Friday, September 30, 2011

Florida bar results for the July 2011 exam

Well, looks like the results for the previous exam have been out for a couple of weeks.  The data shown was for only first time takers, and the passing rate was good, 80% of 2,890 first timers passed the test.  It seems to be similar to California bar exam passing rates.  Looking at published results, released by the Supreme Court of Florida, Florida International University and University of Florida graduates had the best passing rates, at 89.6% and 89.1% respectively.  If you are currently attending Ave Maria School of Law, you might want to reconsider your law school choice: only 47.8% passed, which is rather dismal, although to be fair, their total number of exam takers was only 23.  For out of state graduates (like me), the passing rate was 75%.

The results are only for first time bar exam takers.  Traditionally, if you haven't passed the bar on your first try, your chances during the subsequent exams are much lower.  Usually, the aggregate passing rate is about 70%, with a specially bad year in California being the 2004 exam with only a 56% passing rate.  Hopefully when I take the bar exam this February, it won't be similar to the 2009 February exam, which saw whopping 30% year to year pass rates for University of Miami exam takers, 24% drop for UF graduates, and 20% drop for Florida State University alums.  Looks like that year some of the essay questions were on topics that are not usually tested.

Musings on Contract law

I decided to press ahead on my reading during the daytime and make flashcards in the evenings, so I'm on to the next topic, contract law.  I prefer contracts - it is more relevant to my background in business - but I realize that here, again, I've forgotten so much material.  Mailbox rule, battle of the forms, parol evidence rule...on top of that, differences between common law and Art. 2 of the UCC, first and second restatements.  Good times.

I'm not yet in desperation mode, but I have a feeling that as I move into property, torts, etc., the full extent of what I have ahead of me will hit me.  Of course, once bar review begins, I think the day to day nature of it will smooth my jitters.

On an aside, I went to another Barnes and Noble today, and this is one is a lot bigger than my usual hangout.  It has two stories, and best of all, it has those larger tables I had been reminiscing on a previous post.  It is far from home, however, so it will not be my primary study location, but it is nice to have an alternative.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We're not in LA anymore - 2nd in a series

I didn't plan to write a second part to this particular series so quickly.  However, yesterday we had a "visitor" in our home that requires a post: there was a huge American cockroach in my bedroom yesterday night, which was promptly dispatched.

One thing that I find disturbing in Florida is the abundance of insect and lizard life.  In LA, I don't think we had more than a couple of roaches in more than 15 years of married life.  The very first night in Florida, I think I saw about three of these evil insects in a relative's home we were staying for a couple of days.  After we moved to our townhouse, we cleaned everywhere before the movers brought our stuff.   Since then, we had almost weekly encounters with the little creatures.  We tried spraying pesticide outside, put traps inside, and finally relented and hired an exterminator.  Still the little things appear, although now with much less frequency.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We're not in LA anymore - first in a series.

Our country has gone through a long and slow phase of homogenization.  Doesn't matter where you are in this great land of ours, you will inevitably run into a McDonald's, Burger King, Denny's, and other fast food joints.  Then we started having national chains of clothing stores, such as The Gap, The Limited, Victoria's Secret, and the like.  We also have national department stores, such as the now waning Sears, Target, Bloomingdale's, and K-Mart.  I still remember when Bloomingdale's made their entry into California, and everyone was a buzz.  After all, Angelenos are only truly jealous of New Yorkers, and now we had their department store, too.

However, in many ways, things are different as well.  Walking down the grocery stores, I see varieties of food that reflect more of the local flavor, such as Cuban, English, and Caribbean items, as well as more variety of pork, sweet tea sold by the gallon, and the like.  Most supermarkets don't sell hard liquor because Florida law requires a separate liquor store for distilled beverages (so if a supermarket wants to sell spirits, it needs a "store within a store" thing).

Monday, September 26, 2011

They ID you before you can get in the bar

I don't know if I have purposefully blocked out all memories of my previous bar exam, but I don't recall having to be fingerprinted before taking the exam.  I can understand having to show identification, because otherwise, I'm sure there would be a travelling troupe of bar exam takers that would sit in for the exam for you for a nominal (or expensive) fee.  The Board of Bar Examiners wants to be sure that you are who you claim you are.

But going as far as gathering your fingerprints sounds a bit too...suspicious?  Are they going to run my prints against a large database from the FBI, CIA, NSA, DHS, DMV, ad infinitum?  They already did ask me tons of private questions regarding my background and past criminal activity.  I guess no one wants to take a lawyer at his word.

Driving impressions and making it go faster

As I mentioned earlier, I have a new car, only two months now.  It is a Volkswagen GTI, a nice, slick four door hatchback (so technically called a five-door, but they also make a three door version).  Volkswagens are nice, predictable, and well put together German cars.  They don't have the same "ooooh" appeal as a BMW or a Mercedes Benz, neither the sleek look of the Audi, which is also part of the VW family of cars, which includes Bugatti and Bentley.

Original GTI Mark I
Off the dealer lot, the car is quick, handles nicely, and looks, in a sense, timeless.  The basic look of the current model, called the Mark VI, is nicely reminiscent of the original Mark I, introduced, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, in 1974.  The current incarnation is about three years old now, and retains a playfulness and fun-loving attitude that seems to have been lost in most modern vehicles.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Animal Kingdom

This Friday I took my son on a field trip to Animal Kingdom which his school sponsored.  First time in an Orlando area amusement park, and I must say, I'm impressed.  I have been to Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Hollywood, etc., so I have a frame of reference, and Disney has really done a nice job with their Animal Kingdom park.

For starters, the place is huge, has many rides as well as places where one can see animals.  Their "safari" is particularly interesting, as well as the walk one can do in the area around it and see the gorillas, birds, and other animals.  The park also has some well done live action shows, of which we saw two: the Lion King show and the Finding Nemo show.  The Lion King show is a circus type show, with acrobats, singers, a rope artist a la Cirque du Soleil, as well as dancers and large animatronic puppets of Simba and other characters.

Finding Nemo is a stage version of the movie, abridged, of course, but still seemed to run a good 30 minutes.  The way they present the characters on stage is particularly clever.  Actors hold large puppets of the various fish, sharks, turtles and others above or in front of themselves, and move the mouth and eyes with little hand levers.  The action is mesmerizing, and soon you lose track of the person and fix on the puppet.  Truly enthralling, and the scene with the turtle is amazing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Continuing adventures in constitutional law

I finally finished reading the Constitutional Law outline.  In my original plan, I was going to move on to the next topic, but I think I'm going to make flashcards on this subject while it is not totally hazy in my mind.  Frankly, it is already a jumbled mess of standards, rules, and cases in there, anyway.

Fancy logo for a handy app
I'm going to try using this program called Anki, which has Windows, OS X, iOS and Android versions, and flashcards you make in one platform can be used in another.  It is all freeware, which is big plus in my book.  I tried making some cards with it, but I haven't tried doing an entire subject.  If it all progresses well, I will write a review on it later on.  I will be using the windows version to make the flashcards, and go over them on android devices, of which I have a few.

Lactose intolerance

Like a lot of people, I'm lactose intolerant.  I don't think my condition is extreme - I can drink milk, but it definitely affects how I eat.  Take, for example, my love of ice cream and milk shakes.  One thing that I've noticed is that if I eat something with my milk - e.g. cereal - I will be ok.  If I drink it straight up on an empty stomach, I'm doomed.

The Royale at Steak n Shake
Same for ice cream and milk shakes.  If I have ice cream right after a meal, I'm fine.  Ice cream as an afternoon snack, and I'm in pain a few hours later.  Milk shakes are trickier; even if I have them with a meal - the classic burger and shake combo - I will usually pay the milk tax afterwards.  Maybe the way the milk is shaken in a milk shake?  The combination of all that goodness being simply too good, and thus it has to be bad for you to balance it out?  I don't know, but it has changed the way I enjoy my burgers.  Which is specially sad, since, after moving to Florida, I discovered the greatness that is Steak n Shake.  They seem to be this local chain of hamburgers a la Johnny Rockets from California, where they have this old-fashioned look to it (but looking at vintage photos, they are probably a lot more authentic that Johnny Rockets, which was founded in the mid-80s).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Children and sports

I was never a very active person back in school, or through most of my life, as a matter of fact.  Even now I have to constantly push myself to even do a basic 20 minute run on the treadmill.  My hope, therefore, is that my children will be more involved in sports and learn good habits from an early age so that they can continue looking after themselves as they grow up and into adulthood.

Yesterday was my daughter's middle school volleyball game.  It brings me untold pride that she has struggled through try-outs, stuck through practices, played for most of the season in the "B" squad, but finally managed to make it to the "A" squad for yesterday's matches.  She is by no means the biggest girl - as a matter of fact, she is the smallest in the team, nor the most athletic, but she is tough minded and works very hard, as well as listens to her coach.  She is also extremely happy and proud of her accomplishments.

She serves as an example to myself, during these days of studying, to keep pushing myself.  That I can accomplish things if I put my mind and body into it.  I think I will go study now.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Constitutional law or motivational law?

I'm about halfway into my constitutional law outline for the multi-state exam.  I can honestly say that I've forgotten more about law in general that I remember.  The words sound familiar, the concepts are not that hard, but just the sheer quantity of information is daunting.  Did I ever really know all this material?  Amazing.

The Supreme Court
Reading through the outline is fairly mundane work.  The way the outline is set up is nicely repetitive, with constant reinforcement of key concepts, lots of references to previously mentioned topics, etc.  In a sense, the material builds upon itself, so there is a sense of progression, of advancement.  However, the material is by no means compelling or gripping reading material.  The words drone on and on, and attention starts to wander.  Of course, the tricky part will be remembering all the material.  Hopefully I will have finished this outline by the end of the week - I need a motivational push to get over the first subject.  The idea is that once I finish with con law, the other subjects will move faster - at least that is the fiction I've build for myself.

Barnes and Noble or the library that sells coffee

Good old Barnes and Noble had been my favorite study hall for many years.  It is relatively quiet, the muzak is inoffensive, good air conditioning, and they used to have really nice desks and chairs.  After the latest round of book store closures and downsizing - Borders being the latest, most visible failure - B&N has mostly remained the same, although the nice big tables are nowhere to be seen.

Home away from home
Nonetheless, they still have tables at the Starbucks found in most B&N stores, and although small, they are good enough to hold a big outline book, a marker, a pen, and your beverage of choice.  I must admit that I was never a big coffee drinker, although I would pick up a cup of frosty coffee drink before lectures and during studies.  So I picked up my first cup of frappuccino that I've had in a couple of years, and even though I drank it in the early afternoon, I was up until 3 am.  Wow.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Family or how no one wants to go to the bar alone

Studying for the bar exam with family is different.  The first time I took the bar, we were married and our first child was born a couple of weeks after graduation, smack in the middle of bar review.  As you can imagine, things were hectic, nights were short, days were long, and dirty diapers were everywhere.

Wish my car was this nice.  Do they
give frequent miles to Dad drivers?
Through all that, my wife has always been a steady presence.  She is blessed with near infinite patience, a kind heart, and a true love for her children.

This time around, we have more than one kid, they are older, can basically take care of themselves.  As a matter of fact, they are busier than I am.  Their homework load seems a lot larger than what I had to do back in the day.  They pretty much stick to their own schedules, do their own thing, but we try to leave weekends as family time.  There is more house work to be done for us adults, but the children help more and more.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Meditations and car washing

As you can tell from my previous posts, I've been trying to set up routines for my otherwise unstructured life to get myself in the proper mindset to study.  It has been a week since I've received the books from BARBRI, and my current plan is to read the major outlines cover to cover first, go back and start making flash cards, and hopefully I will finish this process before classes begin.

Wash the mitt after ever
car wash to keep it free
of debris for the next time
In the meanwhile, I have started a very simple exercise routine - basically run every other day and a few reps in the machine of torture.  Another part of my routine has been car maintenance.  Or at least, washing the outside and trying to keep the inside clean.

I was going to wait until next year to buy a car, since we had purchased a car for my wife as soon as we arrived, but with the beginning of school for the children looming, it became impracticable to wait.  So I bought a brand new car, and have been trying to keep it in that "as new" condition for as long as I can.  My current plan is to try to wash it every other week (every week seems to border on OCD), and touch up the interior in the interim.  To tell the truth, it has been a long time since I've washed the car by myself - in Los Angeles, car washes litter the landscape, there were literally about 10 car washes within a 5 mile x 5 mile area around my house.

Playing with Blogger

I'm really liking Blogger.  There is a lot of customization, things are reasonably easy to do.  I guess I am an incorrigible geek.  I've been playing with the layout, fonts, colors, etc.  Clearly I'm not gifted when it comes to aesthetic choices, but I'm liking the overall look of the blog.  Finally figured out how to use some simple CSS to make the widgets on the side have a background so that the text is legible over the fancy background.

I will probably be tinkering with the blog as I go along, so don't be surprised if things look radically different from day to day...or maybe just some subtle changes here and there.  You can never tell.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Exercise in futility and opening Pandora's box

It hurts...a lot!
So, since I've found myself with extra time on my hands, I have decided to start exercising more (as opposed to never exercising).  I had originally begun a simple "100 push up" routine using my handy-dandy android tablet - I might do an actual review of the device for a future post - but after about 3 weeks, I think I might have pulled a shoulder muscle, because it became excruciatingly painful to do the push ups.  I switched to doing them inclined by simply doing the push ups while leaning on a piece of furniture, but after about 3 days of that, the pain was again getting worse.

Therefore, I switched to doing a bit of treadmill running and some light weight exercises.  I didn't have to join a gym because the complex where I live has a little gym facility which is included in the rent, and it has a treadmill, elliptical running machine, and a multi-exercise device.  Started doing the treadmill for a couple of days, doing about 25 min of jogging followed by a few reps on the weight machine.  Of course, now my knee is starting to hurt a bit, so I think I will do the elliptical next week.

Three (now four) posts in one day?

Some of you might be wondering how much actual studying I have been doing if I have the time to put up 3 posts in quick succession.  The truth is that I had started a blog in a "will-not-be-named-blogging-alternative" site, but didn't like it too much, so I moved the first couple of posts over to Blogger, which I like, so far.  Bye!

BARBRI or "How did I find myself paying for tuition all over again"

Ah, the joys of bar review.  After receiving my credit card bill for the month (not a pleasant sight), vivid memories of tuition payment times come rushing back.  Law school was not a cheap experience.

UPS said that these weigh 9 lbs
I find myself in a curious situation, although given the current economic conditions, not unique by any stretch of the imagination.  I am currently, shall we say, "between careers," and thus, without a steady source of income.  Happily, the last decade or so between bar exams has not been spent on endless binge drinking and visits to that other, more common type of bar.  I had a steady career, managed people, and tucked away a few pennies here and there.  Bought a house a couple of years after taking the California bar, and since it was before the bubble, it appreciated well - not in the triple digits, but nicely.  So, when we sold the house recently, even with the downturn in prices, we made enough of a profit to give ourselves a small cushion.  Moving to Florida also cut back on a lot of expenses (cost of living in Southern California is out of control).

So, since the bar exam is not until February of next year, and BARBRI classes don't start until December, I decided to pay the full tuition up front and get my hands on their many tomes of knowledge (shout out to all D&D fans out there) and get a head start in the review.

Filling out the application

Every journey must have a beginning, the first steps on the road.  I suppose those steps were in the packing of our belongings, selling our previous home, booking the flight to a new state.  However, the journey became real after I’ve begun my application to the bar…and things really have changed in this last decade and a half.

2 more years and I would have paid $3,000...
For starters, everything is done online.  Question after question delving into the minutia of my life.  Bad credit…traffic violations…taxes paid…past residences since I was 16!  I honestly don’t remember the California bar application to have been this…comprehensive?  Intrusive?  And expensive, too: $2,400 for the application fee, since I fall in the convenient “admitted more than 10 years, but less than 15 years” bracket.  If I had waited a couple of years more, the application fee gets bumped up to the $3,000 level.  Yowza.

I think I have filled out everything satisfactorily, and now I have to get everything notarized, take a couple of passport pictures, and get fingerprinted…surprised the TSA is not somehow involved.

Hello World!

Hello world…another person with an opinion and a voice joining the internet.

Well, it has been 14 years since I’ve taken the California Bar Exam…the most gruesome test I’ve ever taken.  I’m proud to say that I’ve passed on my first try.  Honestly, I never wanted to take it again, so I’m unsure of what I would have done, all those years ago, if I had not passed.  Since then, I’ve done lots of things, raised children, businesses, etc…but never practiced law!

Now, with a sudden move to the opposite side of the continent (the warmer, more humid, with more bugs side of the continent), I find myself with time on my hands (i.e. no work), a bit aimless, and planning the next decade or two of my life.  So, what better than taking the Florida Bar Exam?

I’ve always wanted to practice law, but various circumstances conspired to keep me away from that path.  Now, in my mid-40′s, I decided that it is time to unleash my inner Matlock, Perry Mason, or Atticus Finch and practice law.  Of course, before I can hang my shingle, I need to be licensed by the great state of Florida to cross the bar and speak in front of the judge, the jury, and opposing counsel.

So here I am, about to embark on my masochist quest to re-learn the many black-letter legal facts and rules, all those random case names, and the many new developments of federal law, plus all the variations that Florida law has compared to California law.  I honestly don’t know how I will do this time around, but I guess this is why I’m writing this, to see what I learn in this journey, and how it will all turn out in about 5 months…stay tuned!