School

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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School

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.

Project 2

The Quarantine Post – What We’ve Been Up To

I hope everyone reading this is happy, healthy, and safe. What a strange time we’re living in, huh? I’ll keep the coronavirus thoughts to a minimum, we’ve all heard enough opinions to last a lifetime.

That being said, with my mother’s birthday this week, I went home for a few days to visit my family. With my brother returning home from school, it was a full house. It felt a bit like we were kids again which was really refreshing. We’ve found ways to keep things fun and I’d even recommend a couple of our activities to those who are counting down the minutes to the return of normal society. For those looking to escape ultimate boredom, here’s what we got up to:

  • Jackbox Party Games: These are little mini-games you play with your phone as your personal controller. Meanwhile, the main event takes place on the tv. We managed to find a way to use Zoom to do it with family that was also quarantined by sharing our computer screen. Our Zoom date lasted for nearly 5 hours and was exactly the same experience as it would have been if we were together.
  • American History Heads Up: We found old AP U.S. History flashcards during our deep cleans and turned it into a game of Heads Up. Conclusion: We’re bad at American history. Or at least that version… man, do they teach some unnecessary things in AP classes.
  • Counting all our piggy banks: Of course we turned this into a competition of jelly-bean jar proportions. All you had to do was guess how much money by weight. We all sucked. But on the upside, we were all too low.
  • Sending letters to the kid next door: He left us a drawing in our mailbox, so obviously we had to send something back. We pulled out all the stops (and foam letters!) to send him a nice letter back. My father even found a little toy car that we cleaned and sent to him.

But it wouldn’t be a Project 865 post without project updates and honestly it’s been helpful to be home all day to get my get organized project moving. Being home, I’ve been cleaning my childhood bedroom. It’s always tough for me to clean out my childhood bedroom because it’s so easy to get distracted with even the tiniest bit of nostalgia.

I was an avid book collector as a kid so it was time to purge. Most of these books I had either read or had no interest in, so I went for the jugular on it. Although, I did find that I had about 30 of the books on my list at my house which was great news.

I also sorted through all of my undergrad papers since I kind of threw them at my parents house once I was done. I did keep all of my tests since I think I have an idea for a project way down the line.

Lastly, internet spring cleaning was in full effect. I’m chipping away at my computer bookmarks and school e-mail – which has become extremely important since we are constantly getting so many e-mails it’s hard to keep track of.

In conclusion, it was a very successful trip home. Very productive – but I guess that’s what we could expect from 4 people all working from home in the same house.

School

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,