Saturday, July 09, 2005

Practice Exam

Just got home from the six hour practice exam. The first three hours were "issue-spotter" essays on torts, criminal procedure and real property. About 45 minutes into the torts answer I realised that I had misread the question and answered for "A's" liability on the facts for "B." It made me wish I was taking the actual exam on a laptop computer, where a quick cut-and-paste makes the faux pas disapppear. Instead, I'll have to put in one of those tacky "please insert at page six" notes, matched with an "insert text from page 2-3 here." It looked like crap, but more important, it failed to show the illusory mastery of process - carefully outlining before writing -- that the Bar/Bri teachers stress. Don't show confusion even if you feel it. Don't signal to the exam reader that anything is wrong. Fake competence. They read 20-30 essays a night, spending 3-5 minutes at most on each. Don't wake them up from their stupor. Be sheep.

If I don't pass in July, I'm going to work on my touch-typing skills and take the exam the next time on a Mac. Other than that, I thought the essays went well. Spotting issues is somethinG iwas never any good at in law school, but here I even noticed that the real property problem was set in 1989 instead of the present, so the statutory period for to terminate an easement by prescription could have run (truly, don't ask). No doubt I missed some obvious, basic issues, but I'll wait until Monday to find out, and feel semi-smart until then.

The afternoon "performance exam" was a practical and logistical nightmare. I made the mistake of eating a somewhat heavy Mexican lunch, the exam room was hot, my hand was cramping up and my handwriting starting to become illegible, and then my beloved Razor Point pens kept losing their little felt tips - I threw away five during the couse of six hours. I swear they used to make them stronger when I started using them in the mid 1970s -- now they are designed to break, but I'm addicted to them and can't seem to bond with any other pen...

Through it all I kept trying to remember to keep it simple and do less -- on every practice performance exam I've done to date, I've imagined that the level of analysis expected is much greater than it really is, and gotten bogged down in unimportant details, instead of carefully outlining and structuring a basic, passing answer. The same thing happened again today -- but I caught myself. With an hour to go, I was still on the first question of two (worth 60%). I looked at what I had just written and it was pretty bad. But instead of trying to make it better, i went on to the next question, and was eventuially able to work references to all the documents in the Exam Problem "library" into my sheep-like answer. Ba.

Its almost over. Monday and Tuesday we go over this exam, then Bar/Bri is done. At lunch, Jana and I were speculating why our little Bar/Bri group never really "jelled." We never introduced ourselves, never said where we were going to be working, or passed around a list of e-mails and names -- just the normal American, DeTouquevillean quick superficial bonhomie that transitory people like us have engaged in hundreds, if not thousands of times in our lives -- at summer camp, at trade shows, in the office, with colleagues on assignment, in seminars, everywhere.

Most of us, including me, do not even know the names of the majority of other 15 people who have stuck it out in our room. There is something about bar study that makes even the most basic social niceties seem like too much trouble. You would think we might laugh and joke. After all, our "professors" are not even there; they are on videotape from 3,000 miles and a day or two away, and we could hardly be rude to them. But we sit silently, each in our own way trying to be invisible, like new inmates unfamiliar with the customs of prison. But I really am enjoying it! yesterday I studied for 9 1/2 hours (no, not 9 1/2 Weeks...) on my own, and had the satisfaction of putting everything I will ever know about Torts on 44 large index cards.

Meanwhile, the bombs in London two days ago could easily have killed my most important business partners. Both the key people at the two different Lloyds of London operations we are working with (see my earlier posting on Lloyds) commute to work through the Kings Cross Station. I knew that, because when we were visiting I noticed with admiration how incredibly small geographically the financial district in London is -- it started based on the need for insurance people to meet face to face to arrange ship syndications, then get back to their clerks and ledgers, then meet again. all on foot in the course of a morning. So I worried, and was very relieved when we were finally able to reach both of our friends by e-mail (cell phones had been turned off for several hours by the police, apparently because some bombs in other attacks have been detonated remotely by cellphone). One was 100 yards from the blast. The other 100 feet away, and had just passed through the station when the bomb went off.

I know its selfish of me, but when I heard about the attack I feared that the best prospects to make my little Company successful might have gotten blown up. The Brits by contrast refused to show any self-pity or disorder. The CNN reporters seemed almost disappointed that they could not find anyone to get on camera and express sloppy, American-style emotions. Brits have long known terrorism from the IRA, and know that their civilization must outlast any barbarism. It has already survived the Spanish Armada, bloody Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Great War, the Blitz, and even the era of pseudo-Stalinist organized labor, when almost every institution in the country lost its sheen of excellence. After Hitler, what's a few pan-Arab nationalists?

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