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!


Law Minx said...

Droool..... Mr Darcy.... Yummmm..... *Corrects self from Homer Simpsonesque Dribbling Trance*
Hope you're getting over your cold, Mel now that you have done the Wild Thing with respect to the NY Bar - I think colds always annoyingly spring up when you are in the grind of revision, tired and not eating or sleeping properly, such that you get soooo run down a perfectly HORRENDOUS little bug comes along and decides to inconvenience you at a time when you least need or want it !!why does it always happen during the course of exams, but NEVER in the course of employment???!
Either way, it sounds like you've had a seriously rough ride, but you have emerged triumphant! I will have all my fingers crossed for you with respect to the results, but know that I wont have to do that REALLY, because I am SURE that you will be absolutely FINE!! :)

Mel said...

Thanks minx - all better now. Though Boy got sick soon after, but we used it as an excuse to take in copious amounts of chicken soup and laze about watching films.
It is just sods law though isn't it! I had an attractive cold sore to match, but it was only tiny.

Merci, I have fingers and toes crossed. Which may make life difficult until November!