[ Stephanie Baldwin, 3L at the University of Arizona ]
If you’ve followed my law school journey since 1L year, you know I’m a bit of a long-term planner, which is also puzzling because I can be a procrastinator, too. Perhaps it’s the security of a plan that allows me to hit all of my looming deadlines, while waiting until the last minute to complete them. What can I say, I have my best ideas under pressure. Here’s my latest: a 3L law school checklist.
It’s been easy to think of law school graduation and the bar exam as some far off idea but its once again time to map out a plan. Because May 2021 will be here before you know it.
Item # 1 – Graduation requirements
Every law school is different. At UArizona, we need a minimum of 88 credits to graduate. Of those, 37 must be graded credits that do not include any 1L classes. We also have to have at least six credits of experimental learning and complete a substantial paper. Additionally, at least 64 credits have to be from in-person instruction (meaning clinics, journals and competition teams don’t count). It can be a little complicated to figure out, so be sure to talk to your registrar. Do this now, if you haven’t already. There might still be time to add a quarter class or plan effectively for your last semester.
Item #2 – The MPRE
Make sure you’ve taken the MPRE within the last two years of law school or as soon as possible. This is important for your 3L law school checklist. Your MPRE score is only valid for two years. And with COVID-19, who knows if this rule will be amended. I deliberately waited to take the MPRE until this upcoming October 2020, so that if I decided to take an additional bar exam in another state, my score would still be valid. For some, the MPRE is a distant memory, but if you are reading this (and just internally screamed) do not worry. There is another exam being offered in March 2021. Just don’t forget to register for that one. The other option you will have is to take the MPRE after the bar exam.
BARBRI also offers a free online MPRE Review course to help you study for this ethics exam.
It might also be a good idea for those 3Ls who took the August 2019 MPRE to start reaching out to state bar associations and the NCBE to see if those scores will be extended because of COVID-19, just in case we have the same experience of canceled bar exams next year.
Item # 3 – Living expenses and time off
Project your 3L living expenses and be sure to include the time you’ll take off work for bar prep. The bar exam is expensive (shocking no one). Fees vary per state. If you haven’t looked, be sure to investigate that now. The free downloadable BARBRI Bar Exam Digest is a good place to start. In addition to the costs to become licensed, you need to consider (just like in 1L year) that you will not have any income while studying for the bar. There will not be the safety net of summer school loans. If you plan ahead now, you might be able to allocate some of your school year loan money to help make it through the summer. It’s never too early to figure out your plan for housing and living expenses while you prepare for the bar exam.
Item #4 – Bar prep of choice
Purchase your bar prep course ASAP to get the best deal. It might seem like it’s too early to do this, but it’s not. Trust me. In addition to writing these blog posts for BARBRI, I’ve been a student ambassador since I was a 1L student. For this reason, I know the best bar prep deals are offered to 2Ls in the spring semester, and the best pricing for 3Ls is offered at the beginning of the fall semester. Additionally, if you are a public interest student, most of these scholarship discounts end soon.
In addition to saving money, if you are taking the February 2021 bar exam like me, early access to bar prep has already started. This allows you to get the most out of your bar prep course.
You should also check with your school to see what support they offer as you prepare for the exam. Some schools provide free weekly seminars, semester-long classes and more to help you pass.
Item #5 – The perpetual job search
If you do not already have a job lined up, get your resume ready. Because of COVID-19, many of the OCIs have changed and, in most cases, been rescheduled to the spring 2021 semester. I’ve also seen schools move their career fairs to late fall. Regardless, be sure to get your resume updated. Start contacting people on Linkedin. Join local bar organizations. We are about to begin our careers and networking absolutely helps in landing a job offer. Or at least quality job leads that might turn into something. I am a first-generation law student and I cannot stress how important it was for me to reach out to people for advice, which did lead to a job. There are also many lawyers doing great things on LinkedIn to help law students find mentors and get interviews. So if you are not on there, create your LinkedIn account ASAP. Don’t skip this part of your 3L law school checklist. It’s worth the time to get your profile – and “personal brand” – out there.
Item #6 – The bar exam application
Look it over soon, if you can. You are going to need the time to complete it. I mean, do you remember every place you have lived since you were 18 years old? No? Me neither … but the bar examiners want to know. And who knows that?! Amazon? Seriously, Amazon actually does know. Your Amazon account could become your best friend during the bar exam application process. You may not have to fill out the bar exam application until months from now, but it will come at you sooner than you realize. Look it over and start getting your materials ready. You do not want to be chasing down a certified copy of your driving record while you should be memorizing the rules against perpetuities …
Have you thought of other important things I might have left out for your 3L law school checklist? Have additional tips? Let me know over at the @My3LLife on Instagram!