Black History Month: First Black Lawyers

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

February is always a special month for me.

Not only does the month hold Valentine’s Day, but it also serves as black history month. As an African American women, I treat the month of February as a time of reflection. I always try to find new African American pioneers to highlight, especially during this month. When it comes to African American lawyers, most people are familiar with Thurgood Marshall. His work and the positions he held are well documented. However, before Marshall presented Brown v. Board of Education or became a Supreme Court Justice, Charlotte E. Ray and Macon Bolling Allen blazed a trail for African American attorneys.

Charlotte E. Ray

Charlotte E. Ray

Charlotte E. Ray was the first female African American licensed attorney.  She graduates at Howard University School of Law in 1872 and was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia. Her admittance also serves as one of the first women to be admitted to the D.C. bar. Eventually, her work brought her to the steps of the Supreme Court, making her the first woman to present a case to the Supreme Court.

Macon Bolling Allen

Macon Bolling Allen

Prior to Ray, there was Macon Bolling Allen. Allen is considered to be the first black licensed attorney in the US. He studied law, took the bar, and became a licensed attorney in Maine around 1844. He had great difficulties finding work in Maine due to the fact that he was a black lawyer. A year after passing the bar in Maine, he moved to Boston in an effort to find work and passed the Massachusetts state bar exam, after having to walk fifty miles to the testing site. He eventually opened the first black law office in the United States with another black attorney, Robert Morris.

I, personally, owe a great deal of gratitude to both Ray and Allen. Their courage and tenacity to persevere through the turmoil of racial segregation and animosity ease my journey to becoming a lawyer as an African American woman.

Preparing for Your 2L Summer

2L Summer

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

So you’ve landed a summer job, but you don’t start until May, so what do you do to fill the time? Obviously, you want to come in prepared, make a good impression, convince them you’re worth a full-time job offer. How do you differentiate yourself from the rest of your summer associate class?

I interviewed a number of 3L’s, asking them about their 2L summer experience, what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they wish they’d done, and here’s the advice that I got.

One.
Take a few courses in the areas that interest you the most

If you’re a 2L reading this then, unfortunately, it’s too late to register in courses; if you’re a 1L then keep this in mind for next year! For the 2L’s out there, while you may not be able to register for classes at your university, you can register for free online “crash courses” in these subject areas

Two.
Subscribe to and Read Law360

You don’t need to read every article that is sent your way, but every 3L I spoke to said the best way to appear competent in a particular field, aside from taking courses, is to read up on what is happening in that field in real time.

Three.
Brush up on the Rules of Professional Conduct

Whether or not you’ve taken your universities professional responsibility course, or the MPRE, you should make sure you understand the Rules of Professional Conduct since these rules and regulations will be applicable to you and your firm over the summer!

2L Summer

Four.
Network with people from your firm

You thought networking was over once you landed your job? Sorry to break it to you, but networking is forever a part of a lawyers job. Networking within your own firm can start before the summer program begins; feel free to reach out to junior and senior associates, get their advice on how best to prepare for your summer. Reaching out early will also benefit you when it comes to case assignment!

Five.
Accumulate your business wardrobe

Most of us have one or two suits that got us through interviewing, but that’s about it. The 2L summer is 10-weeks of employment where the dress code is likely business formal or at a minimum, business casual. Make sure you’re not caught running to the drycleaner in a mad panic because your one suit is dirty after two days on the job.

The Art of Networking Law School Style

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona

The legal community is much smaller than any of us realize and who you know can help build your reputation and reveal future opportunities.  But how do you make these connections and create new relationships? Networking of course.

Networking does not have to be scary or overwhelming. In fact, in many cases it can be as simple as sending an email, speaking to a professional after they have spoken at your school or talking with a Professor. Sure, we still need to attend large events and mixers for traditional networking but do not miss out on the small opportunities either. Here are 4 tips to help you become a networking pro.

Make the First Move

The first step to networking is to make the first move. If your law school is anything like mine, throughout the week you will have speakers at lunchtime. Start small and take the time to thank them after their presentation and introduce yourself. This might seem like a meaningless task, but if talking to new people makes you nervous this is a great time to practice. If you are comfortable talking to new people, this is a great time to use your elevator speech.

Refine Your “Elevator” Speech

By now I am sure you’ve heard people talk about the importance of an elevator speech. If not, an elevator speech is an introduction to promote yourself in a short amount of time, usually about 30 seconds. Your elevator speech will evolve as you gain more legal experience, but for now, think about the attributes that set you apart from other students. It could be your grades, clinics, work experience, or previous educational experience like an IP degree. You want to make your speech brief, but memorable.

Do your Research

If you have a guest speaker or know you will be attending a tabling event, research the people or organization you want to meet. For example, yesterday after one of the events at my school I stayed behind for the Q&A specifically because I wanted to connect with one of the Judges. I saw in his bio that he had spent a great deal of his career at an agency that I have an interview with this week. I introduced myself and asked if he had any advice for interviewing with this agency. He remarked, “Wow, I spent most of my career there. How did you know?” I explained I had read it on the bio that had come with the case facts.

He then spent about 5 minutes discussing his career, the importance of the work he did, and how important it was that he made a personal connection with someone there, as they helped him secure his position directly out of law school. As we walked away, he asked for my name again and wished me good luck on my interview. This was a simple networking connection that provided me with valuable information. Which leads me to the final tip.

Use What You Learn.

If you think about networking like it is a fact-finding mission it can provide you with both purpose and focus. At a networking event give yourself goals to accomplish. For example, I am going to speak to at least 3 new people, that can help me learn about employment law. Then use the information you learn. For example, through my networking experience yesterday, I feel like I have a greater understanding of the agency and I will use this information during my interview.

What are some great networking tips that you have learned? Let me know over on Twitter and Instagram @The1LLife.

Driven By Data: What To Expect During BARBRI Bar Review

At BARBRI, data drives everything we do, and we are guided by one principle: It’s not about pass rates. It’s about passing.

As in YOU passing YOUR bar exam.

There are three overarching ways we keep YOUR INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS front and center:

  • We focus your attention on the material you are most likely to actually see on your bar exam
  • We adjust your schedule based on your strengths and weaknesses as you progress
  • We present content in the best way to maximize learning and retention

NOT TOO MUCH WORK, OR TOO LITTLE, BUT JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT

During BARBRI Bar Review, everything assigned in your online Personal Study Plan (or “PSP”) is carefully curated by an engine we call ISAAC, your Intuitive Study Assistant And Coach.

ISAAC combines proprietary algorithms with our 50+ years of bar exam data and expertise to drive your BARBRI course.

ISAAC keeps you on track, effectively scaffolding your knowledge and skills. It’s meant to motivate and keep you accountable. Remember, generally the higher the percent of course completion, the higher the average bar exam score.

THE TYPES OF ASSIGNMENTS, THE SEQUENCE AND THE TIMING

During our summer 2018 BARBRI Bar Review course, ISAAC assigned more than 7.5 million learning activities. That sounds like a lot, but don’t worry, that’s not any individual student – that covers the tens of thousands of students studying for that bar exam with BARBRI. Let’s dig into the data.

Check out the chart below and see, on average, you’ll spend about 24% of your total bar review course study time learning the law with lectures. About 28% of your time working multiple-choice practice questions. And about 19% of your time in our Directed Essay Grading process (Essay Architect, Practice Essays and Graded Essays). Most importantly, each of these align with the top activities correlated to increased points on the bar exam and, ultimately, bar passage.

That’s interesting, yet it’s not just about the type of assignments you do, but also the sequence and timing in which you do them. The chart below shows how the assignment types will progress and change during your bar review course.

Notice the blue line – early on in the course, you’ll spend the majority of your time with lectures, acquiring knowledge from the best U.S. law professors and legal experts.

Then, you see from the light green and yellow lines, you are reading and reviewing your notes and also start to ramp up on multiple-choice learning and practice questions.

Two dark green peaks stand out – that’s for the BARBRI Simulated MBE (which by the way is as correlated to the real MBE as the PSAT is to the SAT, and it is the single best way to know where you are on the curve before sitting for the exam. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the Simulated MBE).

Then notice the peach line, which indicates movement into our Directed Essay Grading process and practice essays.

None of your precious study time is wasted on activities that won’t help you maximize your point potential on the bar exam. To see how it all works together, check out this 5-minute video: Meet the BARBRI Course.

All this is why, year after year, the vast majority of graduating law students choose BARBRI Bar Review to Own The Bar.

Studies Show BARBRI Students Score More Points On The Bar Exam For A Similar Amount Of Effort

The bar exam is arguably the most important and most difficult test of your life. Nobody wants to fail. Everybody wants to walk in to the exam with the confidence that they are going to pass, the first time. BARBRI students are best equipped to perform at the highest levels on exam day.

In all of the studies conducted by our BARBRI team of data scientists, at schools across the United States, it was clear. For similar course completion rates, BARBRI students achieved a higher average score on the bar exam than students using other bar prep courses.

It’s a significant differential. For example, in one study, the non-BARBRI student group cleared the pass line by six points on average. The BARBRI students scored 31 points above the passing mark. That’s 5x the cushion for a similar amount of effort.

On a test where most people who fail do so by just a few points, how thin a margin is worth the risk?

BETTER PREPARATION, MORE POINTS FOR SIMILAR EFFORT

Our in-house data scientists have analyzed four years of BARBRI student data and continue to work closely with law schools nationwide. Among the tens of thousands of data points gathered, they spotted an eye-opening pattern: BARBRI students scored more points on the bar exam compared to non-BARBRI students for a similar amount of study effort.

This means you do study smarter, not harder, with BARBRI. In fact, all activities assigned to you during BARBRI Bar Review, through the powerful ISAAC engine that runs the course, are positively correlated to increased points on the bar exam and, ultimately, bar passage. To  read more about that, click here.

BARBRI students are better prepared among all bar takers and walk into exam day with far greater confidence to pass the bar.

THE TRUE BARBRI ADVANTAGE, IT’S OBVIOUS

Here is a closer look at one study we conducted in summer 2018. First, we see that a greater percentage of assignments completed, within any bar prep course, will generally correlate to a higher average bar exam score. It’s pretty obvious.

In the chart below, all the blue dots are BARBRI students and the dotted line represents the relationship between bar review course completion and final bar exam score. The dotted line slopes upward, which means the higher percentage of BARBRI course completion, the better students do on the bar exam. Simple enough.

When we look at the group of bar takers who did not study with BARBRI, we see a similar upward trajectory.

When we combine both BARBRI and non-BARBRI student scores within the graph, it reveals the true BARBRI advantage – BARBRI students score more points for the same amount of effort and percentage of the course completed as non-BARBRI students.

CONFIDENCE IN THE (HUGE) CUSHION

Now think about the bar exam curve. Generally, when you hear of someone failing the bar, many do so by 10 or fewer points. Wouldn’t you rather go in with the confidence of knowing you’re going to get the most points possible and give yourself the best chance possible?

Another reason why the majority of graduating law students, every year, go with BARBRI to Own The Bar.

About 9 Out of 10 Average BARBRI Students Pass the Bar … But We Don’t Care and Neither Should You

It’s easy to get caught up in state bar exam pass rates when considering your bar prep options. The reality is that about 9 out of 10 BARBRI students who do the average amount of work in our course pass the bar. That’s impressive … but we don’t care, and neither should you. Don’t put too much stock in a pass rate – BARBRI’s or anyone else’s. That is not a good indication of how YOU will actually perform on the bar exam.

What you really need to understand are the bar prep activities that are most important, and what YOU need to do, to get your highest bar score possible and pass the bar.

OUR 4-YEAR STUDY: WHAT DRIVES BAR PASSAGE

Let’s start where our in-house data scientists did – combing through four years of BARBRI data and working with law schools nationwide to uncover what truly drives bar passage.

BARBRI data scientists researched all activities completed by tens of thousands of BARBRI students, segmenting by UBE /non-UBE states and looking state-by-state to determine the activities and experiences that are more or less important to bar passage. We also looked at the effects of studying overall with BARBRI vs. other courses and you can get that information here.

BREAKING DOWN THE “INDEPENDENT VARIABLES TO PASSING THE BAR”

The great news is that all activities that were assigned by ISAAC in the BARBRI Personal Study Plan are positively correlated to increased points on the bar exam and, ultimately, bar passage.

Some assignments have an even greater impact. These are a darker shade of green, which means they have an even higher correlation to bar passage.

The data scientists have found the BARBRI Simulated MBE to be one of the most powerful and statistically significant experiences one can have in preparing to pass the bar exam.

In fact, the BARBRI Simulated MBE is as correlated to the actual MBE as the PSAT is to the SAT. There are many reasons why an individual preparing to pass the bar exam should not miss out on the BARBRI Simulated MBE. Check out this blog to learn more.

One more important note: It’s not just about the type of assignments you do, but also the sequence and timing in which you do them. ISAAC, the engine that runs the BARBRI course, takes all of this into consideration as it drives your Personal Study Plan.

We want to ensure you focus exactly where you need to get the most points possible on your bar exam. That’s a measure of success you can trust with a great deal of confidence. It’s also a compelling reason why the majority of graduating law students, every year, go with BARBRI to Own The Bar.

Graduation Photos: 5 Potential Locations

Guest Blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

3Ls! I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited about graduation photos.

I know there are a thousand and one other things we could talk about right now (like, the fact that bar applications are opening VERY soon), but let’s just have some fun for a moment.

When I was in high school and undergraduate school, I took graduation photos/announcements VERY SERIOUSLY. My hair had to be just right. My outfit(s) had to be just right. The location had to be just right.

Everything had to be just right.

Now, that it’s that time again, I’ve come to a “creative block.” I can’t seem to figure out how or where I want to take my pictures. Nonetheless, I’ve done some research and here are 5 potential locations for a law school graduation photo shoot.

  1. Your School
    So, this is probably the most common place to take shots, but you could always get creative by going to a specific area of your school. Consider a random classroom or, if your school is a historic building like mine, consider going to those historic rooms that you rarely enter. It could be a fun way to highlight the school.
  2. A Courtroom
    Even if you don’t want to be a litigator, it might be fun to have a photo shoot in a courtroom. It may not be possible to get into an actual courtroom just for photos, but there may be a mock courtroom in your school. If you’re really creative you could even stage your own courtroom.

    Harvard Law School Commencement 2018
  3.  Group Photos
    If you started with a crew and you made it with the crew, then take the photos with your crew. This could be a great way to commemorate the moment. There are tons of these types of photos online, but you could easily make the shot unique.
  4. Random Location in The City
    I’m fortunate to attend school in a metropolitan city. Memphis is full of historic sites and landmarks. We have monuments and beautiful bridges (with colorful lights, btw!). We even have contemporary parks with twinkling-light fixtures. Find the beauty in your city and get to snapping!
  5. A Studio
    This is another classic location. If you have access to a studio, you could always make your graduation photos have that “professional headshot” vibe. These types of photos could be used for multiple purposes, not just for graduation announcements; which is also cool.

Important Takeaways from the Big Screen

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School Law school

Just because we’re law students doesn’t mean we’re immune from falling prey to Netflix’s newest lawyer focused drama. More times than not these shows are filled with unrealistic drama that expands the scope of the law, and makes lawyers out to be more calculating and dubious then we’re allowed to be (or would want to be).

Though the big screen often paints lawyers in colorful strokes, viewing these movies and shows through a lawyers lens does reveal some important takeaways that can be utilized both in law school, and once passing the bar.

The Paper Chase

  • Best known as a tool for demonstrating to family and friends the horrors of the 1L curve, cold calls, and the extraordinarily heavy reading load that law students are saddled with. Behind the ‘1L sucks’ façade,’ the Paper Chase also urges law students to remember that there are more important things than grades and law school rankings.
Timothy Bottoms in The Paper Chase. 20th Century Fox 1973.

My Cousin Vinny

  • At first glance, this humorous movie speaks to the importance of attorney competency, which is certainly an important takeaway for any perspective and/or current attorney. However, for those future litigators out there, this movie also provides a key piece of information regarding expert witnesses – namely, that contrary to popular opinion, expert witnesses do not need to be “professionals in the trade” per se, rather, the standard is sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject matter.
My Cousin Vinny. 20th Century Fox 1992.

The Lincoln Lawyer

  • The vast array of ethical gray zones presented in this movie reminds law students and attorneys alike of the importance of both understanding and abiding by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Lincoln Lawyer. Jesus (Chicago actor Michael Pena), left, protests his innocence on a murder. Lionsgate 2011.

Suits

  • Most obviously this hit TV show teaches you that you must, at the bare minimum, have a law degree and/or have passed the applicable state bar examination to legally practice law. Assuming that we all plan to practice legally, Suits also does a fantastic job of showing why lawyers should value and respect their administrative staff.
Suits. Getty Images. USA Network 2011 – Present.

How to Get Away with Murder

  • While this show may be filled with an unbelievable amount of drama, murder, and coverups, it does eventually showcase the importance of balancing your classes and studying against extracurriculars – after all, the majority of the main student characters end up in the bottom of their classes because they’re too caught up working (and committing illegal acts).
How To Get Away with Murder. ABC Television Network. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal). 2014 – Present.

What are your favorite law movies or TV shows? What important life lessons, or legal-specific takeaways have you noticed in them?

How to beat the bar exam by doing extra things to improve your odds

By Stefan Borst-Censullo, Esq.

To begin off I want to apologize to you, the good reader, for my contribution to this over stuffed cannon of “hey so you’re about to take the bar, here’s some tips.” However, you have obviously decided to read this post, so you are either very bored or beyond desperate. In any case I hope this will help you realize either that ALL HOPE IS NOT LOST or alternatively assist in further procrastination before you dive head-first into the hours of MBEs.

The main lesson that I, an underemployed, heavily indebted, but FULLY LICENSED ATTORNEY can impart on you  is to remember what the bar is really testing. The bar is not measuring your intelligence, your commitment to the pursuit of justice, or the goodness of your soul. Rather the bar is a relentless ritual. Plenty of great advocates have failed the bar multiple times while undeserving folk (like yours truly) somehow managed to sneak past the graders.

The bar is nothing more than a ritual

Our esteemed elders in the legal community insist that we need to endure simply because they too went through it. The way to pass this exam involves the time old method of “embracing the suck.” Translated from its original grunt, that your best bet is to focus on improving your chances of survival through trying your best to put in eight good hours of studying a day in some sort of organized methodology of covering as many subjects as possible.

Given the razor-thin edge between passing (which feels like this) and failing (seen here), it’s understandably unnerving to think about how little of your fate is out of your control.

A few extra things that help improve your odds

  • Don’t take chances with your computer. I bit the bullet and replaced my five-year-old Mac once it started showing its age. The “hey I’m going to turn off without warning” thing was annoying enough while I was streaming Bobs Burgers, and it would have been panic inducing during the test.
  • Spend good money on a quiet hotel. With all the understandably massive levels of stress you’ll have during the actual testing days, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a good night’s sleep. But a place with thick walls and dark curtains is a nice place to decompress.
  • Don’t skimp on exercising and eating right. I have no clue whether my habits of long distance running and healthy snaking contributed to me passing or not. However, I can tell you that I maintained my focus during both my studying period, and the extent of those grueling three hours without a blood sugar drop or an emergency run to the restroom during the MBEs. So do your best to get 45 minutes to an hour a day of some sort of movement (walking a pet would suffice) and eat whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean proteins like your mom told you to do years ago.
  • Imbibe some mood-elevating media. Inevitably during the course of your studies, you are going to have moments/days full of self-doubt. Furthermore, walking into a room of a few thousand stressed out type-A personalities undergoing the most important test of their lives is a bit intimidating. Therefore, do you best to take the occasional break from studying to look at a cute animal (your friends who went to med school even approve). On the way to the test, listen to family friendly inspirational music, or really anything from friend of the legal community Freddie Gibbs. When things got especially bad I (reflexively) turned to this preview of “Elysium,” because repeatedly seeing Matt Damon murder rich people in space somehow reminded me why I was taking the bar in the first place.

Finally I have to say that the best advice BARBRI gave me during the extent of this test was remembering that taking the bar is a privilege. Plenty of people (not me, though) would trade places with you in a second. In addition, YES, becoming a lawyer (even in this job market) is worth the pain. So seriously, I wish a sincere “best of luck” to all of y’all. This is an experience you will justifiably hate, but the reward is sweet.

MBE Success: X Marks the Spot?

Samuel Farkas, BARBRI Director of Legal Learning and Lecturer

What’s the Magic Number of MBE Practice Questions You Should Answer to Pass the Bar Exam?

Perhaps you’ve heard that you need to work “X” number of practice MBE questions each week to pass the exam. Or, maybe you’ve heard there is some magic number of total questions that you have to answer throughout your preparation to earn a passing score on the MBE. This “drill and kill” formula emphasizes quantity over quality and speed over deliberation, which may not improve your MBE score.

Make no mistake, it’s critically important to work MBE practice questions. After all, it takes practice to improve. The key to success, however, is to use practice questions effectively.

MBE success is not about how many questions you answer each day or throughout your preparation; it’s about how much you learn from each question you answer.

The specific questions you answer and the order in which you answer them impacts your learning. Ideally, you should be assigned questions in a deliberate and methodical manner that systematically unfolds rule nuances and increases question difficulties as you go. Easier questions testing core rules and concepts come first to help you build a strong contextual framework in the subject. More difficult questions testing the finer points—those dreaded exceptions to the exceptions— should be layered in once you have built this foundation. Consistent mixed-subject practice that continuously cycles you through previously reviewed subjects helps maximize your learning.


BARBRI’s MBE success learning path, which is built into your Personal Study Plan (PSP), accelerates your learning by incrementally building your substantive knowledge and your MBE skills. We’ve curated each question set and have strategically assigned the Learning Sets and Mixed Question Sets to ensure that you have a strong understanding of the most frequently tested rules before you encounter the more difficult questions. As soon as you complete your third MBE subject, your PSP will assign short mixed-subject question sets. In the weeks ahead, your PSP deliberately spaces question sets to leverage the benefits of spaced repetition and interleaves practice between subjects— two strategies that are scientifically shown to boost learning and retention.

All said, your PSP will provide more than 2,000 MBE practice questions, as well as an MBE final prep comprised of 100 carefully selected MBE questions recently released by the National Conference of Bar Examiner (NCBE) that best align to areas of the law most likely to be tested on the MBE. If needed, you will have the opportunity to work even more to hone your test-taking skills before the exam.

Note: As a general rule, we don’t recommend spending a lot of time with “real” released MBE questions. Click here to learn why.

Practice questions are excellent learning tools to help you identify knowledge gaps, strengthen your knowledge of the rules and sharpen your MBE test-taking skills.

Working questions is important, but engaging in a careful and thorough review of the explanatory answer for each question that you work is vital to your success. For each question you work, you should determine whether you got the question right or wrong, whether your analysis of the question was on-point, and whether you identified and understood the narrow rule being tested in the question. In addition, identify why the wrong answer choices are incorrect and review the other rules discussed in the explanation. You will get a full explanatory answer for all the MBE questions during the course—including the recently released MBE questions for which the bar examiners have not provided an explanatory answer. There is so much to unpack in a well-written multiple-choice explanatory answer. Don’t rob yourself of a great learning opportunity by glossing over them.

Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We say, “the unexamined multiple-choice question is not worth working.” In MBE Immersion, you learned BARBRI’s Systematic Problem-Solving approach to maximize your MBE study, including how to effectively use explanatory answers to drive learning and improvement. Rest assured—once you ingrain these skills as habits, you will no longer agonize and worry over the magic number of MBE questions you need to work.  Following the BARBRI path will give you the knowledge and confidence you need to pass the exam.  Simply put, you’ll come to know there is no magic “X” to mark your spot for MBE success.