3-for-3 Passing The Bar | Military Spouse Attorney Success Story

by C. Thea Pitzen
Attorney & Principal | Goodman Allen Donnelly

Life as a military spouse attorney isn’t always a straight line. I can personally attest to that, especially after taking three state bar exams and passing all three, the first time, using BARBRI Bar Review.

Attorney C. Thea Pitzen goes 3-for-3 on bar exams with BARBRI bar exam prep From Georgia … to Florida … to Virginia

My journey began at Emory Law in Atlanta, where I graduated in spring 2009. I signed up for BARBRI during my 3L year to prepare for the summer Georgia Bar Exam (having Emory Professor Rich Freer on the BARBRI faculty was a big draw for me).

I successfully passed and was sworn in to the Georgia Bar. Then a couple of months later, found myself engaged (happily, of course!). My future husband was active-duty Navy and stationed in Florida, while I was still living and working in Atlanta. Bonus points for me, I would have to retake the whole bar exam again. Unfortunately, there was no reciprocity moving from Georgia to Florida.

Now during my bar exam prep for the Georgia exam, I had studied much of the time at Emory Law, going to physical classroom locations to view BARBRI lectures. Less than a year later, I chose to use the online-only BARBRI Bar Review for Florida. I needed to be able to watch lectures on my computer because I was still clerking for a federal judge full-time in Georgia. By and large, when I got off work, I’d view a lecture in the evening to stay on pace. About six weeks before taking the summer 2010 Florida Bar Exam, I got married and then went on to pass my second state bar. Two-for-two so far.

A few years later, we found out that the Navy would be reassigning us to Virginia. And you guessed it. I had to take the entire bar exam once more. With work and a small child as new addition to the family, I went online-only again with BARBRI bar exam prep for Virginia and passed the February 2016 exam.

BARBRI hasn’t failed me yet in passing the bar

As an active member of the Military Spouse JD Network, I know first-hand just how many of us take the bar exam multiple times, traveling with a service member spouse from duty station to duty station. In our online forums, quite frequently there is discussion about bar exam licensing issues and which bar exam prep course to use. We’re fully aware of the choices. For some (whether military spouses or not), cost is a factor and they’ll go with the cheapest program. For me, the simplest answer is that BARBRI hasn’t failed me yet.

100% online bar exam prep was a huge convenience

There is a degree of comfort and familiarity in the BARBRI process. One of the benefits of doing BARBRI bar exam prep on-site is the solidarity aspect of it. There were so many of my classmates from Emory Law in the room, as well as others from the Atlanta area. Everyone was going through the same stress, working toward achieving the same goal. This helped immensely that first go-round with the Georgia Bar Exam. Being able to then switch to the online BARBRI Bar Review format for the Florida and Virginia Bar Exams was a huge convenience, particularly with having a job, a family and greater demands on my time overall. The lectures still felt engaging with the same top caliber of instructors delivering the content.

I always found that if you could study with discipline on the BARBRI materials, and reach a percentile ranking high enough on the BARBRI Simulated MBE subjects, you will pass the bar exam. The BARBRI course is rigorous. The way the MBE questions are set up and the depth of essay feedback you receive, which can be brutal at times, will position you to succeed.

BARBRI practice questions are shockingly accurate

BARBRI is spot-on in its MBE practice questions and practice essays. It’s shockingly accurate. This speaks to BARBRI’s experience and longevity. On the MBE – and I can speak to three administrations  in three different states – BARBRI has clearly figured out what the bar exam questions look like and the patterns you’ll encounter. It’s a successful formula they’ve hit on.

You spend a lot of money taking the bar exam – all the admission requirements, the travel, and other fees add up. It’s wise to spend your hard-earned money on a course that gives you the utmost confidence in passing the bar. BARBRI has done it three times for me. I don’t know why I would not continue to use them.

Why You Should Take a Pre-3L Vacation

Pre-3L Vacation

Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Pre-3L Vacation, What’s That?

Congratulations future 3L’s!  You’ve made it through 2L! Your summer job is behind you and you (hopefully) have a few glorious weeks of freedom before school starts up again. Now you could spend those weeks at home. Whether that be your physical home, your summer apartment, or your school-year abode. But, I’m here to suggest that you get out of town if you can.

A pre-3L vacation may seem pointless considering nearly everyone embarks on a bar trip … buuuut trust me it has its benefits.

FIRST:  

If you spent your summer working at a mid to large-sized law firm you likely made some decent cash during your ten weeks. And while it would probably be irresponsible to blow all that money on a single pre-3L vacation (we do have rent to think about after all) the reality is that for many of us we have more money then we’re used to, so why not treat yourself a little!

SECOND:

In 1L we worked our behinds off. We strived to be top of our class, to make law review, and position ourselves well for OCI. In 2L we relaxed somewhat, but the stress of acing our courses, standing out on our journal, completing pro bono hours, and preparing for our summer jobs left us with little time for fun and relaxation.

Unless you’re enrolled in a joint-degree, 3L is our final year. For most, it’s less intimidating, mostly because the job and grade stress is somewhat behind us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need some energy and stamina to make it through this last year and all that’s encompassed within the bar exam.

A pre-3L vacation is a wonderful way to recharge so you enter your final year of law school with the most energy possible. Plus, it’s not bad for mental health either, which is equally as important!

THIRD:

Popular trend for post-bar exam trips seems to be to pick some faraway destination, rent hotels and set out with a few of your closest law school friends. The logic makes sense, once we all start our careers and move to different cities we won’t be seeing each other all that often.

When you go on vacation before 3L you don’t feel the same pressure to go with your law school friends, though you certainly can if you want! It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with friends from home or with family.

FOURTH:

Short and simple: you deserve it! You’ve spent the past two years working hard to get to this spot. You spent the summer working long(ish) hours and networking your butt off to ensure you received that post-summer job offer. All your hard work shouldn’t go unnoticed.

… Okay so you’re thinking you want to do a pre-3L vacation, but what should you do? Where should you go?

Personally, I went to Turkey with my dad. I don’t see him often while in school and his birthday was in August. This was a great way to combine a cool birthday gift for him with quality time together. I chose Turkey because it was somewhere I’d never been before but had always intrigued me. It was relatively inexpensive. We elected to use Airbnb’s to save some money, and flew with local discount airlines. I spent a few days exploring the bustle of Istanbul before retreating to a small beach town to recharge and relax, and then finished my trip by heading to Cappadocia to explore the hiking and hot air balloons.

With that said, not everyone wants to spend weeks camped out on a beach soaking up the sun, navigating trains in some foreign country, or dishing out the money for an international flight. Thankfully, there’s a way to shape a pre-3L vacation to fit you and your wants!

You can easily plan a staycation by renting a nearby cottage or campsite, or by booking tours and activities that you otherwise wouldn’t because they’re a little too “touristy.” Alternatively, you can escape your hometown or summer abode by doing a road trip to a nearby state with a few friends; stop into an amusement park or a historical site, play some great tunes, and really just make the most of it.

Regardless of where you decide to go, you should consider going somewhere or doing something to reward yourself for all your hard work, and to prepare yourself for your last months in law school!

So current 3L’s, did you take a pre-3L vacation? We’d love to hear more about your adventures and what you thought you got out of your vacation! Comment on our social media channels with your stories.

The Summer Associate Life of Luxury

summer associate

Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Summer associate lifestyle

If you come from a lower or middle-class family, the summer associate lifestyle may be a shock, so mentally prepare yourself so you’re ready when the time comes for you to purchase that $30+ salad. Though you chose your firm during the OCI process, they are, to a certain extent, still trying to sell you on the firm – don’t trick yourself into thinking you’ll continue your summer associate lifestyle upon returning to the firm.

Firms and geographic offices differ according to how they conduct their summer programs.

Large New York firms or head offices of a firm generally receive the largest summer budgets, meaning they are able to host more large-scale or ‘luxurious’ events compared to smaller firms or offices.

Regardless of where you are, if you’re at a big law firm you’re in for a treat! The firm wants you to choose them, therefore they want you to meet people within the firm who will sell you on the firm and/or practice group. As a result, attorneys are incentivized to take summers to lunches and coffees as frequently as possible. Personally, I attended a lunch or coffee every day of the summer program.

As a cautionary note, don’t be afraid to block some time off for yourself.

Though lunches are a great networking opportunity, and you should do your best not to cancel lunches or reject partner lunches, it’s not expected that you eat out every single day of the summer, they understand that it gets old. For instance, for the first two weeks of the summer, I was ecstatic to be eating at the best restaurants in my city nonstop. I upped my Starbucks order from a small to a large, and threw in a bakery item for good measure because I wasn’t footing the bill. Around week four, however, I began to miss my homecooked meals … who would have thought? I also questioned whether I was antisocial, or lacking in some essential vitamin.  The daily lunches and coffee breaks that had at first seemed so stimulating, now seemed to drain me. After talking to other summers, I realized it wasn’t just me, we all felt that way! Being ‘on’ 24/7 was wearing us down. So we took it upon ourselves to arrange a few summer-associate only lunches to revive ourselves.

Training events and workshops

Outside of individually planned lunches with attorneys, there are also a number of training events and workshops that you are expected to attend.

As a general rule of thumb, any event that begins or runs through lunch will include food. The training opportunities were all-encompassing, ranging from IT training, mailroom services, file room overview, research training, and practice group-specific training. Likewise, the workshops were divided nicely between the practice groups in an effort to ensure there was something for everyone. I would suggest taking notes in these sessions for your own use during the summer. Though, don’t exhaust yourself trying to memorize everything since you’ll receive more in-depth training when you return.

Networking type events

Firms also host a number of networking type events to provide summers an opportunity to network within the firm. Many of these events are optional, but I would highly suggest attending them all if possible! Partners and associates appreciate summers who attend non-mandatory events; it makes you stand out.  It’s a great way to increase your workflow or your odds of being placed in a certain practice group after the summer ends.

Stepping outside of the firm walls, the official summer events are outstanding!

Most firms aim to host four to five events for the summer associate class. At my firm, our events included a cooking class for the summers and partners; a 5k fun run; a service day at a soup kitchen; a Broadway show; a baseball game; trivia; a paint night; and a farewell party at a rooftop bar in the city.

The best part of the summer associate experience, however, was the unofficial events. By unofficial I mean the after-work drinks with your fellow summers (and maybe an associate or two), the donut runs with your office mate, the weekend beach trips with work friends, and the early morning breakfast dates with your fellow hungry, and possibly hungover, colleagues.

Working in Big Law: A Summer Associate Reflection

big law

Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Big Law

Having spent my 1L summer working for a small public interest legal aid, I was curious and excited to see how working in a big law firm would differ from my prior experience. I knew the budget would be bigger, meaning we would be “wined and dined” more often, but outside of the social aspects of the summer associate program I really wasn’t sure what to expect. After ten thrilling weeks, here’s my takeaways!

Acing the Dress Code

Many big law firms have adopted a business casual dress code alongside casual Fridays.  Regardless of the overall firm dress code, you should dress business formal for your first day on the job and for any important events (i.e. meeting the head of the firm).

As the first week comes to a close you’ll notice your fellow summer associates slowly progressing from business formal to more business casual attire. What does that look like you ask? Well, for me it was as simple as dress pants and a long sleeve dress shirt. Pro tip: keep a suit or blazer in your office as you never know when the opportunity to shadow a court session or deposition will arise; nor do you know when you’ll accidentally spill a coffee on your lap. Likewise, it’s smart to keep a professional sweater or blazer in your office for when the AC goes into overdrive – layers are a smart choice in an office!

When Friday finally rolls around don’t think casual jeans Friday means you can roll into the office in your favorite distressed jeans and comfy sweater. Casual really means business casual sans the dress pants. Pair your favorite dark wash, non-ripped jeans with a tucked in dress shirt and a casual blazer or cardigan, top the look off with dress shoes, loafers, or heels.

Interactions with Partners and Attorneys

At my firm, summer associates were paired with one partner mentor and one mid-level associate mentor. At the beginning of the work term, the bulk of my work came from those two individuals. Though technically assignments are distributed by the head of the summer program, networking is an important step in ensuring you get a wide variety of work and shadowing opportunities.

Arranging lunches or inquiring about work opportunities from junior to mid-level associates is less daunting than reaching out to a partner, but I quickly learned that partners are incredibly welcoming to summer associates! Once you reach out to one partner it’s less intimidating to connect with others.

After you’ve made a connection, don’t be afraid to ask if they have any work available or upcoming, or any shadowing opportunities. Many partners and associates, even if they have no substantive work to assign to you, will be happy to give you a mock assignment, let you sit in on a client meeting or call, or simply take you to coffee or lunch so you can get to know more about them, their practice group, and the firm.

Maneuvering the Practice Areas

Some summers, like myself, are hired into a specific practice group and spend their entire summer working within that practice group. Others choose to be general, and spend their summer ranking the available practice groups to receive work in areas that interest them most. Note, if you can’t get substantive work in a specific practice group reach out to an attorney to set up a shadowing opportunity, or mock assignment.

If you’re general, networking once again becomes an important tool for learning what practice group is right for you. Most mid-level associates that I spoke with said they chose their practice group because (1) the work was interesting to them, and (2) they enjoyed the people they met who worked in that practice group.

Regardless of whether you’re general or practice group-specific, take advantage of any interactive practice group workshops hosted during the summer. As a general summer, these interactive workshops will give you insight into what your life would be like if you chose that group. As a practice group-specific summer, the interactive workshops are a great opportunity for you to learn what the other practice groups in the firm do so you can easily refer clients down the road.

The Work and Workload

As previously mentioned, the summer is comprised of workshops, training events, substantive assignments, and shadowing opportunities. The work itself will vary according to your practice group interests.

Generally speaking, you can expect to do a few research project, so brush up on your West Law knowledge and memorize the research librarian and support numbers within your firm – they’re there for you to use. If you’re focusing on litigation there’s a chance you’ll help with e-discovery, shadowing depositions or some portion of a courtroom proceeding, and litigation prep research. Corporate folks can likewise expect to shadow a number of client calls and assist in drafting term sheets alongside general research.
Over the course of the summer, you’ll find your workload ebbs and flows. At certain times, like for instance when I was working on a collective bargaining, you might feel overwhelmed and out of necessity, put in extra hours. Two weeks later when you’ve finally submitted all your assignments you may hit a slow point where you have no work for a few days. During the slow times try to arrange networking opportunities, independently seek work and shadowing opportunities, and/or use the time to organize your files and meet with your mentors.

Overall, the summer experience was fantastic! There was a good balance between training opportunities, general firm overview events, substantive work, and socialization. Plus, I was never asked to fetch coffee for anyone – phew!

The Lowdown on the MPRE

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

We all know that to practice as an attorney we must take the dreaded bar examination.

Many of us also know that bar admissions requirements include the Character and Fitness application.

Law students are divided, however, on they’re awareness of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination.

So what is the MPRE?

Structure and Overview

The MPRE is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice exam offered multiple times a year (generally in November, March and August). Registration is done online and takes a matter of minutes. Most importantly, the completion of your school’s professional responsibility course is not a requirement for registration.

Quick Quiz: When Should You Take It?

What year are you in law school currently?
a) 1L
b) 2L
c) 3L

How full is your course and/or social schedule this semester?
a) Extremely packed. I’m almost at the max credit allowance.
b) It’s law school; I’m busy, but I still have some free time.
c) Totally laid back.

Is there an MPRE examination center near your law school?
a) They’re all pretty far away and I don’t have a car.
b) There’s one pretty close!
c) My school is a test center.

What is your summer job like?
a) I’ll be working abroad.
b) I’ll be in a US city for the average 10-weeks.
c) I’m not working at all.

Have you taken professional responsibility yet?
a) Uh no …
b) I’m registered in it now.
c) Obviously.

Quick Quiz: Your Results

Mostly A’s: Sorry 1L’s, you must be a 2L or 3L to register for the MPRE. Otherwise, for eligible participants, it is not recommended that you take the fall and/or spring MPRE offering if your schedule is extremely busy. You likely will not have the time to study for the exam. Likewise, if you’re away for the summer or working throughout August, it is not recommended that you take the August MPRE.

Mostly B’s: It sounds like you’re fairly flexible when it comes to enrollment options. If you’re interested in getting the MPRE out of the way, register for the summer administration. You’ll likely have finished your professional responsibility course by then. Otherwise, keep the MPRE in mind when registering for your fall/spring semester courses. You’ll want to make time during one of those semesters if you don’t opt for the summer MPRE.

Mostly C’s: You urgently need to register for the next MPRE. As a 3L, you need your MPRE score to register for the bar exam. Don’t risk ruining your bar trip and interfering with your bar exam studying schedule by registering for the summer offering. Instead, head to the MPRE website now and register for the upcoming spring semester offering before registration closes!

The MPRE Registration Fee Has Increased

As of 2019, the on-time registration fee is $125; however, late registrations will be charged $220 (a comprehensive fee and registration outline can be found here). You are not charged at the time of registering. Instead, you pay when you arrive at the test center, so if you’re short on cash, don’t feel dismayed from registering anyways.

On The Topic Of Payment

If you’re going to a medium-to-large sized law firm, it may reimburse you for taking the MPRE and a prep course. Don’t hesitate to ask your firm if this is an applicable “bar-related” expense. Likewise, if you’re going into public interest, it can’t hurt to ask your law school if there are funding sources available to help with costs associated with the MPRE.

Recommended MPRE Preparation

Most law students, who have completed the MPRE (that I’ve talked to), seem to agree that taking a course in professional responsibility before taking the exam is a smart decision. Otherwise, they stressed that preparation is relatively minimal, especially in comparison to the bar exam. Still, most students said they enrolled in at least one virtual program — such as the free and online BARBRI MPRE Review course.

BARBRI SCHOLARSHIPS & BAR REVIEW OPTIONS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT

1. PUBLIC INTEREST SCHOLARSHIPS

Year after year, BARBRI supports thousands of students who seek to change the world. Last year alone, BARBRI awarded over $4.5M in scholarships to public interest students and other world-changers.

To apply for a BARBRI Public Interest scholarship while they are available, submit your application briefly describing your public interest work, and attach a resume evidencing such work, a formal offer of public interest sector employment, or evidence of participation in a school-sponsored public interest scholarship/fellowship program. If selected, you will receive an email from BARBRI outlining your scholarship award and your final BARBRI Bar Review tuition rate after the scholarship is applied.

View the Public Interest scholarship application, deadlines, and requirements here.

2. SAVE A TON OF MONEY ON A 2ND BAR EXAM COURSE

If you’re pretty sure that you’ll be taking another state bar exam in the near future, the BARBRI Ultimate Decision Tuition decision can save you a lot of money. The BARBRI Ultimate Decision Tuition offers the choice of a bonus option – one of which is to take a second bar exam course within 2 years of your original course.

So, if for example, you’re getting ready to prepare for the New York Bar Exam and you know that you want to also get licensed in California within a couple of years, then go ahead and sign up for BARBRI Ultimate Decision Tuition. You can select any two state exams as part of this option. Check out BARBRI Ultimate Decision Tuition here.

You’ll have 2 years to complete your second course. And, even though it might sound grueling, we’ve found that it’s easier to get a second bar exam out of the way when the material is still relatively fresh in your mind. Many times the application process for your second state will also be easier as well since you have everything in one place from your first state submission.

3. BILL YOUR EMPLOYER AND PAY NOTHING UP FRONT

When you select a BARBRI Bar Review Firm Decision tuition and provide the firm or employer you are billing, you are not required to make an initial payment or deposit toward tuition. And you can begin using materials such as 2L / 3L Mastery immediately and BARBRI Early Start Bar Review when it becomes available for your course administration.

BARBRI 2L / 3L Mastery contains outlines, on demand expert video lectures and multiple-choice and essay practice questions covering Evidence, Wills, Trusts, Taxation, Secured Transactions, Corporations, Family Law, Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure.

BARBRI Early Start Bar Review is on-demand, self-directed and focuses on the 25 most frequently tested bar exam subtopics. Students who spend a total of 24 study hours with Early Start prior to the start of the BARBRI Bar Review course are statistically much more likely to pass the bar exam, the first time. Early Start access is included in BARBRI Bar Review and is typically open several months before the actual course begins.

Check out BARBRI Bar Review Firm Decision tuition.

4. PAYMENT PLANS OR FINANCING YOUR BARBRI TUITION

If you are paying for your course (not billing an employer), you can either:

  • Finance your tuition with Affirm for longer-term monthly payments OR
  • Create an interest free, custom short-term installment payment plan

Many BARBRI Bar Review tuition types allow you to “Finance with Affirm” during or after enrollment.  The rate (0-30% APR) and term options (3, 6 or 12 months) you are offered is based on the tuition type you are choosing and on a credit check. You can check your eligibility during enrollment and it will not affect your credit score – provide some basic information and get a real time decision to split your purchase into 3, 6, or 12 monthly payments at 0-30% APR.

If you Finance with Affirm during enrollment, you can include any initially required BARBRI down payments in your loan. Or, you can make the minimum required payment toward your BARBRI tuition at the time of enrollment and decide to finance the remainder with Affirm at a later date. Either way, after you choose this option, you will begin making payments immediately to Affirm, but the entire balance of your tuition does not need to be paid prior to your course starting or ending. When you finance, a down payment may be required and Affirm loans are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey state-chartered bank, Member FDIC. Learn More about Financing with Affirm.

Another option is to create a custom installment payment plan when you pay with a debit or credit card. Pay your initial required BARBRI down payments (depending on the course you’re selecting) and then split up the remainder of your tuition payments over time.

A custom installment payment plan is not a loan – no credit check is required and there is no interest applied to the custom installment payment plan. Your total tuition must be paid in full per the payment deadlines prior to the beginning of your BARBRI Bar Review course.

All of us at BARBRI are looking forward to helping you Own The Bar

If you’d like to take advantage of one of these options or have additional questions, please reach out to us at 888-322-7274 or service@barbri.com. You can also find your BARBRI Director of Legal Education here.

Major OCI missteps to avoid

By Samuel Farkas,
BARBRI Curriculum Architect and Instructor

At some point during law school, every student will attempt to dazzle potential employers as the perfect candidate. Here are few common missteps that will get your resume tossed quickly after you exit – and what you can do to avoid them.

“Surely you’ve heard of ME.”

You may have a stellar resume, grades and smile, but no one – most of all, future employers – find cockiness appealing. They do, however, like to see confidence. You’ll want to deliver “in the middle” with cautious confidence. Remain humble and ready to soak up precious legal knowledge. Present a firm handshake, make eye contact, sit up straight and be assertive in your responses and questions. Showing gratitude for your achievements and accolades, while underscoring how receptive you are to learning and growing professionally, will help you make the right impression.

“I want to work for you because I need a job and money!”

During On-Campus Interviews (OCI), you’re going to get asked over and over again: “Why do you want to work for us? Why would you like to be in [insert city name]?” Unless you’ve had your eye on a firm for a while, you’re probably looking for any good employment opportunity, wherever it may reside. But be honest with yourself. Do you really want to live in the office’s location permanently? If not, don’t waste your time interviewing with that firm. Sure, you can make up stories of relatives who’ve relocated there. However, you’ll do yourself and the employer a disservice. And if the actual office where you are interviewing does not practice the law you are interested in, keep looking. Pick firms where you would actually like to live, and then narrow down the firms you would actually like to work for.

“My apologies … I was actually raised in a barn.”

If you’re lucky, you may have the opportunity to interview with potential employers over a meal or call-back interview. Even though these may feel informal, maintain a respectable level of etiquette. Most students think they have good manners already, even if they don’t – because it’s in bad taste to point out bad manners, you’ve probably never been told that you chew with your mouth open or hold a fork incorrectly. Do yourself a favor, read an etiquette book or take a friend to dinner for a critique of your manners.

“You know like cellophane… ”

One of the worst things you can do in a job interview is to leave no impression at all. Many students try to morph into some expected version of the ideal candidate. This is not a good strategy. Try to stand out in some way. Wear a unique accessory, work in an interesting story or discuss a special hobby. Don’t veer into the bizarre, yet communicate something memorable. Simply allow your true self to shine through, keeping in mind that you need to filter it through a professional lens.

“What firm are you with again?”

The surest way to ruin your chances with a firm is to come unprepared. Knowing the firm name, office locations and practice areas are necessary but not sufficient. Do additional research on your interviewers and read any press the firm has recently received. Talk to former summer associates or clerks to get their experiences. Look at LinkedIn, the Martindale-Hubble Law Directory and other online resources to gather some data.

Be sure to reach out to your BARBRI Legal Education Advisor for additional help and advice on how to refine your job interviewing skills.

5 Self-Help Tips … Before You Have That Dreaded Bar Prep Meltdown

GUEST BLOG by Sara Valentine, Graduate of Capital University Law School

Stay calm! We got this.

We’re approaching that notorious time in bar prep, when all of your lawyer friends say, “Oh, I had a meltdown, you’ll have one, too. It’ll be fine.”

… PARDON ME?

This is probably true. We’re close to July and that’s supposedly when the meltdown happens (although, let’s be real, who hasn’t already had some bad days? I’m looking at you, Commercial Paper).

I want to help give you the proper tools so that when the time comes (or doesn’t, if you’re lucky and are staying calm throughout this whole process — go you!), you know what to do.

This week, we’ll focus on mental health and the importance of staying calm, cool and collected.

1) GET SOME REST

I get it. We’re all stressed out and feel as if we’re not doing enough when we’re not studying. However, getting good sleep is so important. You’re not going to be able to focus throughout your bar prep if you’re not getting good sleep. Make sure that you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep per night. It may seem unreasonable, but it’s going to make the difference.

2) MEDITATE

Patrick is on to something, okay? I struggle with anxiety and I cannot begin to tell y’all how much meditating has helped me throughout law school and certainly throughout bar prep. Taking a few minutes a day to calm your mind and give yourself some time to process and ~chill~ can lower your stress and help you feel more prepared. I enjoy using Headspace (find it here), but there are also plenty of free guided meditations that you can find on YouTube. Reach out to me if you want to talk more about it.

3) GO OUTSIDE

This is cliché, I know. So many people have told me to just go outside and take some time away from my studies and I’ll feel better … they were right. After sitting inside all day and staring at my computer screen and books, I get lethargic! I’ve started to take some time in the evenings to walk around a local park and it has done wonders for my stress (also, an added benefit, petting doggos!). Granted, there are times when I take my study aids with me, but that’s okay. If you can get some time outside and away from time in front of your screen, you’ll be much better off.

4) COLOR

Taking some time out of your day to color has been proven to reduce anxiety levels. Yes, it may seem juvenile and, yes, you may think that it’s a waste of time but trust me. Focusing on coloring inside of the lines as opposed to whether you can introduce character evidence is helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. Next time that you want to treat yourself, pick up a coloring book.

5) SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS

I know that your friends and family can be stressful sometimes, especially if they don’t understand the gravitas of what you’re going through. You need to give them the chance to help. Your friends and family love you. Although they may not quite understand the magnitude of what the bar exam entails, they do know that you’re stressed and you’re going through a lot. They want to help! How are they going to be able to help you if you don’t tell them how?

The perfect time to reach out to your support network is when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. They’ll be able to get your mind off things and even make you laugh (what’s that?). Not to mention, they may even offer to help you do things that you need assistance with, but didn’t want to ask — maybe they’ll offer to cook you a few meals, or maybe they’ll offer to do your laundry for you or clean your place. We know how much time these chores can take away from studying.

If you give your friends and family a chance to help, I’m sure that they will. Spending time with them and away from your studies will help you calm down, recharge and get to a good headspace so that you’ll be at your best when you’re studying. Rely on your support group and stay calm. We’ll be able to #PassTheBar.

Bar Prep Assigned Essays: Don’t Miss Easy Ways to Pick Up Points

Practice Essays

GUEST BLOG by Sara Valentine, Graduate of Capital University Law School

Assigned Essays for Grading, Anyone?

How many weeks are we in now? What day is it? Should I wear a hoodie or shirt today? Tbh, I’m at the point where I don’t know what day it is, but I can rattle off the Criminal Law distinctions in Ohio. Isn’t that what’s important?

LET’S TALK ABOUT ESSAYS

Y’all, I cannot tell you how thankful I am that BARBRI spends so much time working with us on essays. Not only did we start out at the beginning of the bar prep course with an in-depth “how-to” on writing essays, but now we have completed numerous assigned essays and should be getting the hang of what to do, right?

Okay, so maybe we don’t have perfect bar exam essays at this point, but we’re not aiming for perfection. If your essays aren’t perfect, BARBRI will help.

This past week, I had the opportunity to submit a an essay and receive personalized feedback from BARBRI essay experts.

WHAT YOU CAN DO BETTER

The more that you practice writing bar exam essays, the better that you are going to be at them. Obvi.

But, what are we actually getting out of the essay sample answer in the book? Maybe a lot, maybe a little. But I can think of a few times when I may have read them a little too quickly and didn’t put in as much effort in reviewing what I could have done better on the essays (the days are long, okay? Let me live).

So, that’s why I was absolutely thrilled to see the opportunity to write out and submit essays to BARBRI.

Our first essay was an open book essay. What? Why? How does that help!?

Let me tell you: the first essay that you submit should not be about what you can recall in terms of a rule statement. It should be about how you craft your essay and how you can improve. You can’t assess how good you are at crafting essays if you’re hindered because of a bad rule statement or unfamiliarity with the rules.

Okay, picture it, (Sicily, 1922 … if you get this reference, then we’re friends) … I’m sitting here, with an open book and my rule statements ready to go. I craft a great essay, in my opinion. I submit it. The turnaround time is less than 24 hours. Turns out, I had some work to do. I had missed some easy ways to pick up some easy points. Here’s the thing: it’s not that I didn’t know the applicable facts to the essay, it’s just that I didn’t think that they were necessary to include.

MINOR DETAILS CAN LEAD TO EXTRA POINTS

Although I had everything that I needed in front of me, I didn’t craft the best possible essay because I was missing out on what I thought to be minor details that were irrelevant. Nope! Turns out that by adding a couple of sentences here and there (with information that I already knew, but chose not to include), I was able to add another point to my essay score.

Had I not submitted my essay to BARBRI and had someone with more experience review it, I wouldn’t have known to include the additional information that captured me some added points.

THINK SMARTER, WRITER STRONGER ESSAYS

This led me to a seemingly obvious conclusion: if there is some extra relevant law that you can throw in, do it!

Don’t get too far outside of the scope though. How do you know what’s outside of the scope? Keep writing essays! Keep working on your essays and make sure that you’re dedicating time to review your essays. Just make sure that you’re taking the time to go over what you got right and what you got wrong. If you do this, you’ll be more inclined to add relevant law that can help you pick up points.

We don’t need to be perfect on the bar exam, we just need to pass. What better way to do that then to add easy points to essays? Keep practicing so we can all #PassTheBar.

3L Year “Distractions” And Figuring Out What You Can Do Differently

GUEST BLOG by Harrison Thorne,
Associate Attorney at Vedder Price
UCLA Law graduate

After transferring to UCLA Law as a 2L, I met new people and learned a lot. It was a great experience. However, I also found myself wasting a lot of time and that made me wonder what I could do differently my final year of law school. To be honest, I was frequently distracted by Facebook, Gmail, Gchat, iMessage and the other usual culprits when I was supposed to be reading or paying attention in class. Something had to change, but I didn’t quite know the steps to take (but I would eventually).

For starters, I made a “strong” decision: enough with these distractions. There are many people, it seems, who can use sheer willpower to avoid the temptations of, for example, surfing the web during a (particularly boring) class. I was not one of them. My renewed focus meant leaving the computer in my office and bringing only a notebook and pen to class. Cold turkey.

And here’s what I figured out and did differently as a 3L:

WRITING NOTES BY HAND LEADS TO GREATER RETENTION, FOCUS

At first, I worried that I would miss so much of the lecture trying to force my hand to writer fast(er) in keeping up with the lecturer. I actually found the opposite to be true.  I retained a lot more from lectures, and it is significantly easier to stay focused.  I have even begun taking reading notes by hand.  I use my computer a lot less, which has helped alleviate the constant headache I get when staring at a screen all day.

READING A WEEK AHEAD HELPS ELIMINATE ANXIETY, FEELING RUSHED

During the semester, I made a plan to read over the weekend for the following week’s classes. On Saturday/Sunday, I would read for my courses the coming Monday through Thursday. Before doing it this way, I found that reading right before class was causing me a lot of anxiety. I read slowly and sometimes can’t put enough attention into a reading assignment if I know class is about to start in 30 minutes. By reading ahead, I was much less worried and rushed.

Another benefit of reading ahead on the weekend, by the way: you can dedicate Friday to outlining from the previous week’s readings and lectures.

CUTTING OFF WORK/STUDY AT A SPECIFIC TIME GIVES BACK MORE TIME

During my 3L year, I had four classes, was Editor-in-Chief of the Entertainment Law Review and mentor to another transfer student, and was juggling various other commitments. It would have been easy to get bogged down in all this. However, I made the choice to stop working/studying at 5:30 pm, unless I absolutely needed to push that self-imposed deadline a bit further.

My thought was: If I could successfully read for the following week, there should be no need to work past 5:30 pm. Law school tends to breed a culture of constant, around the clock “half-work” in which people are always reading or writing something but always with a lot of distraction. I was determined to work really hard during the day, leaving my nights open to spend time with my family and friends.