I apologize for the lack of bar exam posts–even though I wrote a lot of these before my bar review course started, I haven’t really had time to post them. If you read through this, you should understand why. Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes, talking about . . .
Admission to the Bar
Ok! You have spent three years at the law and, against all odds, have graduated from an accredited law school with your sanity mostly intact. Mazel tov.
But while you are a lawyer (one who is learned in the law), you are not yet an attorney (one who may represent another in legal matters). To become such you must be admitted to the bar of the jurisdiction in which you intend to practice. You’ve gone a long way towards this already, but there are a few more hoops remaining.
All jurisdictions in the United States require that you prove that you have the appropriate moral character to become an attorney. In California, proving this requires that you fill out a remarkably long form (846 kB PDF) with details of your criminal, credit, education, and employment histories, and that your fingerprints be taken for a background check.
Having done that, the real fun begins with
The Bar Exam
which is a comprehensive test of the basic areas of law that every lawyer should know. This is slightly different in every jurisdiction. In California, we take:
- The California Essay Exam, six essay problems much like most law-school exams
- The California Performance Test, two tasks that come with a statement of the facts, a library of documents to use in analyzing it, and a question asking you to draft some sort of document based on your analysis
- The Multistate Bar Exam, two hundred multiple-choice questions (as the name implies, this exam is given in many US jurisdictions–there are multistate essay and performance tests, but California doesn’t use them)
Each of these three parts is divided into two halves (one performance test problem, three essays, or 100 MBE questions), each of which takes three hours. The exam is given over three days, which is another way California is special–it’s usually just two. We do three essays Tuesday and Thursday mornings, one performance test on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and a hundred MBE questions during each session on Wednesday.
To put this into perspective, the average law-school final exam (which determines the student’s entire grade for the course) takes about three hours, except for courses with take-home finals and those graded on a final paper or project. In a typical term, most students will take between three and five of these during a period of a little more than two weeks.
Furthermore, Hastings has a provision in its regulations called the “48-hour rule,” whereby if a student has two examinations that start within 48 hours of each other, the records office will postpone the latter of the two to preserve that spacing.
The California Bar Examination is the equivalent of taking six finals in three days. It begins fifteen days from today.
So you can see why I might be under a little bit of stress at this point.
July 14th, 2008
Did I mention that I made butter with my family a while ago? It was fun, and pretty easy–I recommend doing it. You can see the photoset on Flickr. Apparently, someone chose one of the photos to illustrate the Wikipedia article about butter.
July 1st, 2008
So I posted about Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney a while ago, and I recently found the game on Verizon’s hideously maimed walled-garden of a software site. I decided it’d be worth the $5 or whatever, and you know, it’s pretty fun! It’s definitely a true adventure game–there’s only one way to get through it, which makes the gameplay more like an interactive novella than a role-playing game–but it’s fun for what it is. The replay value is next to zero, though.
However, I’m actually writing about a website I came across earlier today, specifically that of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. You may wonder what to do if you are arrested in Japan, but never fear! There are duty attorneys for times like this!
In truth, the protections that suspects get in Japan are markedly less than the ones in the States (for example, you can be held without charges for 23 days), and people are far less likely to take advantage of them. However, the fact that the organization that offers the duty-attorney service has a cute manga informing prospective clients of the service is just adorable to my Western eyes.
Anyway, this also goes towards explaining how the Phoenix Wright justice system could seem plausible. From the States, it seems ludicrously Draconian to have, for example, trials limited to three days or the insane burden-of-proof provisions you see in the game, but I think it looks slightly more reasonable in Japan. That said, it’s just a game, and I should really just relax.
July 1st, 2008
Fresh from the why-didn’t-anyone-tell-me-about-this-sooner dept.: CHDK, the Canon Hackers’ Development Kit. CHDK lets you access capabilities of your camera that Canon never intended that you should, all without changing your firmware or doing anything other than writing a couple files to your SD card. You can change the shutter settings, take RAW photos, run scripts, even read text files and play games.
I strongly approve of this sort of thing, as evidenced by my prior enthusiasm for BitPim. However, unlike BitPim, which only lets you transfer files to and from your phone (although that is very nice), CHDK actually lets you do things that your camera is capable of, but that Canon didn’t design into the firmware. Personally, I feel that this verges on malpractice–if there’s something that the hardware can do and that most people won’t want to use, go ahead and hide it in an “Advanced” menu, or even behind a “Enter the following number in hexadecimal” challenge if you want to get fancy, but don’t make people who are smart enough to know what it is have to resort to hacks like this to use the hardware to its fullest. This is part of my problem with BREW–if my telephone can run arbitrary code, then I should be able to run arbitrary code on it, without needing to know any secret licensing handshake. Free hardware is an inherently good thing.
Politics aside, I suppose not knowing about CHDK earlier is my own fault for not keeping up with Lifehacker and Hack-a-Day and Photojojo and Wired and such. I suppose I’ll have to plead bar-exam craziness and get off the hook that way.
June 25th, 2008
My youngest brother, Jason, will matriculate at Washington University in St. Louis Law School this fall, and I compiled the following advice for him as he sets out on his legal education. As the eldest of three sons, I sometimes say that I’m the guy who ended up beta-testing life–making mistakes so my younger siblings don’t need to. There are benefits and drawbacks to this, as there are to everything, of course. In any event, I hope the material after the jump is helpful:
June 14th, 2008
My friends Joe and Dinah have a new blog! It’s called Bibulo.us, and it’s about cocktails–recipes, history, photos of old books, articles about bars, and the like. I had dinner and drinks with them at Range last night, which was a pleasure as always. We sat at the bar and and chatted with several of the bartenders, including Jeff, as we ate. Dinah gave him the recipe for the classic Aviation, which came out very tasty indeed.
The tagline ("We Plead The 21st") is also quite clever, but then again, that’s exactly what one would expect from these two. Check it out!
June 14th, 2008
Some background, first:
Becoming a Lawyer
The first step in becoming a lawyer in the United States is attending law school. In many other countries, law is an undergraduate major, but here it’s a three-year graduate degree.
The first year varies remarkably little between schools: contracts, civil procedure, torts, criminal law, and property. Some schools require constitutional law as well, and some allow students to choose an elective at one point. My law school required all the courses I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph (two terms of the first two and one of each of the last three) and allowed us to choose one elective our second term, all of which related to an area of law governed more by statutes than by prior cases.
Students will also generally need to take a course in legal writing and research. At Hastings, we did this our first term and took a moot court course in our second. (Moot court is much like it sounds–you get a case, usually one that’s pending before the United States Supreme Court or the highest court in the state where the school is located, are randomly assigned a side to argue, and spend a unit or two’s worth of time researching, briefing, and arguing it.)
In the second year, students pretty much get to take what they want. Some schools (including Hastings) don’t require con law and evidence, but you’d be a fool not to take them, especially as they’re covered on the bar exam, more on which later.
The third year, at Hastings at least, is much the same from a formal standpoint. Some schools (such as George Washington, I’m informed) take a page from medical schools’ books and have an entirely clinical third year–students work under the tutelage of experienced attorneys or judges assisting them in their duties. It remains to be seen whether this will become standard practice, but clinical programs are becoming more common and prominent in the American law-school landscape. For my part, I spent half my time my last semester of law school working for a judge at the San Francisco Superior Court. If you’re in law school, I strongly recommend it.
Of course, you could go the seriously old-school route and not bother with law school at all, instead taking a period of apprenticeship to an attorney or judge and studying under them. This used to be the only way to become a lawyer, but it’s far less common these days–most states don’t even allow it, but California is one that does.
June 7th, 2008
I’m studying property at Sugarlump, a very cool coffee place in the Mission. About half the people in this place are studying for the bar, I think.
June 7th, 2008
Dr. Hoenikker used to say that any scientist who couldn’t explain to an eight-year-old what he was doing was a charlatan.
–Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
The work presumes a standard of education corresponding to a university matriculation examination, and, despite the shortness of the book, a fair amount of patience and force of will on the part of the reader.
–Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and the General Theory
In recent years, a lot of newly-minted JDs have blogged the process of preparing for the bar exam. I intend to follow through on this trend, blogging not only about the process of preparation but about the law I’m reviewing at the time.
As you are (and I am) about to find out, preparing for and taking the bar exam is a very serious undertaking. You might want to know why I’m bothering to write up these blog entries while I’m doing it. The reason is that I really enjoy explaining things, and that I thought that explaining the law I’m reviewing to a general audience (educated, intelligent people without any legal training) would be an excellent way for me to review what I’m doing and fix it in my mind as I prepare for the test. I also hope that these entries will be useful to other people, whether they are prospective examinees, law students, or curious civilians. In particular, I hope that you will find them useful, or at least interesting, or at the very least an efficient way to avoid productive work for a few hours.
At first, I’m going to blog about background topics that my bar review course won’t cover specifically, but that are important to understanding what’s going on. In my law school experience, I found that this was one of the harder things to pick up, as they weren’t explicitly taught, but left for students to discover on their own.
Later, I’ll blog about the particular substantitve topics we’re reviewing at the time, as well as my experiences while studying for the bar.
June 6th, 2008
I started using that phrase a while ago, and I just recently realized that there weren’t any other uses on the Net I could find. So hey, enjoy the phrase. Billion with a G.
More bar prep stuff coming up!
June 6th, 2008