Thursday, 31 July 2008

Visiting Albany

Sunday (21,234 calories, 1 unit alcohol, no cigarettes- though I could have done with some.)

. don't worry, I don't go in for that Bridget Jones rubbish. (except for the Mr Darcy bit, obviously!). On the Sunday before the exam, I started to get sick. Seriously hampered my last minute cramming ability as there were several of the small areas I still had to learn - like Corporations, Agency and Partnership and Conflicts. And Federal Jurisdiction.
Ok, by Sunday I still had a lot to learn. I don't think I ever finished the mouse story - I caught the second one on Sunday night as well - which was good as we didn't want to come home to either a kitchen crawling with mice, or the tempting perfume of dead mouse caught in a trap!

Monday I felt a bit better, but it was just a lull in the storm as I would find out. Monday we also took the train up to Albany, which was about 2 and a half hours into upstate New York. Really nice scenery going up there, and the trains were nice and comfy. The river views were spoilt on me though, my brain was so Bar exam-embroiled that when I saw the river all I could think of were the different theories of riparian rights (natural and prescription, if you're interested...).

And so to Albany. It seems every one else had decided to take the same train, because it was full of people cramming Property and New York Practice. We got to Albany station and were shuttled to our hotel. No 5 star splendour for us - all that was left was a Holiday Inn, 4 miles from the testing location.

You see, the majority of people taking the Bar are funded (in the same was as Firms pay for the LPC) by BigLaw lawfirms. And so as the lawfirms do this every year, they book all the hotel rooms (and Albany is nothing but hotel rooms, but more on that later) up way in advance - by January/February you're hard pushed to get a room downtown during Bar exam dates. And so when the self-funded schmucks like myself come round to booking, you get stuck in a Holiday Inn 4 miles away.

Now, don't get me wrong- I'm no snob about hotels or nuffink. But as we were to find out, this town was not ready for 20,000 exam applicants to descend upon it. Taxis would not guarantee times, because everyone wanted one. When you managed to order one to the hotel, people stole it (the morning of the exam). The hotel's 'free' shuttle service? All booked up - and also totally useless, and the staff were no help. This is where staying in a posh hotel helps, because you basically pay for them to get crap done - and be nice to you!

And so, on Tuesday, the New York day of the Exam, we had ordered a taxi, which someone stole and then waited around. When another taxi pulled up, and we got in with another couple to split the ride, she informed us that it would be $12 each. Which is not much, granted, but it sounded fishy. Upon later investigation - i.e. asking a nice taxi driver later - she had indeed ripped us off, and should only have charged us $12 for the 1st person, $2 each after that, and that we should contact the Dept of Commerce! (there were 5 of us in there, it was a big car). It's not the amount that counts here, it's the fact that someone is ripping you off because they know you have to get to a Bar exam and you have no choice.

Waiting to get into the exam hall, was like hell. Winding lines of people who had no idea where they were going, but somehow we knew we were destined for a common evil. Except once you got inside, rather than being hot - it was freezing! We had been advised to bring layers, but I hadn't anticipated needing a bear fur to get me through it! We were presented with green bracelets on entering the room, that were not to be removed for the 2 days.

And so by lunchtime, Albany - normally a dead capital town, with only state politicians wandering around - was filled with thousands of students with green armbands, carrying their belongings in transparent plastic sandwich bags. It's an incredibly anonymous experience.
As for actual lunch, I counted 1 cafe, a Starbucks and something like a Subway. To cater to us all.
The exam itself on Tuesday, was hard. We were 2 to a table, about 200 in my room, which was a small room. I'm glad I wasn't in one of the massive lecture halls. I think I did ok, there was about a 1/3 of each question that I had no idea about, but I think I did ok in the rest of the questions. I did mess up a little on time, spending too long on the first question, and then writing my answers in the wrong booklets (doh). In the afternoon I also made a massive boo-boo by not reading carefully and so my answer was 1/2 wrong in the MPT task. Which would explain why I ran out of time! By the last 5 minutes, I was writing so hard and fast that my writing was illegible and I could hear my neighbour tutting as the table was shaking!

I was one of those people that you hate in exams. Getting up constantly to go to the loo, sniffling, and dropping my pen. And asking for more paper.

But by Wednesday I was worse. Add coughing and sneezing, and a fair bit of groaning to the mix. My cold was hitting its peak of general ickyness and fuzzy-headedness - which was great on the multistate day, which requires you to be able to think fast on those multi-choice questions. The morning was tough, and people looked dazed by lunchtime. I did not like my chances of being any higher than chance on that portion. The prep I had done did not seem to have prepared me at all, the MCQs were so hard!

Luckily, the afternoon seemed easier - which is just as well as I had real problems thinking straight. They were shorter and more straightforward, so I didn't need to spend as long on each. Which for me, meant I could spend longer just trying to get my eyes and brain to focus. Halfway through the afternoon I thought I couldn't carry on because I just wanted to curl up and sleep and/or die - but I powered on until the end. And I was done with the Bar exam!

I walked down Capitol Hill to go find Boy and collect our bags. We were getting the hell out of Albany! The people were unfriendly, the food sucked (the last two days we had had Holiday Inn for breakfast, where the eggs and the hashbrowns tasted identical. As did the coffee and danish, and in the evenings the only option was a Sports Grill bar which just served fried stuff, the most of which I couldn't eat (being a semi-veggie and all)) and you couldn't find a taxi.

We had to wait for a while at the train station, and then the train stopped in the middle of nowhere for ages, and then the subway took frigging ages (as it was late night by then and it was stopping at all the stops) but eventually, we were back to NYC, if a tad dazed and confused, and back to our little corner of Park Slope. Where there are vegetables, friendly shopkeepers and taxis aplenty.

Now it's done with, I think it went ok ish. I think I have an equal chance of passing or failing - MCQ is really not my thing. I'm not too fussed, to be honest.

Just as long as I never have to go back to Albany!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

10907 you may leave the exam room

Finished the exam...less than an hour ago. Waiting for a train back to NYC now.

May I never have to set foot in the Gehenna that is Albany!

Blow by blow account of the horrors to follow. I just plan to sleep for 18 hours or so first....

Monday, 28 July 2008

Walking into the Bar exam

Bar exam is tomorrow and Wednesday. *gulp*. I'm developing a cold, which should be in full swing tomo/weds. Murphy and his sodding law!

I feel ok ish with Wills, NY Practice, Crim Pro, some of Property, Domestic relations, maybe contracts...I still need to do some work on Corporations and some of the minor subjects (conflicts, Federal Jurisdiction) for the New York day, and then tomorrow night I'll do last minute Multistate questions on the big 6 topics (Crim law/ Pro, Evidence, Real Property, Constitutional Law, Contracts and Torts). I know you're not meant to study the day before, and the night of an exam - but desperate times, desperate measures. Even if it doesn't help it's not like not studying is going to help me. Boy and I have been quizzing each other most of the weekend, interspersed with my moaning 'I'm not weellll, it's not fair....' (you can see the attraction, can't you?). a few short hours up I go to Albany, where I will be staying in a luxurious Holiday Inn for the exam days. (Everything is booked up well before I thought to book). I will still have to get a taxi to the exam as a result, which is a pain, rather than being able to walk in if I'd found a hotel in the conference district. Anyway, no biggie!

Most people (myself included) assume that a big city like NYC is the state capital. Wrong - crappy little towns elsewhere (Albany, NY, Olympia - Washington (instead of Seattle), Salem - Oregon (instead of Portland) etc) are selected as state capitals in order to boost the fledgling economy there. As a result, the only thing you would go to Albany for is: a conference, the Bar exam, or maybe to file a corporation certificate in person?! I don't know.

Will update on the flat florae and faunae situation - fairly funny story - later!

Wish me luck! Adieu, mes amis!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Eek! A mouse!

So, I was having dinner with my girlfriend the other night. She had had a big bust up with her bloke, and swanned off for a night in a posh hotel - and naturally she needed my help to fill up the huuuuge fluffy bed and nick all the toiletries. A friend in need is a friend indeed and all that!

So, we were at dinner, and as a pair of London lasses in the Big Apple we were talking about London things and New York things. My friend was just moving into a new flat, in the Upper East Side, an area she had chosen because a lot of the flats and condos were new and didn't suffer the same infestation problems you get in old places, all over the city. Cool places like Greenwich Village, Soho are particularly bad because of the combo of old buildings, and lots of restaurants throwing out a lot of rubbish. So the place is teeming with rodents and roaches. Lovely.

I thought then how lucky I had been to not be somewhere infested, I would not be able to sleep a wink in a house with roaches!!

The next day, it was a dog hot day - I took about 50 showers, incl one just before going to bed. I get out of the shower and head to the kitchen for a cool glass of water when Boy stops me.

"Don't come in here"

"Why?!" (I'm getting ready to get a bit bolshie - no one tells me where to go)

"There's a mouse"

At this point I note Boy's position, sat on a chair with his legs pulled up.

Indeed there are two mice, scampering round a corner of the kitchen, he tells me. He adds that he thinks they're mice... but they could be rats...

You think I jinxed myself at dinner?!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Bill of Rights? I scoff in your badly drafted face

I hate constitutional law.

No, I love constitutional law. Ethics, principles, right and wrong and all that. Helping people and making society a better place. Good stuff.

I hate AMERICAN constitutional law. Because it is stupid. Really, it is.

The gradual, so called 'protection' and 'rights' that have been developed haven't been done in any principled way, which is what I expected of a country with a written constitution. I'm used to things like the ECHR which says you know - Right to life, in section ('s been a while) blah blah, and lo and behold there you will find the right to life, and close by all the other rights, sitting quietly together and eating croissants (they're european init?).

Where will you find rights protected in the Constitution? Under the Privileges and Immunities of Citizenship clause? Not really, that store is all but empty apart from a few dusty right to travel issues. Maybe under the Equal protection clause? Kinda, except only against the local government, not against the big, federal government.

No, you'll find civil rights protection since about, er, all of it (what little there is, but that's just me being snarky) under the Commerce Clause. Yes, the commerce clause. It's like the Supreme Court and congress and academics have sat and thought 'Hmm where's a good place to put this that I'll remember easily, that makes sense?' and then shoved it in any old nook and cranny, like a wayward teenager cleaning his room by just shoving everything under the bed.

Or a senile aunt putting the phone in the freezer and not remembering until she goes to defrost a chicken. And also finds the cat there. American constitutional law is as logical as the mind of a senile old biddy.

It's doing this senile biddy's nut in! Maybe I can plead the 5th in my exam - now, that's either the right to not incriminate myself by (filling in wrong answers), or the requirement that everyone sing the national anthem, hand on heart at ballgames. There's no way to know which...

Monday, 21 July 2008

Will do better next time

I don't know about anyone else, but I've always been a bit of a last minute person. School projects done on the last night, tutorial reading done on the tube or trying to blagg it in class. Prepping for a moot half an hour before each round, promising myself that next round I would do more prep. Even when I got to the final round, when there wasn't a next time.

Anyway, try as I might I simply haven't been able to get rid of this awful habit of not getting anything done until the 59th minute of the 11th hour. Which is why I ended up writing an essay for submission to Barbri for marking on the subway....

There was some logic to this. I thought, rather than spend the full 90 minutes (it was an MPT which is all about 'lawyer skills', not substantive law) I'll do it without looking at the handout and see what I can produce 'naturally', i.e. what I would be able to do if all else fails in the exam. It arrived in the post yesterday - I passed! I found this rather hilarious.

Unfortunately the MPT is only worth 10% - still that's 5% I can count on in the exam. Not sure I can say the same about property at the moment...I'm drowning in vested contingent interests and remaindermen :S Whoever they are.

Next time I take the Bar I really will work harder....!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Anti-social pre-exam jitters.

A while ago, I met a good friend's new girlfriend. She had been the year above, or a couple of years above me, and upon meeting her I realised that she was the rather surly, serious looking girl I had sometimes seen at uni. Which was fine, all 3rd years seemed quite serious (when I got to 3rd year, I realised why). What did not impress me was that she had once shushed me loudly in the library, when I was talking. I was trying to help some foreign students find their way! So it wasn't a great first impression, as I thought that was frankly a bit uptight.

And now I have become a wretched parody of that. In an attempt to make a dent in the recommended 12 hours minimum work a day (!!!!) set by BarBri (which for me is prob very necessary as I haven't been doing the 6 hours a day to date...) we've been going to the Brooklyn Public Library. Which has a very pretty facade, and is nice and cool inside. But stress makes me irritable - with the result that every slight noise, smell irritates the heck out of me.

Americans seem to think that it's an infringement on freedom to not have 24-hour access to food, so to this end people eat on the train, in lectures, in exams, and even in libraries. Now I think the latter is plainly wrong ( I mean eating in the subway just seems like a bad idea - it's basically an open sewer) but in the library I really do not want a large woman chomping her way loudly through a basket of oranges in my face. Especially when she's dribbling and the smell is distracting.

I mean gahd. And someone in there was BREATHING REALLY LOUDLY. Did they grow up in a barn?!*

If exams achieve one thing, it's to make us Scrooges!

* that part was a joke, Kinda. But the food thing was annoying.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Domestic Relations, monkeys.

Had my last lecture today - Domestic relations. All about how Harry and Wanda (H + W) get married, have kids, and what happens when things go wrong. Pretty easy going stuff, as the lecturer noted, we are more than familiar in today's society with family break ups and stuff. And a day spent watching crappy daytime tv will probably educate you in all elements of adultery, paternity conflicts, maintenance and child custody spats...!

A suitably low-brow note to end the course on. Bar exam is 2 weeks today - eek! I'm feeling ok about some subjects - Wills and Dom Rel (above) have seemed more straightforward that I was expecting. So I may be ok on the New York (essay) day - which was the day I was really worried about after all, still have lots of work to put in though because there are lots of subjects - Civil procedure remains the impenetrable behemoth!

On the multiple choice side - it's proving tricky with subjects like Torts, where all the answer choices could be right depending on how you judge the situation. I hope in the exam they are clearer instances of e.g., negligence or non -negligence than the practise q's I've done so far reflect!

Post exam- I'll have about a week free to really explore NY. Thinking of a trip up to Niagara Falls, that would be cool. (Or down...? Don't actually know where they are!).

In the meantime I have been listening to the Arctic Monkeys on constant repeat on the old Ipod these days...must download some new music to help stave off the crazy. Am I the only one that needs loud music to dance about like I'm having a fit to in times of stress?

This is when an extra room in the flat would be really helpful, Boy's peals of laughter are somewhat inhibiting! :P

Talking of monkeys though, the BarBri people keep telling us how in many respects, monkeys trained to use 2B pencils could pass portions of the exam, and we are infinitely more qualified than monkeys. Some days I'm really not so sure!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Identity fraud

Looks like someone has hijacked Minx's blog! It can now be found here.

This is a horrible world we live in. Reading the newspaper yesterday brought me to tears. In one, slim daily section this is the selection of stories covered:

-- Guantamano Bay - How prisoners who are appearing pro se are not being allowed paper (to write motions on). Yay for due process.
-- Wiretap laws in the US
-- Darfur - NGOs and other charities being kicked out of the country because they are accused of 'talking to' the ICC and the UN. Human rights extinct like the dodo.
-- Zimbabwe
-- Iraq - see picture above. Man crying over his father's body after a bombing on Thurday. 4 others were wounded.
-- Number of US soldiers killed in Irag to date- 4110.
-- Fraud by a Housing official in New York, who was selling housing vouchers for profit (the vouchers are intended to go to poor people who can't afford housing in NY, so they only pay a proportion of their salary for rent and the govt picks up the rest. So she was screwing over the government, the poor people paying her, and the really poor being denied the vouchers).
-- Iran, nuclear weapons and falsification of pictures.
-- Story on how Israel won't let 3 Fulbright Scholars out of the Gaza strip to take up their scholarships in the US. They have passed US security checks - several times, (and it's bloody hard to get a Fulbright) but Israel has deemed them a 'Security threat'. Right.
Everyone in Gaza is still not allowed out, and nothing is allowed in. And I thought ghettos were out of fashion these days...

Yes, it's a lovely world. And now everyone's identity is being stolen and all. Great.
No wonder people read Heat and the like. Much easier to think about who has a boob job than consider that today is the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Not a pleasant valley Sunday

Yay - paper didn't get nicked today.

Nay - had to be out of the house by 8 to get to an all - day mock exam.

Yay - only a mock, so still a few more weeks 'til the real thing.

Nay - realisation that I didn't even know what area of law some of the questions were about.

Yay - umm. My timing was alright? Managed the 200 multiple choice questions in plenty of time (suggested 1.8 minutes per question, I was a fair bit faster than that but then again going 'eeny meeny miny mo...' is a bit quicker than actually than actually thinking it out.

Nay - I have the answers here ready to self-grade and tot up my score. Maybe I'll leave that for the morning, easier to take bad news when the sun is shining...!

PS - Boy made me laugh when I got home. Commented that there was no food in the fridge. But I just did a big shop yesterday?! I said, and then reeled off all the things I'd bought.
'But those are just ingredients!' he retorts. Haha. Guess the healthkick starts (again) tomo. Darn having a pizzeria round the corner. That delivers...


Ashamed to post this. I totted up my scores and I got...90 out of 200. Okay...89. I think anyway, I scribbled down my answers really roughly on scrap, and some may have gotten mixed up. Either way, it's 90 give or take a few. Well short of the 105 national average.

I mean it's understandable given I've done no work. Actually I was expected closer to 40. And I still have 2 Property lectures to make up so I couldn't have answered 2/3 of 33 questions with anything but guesswork. And for some reason Con law would not go in my head. There are 80 easy questions, 10 aren't marked (test questions for the next year), 20 are really hard, and the others are in between.

A passing mark in the exam is 125... so I have a fair bit of work to do. Just looking roughly, I mostly got questions wrong in Property, Constitutional law, and a few in Torts - surprisingly, cos that's an easy subject. Evidence and Crim I did ok in - which makes sense, as the lecturer in that subject was good, and they were one of the very first subjects. Whereas a week in I already wasn't paying attention I reckon.

Anyway, there's 12 hours of analysis to listen to online...better get cracking!!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Itchy Feet

Not for want of hygiene, my feet are often itchy. Especially when I see things like this. Isn't it brill?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Hard at work

The title of the post unfortunately doesn't refer to me, although by now I really need to kick my ass into gear. Slight mixing of metaphors there, but go with me.

Rather, the other day when in the library and I noted someone snoring loudly in the corner, I poked Boy to say 'Look, he's working as hard as you are'. At then we went back to working (or surfing the web, as the case may have been...) for a bit. 10 minutes later, a loud crash is heard and the guy who had been snoring had fallen off his chair. People rushed over, but it became apparent that he had actually just fallen off his chair whilst sleeping. At which point it became a bit funny.

He may have had a couple of drinks, looked a bit worse for wear. In which case it seems a bit odd to go to a library, but there you go.

Yesterday I had a Trusts class, with a rickety old professor who lectured while sitting down (this still all on video). I've actually only got another 3 classes to go, eek! So I learned a few things about trusts.

In fact I probably learned more about trusts than I ever knew. I may have mentioned but I never really 'did' trusts in uni. The night before the exam, I was sure that I could learn it all in a night but then swiftly changed my mind when it became apparent I couldn't. As it was a combined Land Law/Trusts exam I was able to wing it on land law and scrape by somehow.

So I'm not in the best place to tell you what is different over here with Trusts, but a couple of things did strike me:

- the lecturer kept saying that Constructive Trusts and Resulting Trusts weren't really trusts, but equitable remedies. Well, ok in a strict sense maybe, but surely the Constructive Trust was the 'original' trust? Richard the Lionheart and people going off to the Crusades and leaving their property in 'trust' with others and all, wasn't that how it started? (I always listened when it seemed like we were going to get a 'story' in class).

- the Totten Trust. A cheap way of creating a trust, by opening a bank account in your name 'on trust for [Someone else]'. When you die, whatever is left in there goes to them. Until then you can take out, put in, shake it all about whichever way you like, with impunity. I thought that quite nifty. Maybe all this study (or not) is making me soft.

Currently listening to a Constitutional Law for Foreign Lawyers lecture online. It's full of the interesting stuff, the Federalist papers, separation of powers, individual rights, make-up of the Supreme Court, all the big cases (Brown v Board of Education, Miranda, Madison, etc). Constitutional law makes up 1/6 of the multistate exam, and so it's an important area, but those are all multiple choice questions.
Answer choices along the lines of:
X situation is:
a) Constitutional because XYZ
b) Constitutional because PQR
c) Unconstitutional because ABC
d) Unconstitutional because he is wearing a hat.

Riveting stuff. The other essay based exam won't have hardly any Con law in it, because the Board Examiners shy well clear of anything 'contraversial'. I.e. interesting. Only the dry, settled law would be covered. Yawn!

Supreme Court just handed down this week a judgment about the individual right to 'bear arms'. They came down on the side of constitutionality. Hardly surprising given the conservative nature of the present Supreme Court. Anyone catch Justice Scalia on 'Unreliable Evidence' a couple of months back? I nearly ground all me teeth off!

Haven't seen many guns in NYC mind. Prob just as well, I fear the Bar Exam will only get bleaker...:P