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Archive for October 2005

Overview of the Bar Exam



There
is a good chance that the bar exam will be the least enjoyable
experience of your entire legal career. Passing the state bar exam is
required in order to be admitted as a lawyer in that state. Each state
has its own variation of the examination, but most share certain
components.

The first component, the Multistate Bar Exam, is the same in every
state. It consists of 200 multiple-choice questions prepared by the
National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) covering a range of legal
topics, including contracts, constitutional law, criminal law and
procedure, evidence, property and torts. You will have six hours to
answer these questions, in two periods of three hours each. This gives
you a little less than two minutes per question. The MBE questions are
not short. A question might be several sentences long and each answer
will probably also be a sentence or two. In other words, you’ll
probably need the whole six hours to complete the exam. The District of
Columbia and all states except Louisiana and Washington require lawyers
to have passed the MBE.

Virtually every state bar exam includes a second, and sometimes even
a third, day of essays. Some exams tailor questions to their state’s
laws (for example, California, New York, Maryland, North Carolina),
while other states use the Multistate Essay Exam as their essay
section. The Multistate Essay Exam consists of six essay questions
spread over the course of three hours. Other states have their own
format. Some topics might be familiar to you from your law school
classes (like contracts, real property and torts), but others will only
ring a bell if you took the course as an elective (such as wills,
family law, conflict of laws or corporations). There will be as many as
20 different areas of law that you need to study.

Another component common to most bar exams is known as the
Multistate Performance Test. This section is designed to test your
lawyering abilities and responses to ethical dilemmas and clients. Not
all states use this in their bar exams, and some only use part of it
(New York, for example, has only one Multistate Performance question,
while other states include more). This section is generally only
allotted an hour or two.

Finally, before you graduate from law school, you will probably be
required to take an ethics test, known as the Multistate Professional
Responsibility Test. The MPRE is a little over two hours long and
consists of 50 multiple-choice questions designed to measure your
knowledge of ethical standards of the legal profession. The exam is
offered by the NCBE three times a year, in March, August and November.
If you are not required by your state to take the MPRE, you might be
subject to a separate ethics section when you take your bar exam.

All in all, the bar exam is like a two- to three-day legal marathon.
You will prepare for it for months and study as you have never studied
before. It will often seem that you can’t possibly learn as much as
you’re expected to. Don’t despair; as a general rule, more people pass
than fail any bar exam and, if you do fail the first time around, you
can take it again.

If you already have a job lined up, then your firm may pay for a bar
review course such as BAR/BRI or PMBR. Public service and government
agencies usually will not pay for this course. Whether it’s paid for or
not, however, it’s highly recommended that you enroll in some kind of
course to prepare for your bar exam. There are just too many subjects
to cover, many of which you will never have seen before in your law
school career, and attending a course regularly will help you develop
an organized approach to studying. These courses outline all the
requirements for your state’s bar exam and review all the legal
subjects that may be covered on the exam. You will probably start
studying for the bar soon after graduation and take the exam in the
summer. Many states offer the exam in late July. Most bar exams are
offered at least twice and possibly four times a year, so you can take
more time to prepare, if your firm allows it.

Most law firms allow you to take the bar exam again if you failed it
the first time. Government agencies such as prosecutors’ offices
usually won’t give you a second chance. Even so, it’s quite common for
some attorneys to take the bar twice or even three times. Your scores
are not cumulative or dependent on each other, and you will only need
to pass once.

LATEST NEWS

Early retirement does not lead to longer life

Taking early retirement does not help ex-workers live longer, research has suggested.

Research in the US has suggested that early retirement at 55 may
actually make them more likely to die earlier than if they had carried
on working.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, involved more than 3,500 employees working for Shell Oil in Texas.

The workers retired at either 55, 60 or 65 and were monitored for up
to 26 years to see what effect their age at retirement had on their
lifespan.

The study found that workers who retired at the earlier age had a
significantly higher mortality compared with staff who left work at 65.

In fact, the death rate was almost twice as high in the first 10
years after retirement at 55 compared with those who continued to work.
But the study concluded that ill-health leading to early retirement may
play a part in their findings.

Author: Mike Berry

Once More, With Feeling: Who Needs Insurance?

By Michelle Singletary
Thursday, October 13, 2005; D02

Without
a doubt, life insurance should be an important part of many people’s
financial plan. Having said that, don’t be scared into buying insurance
you don’t need.

I wrote a column recently about who needs
life insurance. I said you don’t need to get insurance for a child. I
said if you’re single and you don’t have anybody depending on you for
support, you don’t need life insurance. I said that if you’re nearing
retirement or are retired and have adequate savings and retirement
investments to take care of a surviving spouse, you don’t need life
insurance.

Well, letters from disagreeing insurance agents and
others filled my e-mail inbox faster than a river rising during a major
storm.

Here’s a sampling:

· "I see time and again
that life insurance is not suggested for children since no one relies
on their income. I find this advice a little shocking and short-sighted
since a child’s funeral is not free."

· "A minor child may develop physical ailments in his teens or early adulthood that could render him uninsurable."

· "Young and single people die and leave debt."

·
"Older people, who need their money to live on, can use life insurance
to help their grandkids compete in this unbalanced society."

· "The value of life insurance on senior citizens and empty nesters is to cover the cost of taxation on their estates."

If
I may, let me add a reality check to such emotionally charged sales
pitches from, I hope, well-meaning folks who are trying to make a
living selling a product most people don’t want to buy.

Yes, it’s
true that the average funeral costs about $6,500 not including the
burial plot, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
Adding in burial expenses, a funeral can cost about $10,000.

So,
sure, if you don’t have any savings to speak of and you worry about
paying for a funeral, then it may be prudent to get a small life
insurance policy on your child. However, according to government
statistics, the likelihood that your child will die prematurely is low.
The likelihood that your child will develop an illness that will
prevent him or her from getting life insurance as an adult is also low.

In
fact, based on the 2001 CSO Mortality Table (the mortality table most
recently adopted by the National Association of Insurance
Commissioners), an average of one child per 3,000 dies each year,
reports the American Council of Life Insurers. In 2003, about 83
percent of children were reported by their parents to be in very good
or excellent health, according to the latest figures from
ChildStats.gov. And in a 2003 survey of life insurance companies, the
ACLI found that approximately 98 percent of people who apply for
insurance are offered coverage.

As with most things in life,
there are exceptions. Children do die. They do get sick. So if your
family has a history of medical problems, if your child isn’t being
raised in a healthy environment, then it may be wise to buy a policy
while he or she is young and insurable.

Here’s the answer to an
industry line pitched to singles that just isn’t true: Your debts are
not inherited by family members. Unless someone co-signed on your loans
or signed paperwork to pay your bills if you couldn’t, a creditor
cannot legally make your parents, siblings or any other family members
pay your debts after you die. If you want to buy insurance to pay off
your debts, fine. But don’t do it because you’ve been told your debts
will be a burden to your loved ones.

If you’re single and you
think you’re going to die leaving your family without the means to bury
you, then okay, maybe you should get a small term life insurance policy
to cover funeral expenses.

As for seniors, the basic advice for
who needs life insurance applies. If you have a spouse or relative who
needs your income to survive after your death, get insurance. But if
that profile doesn’t fit you, if you’re retired with a limited income,
don’t buy an insurance policy if you could use that money for something
else. Yes, it would be nice to leave a financial legacy, but that’s
something you do when you’ve got spare cash.

What about the argument that people need insurance so that their heirs can pay estate taxes?

Less
than one out of every 100 people who die owes any estate tax, according
to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The first $1.5 million
of the value of any estate is exempt from taxation. In 2009 that
exemption is slated to rise to $3.5 million. At that level, only 3 of
every 1,000 people who die will have an estate large enough to owe any
tax.

Have you noticed I keep using the word "need" when it comes
to purchasing insurance? That’s because insurance is a game of chance.
With life insurance, companies take a chance that you or whoever is
covered won’t die prematurely. Many people wisely purchase insurance in
case that bet is wrong. However, you win at this game if you buy only
what you need based on a realistic examination of the facts, not on
emotion.

Calculating Feline Age
   
   
       
   

A widely held belief for determining whether a cat is
middle-aged or old is that one year in a cat’s life equals four in a
human’s. In truth, the situation is not that neat, and if you think
about it, you can easily see why. Under a "one equals four" rule, a
1-year-old cat would be the equivalent in terms of mental and physical
maturity to a human 4-year-old, and that’s clearly off.

A better equation is to count the first year of a cat’s life as
being comparable to the time a human reaches the early stages of
adulthood — the age of 15 or so. Like a human adolescent, a 1-year-old
cat looks fairly grown up and is physically capable of becoming a
parent but lacks emotional maturity.

The second year of a cat’s life picks up some of that maturity and
takes a cat to the first stages of full adulthood in humans — a
2-year-old cat is roughly equivalent to a person in the mid-20s.

From there, the "four equals one" rule works pretty well. A cat of 3
is still young, comparable to a person of 29. A 6-year-old cat, similar
to a 41-year-old person, is in the throes of middle age; a 12-year-old
cat, similar to a 65-year-old person, has earned the right to slow down
a little. A cat who lives to be 20 is the feline equivalent of nearly
100 in terms of human life span!

Caution: Credit Hazards Ahead

Every day, in different ways, we do things to protect ourselves without

  even giving it a second thought. Buckle our seatbelts. Wear sunscreen. Avoid the "mystery meat" at the deli. The list goes on and on.

But what are you doing to protect yourself from a credit calamity? One of the easiest ways to keep your credit
in good shape is to know how to handle the risky situations that can
lead to a credit disaster. Here are common causes of a credit meltdown
and what you can do to stay one step ahead.

Unpaid medical bills. This is how the story unfolds: you
think your insurance company is taking care of your medical bill. For
one reason or the other, it doesn’t get paid. The bill becomes overdue
and is sent to collections. Suddenly, you’re stuck with a collections
record on your credit report for 7 years.

Don’t let this happen to you. Get to know your insurance coverage
inside and out. If your insurance company doesn’t pay the bill, you’re
better off if you pay it and then negotiate the amount to get your
money back.

Divorce. If you go through a divorce, it’s important to
split up all of your joint accounts. The last thing you need is to have
your credit suffer because your former spouse is racking up credit card
bills or missing payments. Make sure all joint and co-signed accounts
from your marriage are closed or refinanced.

The best way to do this is to get your credit report
and look over your accounts carefully. Keep in mind that a court decree
alone will not stop a joint account from being recorded on each party’s
credit report.

Identity theft. You’re probably not surprised to see
identity theft on the list. Identity theft is a real threat these days,
but if you know how to prevent it, you have a better chance of safeguarding your credit.

Some prevention tips are: shred everything with your name on it
before you throw it away…only use your credit card on websites you know
are safe…don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet…and
consider paying your bills online or with automatic payment (less mail
for thieves to get their hands on).

Another great security step is signing up for credit monitoring from TrueCredit. It’s an easy way to keep an eye on your credit.

Try
to stay on top of your credit basics now to protect your credit later.
You’ll be glad you did when you steer clear of trouble down the road.

Living A Life Of Grace 


Grace exists inside of all of us and around us. It is our inner beauty
that radiates outward, touching everyone we meet. It is that unseen
hand that comes from the divine, raising us up when we most need it. To
be able to live in a state of grace is not based on worthiness, nor is
it earned through good deeds, ritual, or sacrifice. Rather it is an
unearned favor, freely bestowed and available to all, that is inherent
to our birthright. All we must do is open our eyes to its presence and
we will find and experience grace everywhere.

Grace is in the rain bringing relief to drought-ridden farms, and the
unexpected lead for the perfect job opportunity that comes from a
stranger. Grace is what happens to someone when they miraculously
escape injury; it is even the simple events that happen to us that we
call "good luck," like when we don’t get a parking ticket after are
meter has expired. Grace resides in the love between two people, the
gift or check that comes unexpectedly in the mail, the cozy comforts
that make up a home, and in the acts of forgiveness we bestow upon
others. It is grace that moves us to go out of our way to help a
stranger. In music, a grace note is the pause between notes that is so
important to the pacing of a song. Grace is the state we are in when we
are doing nothing but just being who we are.

When we accept that we always exist in a state of grace, we are able to
live our lives more graciously. Knowing we are graced gives us hope,
makes us more generous, and allows us to trust that we are taken care
of even when we are going through difficult times. Grace is our
benevolence of heart, and our generosity of spirit. Grace is
unconditional love and the beauty that is our humanity. When we know
that we are blessed with grace, we can’t help but want to live our
lives in harmony.


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