Posts Tagged ‘California Bar Exam’

Unexpected Results: Redux

July 20th, 2013 | Rachel

Wow, another month passes. I can’t believe the week is over much less a month since I last posted something. The business is slowly crawling toward our vision, and if you want to see what we have been doing, check out our Facebook page:

It occurred to me tonight that while I wrote about taking the California bar exam, then failing it (by just a few miserable points), and taking it again, I haven’t written anything about the fact that I passed! In fact, I’ve already been sworn into the State Bar of California. As a special treat, my mom and grandmother were visiting the week they held a swearing in ceremony in Oakland. [Note: if you found this post after searching for the California bar exam, I wrote a little blurb about that at the end.]

Sworn into the CA state bar

Standing with my proud mother and grandmother

Sworn into the CA state bar

Taking an oath to have integrity… meaningful even if I don’t practice again

Fan section

My fan section at the swearing in ceremony

Then we had a few post-ceremony celebratory beverages.


Nothing cooler than having a cocktail (or beer) with your grandmother

This was my grandmother’s first trip to California, and we covered a lot of ground.

Hiking in Muir Woods

Hiking in Muir Woods

Stinson Beach

Driving out to see the Pacific Ocean at Stinson Beach

San Francisco Embarcadero

Strolling along the Embarcadero in San Francisco

Vineyard tour

Touring a wineries in Napa and Sonoma

Loxton Cellars

Drinking wine at Loxton Cellars

Domaine Carneros

Drinking champagne at Domaine Carneros

It was a very special visit and a fitting way to celebrate my new life in California and, of course, passing the bar.

And now a note to the bar exam takers out there:

Every now and then I check my Google Analytics to see how people end up reading my blog. Around bar exam time, I have been getting a lot of traffic from search terms ranging from “california bar exam overwhelmed” (I totally know that feeling) to “how much studying bar exam” (I’ve seen that one a fair amount). My advice here is specifically for attorneys who have practiced in another state and are taking a second exam after being out of school for several years.

First, the February exam, at least at the Oakland Convention Center, is so much more chill than the July exam. I spoke to a few first time test takers who missed the July exam for whatever reason, but it is mostly second-time takers and attorneys. If you are wondering when to take the exam, I recommend doing it in February. Fresh law school graduates taking it for the first time are kind of annoying. When I took the exam the first time last July, I had several of such test takers try to talk to me during the breaks about the section we just completed. In fact, the kid beside me wouldn’t stop talking to me about it until I told him to stop talking unless he could talk about something besides the exam. At the February exam, I didn’t have anyone try to force that sort of conversation on me.

Second, I talked to several attorneys who had practiced in other states and were taking the California exam for the second time, and we pretty much all felt the reason we failed the first time was because we tried to view the exam as experienced attorneys and not as law students. For the second attempt, I picked up a big book of model test answers for every subject on the exam and re-learned how to answer an essay like an unsophisticated law student. That made answering the questions a lot faster, and I’m certain I was able to rattle off more than the needed number of points of law and whatever to achieve passing scores on each essay. I checked in with a few of the attorneys who I had talked to about this mistake the first time around, and they all passed the second time.

I only failed the first time around by 16 out of the 2000 points, so it would have only taken small adjustments to push me over. That being said, a lot of attorneys do pass the first time around, so don’t think it is impossible :-)

I’ve gotten emails in the past from people asking about the exam, and even though I’m no expert, I did take the California exam twice (after passing New York without question on the first try) and I’m happy to talk to you if you want: rachel (at) idratherbeinfrance (dot) com.

Oh, and don’t be an idiot like me and bring a digital watch into the exam. Not only will they confiscate it and never give it back, they’ll give you a scary Notice of Violation of Exam Rules (which didn’t effect anything).

If you are taking the bar exam at the end of the month, good luck!

Unexpected Results

November 17th, 2012 | Rachel

This is even worst than that time I dumped the new bag of Verve coffee beans on the floor at work.

[For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you may remember a previous dedicated to failure.]

Its Friday night. Its been raining on and off all day. And I’m bundled up on my sofa wallowing in self-pity.

This seems to be one of those things that people on all sides don’t like to talk about, but the results for the 2012 California bar exam were released earlier tonight, and, much to my surprise, I wasn’t on the pass list.


I was a little nervous about the results simply due to the nature of what was at stake, but I wasn’t too worried about how I would fair because I’ve thought I had this one in the bag since I took the exam in July.

This isn’t my first bar exam. I took the New York exam right after law school and practically skipped back to my hotel when it was over because I knew I had killed it. Those feelings were confirmed a few months later when I got my results: pass.

I thought there was going to be an advantage to taking a second exam after passing another state. I thought the psychological advantage combined with thorough studying would be a guaranteed pass. All of the opinions solicited from my friends who had taken a second state seemed to support these assumptions.

As I did for the New York exam, I wrote out by hand a thousand flash cards covering the material in my Bar Bri books. I spent hours every day sitting at my kitchen table as I read through my books and made note cards. As the test neared, I reviewed the Bar Bri strategy for answering essay and practical test questions and read through a number of the practice questions.

Looking back (in the three hours I’ve had to reflect on this unfortunate turn of events), I think there were a few key differences my preparations for the New York and the California exams. I am sharing them not only to vent my overwhelming frustrating (and desperately search for an answer for WHYYYYY??), but also to document my experience for everyone in Internetland who will one take a second bar exam, particularly California.

First and foremost, I didn’t take a formal bar review class for the California bar. Those programs are pretty expensive and this effort was funded by me and my parents, so I just bought the books off of eBay for $200 and relied on my own self discipline to make it through all of the material in time. This seemed to be the strategy that many friends had taken and had received favorable results.

Second, I took the New York exam the summer after law school while I was still living in Chapel Hill. All of my friends were studying for bar exams, and I had study buddies who were also taking the New York exam. I still had a little fun, but life for everyone that summer was centered around studying. This meant that there were people around me that understood first hand how boring and uninspiring studying for a bar exam can be. This second time around, my non-lawyer friends tried hard to be supportive, but it was impossible for them to relate to what I was doing, and much of the time I felt like I was silently suffering alone. Even worse, I encountered a few well-intentioned but annoyingly misguided people who insisted I was studying too much.

Third, and probably the biggest contributing factor to my lack of success with the California exam, I was trying to balance studying with not just one but two jobs this past summer. This was when I was working at the restaurant, which I really loved doing, and also had my day job that paid considerably more. I ended up quitting the restaurant job the week before the exam because I realized how much time it was consuming, but I’m afraid I made that decision too late. Even more irritating is that I was spending considerably more time at the restaurant than at my other job and wasn’t making enough money to support myself. That combined with a frivolous post-exam extravaganza has left me with a credit card bill that I am still paying off.

Fourth, even before I get the break down of my score, I know the reason I failed was the multistate multiple choice exam (despite the fact that I passed with a high score last time). I decided against doing practice questions, and had I done so, I would have realized that criminal procedure was going to be tested a whole lot more than I was expecting. I didn’t take crim pro in law school and now recall having to study that subject a little harder while prepping for the New York exam. Most of the other information on the California exam was facts I already had buried in my brain, but I found myself in the middle of the MBE this time around wishing I had reviewed criminal procedure more thoroughly. Again, to make a terrible situation even more irritating, if I had waited a year to take the exam, I would have been eligible for the attorney exam, which doesn’t include the multistate exam.

It is a frustrating, deflating experience, to say the least — particularly in light of the financial, emotional and time investments made by my family and friends. I feel like I let everyone down, and none more so than myself.

Maybe my next post will include some sort of perspective or insight, but for now I’m just sad.

An Update For The Sake Of Updates

June 13th, 2012 | Rachel

I hate the idea of going more than two weeks without posting, but the truth of the matter is my June and July are looking to be a little lackluster… and rightfully so, because I am taking the California bar exam July 24-26 and should be using the next month and a half to study.  As many of you already know, I have already taken and passed the New York bar exam, so this experience isn’t as daunting as it was the first time around.  Preparing for this exam involves learning a lot of information about 17 specific areas of law, and it is not very exciting… so that is all I am going to say about that.

Much easier with a cappuccino

In other news, I’m officially a Californian resident with a Californian license plate and driver’s license!  Having the West Virginia plate (a remnant from when it belonged to my dad) made for an easy conversation starter (“Did you really drive that van all the way from West Virgina??”), but I’m pretty sure the other drivers on the road assumed I was a bumpkin who couldn’t drive.

Officially a California girl

Also newsworthy is Steve’s new apartment in Las Vegas.  He bought it as an investment, but we get to have a sweet party pad for the rest of the year.

We started off one particularly great night at Spiegelworld‘s Absinthe, which was highly entertaining and almost as mesmerizing as the past Spiegelword shows I saw when the tent came to South Street Seaport in New York City.  Absinthe has the human feats of Cirque du Soleil mixed with the sensuality of burlesque, all on an circular stage surrounded a pretty intimate audience (the Las Vegas tent is bigger than the tent used in New York and Miami).  Leading the show are two very funny but very lewd hosts, so if you are easily offended this show is not for you.

Waiting in line to pick up our tickets for Absinthe

Even in Las Vegas people would rather be in France.

Upon the recommendation of our concierge, we went to the Tuesday industry night at Chateau Nightclub (Paris), which is on the roof of the casino under the Eiffel Tower.  Brilliantly fun night.

A nightclub with cotton candy?  Yes, please.

I am looking forward to many more fun nights in that city this year.

While I am on the subject of the pseudo-French, I tried out some macarons at Kelly’s French Bakery here in Santa Cruz.  Working at the Three Green Ducks took my bakery snobbery to almost impossible heights, and, so far, most bakeries in this area have been nothing short of disappointing.  [I’ll save my rant about Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola for another day.]  Kelly’s “French” Bakery is no exception, and in addition to bad service and bagels (why??), my first experience there involved a terrible cherry pie that was made too many days prior and was served straight out of the refrigerator (cold and gelatinous… awful).  Although Kelly’s has managed to make macarons that look right (which I admit is a difficult task), the taste and texture was abysmal, and it hurts my heart to think of all the people whose only experience with French macarons are from Kelly’s (and judging from the gushing reviews it gets, there are many).

Coffee break at Kelly’s French Bakery [sic] in Santa Cruz

The three good things I can say about this bakery are 1. the location is lovely, with a huge court yard and in close proximity to a number of wineries and other shops; 2. I love the font of the sign; and 3. the sandwiches, while overpriced and not very French, are pretty good.

I don’t want to end this post on a cranky, negative note, so check out the gorgeous flowers on Steve’s cactus in the backyard.  Gardening is one of my study breaks, and now that the afternoons are a consistent 72 degrees, the backyard is one of my favorite places to be.

Cactus flower

Well, back to studying.