Post bar exam thoughts

Let me tell you about the bar exam.
The California bar exam was three days of testing, six hours a day, with an hour break for lunch. Six topical essays (one hour each), two “performance test” essays (three hours each), and 200 multiple choice questions.
The multiple choice questions covered six areas of law. The topical essays covered those six areas, plus another seven areas, totaling 13 possible topics. But that number doesn’t include the federal and state distinctions; I needed to study the federal and California law of evidence and civil procedure and know which one applies. Each area of law came complete with rules, exceptions to the rules, and exceptions to the exceptions.
I had six weeks to study for the test. I spent pretty much every day inside, on my computer, following an online course. Topical outlines. Lectures. Practice multiple choice questions. Practice essays. Practice complete tests. Over and over and over.
I learned that the bar exam has little to do with real lawyering skills . Oftentimes, I would get a practice question wrong because I did not know some minute detail about the law, some tiny quirk that I happened to miss. The bar exam tests people’s ability to take tests. At least the performance test (which provides a hypothetical scenario with fictional facts and cases from which to craft a legal memo) actually tests the critical reasoning skills necessary to succeed as a lawyer.
So why did I put myself through this awful mess?
After I finished the bar exam on Thursday, I went to volunteer with the Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles at the legal clinic at Homeboy Industries. I worked with an attorney to provide legal services to indigent clients. One of the clients we served had an awful story. She was a survivor of domestic violence. She had been in prison. She was physically disabled and unable to work. She and her teenage daughter had been homeless. And now she had just been evicted from her apartment because of disagreements with the landlady. She came to the clinic for help in getting her security deposit back. The landlady refused to return the security deposit, even though that is required by law.
What impressed me the most was my client’s sense of confidence and strength. Even though she had been through so much, she was willing to fight to make a better life for herself and her daughter.
The attorney and I helped the client with filling out a form for small claims court, and prayed for her to find resolution. With tears in her eyes, the client thanked us for listening to her and helping her with her legal case. She said that getting the security deposit would help her find a new apartment for herself and her daughter. She left the clinic feeling much more relieved and hopeful for the future.
I went to law school to become an effective advocate for the poor and the marginalized. I believe that my work as a lawyer is part of my calling to “Love my neighbor as myself.” So even with the tedium and the bureaucracy and the rigmarole of becoming a lawyer, I am still glad that I made this choice.
Now I just need to wait until November for the results to come out.

Thoughts from Kristin’s Wedding

This Saturday, I got to celebrate my friend Kristin Lee’s wedding to Clayton Parks. Kristin is a friend from my college days. I remember us eating late night snacks together, playing board games together, attending church together. And now I have another memory, of standing with other college friends as we saw her walk up the church aisle to her waiting groom. I didn’t get to meet Clayton before the wedding, but he seems like an earnest and humble man. And if Kristin loves him, he must be a truly remarkable person.
I also noted the beauty of Kristin and Clayton’s union. Clayton is a white man from central Illinois, born and raised in Decatur. Kristin is a Taiwanese-American woman who calls San Jose her home. I was moved when I saw Kristin and Clayton embracing the parents, welcoming a new family member and a new reality into their midst.
But of course, Kristin and Clayton’s wedding was not the only wedding that was on my mind this weekend. On Saturday, In Gaziantep, Turkey, another couple came together to exchange their vows, another gathering of friends and family congregated in celebration. Except for this couple, their day ended in tragedy. A suicide bomber attacked their wedding, killing at least 53 people. At least 22 of the dead were under the age of 14. The bomber himself is believed to have been between 12 and 14. The bride and groom are injured, but not critically. Yet even as their physical wounds heal, the psychological wounds of this horrific event will likely stay with them and their friends and family for a long time.
When I heard about the wedding in Gaziantep, I recalled an interview that I heard with Dr. Farida. Dr. Farida is reportedly the last female obstetrician-gynecologist in eastern Aleppo, which has been ravaged by the Syrian civil war. The interviewer asked whether fewer women are getting pregnant now or if fewer women are trying to have children, due to the siege. Dr. Farida responded that despite the siege, almost every day there is a wedding, and women are getting pregnant. Even in the face of such chaos, life goes on. People get married, and share their hopes and dreams for the future. Mothers and fathers cradle their children, praying for a safer world for their sons and daughters.
I enjoy attending weddings because they embody a person’s hopes for the future. Some people may despise the pageantry and razzmatazz and grandiosity. Some may cast a cynical eye on the couple and declare “I give them a month, maybe two tops.” And I recognize the dangers of the juggernaut of faulty expectations and overblown promises that is the American wedding industry. Yet even through all of that, I still like weddings. A wedding is an opportunity for the couple to declare that no matter what the future brings, that they will be present for each other. That though the path ahead may be uncertain and dangerous, they will support one another. That there is always hope.

On my way to the airport

I took a Lyft to the airport for my trip to the Bay Area this weekend. My Lyft driver was a middle-aged man from Armenia. He said that he used to manage a cigar shop. He told me that he had two sons, both around my age. His older son was a hardworking fellow who works for ADT, the security company. But his younger son had never been much of a hard worker. The driver told his son again and again to go to college and get a degree, but no matter how hard he would try, he couldn’t get his son to do much with his life.
One day, my driver was in his shop with his son, when a young Korean-American woman walked in. The son and the woman started talking. Before too long, they were dating, and plan to get married next year. The woman told the son that he needs to make something of himself. The son has started exercising more and taking work seriously. He even took over managing the shop from his father, and is expanding his business into more shops.
My driver told me that as much as he tried to get his son on the right track, his son did not listen to him. But as the son pursued a relationship with this woman, he wanted to change himself to not lose her.

Met a beautiful young woman on the plane

Yesterday, on my flight from Burbank to Oakland on my way to Seattle, I was seated next to a beautiful young woman. She was wearing a long flowing gown and fashionable heels. I usually keep to myself on planes, and I had some work to do, so I didn’t engage her in conversation.
As we were landing, she turned to me and said, “Would you like a mint?” I accepted, and she said that she was so excited to spend the weekend in Oakland. We chatted a bit about her weekend plans, and I told her that I was going to Seattle.
She asked me what I do for a living, and I told her about my new position at a civil rights nonprofit in San Francisco. She started telling me about the charity work that she does. She then gave me a flier for a rock show that she was putting together to raise money for multiple sclerosis. She told me about the difficult year that her family went through, with several members experiencing health issues and wrangling with the government for medical benefits.
I asked about other projects that she does, and she told me about a side business that she conducts with her girlfriend hosting pickling parties. They would go to a person’s house and would put different vegetables in brine, ready to enjoy as pickles in a few months. She smiled and said, “It’s really just a good excuse to drink a lot of alcohol”. She told me that the idea came about when she and her girlfriend were thinking about what kind of food to have at their wedding.
Our plane arrived at the gate. She gave me her business card for the pickling business, and we wished each other well.
I don’t often engage in conversation on planes. I figure that most people would like to be left alone. But if someone is willing to talk, I’m willing to listen. I enjoyed my chat with Kimberly, and I learned that pickle parties are a thing.