dies with mountains of debt. Who gets what?
  • Secured Transactions: Creditor 1 finances ∆ company in exchange for security interest in all of ∆’s after-acquired personal property; Creditor 2 finances piece of equipment in exchange for Purchase-Money Security Interest, but doesn’t file a UCC-1 until months later; ∆ defaults on both loans. Who has priority over the piece of equipment?

It was in the middle of this second session when things went to hell in a handbasket testing-wise.

You see, this part of North Carolina has a long-standing history of late afternoon summer thunderstorms — even confirmed scientifically by my alma mater NC State and the State Climate Office back in 2001.6 The day starts out great, then around 4pm the clouds form, you have 20 minutes of the worst rain, wind, and lightning that you’ve ever seen, and then the sun’s out again.

Well in the middle of my ZombieLaw essay the power went out the first time. It lasted for about 7 minutes before things came back on, and the proctor announced that everyone would get an extra 7 minutes of time. I’d ensured my MacBook Pro battery was fully charged the night before the exam so I wasn’t phased by the outage and just kept on working.

Then, as I’m a paragraph away from finishing my Secured Transactions essay around 3:30pm, the power goes out again. And stayed off this time :beatup:

I finished my essay and turned in my forms about 5 minutes later, but found out that night that power stayed out for nearly an hour and folks were given an extra 45 minutes to finish; the essay portion that was supposed to end at 5:11pm stretched out until just before 6 o’clock. Bear in mind no electricity also meant no air conditioning — on a summer day, in 90º+ heat, housed in what is essentially the livestock barn for the State Fair each year. :crack:

Maybe it’s just because I was a computer scientist before I was a law student… but contingency plans for a loss of electricity seems like something you’d have for an event like this. I can only imagine the number of threatened lawsuits that are going to crop up when results are released and people who failed the test argue it was/is because of the stressful testing environment.

Did I mention that the NCBLE makes us pay an extra +$125 to use our laptops? Multiplied by the number of laptop users, that’s well over $100K going to the NCBLE just from laptop users alone. Surely they could drop $5K (or more) on a durable industrial generator. :roll:

After leaving the building I continued my non-diet indulgences by getting Zaxby’s for the first time in ages, went back to the hotel and swam for a bit, then did a hundred practice MBE questions while watching television.

 

DAY 2: “What the hell is that sound? And did that rat just piss on your foot?”
Wednesday was the Multistate Bar Exam multiple choice questions, covering ConLaw, CrimLaw/CrimPro, Evidence, Ks, Property, and Torts in two 100-question chunks. Things started around 8:15am and it was as dull and mundane as 100 multiple-choice questions sounds.

I’d been averaging around a minute per question practicing all summer, and did about the same on the exam wrapping up a couple minutes after 10am. The lunch break was absolutely dreadful the second time around because it was so… @#$%ing… long. It was already slated to last two hours, and me finishing an hour early added to it. Most of the time I was debating whether or not I should do more practice multiples, and didn’t eat lunch until the tail end of the break because I was still full from breakfast.

Oh and I forgot to point out there was a rat running around a quadrant of the testing area in the morning session, that staff captured on the lunch break by throwing a trash can over it :beatup: One of my classmates had the misfortune of it running across (and peeing on) her foot.

Things got back under way just after 2pm for the next batch of questions. Throughout most of the afternoon I kept hearing a loud noise outside, wondering if there was another thunderstorm going on — and turns out there was a wood chipper running full blast for hours. :surprised:

I tuned out the noise and kept grinding on the questions, finished about 3:55pm, then picked up the dog and headed home.7

 

So how did it go?
I have no clue :(

On the essays, I thought they were a lot “easier” than I expected. That word’s in quotes because I have -0- clue if I actually got the answers right; it just wasn’t nearly as difficult coming up with words to put on the paper as it had been during bar prep. I know for sure that I railed the Agency, ConLaw, and CrimPro questions, had only a partial clue on the CivPro and Prof Resp questions, and was somewhere in the middle on all the rest. NCCU Law has a supplemental bar prep program called “Invest in Success” that exclusively focuses on the essay portion of the exam and I’m thinking that was instrumental in getting me prepared.

The MBE, on the other hand, was inordinately difficult across the board.

My practice scores jumped, but the MBE was still far more difficult

My scores had improved dramatically on the practice multiples I’d been taking from BarBri so I went into Wednesday expecting it to be a piece of cake. But wow. I could narrow most questions down to two choices fairly quickly but would have no idea which of the two was correct.

Taking everything overall, and the 60-40 split NC uses on the essays-vs-MBE, if I were a gambling man I’d put my odds of passing somewhere around the mid-60% range. I feel OK but not comfortable. And now I have to find a way to put the test out of my mind for five weeks until we get the results…

That’s it from me for tonight y’all! Now that I don’t have class or studying I’m going to try to get law:/dev/null up-to-date (seriously!) and work on getting NC SPICE off the ground. Thanks to all of you for your support the past couple months, and have a great night! :D

  1. Dropped my diet for a 72-hour window by eating McDonalds, then sitting in the bathtub for an hour reading through some essays and collecting my thoughts, then sleeping. []
  2. After indulging on a delicious breakfast from room service :spin: []
  3. I’ll come up with an adequate nickname for her at some time down the road :) []
  4. Trying to make sure my bald scalp didn’t get sunburned! :beatup: []
  5. I’m using the delta symbol and pi symbol for defendant and plaintiff respectively; these should show up regardless of your browser and operating system, but if they don’t let me know and I’ll revert to D and P. []
  6. They suspect it’s because of the geological makeup of the region. []
  7. Didn’t get to celebrate being done though, because Samson puked shortly after dinner which prompted me to take him to the 24-hour emergency vet. :cry: Instead I got home just after 11pm, ate Bojangle’s for dinner, and working on this blog entry. []

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Musings on Bar Prep

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 23, 2012 in The After-3L Life

Good afternoon y’all :)

If you couldn’t tell, my efforts at getting law:/dev/null back up to date during the summer have been a categorical and abject failure — I still have that May backlog to finish, and now have a June and July backlog tacked on to it :beatup:

But now that bar prep is winding down and the North Carolina exam kicks off early tomorrow morning1 I figured I can unwind a little bit with this brief entry on the summer. Yes, I realize up-front that griping about the bar exam triggers roughly -0- sympathy from the legal profession; after all, just about every single lawyer in the country had to study for and take a bar exam somewhere at some point.

But I also don’t care: bar prep is a miserable, tedious, stultifying experience… :crack:

True, it’s not difficult per se. After spending 3-4 years of learning to “think like a lawyer” — and hopefully remembering at least a smidge of the courses you’d already taken — very little of bar prep is “new” and most of the new stuff can get picked up fairly quickly. The lack of cognitive difficulty doesn’t make it any easier though.

There are 3 things about bar prep that have been driving me nuts all summer:

  • Breadth trumps depth: In nearly every single class since kindergarten, we’ve been conditioned to take a subject and master it thoroughly before moving on. You focus on one thing; you master all the nuances of that one thing; you take a test. Your Social Studies tests didn’t include Algebra questions, and you didn’t take Algebra tests before getting through pre-Algebra.

    That’s all completely and totally upended when it comes to the bar exam. You have well over a dozen substantive subjects to learn (18 here in North Carolina) but will only be tested on small parts of a small number of them (12 essays in NC). This puts a premium on knowing a little bit of every subject rather than everything about any subject. You’ll also be looking at all the subjects concurrently so that the knowledge of any given subject doesn’t get too stale. And even if you don’t grasp parts of a subject — the Rule Against Perpetuities being the cliché example — you’ll still need to learn all the rest of that subject just in case you get tested on it.

  • Daily time management: If there was one piece of advice I heard over and over before and during bar prep, it was the importance of having a daily study schedule. I’ve completely failed at doing that, so if I end up having to retake the exam in February we’ll all know why ;)

    Separate and apart from scheduling your day-to-day studying though, it’s difficult trying to keep life in order with bar prep going on. The bar review lectures are mind-numbingly slow2 and occupy your entire morning and mid-afternoon. Then you review notes, read outlines, do practice multiples and essays, make sure to eat breakfast / lunch / dinner somewhere in there, and then it’s time for bed. For most of the past two months I haven’t done laundry until the lack of undergarments reminded me it needed to be done. I completely forgot to pay my July rent until nearly 2 weeks after it was due. And I’m pretty sure my kitchen could have been declared an EPA Superfund site had I not finally gotten it cleaned up yesterday.

    I suspect the only reason my dog still wags his tail when I get home is because we both tend to eat at the same time… :beatup:

  • Life goes on: We all have daily routines, and we all have things that occasionally upend those daily routines. Supposedly we’re supposed to ignore them during bar prep — but I think that’s kind of silly.

    I’ve spent however many hours this summer working on stuff for NC SPICE, simply because if it didn’t get started now I’d be broke in a few months waiting for it to get off the ground; better to be sheltered without a law license than homeless with one. In late June I learned my blood pressure had skyrocketed from all the weight I’ve packed on these past 3 years, so I had to watch what I eat and start working out more than 1x every couple weeks.3 I missed a day of bar prep for a good friend’s memorial service; I missed another day for another friend’s birthday; I’ve probably missed more in between that I don’t remember for things that were important at the time, and that doesn’t even include the hundreds of text messages sent back and forth with dozens of folks I should have stopped talking to a couple months ago to study.

    Simply put: there are dozens (and dozens) of things in life that are more important than the bar exam, but we’re supposed to pretend otherwise until this process is all done.4

Sorry for the rant, just had to get that off my chest…

There are of course some bright sides to it all. It’s kind of cool “knowing” multiple areas of multiple subjects, and reflexively envisioning your outline contents when reading basic news stories like this absurdity out of Kentucky.5

It’s also given me the occasion to reconnect with old friends from undergrad who I discovered are about to take the exam too. :beatup:  And I can never overstate how privileged we all are to spend the day studying and learning things without having to juggle a full-time job on the side.

But in general… I’d rather not do this again, and in any event I’m glad this particular piece of it is all coming to an end one way or the other by this time Wednesday ;)

So GOOD LUCK to everyone taking the bar exam in your respective jurisdictions, especially my NCCU Law Legal Eagles!6 See y’all in a few days! :D

  1. We’re supposed to arrive at 7:15am :eek: []
  2. I routinely fell asleep in BarBri lectures and didn’t start really learning the substantive material until I ditched class, used VMWare Fusion to rip the lectures to my laptop, and used the Mac version of VLC to play them back at 2x speed. I think BarBri is doing a huge disservice to its students by not having this option built into their web software… []
  3. Down 12.4lbs since June 30 :spin: []
  4. And folks are surprised when surveys show most attorneys aren’t happy? :roll: []
  5. The judge’s gag order would be an unconstitutional prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment, since the compelling government interest in a fair trial that could justify it is extinguished after the plea bargains are entered. Plus, the guys’ names will end up on the sex offender registry anyway… []
  6. And all my other friends who haven’t had the privilege of attending my law school ;) []

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