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.

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


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


  • 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?

4 ways to brief cases even faster

As you may have already discovered, your speed-reading abilities won’t help you as much as you think in law school. As you spend hours each night preparing for class, you need to know how to read – really read – the assigned cases. You must now carefully and critically analyze, question and reason every paragraph, sentence and word.


It’s always a good idea to know where you’re going. Before you start reading the assigned cases, look at the chapter headings and the table of contents in the casebook. These will tell you the topic to which the assigned cases relate and where this topic fits in the overall course.


Law is a technical language with technical meanings. When a word is used which you don’t understand, or when a word is used in some unusual sense, stop immediately and look it up. You’ll be spinning your wheels mentally until you absorb the correct meaning. A good way of making sure you remember the meanings of legal terms is to use them in your case briefs (and outlines). You’ll better recall the context in which you used the word and its meaning will sink in.

Consider, also, the value of prepared course outlines included with BARBRI 1L Mastery and 1L Mastery Pro. You can these to supplement your reading if you don’t understand something or want to verify details about a case. If you already have access to 1L Mastery or 1L Mastery Pro, just sign in to utilize these resources today.


Briefing cases is indispensable in “learning to think like a lawyer.” Once mastered, you’ll be able to distill the facts and reasoning of a case down to manageable size. The use of a briefing system will force you to disect a case sufficiently for analytic purposes. Try a format of breaking down the essential elements: Facts, Trial Court decision, Issues, Rules and Rationale.

For help with your own briefing system, contact your BARBRI Director of Legal Education.


The sole purpose of a brief is to help you recall the case in sufficient detail to discuss during class and to integrate into your class notes. Don’t attempt a detailed restatement of the entire case. Avoid copying citations. Simply try to capture the gist of the facts and the court’s reasoning in as few words as possible. Proficiency at briefing cases is absolutely necessary if you’re serious about becoming a lawyer.

Learning how to brief cases is something you can master with reasonable practice and, once you know it, you’re likely not to forget. You don’t need to commit yourself to briefing every case in every class throughout law school – you simply must commit yourself to briefing cases until you’re good at it, which for most students means throughout 1L year.


By Sam Farkas, 
BARBRI Curriculum Architect and Instructor

As a 1L, you are no doubt feeling the pressure as your first semester final exams loom near. Most first-year students have already signed up for the BARBRI 1L Mastery package (if you haven’t, you can do so now). It’s a rich study supplement, so let’s break down the “Top 5 Hacks” – in other words, proven strategies – for how to use 1L Mastery most effectively during your pre-exam study period.


First, be sure to watch the substantive lectures for a complete subject review. These lectures review the black letter law in a concise, easy-to-understand way. You can watch online or download the BARBRI App (free on iTunes / free on Google Play) and stream or download to watch on-the-go. These lectures will also help you gain a stronger understanding of the rules most likely to be tested.

Then be sure to watch the separate Exam Skills lecture for each subject. Our 1L Mastery professors have a lot of experience creating and grading exams for their subjects. They’ll walk you through what you’re likely to encounter on a final exam, including particular rules or issues that first-year professors like testing. They’ll also share subject-specific tips and strategies, especially common missteps and mistakes that many 1L students make.


During your reading/study period, begin studying for your last exam first and work backwards based on the exam date. Let’s say your first exam is Contracts, the second is Torts, the third is Civil Procedure and fourth is Criminal Law. Study Criminal Law first. Then go to Civil Procedure, Torts and end with Contracts. This way, Contracts will be the freshest as you head into that exam. After your first exam, you’ll just need to do a final review of each remaining subject prior to taking the exam. It’s an efficient study strategy to make sure you effectively review each subject during your reading/study period.

Now with that in mind, you’ll also want to wisely allocate your study time. As you know, not all subjects are created equal so to speak. Four credit courses count more than three credit courses in your GPA, so focus your time accordingly and devote more study time to higher credit courses.


Many 1L students mistakenly believe they are practicing essay questions by simply reading the fact pattern and mentally issue-spotting the problem. They turn to the model answer and affirm to themselves that they would’ve identified all the issues and discussed the appropriate law. Don’t do this, even if you want to save time or study a little faster.

You really need to write out an answer, or at least outline your answer to any practice essays you work. Then, compare your answer to the model answer. Make sure to do a thorough self-analysis. Evaluate whether you identified the correct issues, recalled the correct rules to resolve the issue, and identified the facts that you would have incorporated into your analysis.


Even if you only have essays on your final exam, consider working through 1L Mastery multiple-choice practice questions as well. Working multiple-choice practice questions can help you identify your own knowledge gaps and you’ll begin seeing a pattern of how rules may be tested in different fact patterns. You’ll get better at applying the rules to solve legal problems and you’ll benefit from reviewing the rules in the explanatory answers. You may even see the rules tested with similar facts on your final exam. In addition, you can work through multiple-choice questions more quickly than essays, which means you can cover more ground in a shorter amount of time.


Reading week is the time to start condensing your more detailed course outlines into shorter “attack outline.” The process of condensing it into a one- or two-page outline forces you to think about the subject from a 10,000-foot perspective. It’ll force you to review the rules and it will help you further encode those rules in your brain.

The attack outline will serve as a checklist of sorts for all the main topic areas in the course that you’ll want to consider when working through a final exam essay. If you have a closed book exam, keep studying that attack outline until you have it ingrained in you—until you can reproduce it from memory.

If you weren’t able to finish your outline or didn’t make one, study the BARBRI outlines in 1L Mastery and use them to make your own attack outlines.

Now go forth and put these 1L Mastery hacks to good use and #Own1LFinals!


Blog by Everett Chambers,
Vice President of Institutional Programs


In sports, those athletes who can recognize where and how they are falling short in execution, and then focus relentlessly to build upon the necessary skills, most often rise to an elite level of performance. Like the old saying says, “practice makes perfect.” Yet what happens when you practice the same way without adapting your approach to learn from your mistakes? Well, in the case of a U.S. bar exam, you could fall short of passing.

It’s human nature to study for an exam with the goal of correctly answering as many practice questions as possible. A high percentage correct affirms your grasp of the material. Step back from that mindset for a moment and reverse it – look to embrace the practice questions you got incorrect instead. These moments are not judgments on you. Rather, they are opportunities to dig deep into learning what you don’t know.

Unless you have a photographic memory, you aren’t likely to quickly recall all of the rules and elements tested on a U.S. state bar exam. And you probably haven’t previously studied all of the subjects tested on the bar exam. Working practice questions and learning from the explanatory answers, regardless of whether you got the questions right or wrong, will help build a solid foundation of knowledge.

If you are not confident in one area, don’t hesitate to begin answering practice questions from that area. Sometimes you can learn as much or more from the explanatory answers as you would from a lecture. Therefore, start answering practice questions as soon as possible, and be persistent in taking the time to focus on any problem areas. Study this way, repeat this approach and you’ll increase your scores on the bar exam.

About BARBRI International

If you are interested in expanding your career options globally, you may be eligible to sit for a U.S. Bar Exam and become a U.S. attorney. In today’s increasingly globalized world, demand continues to grow for those who understand the workings and complexities of the law of more than one jurisdiction.

BARBRI International will prepare you to pass the U.S. Bar Exam and provide flexible and supported learning, tailored to non-U.S. educated law graduates. BARBRI is a leader in legal education and the #1 bar exam preparation program for 50 years.

For additional information on Open Days, program locations and pricing, please visit