Sunday, August 24, 2008

My FAQs of the California Bar Exam

Here are some of the [silly] questions I had, which I was forced to ask of previous testers.

Q: They limit the things I can bring into the exam room. What if I want to bring my lunch?
A: The secured exam area is larger than the exam room. In Oakland, it was the hallway that led to the exam room. Everyone stashes their bags with lunch and notes in that hallway, and they have security guards posted to prevent random folks from wandering in.

Q: Should I bring an extension cord? What if there aren't enough outlets for my laptop?
A: They run electrical lines on the ground next to the tables. There were actually two outlets per person!

Q: How do I upload my exams? Does the exam room have wireless?
A: The exam room probably will not have wireless. After you get back to your hotel or home each evening, start up your computer. The SofTest program will automatically prompt you to upload your exams, which it will do automatically when you're connected to the internet and have the program open.

Q: What happens if there's an earthquake during my exam?
A: This year there was an earthquake in Los Angeles. The CA Bar released a notice, with this relevant information:

Grading of the examination will be conducted in accordance with the Committee of Bar Examiners (Committee) standard procedures. During the grading process, however, the Committee’s psychometric consultant has been asked to perform a psychometric study on whether the earthquake impacted applicants’ performance on the first session of the examination and to report his findings to the Committee prior to the release of results from the examination. The Committee will consider its consultant’s findings and determine what action, if any, should be taken to ensure that all applicants are treated as fairly as possible.

Q: Can I bring my cell phone in my pocket?
A: Nope, don't risk it. If you get caught with a phone, it's a Rule 12 violation that will be reported to the Moral Character Committee.

Q: What's this Rule 12 violation they're constantly threatening during the instructions on exam day?
A: I have absolutely no idea.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


So I've returned from a lovely bar trip, ready to share my bar experience.

I stayed at a hotel across the street from the testing center. The first night I fell asleep pretty easily, with the clock alarm, my cell phone alarm, and a text message from my SO, all set to wake me. Unnecessary, as I woke a few minutes before they went off.

The test center was a huge warehouse, with giant ultra-bright lights shining down on row after row of narrow tables. People were crowded about and waiting outside the testing area that first day, naked pillows in hand (pillow cases being prohibited).

We showed our mailed registration cards; the applicant number was your seat number, ordered chronologically by when you registered to take the test (if you want to be at the front of the room, register immediately). There were about 1000 people in the Oakland test center. No one freaked out or harassed a proctor, that I saw. You become friendly with your seat mates.

The laptop program loaded correctly for almost everyone, as far as I could tell. I felt adrenaline, but wasn't overly anxious. The only internal lurch I felt was when the proctor said, "Proctors, please distribute the exams." ::Gulp::

They passed out the packets. We were told to begin. I opened the first page of the essay packet: ethics. As promised. I relaxed; it felt exactly like I was taking one of the Barbri practice essays. I had a watch, but I finished before an hour and then turned the page again: Con law and Crim law crossover. I adored this question. It was about whether the president had the power to create a law mandating businesses to respond to "national security requests" without a warrant. Could the president do that? Was it a search under the 4th Amendment? I'm quite interested in and have experience with privacy issues, and I genuinely had a good time hashing out all the arguments both ways. The third was a contracts problem, common law as promised.

At lunch my barmate didn't want to talk about answers, and that was fine with me.

By Day 2 there was no anxiety; I was hitting the snooze button on the alarm. Multiple choice, 800 decisions to make. For each fact set there was only one question, unlike Barbri. I found the first set challenging, the second easier.

Day 3, we were all prepared for the Civ Pro and/or Evidence with CA distinctions, which were introduced two years ago and had yet to appear. They were promised to us; they did not appear. Remedies, Property (tenancy), Community Property.

The Performance Tests were also shocking: each contained only one part. For the first we were instructed to write a memo evaluating our client's case in a false imprisonment claim. The second was applying an 8-factor test to determine whether a custodial interrogation occurred, necessitating Miranda. No closing argument + P&A, no combo anything. One question, both with exceptionally simple cases and files. Beautiful.

For each 3 hour segment I had plenty of time, particularly the last PT that I edited to perfection. The MBE was a bit tighter, but I still had time to review 20 or 30 questions when I was done.

They called that final time and we all clapped and cheered, smiled and congratulated each other. For so long you've thought about this moment, that moment of being done.

Overall I felt good. We'll see: November 21.

Next post: answers to the bar exam FAQs they never mention.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Yes, I am done! I'm bursting with things I want to post about (my answers to the true bar exam FAQs, what was going on in my mind, how hard it was, etc.) but right now I'm on holiday as they say, here in Europe.

I'll be back August 20th, but I wanted to drop a line here to say I survived, and that I felt good about how it went, and most importantly, to give my deepest thanks to the folks who dropped me a line (by blog comment, email, phone call, Facebook post, or text message) wishing me luck and giving me encouragement. It really made a difference and warms my heart to think of it.