But Wait, What Happens to Standardized Testing?

The education system is currently in a rapid state of flux. COVID-19 has served as a catalyst for massive changes to schools and universities – for better or worse. In the midst of reopening decisions, students are forced to make big decisions about standardized testing. With each type of test having a different policy, they may or may not be able to even take it. And the ones that are still scheduled… will it even happen?

While it’s certainly not the most pressing issue in the world around us, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss the status of standardized testing because really, it serves as a metaphor for the response to COVID-19 in the United States: inconsistency.

As a law student myself, I’m not out of the woods yet. I’ve got two tests left to go: the Bar Exam and the Patent Bar.

The Bar Exam (generally)

The Bar is the most gruesome test of our careers, passing means we can practice law in that state, but failing means we’ve got to wait 6 months before we can try again. It’s also a curved exam, which means only so many of you will pass. The Bar is a brutal experience.

Each state has their own Bar Exam, but many states have adopted the Universal Bar Exam (UBE) in recent years, which standardizes the experience. Though many states have individual requirements and state-specific portions.

To take the Bar, you apply as a candidate. The application process lasts about a year and a half. During this time, you take an exam on professional responsibility, get hammered with character and fitness evaluations, and shell out thousands of dollars. To put it simply, it’s a big deal.

Man, Men, Hand, Person, People, Male, Portrait, Human

States are all over the place on what to do with the July Bar. While some states have offered diploma privilege – an exception where having a law degree is enough to be admitted to the Bar, bypassing the exam entirely. Other states have pushed back the Bar to September/October. From these, some have gone fully online and those that are still trying for an in-person exam, haven’t announced the testing center.

All in all, I’m glad I’m not taking the Bar this year. What is the most stressful time in a law students life is amplified by uncertainty to the highest degree. Watching classmates deal with this is devastating. Their careers are on the line. Most have large amounts of debt and no savings, so the thought of not being able to work at a law firm for months is understandably stressful with the current job market.

The Patent Bar

The Patent Bar is an exam for any person looking to work alongside the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This includes patent attorneys. To qualify for the Patent Bar, you need a bachelor’s degree in engineering/science. Since I do, I qualify for it now. I can take it whenever I want. My only restriction is that once I sign up, I have three months to go to a testing center and take the exam.

There is no generally accepted time to take the Patent Bar. Some students take it while in law school, others once they graduate. Personally, I want to make sure I’m in a good spot for job hunts next summer, so it was something I wanted to do this summer.

The material covers the 29 chapter joy that is the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) – which you get on the test. Though when you realize that you have to answer 100 questions in 6 hours, you realize that you don’t have much time to look through the MPEP.

I’ve been hesitant to start studying because if it’s about memorization, I want to be able to take the test as soon as I’m ready. With testing centers pretty much closed, it doesn’t seem smart to start going through the weeds.

Flashcards, Cards, Paper

Last weekend, thinking I was smart, I made a set of flashcards on the table of contents. It’s several hundred cards of sections and subsections because I thought it would familiarize me with the manual. I use it a bit for work too, so it seemed practical. After three years of not being updated, the MPEP was updated THE DAY AFTER I made the cards. So now I have to go through all of my cards to make sure the chapters and sub-chapters still match. Just my luck.

Everything is such a mess. I can’t possibly predict what standardized testing will look for me or any other student. I’m thankful I’m not a student that requires a test this summer. To all of my fellow students out there, has this year affected your studies? Tell me your stories and we can all stress together. I promise you’re not the only one panicking.

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Looking Back on the Semester and Getting Grades

Amidst adjusting to my new job, I just received my grades for the spring semester. It’s crazy to think I started the blog at the start of the semester and was able to write about my first day of class, the COVID-19 pandemic, all the way to the very last exam.

In that time, I’ve done so much for the blog: I’ve read 15 books (15 more than last year!), began learning calligraphy, revisited music production, and have completely organized most of my life!

So needless to say, not only did I want good grades for personal gain, I also wanted them to work towards achieving for the blog. With Project 1 being dedicated to trying to CALI a law class (getting the highest grade), I felt determined to work towards it.

In light of the grade changes following the school closing for the semester, our classes became pass/fail. I’m excited to say I passed them all! I can’t say I was particularly nervous, but there’s always that one voice in the back of your head that whispers “what if?”

My school also implemented an honors pass which means the top 30% of the class received an honors pass instead of a pass. It doesn’t affect your GPA, but for those that demand competition, it’s what we got.

I received an honors pass in my legal writing class, which means there’s a chance I CALIed in it. If it didn’t, I made it to the top of the class, which honestly is enough for me. I did bet during the last week of class that I had a chance in legal writing. While I’m not going to bet that I got it, we should find out who did in the next few weeks. So who knows, maybe I did complete Project 1?

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I Started a New Job!

Hello! Apologies for the radio silence lately, but I come bearing good news: I started a new job!

I’m extremely grateful the summer position I was given was not cancelled due to the pandemic. Many of my classmates had their opportunities cancelled and of course, with the current economic conditions I expected mine to follow suit.

Usually law firms hire several students each summer. My firm hires a few in anticipation of them collaborating and working together. While there are other students working with me, they all started before me and are in the classes above mine. When paired with the fact that this is my first legal position, I am a bit overwhelmed.

That being said, I’m very excited to be starting this position. I’m working for a great company in the heart of the city and everything feels like an early 2000s Devil Wears Prada-esque movie. Except all the people I work with are lovely.

My days consist of taking the train downtown, walking through the city to my skyscraper, going through the gorgeous marble lobby, and heading to my office. I seriously couldn’t ask for a better gig.

Sheraton Palace Hotel, Lobby, Architecture

In the midst of it all, I’ve failed to update my blog. As it’s still the first week, I’m still transitioning. I’ve been so tired when I get home, I don’t really have many project updates. However, I hope to find some sort of normalcy soon.

Thank you for bearing with me as I get used to my new routine. I promise, I’ll still have plenty of project updates this summer! I’m looking forward to sharing this next chapter with you all!

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The Importance of Being Competitive with Yourself

Hello again! I know I’ve been gone for a while – which is a little ironic seeing as my last few posts included gems like What I Learned from Blogging Every Day and Four Reasons Why Taking a Break Can Boost Your Productivity.

The Writing Competition

I’ve been away working on my law journal writing competition. What started as a three-week chance to earn a spot on a law journal at my school turned into one of the most stressful experiences in recent memory. Something kicked into high gear and I just wanted to compete. As someone who is usually low stress and hardly ever feels competitive, this was a strange shift. One I definitely wasn’t prepared for.

Now, I’m not allowed to talk about the specifics of the competition, but what I can say is that it was hard. The topic, in my opinion, was very difficult. I spent two of the three weeks just trying to understand the material, not a single word written.

Finding the Competitive Spirit

Something happened while I was competing and every ounce of my body just wanted to win. So much so, that I (safely) went home to stay with my parents – abandoning my boyfriend who was also competing – just to completely focus. I kicked all other distractions out of my life, including this blog.

It was a roller coaster of emotions, but I got through it. In the end, I turned in what I thought was a really strong effort. But honestly, even if I don’t make it, I’ve found peace. I forgot that while I make an effort to better myself in my personal life, I’m often complacent in my academic life. Being the best in the class has never been important to me (that’s why I started a project trying to do it, I wanted to see if I could motivate myself to compete). I’m excited that I’ve found that drive to compete.

Maybe it’s a byproduct of this blog – because since starting this journey I’ve just wanted more for myself. Not handouts, but I wanted to earn every bit of satisfaction. Finding competition has been one of the most fulfilling experiences and I’m really glad these weeks of mental burnout and suffering are over. I’m even more glad I came out on top.

The Validation

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, this morning I received my grades for the motion I wrote. It was the only other thing I slaved over, and I slaved over it because it was a part of my project. The grade came back and I was way above the average. Pushing hard and competing against yourself does pay off.

Do you compete against yourself? Do you find this practice healthy? I’d love to hear any and all thoughts down below!

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What Competition Looks Like in Law School

Hello again! I’m finally back to give you my stream-of-consciousness thoughts now that Reading Week is over!

As many of you know, I’ve just finished my first year of law school! While I’m thrilled that this mess of a semester is over, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for myself and most of my classmates. We now enter into a three-week battle royale writing competition.

Designed specifically to make sure you’re exhausted after finals, the journal write-on competition is a competition where we compete for spots on our school’s journals to get our work published. Journals are a really big deal for law students because it’s an opportunity to show off and invest time diving deep into topics we’re interested in.

The biggest journal that every law school has is called Law Review. Law Review is a massive deal. Remember in high school when you had honors societies and clubs of the brightest minds around? Now instead take all those students and replace them with incredibly talented law students. That’s Law Review.

Law Review is a big deal because it opens doors. It can land you an interview with a dream law firm all because they know you’re disciplined enough to make Law Review – some job postings even require the candidate to be a part of Law Review. Not only that, but once your work is published, others will read it. If it’s really good, they’ll even cite it.

But that’s a common thread for all journals, not just Law Review. Journals are our opportunities to contribute to legal discourse and even shape history. So they’re a really big deal to students.

But who gets on Law Review? Law Reviews usually pick its candidates in two ways: grade-on and write-on. Grade-on is reserved for the top of the class, those people get offered a spot automatically. For those of us that don’t make grade-on, we can compete in the write-on. If we get an offer, we won’t know whether our spot was offered as a grade-on or a write-on.

The write-on is used for all journals, not just Law Review. While I can’t get into any details, it requires us to write a paper based on sources given to us (and nothing else – this is called a “closed-universe” paper) and also work on legal citations. Once we submit, we’ll see if we get offers from journals.

As you might have guessed, I’m currently working on the write-on competition. It’s overwhelming but I’ve been on pure adrenaline. Every once in a while it’s fun to be competitive. Anyway, for fear of saying too much, I’ll end it here. As always, thanks for listening!

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Finishing My First Year of Law School!

It’s official – I just submitted my last exam and it’s summer, baby!

Looking back on this semester, I could never have expected it to go the way it did. It may have moved Project 1 to the fall, but I’m in good spirits.

As many of you know, this semester was a pass/fail for me, so I was just working for a pass instead of an A. My school did also announce honors pass which is designated for the top 30% of the passes. It’s weird, but that’s what snotty lawyers do. They want the accolades.

The switch to pass/fail most definitely changed my study techniques. I basically decided to back end the semester and put the bulk of my studying around my exams. Choosing to absorb so much material in so little time was a risk, but I’m prone to forgetting information pretty quickly. I feared that without exposure to the concepts in actual classes, I would forget ideas right away.

So my technique was to create an outline to use on the finals. Since the exams were open-book and open-note, I focused on improving the tools I had for the exams. That seemed to work pretty well. I’m fairly confident I passed all of my classes, but I wouldn’t bank on any honors passes.

Now that I’m on summer break, I’m not out of the woods yet. There’s still the journal write-on competition. Being a part of a journal and getting your work published is a big deal for law students, myself including. After your first year, you get an opportunity to compete for a spot on the journals in a three-week writing competition. The competition starts Monday. I’ll give more details once I start (seeing as I’m a little fried right now from exam mush brain). But nevertheless, I’m very excited for the competition.

Anyway, just wanted to share my mini-successes with you all. Hope you all are in just as good of spirits as I am!

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Genericide: The Death of a Trademark

I thought we could talk about something a little fun today as I do my last minute preparations for my property final tomorrow. So let’s talk about genericide.

Genericide is the epitome of too much of a good thing. It’s marked by when a trademark becomes so popular that it becomes a term for anything generally of the same kind. Kind of a wonky definition, so let me give some examples.

What do you call “flavored and colored water frozen on a stick?” Well, that’s a popsicle, of course. But it may or may not be a POPSICLE®. Popsicle is trademarked by Unilever and not a generic word for these treats. Using Popsicle to market your product isn’t great move, it’s kind of like saying: “Come to our bulk store that’s exactly like Costco!” Sounds not so great, huh?

Popsicle® | Popsicle® Firecracker® Multi-Pack

Let’s tackle some more examples, shall we?

No, that’s not a frisbee, that’s a flying disk. It was originally made by a company named Wham-O.
Lip balm, not Chapstick.
Bubble wrap was the name coined by the Sealed Air Corporation for the little air-sealed plastic packaging spheres.
You didn’t really think this was a Q-tip, did you?

So is it a good thing when brands reach this level of notoriety?

Not really, no. It starts messing with their ability to use their trademark. If a court rules that it’s a generic term all companies that make that product can use your name. That’s disastrous for a company.

Some brands adamantly fight against genericide to the point where they can maintain their trademark. Google, for example, has managing to maintain it’s trademark despite everyone using the term google as a verb.

Other brands are not so lucky. In Haughton Elevator Co. v. Seeberger, Charles Seeberger, the man who may or may not have brought you the term escalator, assigned the trademark to the Otis Elevator Company. Another escalator company sued, claiming it was a generic term and won.

But get this – the court discovered that Seeberger had used the word escalator in a generic way himself by writing patents that used the word escalator to describe the products. Whoops.

And that is why we call those moving stairs escalators.

I challenge you to look around the house and at products at the store. You’ll be shocked at how many cases of genericide lie right in front of you. The little words you don’t even think about represented strong brands that may or may not have survived their linguistic deaths. It’s a bit crazy to think about – might need to take an aspirin.

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The Last Week of Classes – Preparing for Law School Finals During Quarantine

I can’t believe it’s the last week of classes of my first year of law school!

No really, I can’t believe it. It just dawned on me yesterday when I finished my legal writing class. I’ve had the same professor for both semesters, so it really sank in when he gave the end-of-the-year speech.

With exams around the corner, we still don’t really know much about them. The only information we have is that they will be open-book and open-notes. How long we’ll have for each exam is still very much up in the air. It’s a little nerve-wracking. My study habits definitely differ if I have a 3-hour exam versus a 24-hour exam. Basically, it’s the difference between memorization (you don’t have time to look at your notes during a 3-hour exam) and going more into detail (in a longer exam, you can write more, so you’d want to include much more detail).

Regardless, with my first exam a mere two weeks away (read also: yikes!) I am certainly not ready. Allow me to explain how I plan to get through finals:

  • Legal Writing: This class is finished when I turn in a quick contract tomorrow. It’s one I drafted last semester and just need to edit. I got a very high grade on it the first time around, so it’s a very minor assignment.

  • Property: Property is a classic issue-spotting exam. Issue-spotters are where a professor gives you a long hypothetical situation – like 5 pages of content kind of long – and you just throw everything you can at it. To combat these kinds of tests, you need to remember every topic. The way I did my issue-spotters last semester is I made an outline and memorized the table of contents. When I got my exam, I spent the first 15 minutes writing the entire table of contents on a scrap piece of paper. It paid off.

    If I’m under a time constraint, I’ll need to memorize that table of contents again. If I’m not under a time constraint, I won’t have to. To try and find a healthy balance, next week my boyfriend and I will tackle sample exams every day of the week to familiarize ourselves with common fact patterns (Law School Hack: Professors can only come up with so many outlandish situations dealing exactly with what you learned. Getting your hands on as many practice exams as you can is key!)

  • Civil Procedure: My method right now is to type up all my notes. My professor wasn’t always super clear about what information connects, so once I have everything typed up I’ll try and make sense of it. I also want to create guides on all the different rules we covered and the cases we went over (sometimes cases make rules, it’s called common law).

    I bought a supplement earlier this semester, so I plan on reading through that to add to my outline. I’m also a school representative for Barbri, a bar exam prep service – yes, the one Kim Kardashian uses – and they give first-years free access to their first year materials which includes a lot of civil procedure stuff, so I’ll be sure to dig around there as well.

  • Legislation and Regulation: Ah, leg reg. My professor is currently theorizing his own rules to this class, so it’s been really difficult to follow. Usually, you can turn to the internet or someone else’s outlines, but not for this class. The older students all reassure you by saying on the last day everything clicks. That’s tomorrow, and well, I have low expectations.

    I think my plan is to really re-read the cases. He said his exam hypos are slightly different versions of cases we read for class (and there’s only like 20 we read all semester), so I want to really dive into those and create some long case briefs.

    Other than that, no plan. At least I’m not alone though.

So there you have it – I have no idea what’s going to happen from here. But I do know I’ll overcome it. Who knows, maybe I’ll even pull an honors pass.

Will I be finishing Project 1 any time soon? Probably not. Unless my legal writing class pulls through for the CALI, it looks like this one’s going to go into next semester.

Revisiting Project 1 in Light of Grading Changes

My school administration finally changed our grading policy. We knew it was coming and they dropped a bomb. All first years (including me) are now graded on a pass/fail grading system. If you’re in the top 30% of the class, your pass will become an honors pass. But it doesn’t touch your GPA.

I don’t feel great about this change because it takes away my ability to improve my GPA – not that it’s bad, but I certainly thought I was on track to do better. I understand that the world is crazy and we need to be mindful of students who are really hindered by a sudden change or sudden illness and that we can’t anticipate what the world might look like at the end of the month.

That being said, the upperclass students have a different grading system than us: they will be graded as normal (A/B/C) but after these grades come out they can choose however many they’d like to be pass/fail. Just like us, pass/fail doesn’t touch their GPA.

I don’t particularly like the differentiation between classes and I’d rather schoolwide uniformity, but I digress.

I’m not really sure what this means for my classes and how much work I want to put in. I’m also not sure if I’m in a position to CALI in my other classes so I don’t know what helps me achieve my goals.

Additionally, as of right now it’s unclear if getting a CALI is even possible right now. Since our school is a bit prestigious, I’d imagine it’s still a possibility.

That being said, the class where I thought I had the best shot was my legal writing class. Our big paper (the one on music copyright) was due today. I’ve spent the past few weeks really cranking out the argument since I’m pretty sure my side was the losing side. But given how much time I had already spent, I figured I should still gun for the CALI.

I honestly put more time into that paper than I did all the other ones this entire year combined. Since the factors of fair use overlap, I spent a lot of time trying to delineate my arguments and finding a structure that was most effective. I actually wrote notecards out of my arguments, my opponent’s counterarguments, and any fact I could find. Then I took all of them and laid them out on my floor for a few hours to try and find that order.

And damn it, I did it.

Well, kind of.

I hit a massive road block in the writing. I had these beautiful arguments in my head, but I couldn’t put them into words. I spent so long working on individual sentences that up until last night I only had about half my paper written.

It was a mad rush to get it done – but I didn’t cut corners. I made sure I polished everything. It was a late night and an even earlier morning, but I turned in a pretty good paper. There were two sections I felt were a little weak, but I felt much more confident in the rest. I’m not sure it’s enough to get the highest grade in the class, but I’d hope I were in the top five.

I just pray I didn’t have any typos. I didn’t have a chance to reread my paper once I finished.

I got my opponent’s paper shortly after and it reassured me that I had done well. Not that his was bad, I just anticipated all of his arguments.

So, we’ll chalk this up to a victory?

Online Classes – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I’ve officially finished my first week of online classes! If you can even say that, that is. School was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday due to the online switch, I didn’t have any classes on Wednesday besides pre-recorded lectures, and I don’t have classes on Fridays. So that left today, Thursday, and honestly it was an out-of-body experience.

The Good

Waking up 15 minutes before class, putting on a shirt, and waving a hand over your head to make sure you get rid of that nasty fly-away-just-out-of-bed hairdo – now that’s something I could get used to. No one knows that you haven’t brushed your teeth yet, I promise.

The Bad

There’s something about a Zoom call that makes you more aware of zoning out. I mean, don’t get me wrong, these lectures are brutal. Every distraction in your house is right in your eyesight. But your professor can’t see you watch Netflix on your laptop. Hell, they can’t even hear it since you’re on mute. But trust me, you feel guilty. You’re more self-aware. You can see your posture – woah, how long have you been slouching like that? – and just like that you missed the last 5 minutes of the lecture.

Paying attention is impossible.

The Ugly

Oh boy, there were some technical problems. And here’s the funniest thing: it had nothing to do with the Zoom platform itself. It was the professors not knowing how to work anything, putting slides that were too small on the screen, and the occasional student who didn’t put themselves on mute. It was purely human error.

But perhaps the best representation of this was my Leg Reg class in which the professor didn’t have his computer audio on. He wasn’t able to hear us ask questions and, even with the IT guy right next to him, took 20 minutes to rectify the problem. Since we were all able to hear each other, several students began talking about changes to the grading system and our school’s thoughts on a pass/fail semester. Some other students were swearing at how long it took to fix. There were some trying to tell the professor what was wrong on the chat. He didn’t check it once.

All of that being said, the administration is still thinking about making more changes to our semester (like the pass/fail system). This lack of consistency is beginning to drive me nuts.

A more than healthy dose of sarcasm aside, please stay safe and may your heart be full during these difficult times.

Yours from a distance,