Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

In which our hero is tagged

Well, that could have gone worse. I don’t know how much I wrote, but my hand feels like it’s going to fall off.

Additionally, I have to keep this bracelet on until tomorrow when the test is done. Now I know how all those gazelles on National Geographic feel.

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The Bar Exam: a Look Ahead

Today, I finished my bar review class. Forty sessions combining in 175 hours of in-class instruction, and probably nearly twice that outside of class. I now have two weeks to go before the bar exam. (13 days, 17 hours, 10 minutes, and so on. But who’s counting?)

To mark the occasion, I’d like to answer a questions I received on twitter from a Miss Beans:

(1) How much do you regret the bar classes you didn’t take in school?

(2) do you feel comfortable w/what you learned in [review]?

Without knowing what the bar exam proper is like, I’ll give this a shot.

(I haven’t re-written or edited this, so I must apologize for the sloppiness of what follows. I’m slightly pressed for time, and I ramble terribly.)

First, I think it’s important to get some context. In law school, I did not take New York Practice, Wills & Trusts, Family Law, or Criminal Procedure. These are really the only bar subjects that I didn’t cover on their own or as part of a larger class. My school mandates (what I assume are) the traditional first year classes:

  • Contracts
  • Civil Procedure
  • Torts
  • Criminal Law
  • Property

As well as required second-year classes in Constitutional Law and Evidence, I took Corporations (which included agency) and a class on the UCC (sales and negotiable instruments).

That being said, my last semester of law school, I took a class taught by a former instructor of a bar review course, called “New York Law in National Perspectives.” It covered eight subjects, including Wills & Trusts and Criminal Procedure. The class was intended to be a survey course of popular bar exam topics, and give students a chance to dip a toe into the whole “bar review” grind before the real deal begins.

So, to answer (1), I don’t really regret not taking certain bar subjects in school. I think part of that was my luck in attending a school with a bar review prep class. But part of that is because by the time you’re a graduate, you’re good at picking up legal theories quickly. There’s an internal logic to the law, and while you may not have been quite so bad at sussing it out as I was as a 1L, the fact remains that as a J.D., you pick up on it very quickly. Specifically:

Wills & Trusts was covered in my bar review prep class: it’s mostly straightforward, but there are some areas where I’ve done some extra work to keep my head above water. I don’t know that it would have been worth a 14 weeks of my life to get that extra time to spend with the material, to be honest.

Family Law wasn’t covered in my prep class, but I think this is even more straightforward. Perhaps my ignorance just glosses over the topic, but I think that while there are lots of rules (aren’t there always?) none of them seem to descend into a thicket of legal esotericism the way Freehold Estates do for me. Seriously, screw Fee Simples Subject to Conditions Subsequent(s?).

And New York Practice is the term at my school for NY’s civil procedure: statute of limitations, pleadings, motions, defenses, jurisdiction, venues, etc. There’s almost no legal reasoning required here, just memorization of rules and tests. This is the sort of meta-law for which index cards are sold in bulk. I think it’s a waste of time to take it before your last semester of law school, when the scarce few complex areas of NY Practice might still be fresh in your mind.

Really, I really don’t think I missed enough of any of these subjects to hurt me on the exam. And I don’t plan to practice in either of the two substantive areas of law, so the fact that I haven’t spent time in a classroom wrangling the doctrine for myself isn’t inhibitive.

I suppose if you somehow knew you had some strange mental block with regards to Corporations or Wills, you should get as much exposure to it beforehand. Maybe Evidence, because hearsay may drive you batty if you don’t spend a good month or two on it. But really, the bar review guys are very good at what they do (and hell, for $3k a head, they’d better be!), and you’re very good at what you do by the time you’ve finished six semesters of law school.

So, with regard to question (2), bar review class is a little too much like first semester’s exam week all over again. On the one hand, you know you’re all in the same situation, and everyone’s rather nonplussed. On the other hand, this is of no comfort at all, because you’ve just finished drinking from the fire hydrant. Trying to soak it all up on your first go is impossible, and you’ll have to spend a lot of time afterwards trying to mop up the bits that bounced off the outside of your head.

Bar review is different, obviously, in that now it’s not the grasping of legal principles that’s tricky, but the retaining of thousands of legal principles. In theory, I’m comfortable with any of these laws I’ve learned. You know, a few at a time. The novelty here is retaining nearly as much information as you learned in all six semesters combined, and being able to cogently spit it out on command.

I worked hard, I stayed in on weekends, and I kept up with what the class was doing. I did the homework problems, I’ve reviewed my wrong answers, and I made sure that I wasn’t saving a mountain of work until the end. There’s just no way to cram for twenty subjects at once: you have to keep up a steady pace all summer.

Even so, immediately after the hydrant (the class) has shut off, I feel bewildered. I’ve been doing my best to keep up on past subjects while learning new ones, and that’s just damn hard. If you never studied for two (or three!) exams at once in law school, you should do it at least one semester. Seriously. Compartmentalizing that much information all at once is a skill, and I don’t think bar review should be the first time you try it.

Overall, I’m pretty comfortable with what I learned in bar review class. Not right now, though. I take comfort in the fact that I have fourteen days to re-read my notes when no one is throwing new notes at me. I can focus and start to compartmentalize, and I feel pretty good about where I’ll be in fourteen days. Again, none of this stuff is impossible, and some of it is downright easy after spending all that time in law school, but it’s the combination that’s tricky.

I hope that at some point in my rambling, incoherent response I was even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought, and that everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.

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Snape Enjoined Dumbledore

From my lecture on how property is distributed in a divorce:

Once separate property is co-mingled with marital property, then under the Transmutation Theory…</blockquote>

You know, back in my day, we didn’t have Harry Potter jokes. Wizard humor revolved around Dungeons and Dragons, and that’s the way we liked it.

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Bar Review Just Got Surreal

This question is based upon the case of Kleppe v. New Mexico, 426 U.S. 529 (1976), where the Court upheld the power of Congress to protect wild burros under the federal Property Power.

That’s damn fine coffee you got here in Twin Peaks.

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Souter? I Barely Know Her!

A very nice piece written about retired Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. He gave a long disquisition on Constitutional interpretation. It doesn’t quote him nearly enough:

A choice may have to be made, not because language is vague, but because the Constitution embodies the desire of the American people, like most people, to have things both ways. We want order and security, and we want liberty. And we want not only liberty but equality as well.

These paired desires of ours can clash, and when they do a court is forced to choose between them, between one constitutional good and another one. The court has to decide which of our approved desires has the better claim, right here, right now, and a court has to do more than read fairly when it makes this kind of choice.

Do yourself a favor and read The New York Times Article, or go straight to the text of the speech itself.

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My Big Fat Empire Strikes Back

So there’s this kid. This nerdy kid. This nerdy kid who likes to pretend he’s got a lightsaber, and do all sorts of awesome jedi moves. Seriously, when you’re a kid, you don’t even care that nothing in The Phantom Menace makes sense, you just want to do the cool lightsaber stuff. So this nerdy kid borrows a camera from his high school library and tapes himself doing all sorts of crazy spin moves. Ah, good times.

But when he returns the camera to the library, he forgets to erase the tape. Classmates see it, upload it to the internet, and The Star Wars Kid is born.

The ridicule and harassment become unbearable quickly: the kid drops out of school, has a nervous breakdown, and vanishes from the public eye. Presumably, he spends much of his time in hiding wishing he had never entered the public eye, but, y’know. If wishes were horses, we’d all be eating steaks. So what can a social pariah do? What castigated caste of castaways (My legal writing professor would have an aneurysm of red ink over that.) would accept such a lowly creature as this Star Wars Kid? Where do you go when no one takes you seriously?

Why, law school, of course.

Yes, the viral video that predates YouTube, the epic lulz that predates even the mighty 4chan, the Star Wars Kid is a lawyer. I’m not even sure I could come up with an angle for this; do I go with snark, ironic detachment, satire, or do some sort of bizarre bildungsroman parody of the Star Wars prequels?

Apparently, I go back to studying for the Bar Exam. Because I’ll be damned if Darth Type II Diabetes is going to make me look bad at anything.

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