The One Thing You Need to Know / Do to Pass the Bar Exam

By Sam Farkas, Esq,
BARBRI Curriculum Architect and Instructor

As you approach the bar exam, you’re likely to hear all kinds of “quick fix” advice, which often sounds something like, “to pass, all you really need to do is ________.” You are a trained critical thinker, so hopefully, any bar success claim beginning with, “all you have to do is…” triggers suspicion.

As the old saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

At BARBRI, we’ve heard everything from “create your own study plan” to “you only need this book,” “you only need to work 1,000 multiple-choice questions,” or “you only need to study for 100 hours.” The list goes on and on. Assuming these claims are even true (dig in a bit and you often find that those making these claims actually worked harder than they suggest), why experiment and risk your one opportunity to be a first-time bar passer?  Sure, an applicant with a strong knowledge of the law, excellent study, reading, analytical and writing skills, who faces no real consequences if he/she fails, and who is committed to proving all the doubters wrong, might be able to eke out a passing score. But, like all dubious advertisement claims, such advice should come with that fine print disclaimer: “individual results may vary.”

For any significant achievement like passing the bar exam, there are no simple one-size-fits-all shortcuts to bypass the work required for success.

There is simply no amount of “good luck” that can overcome a deficit of knowledge on this exam. When you walk into the exam room, you want to know that you gave it your all. You want to know that you followed an effective bar prep plan, did the work and took ownership of your success. BARBRI Bar Review provides you with a Personal Study Plan (PSP) that maximizes your study investment by focusing you on what is most important for you to pass the exam. It leverages science and technology to boost learning and progress, and it works in partnership with you, adjusting to your schedule, strengths and weaknesses, and performance. With the PSP, you will not stress about what law to focus on or what practice questions to work. You will not have to worry about whether you are on track for success. You will not have to wonder how you are doing in comparison to the vast majority of applicants taking the exam with you. When you allow the experts to guide you through your preparation, you get to focus on what matters most— learning what you need to pass the bar.

So, here’s one thing you really do need to know to pass the bar exam.

There is no such thing as luck. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Your opportunity is set. What are you doing to prepare for it?

ABOUT BARBRI BAR REVIEW

BARBRI pioneered bar review and proudly celebrates more than 50 years of helping more than 1.3 million students pass the bar exam. BARBRI’s constant innovation, leadership and depth of experience based on what will be 100 bar exams going back to 1967 influences all aspects of bar review – where it’s been, where it is today and the vast possibilities of where BARBRI will lead it next. Every year, the overwhelming majority of law students across the nation choose BARBRI Bar Review to prepare for the bar exam – and pass it the first time. Learn more about the nation’s #1 bar review at BARBRI.com.

#The1Llife: Law School Attire Un-coded

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Being a law student inadvertently means you will be attending a variety of events – everything from firm happy hours to formal balls.

Unfortunately for our budgets each event carries with it a different dress code, meaning a trip to the mall may be in order. In an effort to make your shopping more streamlined, and your sanity levels remain in check when you get that event invitation indicating “cocktail formal” as the dress attire; I’ve compiled a list of the dress codes you’ll likely encounter, and the outfits to go with them (for both men and women).

Casual

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you show up in your favorite leggings or ripped jeans and t-shirt. You do still need to be presentable, but it does mean you can leave the blazer and dress pants at home.

Men can wear dark jeans or chinos with presentable shoes, such as deck shoes, and a polo shirt or knit sweater.

Women can similarly wear dark jeans, chinos, or a summer dress, with flat shoes or boots, and a plain top or sweater with minimal jewelry.

Business Casual

Normally reserved for networking happy hours, or day-time conferences, the business casual look is more rigid then the previously listed casual, but more flexible then business formal.

Men in these situations have two options. Option one includes chinos or dark jeans, suit jacket or tweed jacket paired with a dress shirt and business shoes or loafers. Option Two substitutes the casual pant for a dress pant and white dress shirt combo minus the jacket, and excluding a tie.

Women can likewise opt for a casual pant or skirt paired with a dress top, heels, and blazer, or can incorporate dress pants / pencil skirt with a dress shirt minus the blazer. Here women also have the option of wearing a semi-casual dress, with or without a blazer (according to the formality of the dress) paired with shoes.

Business Formal

You’ll encounter the business formal invite for a number of networking events, on campus interviewing, off campus interviews, or student organization events and galas.

Men should opt for a full suit (pants, jacket, dress shirt, dress shoes, matching belt, and tie). Suits should ideally be tailored to fit, and the belt should complement or match the shoes.

Women Should likewise wear a full suit with heels or fancy loafers. There are unfortunately pros and cons for pants suits v. skirt suits, and much will depend on the job you are aiming for, or the event you are attending. Many firms for instance prefer the “traditional” pencil skirt, I for one support the divergence from tradition and the blurring of gender lines so long as the suit is presentable and well fitting.

Cocktail

Most are aware of the cocktail formal dress code, and while you may think cocktail events are reserved for attorneys, I’ve attended a surprising amount of cocktail attire events during my 1L year.

Men should opt for a full suit in either black, charcoal, or navy. Again, the belt should match the shoes and cuff links may be worn for fashion purposes.

Women generally women will be safe with a “little black dress” paired with heels, a clutch and complimenting jewelry. If a dress doesn’t seem up your alley you can also opt for a fashion forward black pant suit, or a skirt and fancy top combo.

Cocktail Formal

Who knew cocktail formal even existed? I for one had to call my mom to get clarification on the difference between cocktail, cocktail formal, and formal attire. Though the difference is minimal, it is quasi important if you want to ‘fit in.’

Men, full black suits or fashion forward print suits, paired with dress shoes or statement loafers are the attire for these events.

Women can trade in the little black dress for a more fashion forward, formal gown. Long gowns would likely be going too far, however if you think short bridesmaid dress, or red carpet worthy outfits (excluding those long gowns) you’ll be on the right track. Again, clutches are appropriate, as are heels and complimentary jewelry.

Black Tie

Black tie events are rare, but if your school hosts a barrister’s ball you may encounter one of these.

Men will require a full tuxedo, including shoes, bow tie, and cuff links. Tuxedos generally require one week for advanced rentals, or up to a month if you plan to buy since hemming is required.

Women generally opt for a long gown, paired with heels, clutches, and complimentary jewelry. Again, plan to buy your dress early as you will likely need to hem based on your height and the height of your heels.

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#The3Llife: The Art of the Follow-Up

GUEST BLOG Katie R. Day,
Quinnipiac University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2018

Around this time of year, I see the same question popping up on law school message boards and in law student’s conversations. “How do I follow up?”

The question applies to so many scenarios: job and internship interviews, networking events, bar association conferences, etc. You go to the event or the interview, you have a great time, you go home, and then what? The next step is to send a brief follow up message. Exactly how does that work? Check out the tips below!

For an event…

Events are less formal than job interviews, so your follow up message can reflect that. The easiest and most convenient way to follow up is either via email or LinkedIn. I’m personally a big fan of using LinkedIn, especially if you’re just looking to add the person to your network. As a LinkedIn connection, the person will be able to see your updates and stay in touch easier.  When you send a connection request on LinkedIn, accompany it with a brief personal message reminding the person how/where you met.

If you have a specific request (ie. you want to get coffee or do an informational interview) its better to send an email. Once again, make sure to remind the person how you met to refresh their memory and then make your request.

Neither the LinkedIn message or the email need to be long or complex. Start with “It was great meeting you at the [X networking event] on [Y date].” And then follow up with your request. For example, “I’d like to add you to my network and keep in touch.” Or  “Would you be available sometime next week to grab a cup of coffee and talk more about [Z]?” Simple as that!

For a job/ internship interview…

You’ll likely want your interview follow up to be a bit more in-depth than an event follow up. Start by thanking the person for taking time to meet with you and discuss the position. If it’s applicable, highlight a part of the conversation the piqued your interest or an aspect of the position you find especially intriguing. If the interviewer asked for any additional info, like references or a writing sample, be sure to include that in this email as well. And last, but certainly not least, express your enthusiasm for the position.

Since your employer is likely doing other interviews and looking to make decisions in a short time frame, it’s recommended that you send your follow up email within 24 hours of the interview. If you interview with multiple people, make sure you collect all of their business cards at the end of the interview and send each one a personalized email. An additional tip: Keep a template, like the one below, bookmarked so after your interview you can easily pull it up, edit, and send it out!

“Dear XX,

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today about [X position]. It was great to meet you and learn more about the position. The work your firm/company does with Y and Z is impressive and I’m very excited about the opportunity to join your team.”

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or would like any additional information.

Thank you again for your time!”

#The3LLife: Making Your Schedule

GUEST BLOG Katie R. Day,
Quinnipiac University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2018

As this current semester wraps up (we’re over halfway through!) it’s likely that you’re thinking about what classes you’ll take next semester.

I always felt a bit overwhelmed during the scheduling process. There were so many classes I wanted to take and only so many hours in my day. To make the process a bit easier for myself I came up with a few questions to consider when evaluating classes. Take a look and let me know how you decide what to take!

Is this class required?

It might not be the class you’re looking forward to most, but if it’s required for graduation you may want to take it. By getting your required classes out of the way, you’ll free up your last year or last semester for electives. Plus, it’s always a good idea to get requirements out of the way as soon as possible. You don’t want to have to delay your graduation or take an unexpected summer class because you didn’t get something done.

Is this class known for being difficult?

I’m not suggesting you shy away from challenging classes–some of my favorite classes have been the most difficult. However, I do recommend that you avoid loading up on classes that are known for being time consuming or hard. You want to be able to enjoy the class and actually get something out of it, not feel insanely stressed and fall behind due to a crazy workload.

Am I interested in the topic?

You won’t be able to completely avoid subject matter that you don’t find interesting. Sometimes a class that doesn’t seem interesting will be the only thing that fits into your schedule or will be a requirement. With that being said, if you have the option, choose something you think you’ll like. Having an interest in the material makes it a lot easier to focus in class and get the assignments done.

Do I like the professor?

The professor can make or break a class. Look at who is teaching the class before you sign up.  Think about the last time you took a class with that person. Did you like their teaching style? Did you feel comfortable asking questions or going to office hours? If you haven’t taken that professor before, ask your classmates for their opinions.

Are there other options?

Before committing to a schedule, look at all the options. Maybe you want to work in an internship/ clinic time or you might want to do an independent study if you’re a credit or two short. Your school likely has a lot of different ways you can get your credits. Talk to the registrar or your advisor about your goals and what you’d like to learn. Part of their job is to help you, so take advantage of it!

Negotiating Your First Job Offer: Salary, Benefits, Reviews and More

GUEST BLOG Katie R. Day,
Quinnipiac University School of Law

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for since you started going on job interviews. You got a job offer!

There’s nothing more exciting than landing your first job after law school graduation. But once the excitement wears off, you realize that you need to evaluate the offer and decide whether or not to accept. I know it can be tempting to just say yes immediately, but there are a few things you should consider before committing.

Evaluate your expenses

Take some time to sit down and make a list of all the expenses you have: rent, car payment, insurance, food, student loans, utilities, etc. Add up all these expenses and see how much you actually need to spend on a yearly basis. Chances are it will be higher than you thought. At the very least, you need to make sure that the offer will give you enough to cover all of these expenses with some left over. You’ll want a bit of a cushion for unexpected costs (I’m looking at you, cracked windshield).

Research salaries at comparable jobs

You want to see how your offer compares with the industry standard. Sites like Glassdoor, PayScale and USA Wage have helpful ranges that take into account your location, experience, firm size and type of law.

Play around with these sites and see where your offer falls. If you feel comfortable, you may also want to ask a friend who recently graduated about their starting salary. More information is always better.

Look at benefits

Salary isn’t the only part of your offer you’ll want to evaluate. Does your employer pay for health insurance? How much will they contribute to a 401(k)? How many vacation days do you get? Think about the things that are important to you.

You may be willing to accept a salary that is a bit lower in exchange for great health coverage or the opportunity to work from home and spend more time with your kids.

Be aware of the possibility for re-evaluation

This is a starting salary and you’ll want to have the opportunity to get a raise based on your performance. Be sure you know when your firm will be doing evaluations or performance reviews and when you’ll have the opportunity to get a raise. Setting up an opportunity for re-evaluation up-front will set expectations and save your from a potentially awkward conversation down the road.

At the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to job offers. If the offer works for you, and you’re happy with it, then accept. It’s all about what you want in a job and whether the offer is meeting your needs and goals.

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#The1Llife: Essential Supplies for Law School

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

So, you decided to become a law student … now, what do you need to buy in order to fit the mold?

While there, of course, is variety amongst us law students, some items seem to be a common amid the masses. With that in mind I’ve compiled a list of the most popular law school items – consider this your 1L Shopping Guide.

  1. Highlighters … highlighters … and more highlighters
    In undergrad I owned two highlighters, both yellow, any more would be overkill, right? Wrong. When case briefing it’s suggested you use a minimum of five different colors for facts, procedural history, issue, holding, and the decision/dissent or concurrences.
  2. Pens AND Pencils
    I’m a pen person, but during first semester I had to get back in the habit of using pencils.  When you rent your textbooks (because it saves you a ton) they generally don’t appreciate margins filled with permanent notes, thus you’re encouraged to use pencil. Furthermore, I had a process of taking my notes in pen, and then during review adding afterthoughts in pencil within the margins so as to separate my ideas.
  3. Notebooks or loose-leaf
    College was a time for many of us where we threw paper to the wind and adopted a purely technology-based system of note-taking. Law School brings you back to the stone ages and, in the majority of classes, prohibits the use of technology. Thus, be prepared to take your notes by hand, and since there are a lot of them, may I suggest purchasing a separate notebook for each course.
  4. Water Bottle / Thermos
    Not only is water essential for your health, it’s also useful when you’ve been called on. If you’ve ever watched professors or professional speakers, you’ll notice they always, without fail, have a water bottle near to ensure they never end up with a raspy voice due to a dry throat. In law school, you’re essentially being put on stage when you get a cold call so it’s always a good call to have water nearby. One smart move I’ve seen many students make is purchasing a dual bottle/thermos so they always have the option to switch to coffee or tea when fatigue hits.
  5. Binder
    Again, back to high school, we go. Case briefing for class (which you should do if you want to be prepared) means you’re printing out 1-6 pages per class, per day. Don’t be stuck shoving those valuable notes in your backpack to become crumpled, lost, and unorganized. Some opt for a small binder per class, but warning you will need one that’s larger than 1”. Personally, I went the one binder, individual tabs route to save myself space.
  6. Heavy Duty Backpack
    Casebooks are heavy. You’re $10 Wal-Mart no name backpack, or even your cute but flimsy designer bag is not going to do the trick – for us girls, using a purse is also a no go. You need a backpack that is not only sturdy enough to support the weight, but also one that’s comfortable – since you’re lugging it around – and that has enough space for your books, and pockets for your pens, highlighters, water bottle, etc.
  7. USB
    A USB is really never a bad thing to have on you, especially in a world where you’re constantly reading case briefs, and researching. Though most schools allow you to sync your laptop with the university printers and provide you access to on-campus computers, it never hurts to have a USB handy for the times when the school system is down and your forced to run across the street, or use someone’s personal printer.
  8. The Bluebook Online
    I believe every law school requires you purchase the Bluebook for legal citing purposes – if yours doesn’t you should 100% pick up a copy. Though I do believe you should own a hard copy, I have also discovered the joys of the e-version. Unfortunately for us, purchasing the hardcopy does not grant access to the online version, thus you’re forced to shell out more money to own both, but trust me it’s worth it.