Considering Another State Bar Exam? 5 Strategies I Used To Minimize Time And Maximize Success On My 2nd Bar Exam

SamFarkusBy Sam Farkas,
BARBRI curriculum architect and instructor

I took my first bar exam in the state of Florida in 2012.

Through my role at BARBRI, I help students every day prepare for success on the bar exam; however, when I personally began preparing for my second state bar exam (Georgia) this past February, I seriously questioned whether I was up for it—particularly given the demands on my time and my work responsibilities.

I invariably recalled the stressful and angst-ridden few months following graduation from law school when I marshalled every ounce of effort to pass the most important test of my professional career the first time.

As I began studying for the exam though, I realized that the skills, knowledge and grit that I had cultivated over the past few years impacted how I prepared for the exam.

5 ways in which I approached studying for my second bar exam differently:

1. I treated the bar exam like a client

Every minute matters. Most of us have learned how to maximize efficiency by putting every minute of available time to good use. Moreover, many of us are well practiced at juggling multiple client matters throughout the day, moving seamlessly from one task to the next.

I treated bar preparation like a client matter and decided how much time per day I could spend on it. I kept track of my time and moved on when I needed to work on something else. Where I could, I filled breaks in my day with some focused study. A half an hour of review during my lunch break or answering practice MBE questions on my mobile device while waiting for an appointment were great ways to maximize what limited time I had to devote to studying.

2. I obtained the right preparation resources

Of course I had access to BARBRI materials; however, I didn’t need the exact same materials that I needed my first time around. I wanted the right combination of the best study resources so that I could study the most efficiently.

These insights went directly into the development of the new BARBRI Attorney’s Course. This Attorney’s Course is all online and provides a streamlined study plan that allowed me to pinpoint my personal topic and subtopic weaknesses so I could spend time working on the areas that would most benefit MY personal exam score. This strategy was critical in maximizing my time while still putting me in the best position possible to be successful on the exam.

3. I maximized efficiency

To make the best and most efficient use of my limited study time, I had to determine which subjects deserved the most effort and prioritize my study accordingly. I found, like most of you likely will, that I had developed a very sophisticated understanding of a few areas and a better understanding of many additional areas of law since my first exam.

All subjects are not necessarily treated equally on the exam based on jurisdiction; therefore, I evaluated which subjects required a more in-depth review and prioritized those over other subjects that required (or deserved) less time. The benefit of the BARBRI Attorney’s Course is that we’ve already figured out that weighting for you.

For me, and I believe for most, familiarity with the subject and the amount of time I needed to dedicate to learning the rules in a subject dictated the best method of study, and it was a little different for each subject. Sometimes I relied more on the lectures during my daily commute and other times I really needed to review written materials.

4. I played to my strengths

The bar exam is a test of legal problem-solving. Sure, knowledge of the law is important, but well developed legal problem solving skills, strong reading comprehension skills, and sheer endurance will take a person very far on this exam.

As licensed attorneys, we have spent our professional career sharpening these skills and are adept at breaking down even the most complex of problems. Luckily, legal problems on the bar are much more straightforward and simple than what we encounter in practice.

In practice, I am accustomed to studying the law through the context of actual legal problems. Therefore, when preparing for the exam, I strengthened my knowledge of the rules by frequently working practice problems—both multiple choice and essay.  I also made good use of the model answers to reinforce my knowledge of the black letter rules.

5. I kept the big picture in mind

Above all, I maintained my focus on the goal: passing the exam, which I did.  The bar exam is a test of minimum competency. Expertise and specialized knowledge are not required for success. I had already passed the bar once and am already a licensed attorney. Sure, I may have had to learn some state-specific law or brush up on the common law majority rules, but mastery of every rule— or even every subject—was not necessary! I just needed to earn enough points to get a passing score.

If you find yourself contemplating another state bar exam, we at BARBRI wish you all the best and always know that BARBRI is here to help you Own The Bar….again.

About the BARBRI Attorney’s Course: 

The BARBRI Attorney’s course builds upon your knowledge and skills to get you to your next law license, faster. This attorney-focused course saves you time by:

  • Providing a streamlined, all online experience constructed to save you precious, valuable time
  • Bypassing many basic bar exam test taking skills critical for first time takers
  • Getting you quickly to the most highly tested areas of the exam overall and within each subject
  • Pinpointing your topic and subtopic weaknesses so you can spend time working the areas of law that will most benefit your exam score.

Licensed attorneys studying for the exam in a state in which the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is administered or California may enroll in this course at this time.

Learn more here: Attorney’s Course

#The2Llife: The “Gavel Gap”

GUEST BLOG by Dani Gies,
2L at UCLA School of Law

I went to a discussion at lunch the other day on the “Gavel Gap.” 

Sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the Gavel Gap website (gavelgap.org) gives the following description of the study:

In order to address [the] serious shortcoming [of lack of knowledge of state court judges] in our understanding of America’s courts, we have constructed an unprecedented database of state judicial biographies. This dataset—the State Bench Database–includes more than 10,000 current sitting judges on state courts of general jurisdiction in all 50 states. We use it to examine the gender, racial, and ethnic composition of state courts, which we then compare to that of the general population in each state. We find that courts are not representative of the people whom they serve. We call this disparity The Gavel Gap (emphasis added).

The Gavel Gap in my state, California, is unfortunately very pronounced. Overall, California was given a “D” grade. The state population is 31% women of color, 30% men of color, 19% white women, and 19% white men. However, the representation of each of these groups as judges in the state court is much lower.  Women of color make up only 10% of state court judges and men of color are 17%, while 23% of state court judges are white women and a staggering 51% are white men. 

As a woman of color, and person who generally cares about diversity and equity, especially in the court system, these statistics are disturbing. I think law schools can be better about encouraging people of color to aspire to the bench, and lawyers that are people of color need more models to look up to.

It’s Official! The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) Is Coming To Oregon, Effective July 2017.

By Zac Smallwood, Esq.,
BARBRI Director of Legal Education

As an attorney who has taken and passed the Oregon bar exam as well as a UBE, I am excited to help guide students through this transition process. Below are some pertinent details you should know:

What is the UBE?

The UBE is a two-day exam, and it consists of the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

How is the exam changing?

Oregon has adopted the Uniform Bar Exam. This means that the Oregon Bar Exam will undergo several changes beginning July 2017. Oregon previously administered the MBE, MPT and a combination of MEE and Oregon-specific essays. With the first administration of the UBE, the essay portion of the Oregon Bar Exam will be replaced by the MEE. Here are the essential details:

  • Scores and Character Limits: Tentatively, the current cut score of 284 and the essay character limit remain unchanged. If adjustments are made to either or both, we will notify BARBRI students.  UPDATE: The New OR Passing Score is 274.
  • Weighting: Previously, the Oregon Essay portion and MPT were weighted equally at 25%. The MEE will now make up 30% of a bar applicant’s exam score and the MPT portion 20%. There will be no change to the number of essays (6) or MPTs (2) on the exam.
  • Testable Subject Matter: The MEE will test Agency & Partnerships, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Corporations, Criminal Law & Procedure, Decedent’s Estates/Wills, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates, UCC Article II, and UCC Article IX. For those unfamiliar with the subjects currently tested on the Oregon Bar Exam, the two new subjects are Family Law and Conflict of Laws.
  • The Oregon Bar Exam will no longer test Federal Income Taxation, Federal or Oregon Administrative Law, Oregon Evidence, Oregon Civil Procedure, or Oregon Legal Ethics.
  • Score Transfers: Oregon will accept UBE score transfers beginning July 2017. Oregon will not accept scores earned in a UBE jurisdiction prior to July 2017.
  • BARBRI Bar Exam Digest: BARBRI compiles the latest bar exam format and requirements yearly from each state’s board of bar examiners and brings it together in this digest. Download this free resource here.

UBE-Exam_marketing2Why does this impact me?

The Uniform Bar Exam provides increased mobility for young lawyers, permitting lawyers to transfer scores obtained in one UBE jurisdiction to another, subject to certain limitations (for comprehensive information, please review the NCBE’s Bar Admission Guide, here). To that end, the Oregon Bar Exam will offer access to a larger job market by allowing successful exam takers to obtain a license in other jurisdictions, including nearby states like Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

With BARBRI At Your Side, You’ll Own The Bar. It’s important to know that no matter what changes are made to the exam, BARBRI is here to help you #OwnTheBar. We’re the only bar review provider that has prepared students for every single administration of the MBE, MPT, and MEE. We were here when the UBE was first offered, and we’ll be here for you now that Oregon has adopted the UBE. As the July 2017 Oregon Bar Exam approaches, we’ll keep you apprised of details as they become available.

Questions? Contact me by email at zac.smallwood@barbri.com or directly at 206-747-8797.

#The2Llife: Planning for Spring Classes

GUEST BLOG by Dani Gies,
2L at UCLA School of Law

It may seem way too early to write a post about this, but actually, it may be late.

I planned the spring schedule I thought I wanted during the summer, when I was signing up for fall classes. Well, to be honest, I planned the rest of law school to make sure that I would be fulfilling all of the requirements for my program and specialization, as well as taking the electives I want to take. I will personally be taking Civil Rights, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, and an Immigrant Rights Policy Clinic. I was going to take Professional Responsibility, but I may decide to work or volunteer at a local nonprofit or immigration firm instead. As I’m trying to solidify my schedule, here’s what some of my classmates have said about some of the classes they’re taking:

Advanced Legal Research: You don’t get a lot of opportunities to do research outside of the first-year required course, so this is a great way to supplement your legal education with practical skills.

Business Associations: Take it, even if you’re not interested in corporate law. First of all, it’s a bar class, and second, it’s useful knowledge. 

Constitutional Criminal Procedure: Bar class. Definitely take it if you’re interested in criminal law. Focuses primarily on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

Evidence: Another bar class. Take Evidence if you want to be certified as a law student to appear in court. (Sidenote: one of my friends is certified now, as a 2L in the fall! In California, must have completed the first year of law school and taken Civil Procedure, in addition to completing or being enrolled in Evidence.)

Professional Responsibility: This is required, so definitely take it. When you take it doesn’t really matter, but be sure you take the right amount of credits for the state you want to practice in, because different states have different requirements.

What classes would you recommend 2Ls and 3Ls take? Let me know on Twitter @The2Llife!