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

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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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.