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I Was Dedicated, and I Passed

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Three Steps to Success

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Passing After Passing Out

Guest Blog by Michael C. Oldweiler, Esq.
Graduate of SLU Law

“It’s a lot quieter on the way down than the journey up.

No one wants you around when you’ve got nothing left. I wanted out so badly, but I couldn’t just walk away with nothing.”

I would be lying if I said that I felt confident about the July 2016 bar exam. Even though I had spent 430 hours studying for it, I still was uneasy. I had completed 100% of my BARBRI personal study plan, but I was still anxious. By the end of bar prep, I had tallied 1,950 MBE questions, 133 MEEs, and 13 MPTs. On top of that, I had participated in every SLU Law bar prep workshop. On paper, I had this test smoked. For whatever reason, however, I just felt like I’d be the first person to do all this work and still find a way to fail.

The bar exam itself is two days of testing – each day features a 3 hour morning session, an hour lunch break, and a 3 hour afternoon session. For Missouri, the first day is all writing – two Multistate Performance Tests in the morning (20% of overall score) and six Multistate Essay Examinations in the afternoon (30% of overall score). MPTs are packets that feature a fake client with a problem and fake cases/statutes that must be synthesized and organized into a coherent format based on what is being asked of the applicant. MEEs are essay questions, which are ordinarily comprised of multiple parts. The second day is the dreaded Multistate Bar Examination (50% of overall score), which is 200 multiple choice questions (100 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon) handcrafted by some of the most sadistic individuals that aren’t currently incarcerated within federal penitentiaries.

writing-933262_640Since the first day is entirely written, applicants are thankfully able to use laptops to draft answers. With the use of laptops comes the necessity of exam software. About three months before the bar exam, the Missouri Board of Law Examiners sent out an e-mail seeking volunteers to test new exam software. The e-mail mentioned that volunteers would save some money on the laptop usage fee as well as enjoy a smaller testing room (around 50 instead of the usual 600). I immediately responded to the e-mail and was able to secure a spot testing the new software. I eventually received a link to download the new software and instructions on how to submit a practice exam. I followed the steps and went out of my way to really test the software. I started with basic stress testing and was eventually able to crash the software. I was impressed by the software’s recovery from the crash and submitted my practice exam without hesitation or further thought. I was excited about using the new software and mainly excited about being in a smaller testing room. I had even joked with some friends that if I didn’t pass I could just blame it on testing the new software.

It was the morning of July 26, 2016 – the first day of the bar exam. I had about 97 minutes left in the morning session. Things were going well. I was putting the finishing touches on my first MPT. Word count doesn’t necessarily mean anything one way or another for an MPT, but I’ll never forgot 1,703. 1,703 words for my first MPT. I felt some pride about that number. It seemed respectable. I closed my first MPT booklet feeling a surge of confidence. I was starting to believe that I could do this. I opened my second MPT booklet with plenty of time and began dissecting it. After working on my second MPT for quite a bit of time, I was becoming irritated. I could not make a decision. It wasn’t about a case. It wasn’t about the client’s wishes. It wasn’t something in the task memo. It was a formatting decision. I couldn’t decide the wording for my first heading. I typed it one way and then immediately wanted to change it. About thirty seconds later, I changed it back. After another minute staring at it, I changed it again. I finally felt like I had it the way I wanted it and glanced up at the clock. Thirty minutes remained on the timer. The head proctor made the standard announcement. For whatever reason, when thirty minutes remain in the bar exam, no one is allowed to leave his/her seat. There are no exceptions to this rule: no bathroom breaks, no leaving early, etc. Once thirty minutes remain, the doors are locked and that’s it.

I was in great shape as I came to the final stage in my second MPT.

I had sketched out everything I wanted and just needed to fill out the details. I was changing another heading when it hit me: the wording in my first heading looked stupid – I had to change it. Since I hadn’t made that many changes in my answer, I started hitting the undo command (ctrl + z) to try to get back to my previous wording. As I kept hitting the command, I realized that I had changed more than I initially thought since that heading. I pressed it again. And again. Again. Irritated, I pressed it two more times in rapid succession. The screen flashed and the document looked different. I started reading it. This was my first MPT answer. I looked over to the side of the program. Both answers had 1,703 words. I clicked to my first answer. It was intact with all 1,703 words. When I clicked to my second answer, it was identical. Exactly. The. Same. I remember telling myself: “You’re a computer guy. You can figure this out. Just take a second and start troubleshooting.” As I took that second, I watched the following words flash across the bottom of the screen: “All changes have been saved.”

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The last thing I remember is thinking: “I need a proctor right now.” Some expletives were probably laced in that thought, but it’s all a bit blurry. I remember a cold aura radiating from my spine. Then, there was nothing. No color. No sound. Nothing. Everything was black. I could hear a distant voice and there was this ungodly hot feeling on my face. The voice slowly came into focus: “Sir, are you okay? Sir! Sir! Sir, are you alright?” I realized that the searing sensation was this lady’s hand on my face. I remember that her hand felt so warm. Almost scalding. My senses slowly crept back into commission. I felt like someone had hit me in the jaw with a baseball bat. The pain was a deep throbbing agony that radiated along the entire right side of my head. My glasses were bent out of shape. I could taste blood and realized my tongue was cut. I was now sitting up on the floor and another proctor had brought me a glass of water (which is ordinarily forbidden at the testing desks, but I had found a nifty loophole in the system). After some water, I was able to point to my laptop and rasp out something about my situation. I returned to my seat as one of the proctors went and got the IT specialist in the back of the room. [It’s worth noting that this is the same guy who had to help me find my testing seat because I couldn’t navigate the room with my pre-test nerves.]

Once he reached my desk, I explained what happened and he took my computer to the back of the room to work on it. One of the proctors brought me a blue book and told me that if my digital answer couldn’t be recovered, I’d have to submit a handwritten answer. By this point, it had started to sink in that there was a possibility that I might have lost all of my second answer. This overwhelming feeling of dread coupled with the fact that I thought my head might explode resulted in a less than desirable test taking environment. I couldn’t catch my breath. No matter how deeply I inhaled, I felt like I wasn’t getting any oxygen. I was sweating buckets. Now, I know people use that phrase all the time, but I was sweating with a passion. It was disgusting. My test booklets and bluebook were saturated with sweat. I tried to write an answer. I tried to write anything. It was unsuccessful. It looked like hieroglyphics. The bluebook kept sticking my arm. Half of the hieroglyphics that I had carved into my bluebook were now smudged and smeared into what could only be described as wingdings.

About five minutes later, the IT guy returned and I caught a glimpse of what looked like my second MPT answer. He asked if this was where I had left off, I told him it was good enough and thanked him. I spent the next 20 minutes spewing words into my answer. I’m not sure how much of it made sense, but I just knew I needed to finish filling out the content under my obviously perfectly worded headings. I became an expert in concise reasoning. Unfortunately for me, however, I was not able to clean up everything in my answer and I am reasonably confident that somewhere in my answer I wrote the following sentence: “Dogs are not children.” It made sense based on the problem. I swear.

The proctor called time.

I hit the “End Exam Session” button on my software, stacked my MPT booklets, and started looking around. A lot of people were looking at me. I’m not sure if it was because I just had just attacked the carpet with my face during the bar exam or because of the sweating. Let’s hope it was the former. I was becoming a bit self-conscious about the sweat. Once the proctor released us for lunch, I was mobbed by colleagues and fellow applicants. Everyone wanted to know what happened. Everyone needed a medical history. Everyone was worried. It was a good feeling. There was hope for this profession. I explained what happened with my software. When they heard about the glitch, most people said they would’ve freaked out worse than I had or just left. The guy sitting behind me said I just went down without a word or anything. He told me that I was probably out cold for close to a minute. I asked him if I said anything embarrassing as I was coming to consciousness. He assured me that I hadn’t. People in the back of the room said they had heard a thud, but didn’t know what happened. I felt bad for being a distraction, but people assured me that it was fine. I sought out the proctors and thanked them for making sure I was okay.

As I made my way to the back of the room, the IT guy wanted to chat. I gladly explained what I could remember. It wasn’t his fault and I am so thankful he was able to recover the answer. I don’t think anyone plans for someone to spam the life out of the undo command during a bar exam, but hopefully they will update the software before the next bar exam. As I made my way into the atrium of the hotel, I was met with more eyes. I think people must’ve thought I died when I fell. Since our testing room was only 70ish people, it took the proctors a lot less time to pass out and collect test books, which meant we were able to get out for lunch sooner. As a result, I was back to my hotel room before the larger testing room was released for lunch. Once I got upstairs I immediately changed my undershirt. I would say that I sweat more than the average person, but this was the first time that I could remember actually being able to wring out an article of clothing. I cranked up the air conditioning. I tried to eat some lunch and calm down. Neither task was successful. Thankfully I was able to keep down water. I felt like someone was driving a semi truck across the right side of my face. While I was lying down, I took some time to try to bend my glasses back into a recognizable shape. I set a timer on my phone and listened to some music while I tried to just relax.

I made my way back downstairs for round 2. I still felt like trash, but this day wasn’t over yet. As I entered the atrium, a few people approached me and asked what happened. I explained the situation quickly and thanked them for their concern. I could tell that some people had heard, but thankfully it wasn’t global yet. I got some water and prepared for the MEEs. Within 20 minutes of starting the MEEs, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I put my head down for a few minutes. I felt like a VIP applicant because for the entirety of the MEE portion there was a proctor within 20 feet of me. I just could not shake the throbbing pain in my face.

ChewedPenOn top of that, I still felt woozy. I chewed up a pen to distract myself. I focused on my breathing. I would type a sentence and take a 15 second break. About halfway through, I was cooked. I had nothing left to give. I was so ashamed because I had worked so hard, but I had to tap out. I wanted to lie down. I wanted to sleep. I wanted out of that room. I closed my booklet and put my hands on the desk to start to sit up. As I shifted my weight off my chair, everything faded out. All I could hear was a high pitched ringing. Shapes and colors swirled in front of me. Well, so much for trying to leave. I had already passed out once. I didn’t want to eat carpet again.

After another 20 minutes of resting and trying to throw some words at the MEEs, the fog started to lift. I started to feel human again.

It was game time. I started cranking out answers like it was my job, which was great because I needed some type of catalyst to make it through this. Anyone that knows me knows that I type louder than a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant. With my newfound vigor, I’m sure that I was typing even louder than that. It’s amazing how such a small laptop keyboard could make so much noise. I felt sorry for my neighbors, but they seemed like smart people that could handle it, so I (key)pressed on. Once the proctor called time, I actually felt pretty good about what I submitted. Somehow. I was just so glad to be done. I got the hell out of there, retreated to my room, and contacted my friends to see what the plans were for the evening.

I don’t remember much of the rest of the evening. I remember fragments, but I can’t distinctly remember the sequence of events. I think there were Buffalo wings involved at some point. I remember telling my friends what happened. I remember the IT guy offering to buy me a drink for my troubles. I usually remember everything, so it’s beyond frustrating to be typing this and not able to recall all the details. Contrary to popular belief, this had nothing to do with alcohol. I would later be told that the memory loss, along with my other symptoms from the day, were consistent with suffering a concussion. I had never had a concussion before. Hell, I had never passed out before. It was quite an exciting day of firsts for me. Another thing I remember, however, was calling my parents to tell them how the first day went. That was hilarious.

I remember waking up for the second day.

I remember having a headache. I remember bits and pieces of the multiple choice questions. I distinctly remember the rumor mill being in full effect following yesterday’s events. I heard that a guy died taking the bar. I heard that a guy had a heart attack and refused medical attention. I heard that a guy passed out for thirty minutes. I heard a lot of funny variations of what had actually happened. I didn’t correct people. It was more fun that way. Thankfully, the second day was less eventful than the first. After it was all said and done, I met with friends for dinner and just took it easy. I had made it. Somehow. Someway. I had survived the bar.

Fast forward a few weeks and I received a notification that I passed. I think it’s safe to say that I was a little nervous about my chances considering that I took an impromptu nap during the exam, but it turns out all the worrying was for nothing. Thankfully, it was all over. I made it! Not only that, but I had one killer story to share for the rest of eternity: how I passed after passing out.

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An Eventful Road to Becoming a Successful Health Care Attorney

GUEST BLOG by Jackson Long,
1L at SMU Dedman School of Law

image001.jpgBrian Higgins, Esq. took an eventful road to becoming a successful health care attorney.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Brian went to Denison University located outside of Columbus, Ohio. In college, Brian earned his B.A. in Spanish while playing for the school’s soccer team. Upon graduation, he decided to take a teaching position in Spain for a year.

Now for the eventful part.

Upon graduation from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Brian faced the daunting challenge of the July 2015 Bar exam. He studied for fifty consecutive days with a bar prep company (that wasn’t BARBRI). His preparation wasn’t as clear or concise as he would have hoped and it led to a “super nervous” feeling heading into exam day.

After the agonizing wait, Brian had to take in the bad news of a failed attempt. “It felt like a death,” he said. “It was debilitating for a few days. I always thought I was smart and I couldn’t believe other people passed when I didn’t.”

That’s when Brian found BARBRI’s online course. It was important to him to seek out another prep strategy to improve his results. BARBRI worked with Brian throughout the process before his second opportunity at the Bar exam.

“The fill-in-the-blank outlines, the elements of the law, the organized structure of BARBRI all stick out,” Brian says. “It’s easy to digest and seeing BARBRI’s program allowed me to identify some of the flaws of my previous preparation. BARBRI is the master of bar exam prep.”

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Brian’s results from his next bar exam were masterful as well. He finished in the 98th percentile of all test takers statewide and the feeling of that kind of success made the long journey worth it. “I was overwhelmed with joy; so happy to have overcome that hurdle. It made me feel like I had nothing left to prove.”

He says the impact of BARBRI’s preparation was paramount in his stellar performance. “Do BARBRI 100 percent. Don’t mess around. They will work with you and truly care about your success.”

Currently, Brian works at one of the biggest firms in Cincinnati with the health care services team. His goal is to become an expert in the health care industry and eventually advise hospital systems and life sciences companies. Now that he’s in the door, his options are limitless.

“After passing the Bar exam, I felt like I could do anything. BARBRI opened up that door for me – a door that has led to so many incredible opportunities.”

 

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5 Strategies I Used to Get My 2nd Law License Faster

By Sam Farkas, 
BARBRI curriculum architect and instructor

5 Strategies I Used To Minimize Time And Maximize Success On My 2nd Bar Exam

I took my first bar exam in the state of Florida in 2012.

Through my role at BARBRI, I help students every day prepare for success on the bar exam; however, when I personally began preparing for my second state bar exam (Georgia) this past February, I seriously questioned whether I was up for it—particularly given the demands on my time and my work responsibilities.

I invariably recalled the stressful and angst-ridden few months following graduation from law school when I marshalled every ounce of effort to pass the most important test of my professional career the first time.

As I began studying for the exam though, I realized that the skills, knowledge and grit that I had cultivated over the past few years impacted how I prepared for the exam.

5 ways in which I approached studying
for my second bar exam differently:

5. I treated the bar exam like a client

Every minute matters. Most of us have learned how to maximize efficiency by putting every minute of available time to good use. Moreover, many of us are well practiced at juggling multiple client matters throughout the day, moving seamlessly from one task to the next.

I treated bar preparation like a client matter and decided how much time per day I could spend on it. I kept track of my time and moved on when I needed to work on something else. Where I could, I filled breaks in my day with some focused study. A half an hour of review during my lunch break or answering practice MBE questions on my mobile device while waiting for an appointment were great ways to maximize what limited time I had to devote to studying.

4. I obtained the right preparation resources

Of course I had access to BARBRI materials; however, I didn’t need the exact same materials that I needed my first time around. I wanted the right combination of the best study resources so that I could study the most efficiently.

These insights went directly into the development of the new BARBRI Attorney’s Course. This Attorney’s Course is all online and provides a streamlined study plan that allowed me to pinpoint my personal topic and subtopic weaknesses so I could spend time working on the areas that would most benefit MY personal exam score. This strategy was critical in maximizing my time while still putting me in the best position possible to be successful on the exam.

3. I maximized efficiency

To make the best and most efficient use of my limited study time, I had to determine which subjects deserved the most effort and prioritize my study accordingly. I found, like most of you likely will, that I had developed a very sophisticated understanding of a few areas and a better understanding of many additional areas of law since my first exam.

All subjects are not necessarily treated equally on the exam based on jurisdiction; therefore, I evaluated which subjects required a more in-depth review and prioritized those over other subjects that required (or deserved) less time. The benefit of the BARBRI Attorney’s Course is that we’ve already figured out that weighting for you.

For me, and I believe for most, familiarity with the subject and the amount of time I needed to dedicate to learning the rules in a subject dictated the best method of study, and it was a little different for each subject. Sometimes I relied more on the lectures during my daily commute and other times I really needed to review written materials.

2. I played to my strengths

The bar exam is a test of legal problem-solving. Sure, knowledge of the law is important, but well developed legal problem solving skills, strong reading comprehension skills, and sheer endurance will take a person very far on this exam.

As licensed attorneys, we have spent our professional career sharpening these skills and are adept at breaking down even the most complex of problems. Luckily, legal problems on the bar are much more straightforward and simple than what we encounter in practice.

In practice, I am accustomed to studying the law through the context of actual legal problems. Therefore, when preparing for the exam, I strengthened my knowledge of the rules by frequently working practice problems—both multiple choice and essay.  I also made good use of the model answers to reinforce my knowledge of the black letter rules.

1. I kept the big picture in mind

Above all, I maintained my focus on the goal: passing the exam, which I did.  The bar exam is a test of minimum competency. Expertise and specialized knowledge are not required for success. I had already passed the bar once and am already a licensed attorney. Sure, I may have had to learn some state-specific law or brush up on the common law majority rules, but mastery of every rule— or even every subject—was not necessary! I just needed to earn enough points to get a passing score.

If you find yourself contemplating another state bar exam, we at BARBRI wish you all the best and always know that BARBRI is here to help you Own The Bar….again.

 

About the BARBRI Attorney’s Course: 

The BARBRI Attorney’s course builds upon your knowledge and skills to get you to your next law license, faster. This attorney-focused course saves you time by:

  • Providing a streamlined, all online experience constructed to save you precious, valuable time
  • Bypassing many basic bar exam test taking skills critical for first time takers
  • Getting you quickly to the most highly tested areas of the exam overall and within each subject
  • Pinpointing your topic and subtopic weaknesses so you can spend time working the areas of law that will most benefit your exam score.

Licensed attorneys studying for the exam in a state in which the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is administered or California may enroll in this course at this time.

Learn more here: Attorney’s Course