Five questions to ask yourself when selecting 3L classes

[ Mary Apodaca, BARBRI Senior Director of Legal Education ]

As you prepare for all that is to come in your third year of law school, one thing at the top of your list is which classes you will be taking. Should you take bar classes? Practice-oriented classes? Does it matter?

I always felt a bit overwhelmed during the scheduling process. There were so many classes I wanted to take and only so many hours in my day, and deciding which classes would be most beneficial for MY path was never really clear. To make the process a bit easier, I came up with five questions to consider when evaluating classes.


It might not be the class you’re looking forward to most but, if it’s required for graduation, you may want to take it sooner, rather than later. By getting your required classes out of the way, you’ll free up your last year or last semester for electives and any other interesting classes that you want to fit in. You don’t want to have to delay your graduation or take an unexpected summer class because you didn’t get something done.


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


Many students think that you MUST take bar classes in law school in order to pass the bar exam. Luckily, this is not true. Your bar preparation program should be more than sufficient to prepare you for the substantive law that is tested on the bar exam. That being said, if you have really struggled in a particular area or are very concerned about a specific topic, more exposure and practice can never hurt. Just know that if there are other classes that you are more interested in, or are more in line with your career path, those will likely be more beneficial to you in the long run.

You won’t be able to completely avoid subject matter that you don’t find interesting. Sometimes a class that doesn’t seem interesting will be the only thing that fits into your schedule or will be a requirement. If you have the option, choose something you think you’ll like or will be useful in practice post-law school. Having an interest in the material makes it a lot easier to focus in class, get the assignments done and achieve the desired grades.


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


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

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.

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:


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.


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.


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.


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

We endured the fiery darts of the first year of contracts, criminal procedure, and property. We successfully tore down the walls of second-year con law, business orgs, and sales. Then, we soared through the obstacles of third-year externships and clinics.

We’ve stood the test of time and completed a journey that many fail to even attempt or only wish to accomplish.

I’m so proud of us!

As our law school journey comes to an end and we embark on this new adventure of preparing for the bar exam, I hope you take the time to reflect on all of your accomplishments. I hope you take the time to take in all of the congratulatory remarks and the love you’ll receive. I hope you take the time to remember why you started this incredibly difficult journey. I hope you take the time to be present in every remaining moment.

Moving forward, I hope you take a small break before taking on bar prep. Additionally, I hope you find that bar prep is endurable. Study hard, but remember to take mental and physical breaks when needed.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our blogging journey and I don’t consider this a goodbye. We’ll see each other again on the other side of the bar.

Until next time, friend…

Character and fitness: Not just virtues, requirements

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

If you are a graduating 3L student, you can probably relate to these tweets:

You never realize how many addresses you’ve had for the past 10 years until you fill out the bar’s character and fitness. #lawschoolproblems

It’s fun listing employers like Show-Me’s and Tequila Wyld on my bar application #lawschoolproblems

If not, let me welcome you to Character and Fitness season.

In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, third year law students are making preparations for graduation and beginning to think about the bar exam. Finally, after almost three years of law school, the end is in sight … almost. But now these soon-to-be-lawyers must complete the dreaded character and fitness application.


Most people outside the legal profession would probably be surprised to learn that lawyers have to pass a character and fitness test (either before or after the bar exam, depending on the state) prior to becoming a licensed attorney. Or they might joke that lawyers have to prove we have bad character. Or we’re out of shape from sitting and reading all the time. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Depending on what state you’re being licensed in, you will be asked some challenging questions. When I applied for the Georgia bar exam, I had to list every credit card I had ever had and the current balance on each of those cards.

Here’s another example: Pennsylvania applicants are asked to provide pages of information that include:

  • Everywhere you have lived, worked or attended school for a period of more than six months since age 16 (not just cities, but exact addresses)
  • Everywhere you have ever held a driver’s license or had a DUI or been a part of a serious traffic violation
  • Financial history – bankruptcy, delinquent on taxes or child support, past due accounts
  • Academic records – any discipline
  • Criminal history – everything except minor offenses
  • Civil proceedings – everything except divorce or minor motor vehicle accidents

A good place to start is by downloading the free BARBRI Bar Exam Digest, which includes all you need to know for every bar exam in every state.


And they want to know it in the next few weeks. Keep in mind that some states require you to submit this application before you can take the bar exam and other states allow you to submit it afterward. If you have previously submitted a character and fitness application, you may need to submit an update depending on your state’s requirements.

As you begin completing your application, give yourself plenty of time. The last thing you want to do is miss the deadline because you could not come up with all of the information by the deadline.


Nothing upsets a character and fitness committee more than discovering something about you that you failed to disclose in your application. It is far better to disclose and explain something from your past than to try to hide it. If you have a question about whether or not to include something in your character and fitness application, you can contact the bar examiners in your state. Your law school’s Dean of Students can also be an invaluable resource during this process.

There are definitely #lawschoolproblems out there. With a little time and a lot of thought, your character and fitness application does not have to be one of them.

Healthy fear as the great motivator for final exam success

GUEST BLOG Harrison Thorne, Esq.
UCLA School of Law, Class of 2016
Associate Attorney at Vedder Price

I usually became a nervous wreck around finals. My nerves were a mix of fearing the final exam and comparing myself to others.

Fearing a test is good. Healthy fear will motivate.

However, what is not good is measuring your knowledge against others.

I found that most people gave off an air of knowing everything about every course. My classmates would talk about how they had various topics “down cold” or how they “know that subject like the bank of my hand,” etc. In response, I became extremely nervous. My thinking turned into a checklist of concerns and doubt:

  • Everybody knows everything
  • I don’t know everything
  • Classes are graded on a curve
  • I know less than everybody else
  • I will fail

My saving grace was that, as time passed and finals neared, I worked hard and disconnected from that defeatist mindset. I actively pushed those thoughts down when they came up. And they came up a lot! What I found was that I was not as “dumb” as I thought and I could write a decent law school exam. I also found that the people who felt as I did tended to psych themselves out and under-perform.

My advice to my past self or anyone else about to take their first set of final exams is as follows:

  • Acknowledge the fear. Exams are scary. Especially the first time around. There is no point in denying that fact.
  • Use that fear. Fear can be a great motivator.
  • Come up with an “attack plan.” Get a calendar or download an app and set up a daily to-do list to keep track of what needs to get done.
  • Get it done. Now that finals are coming up, this is the time to put your head down and grind out work.
  • Never, ever, ever compare yourself to others. In fact, it’s probably best to avoid other law students as much as possible at this point. There will be a desire to ask other students what they’re doing, how they’re outlining, what practice exams they have taken. DO NOT do this. Focus on your well thought out and designed attack plan.
  • Use Tools. While everybody else is nervously Googling study aids, thumbing through E+E’s or checking out secondary sources, use no-nonsense tools like BARBRI 1L Mastery and 1L Mastery Pro.

 As an example, here’s a glimpse of how I planned one of my final exam prep days:

6:00: wake up1:30-3:00: Study
6:15-7:30: gym3:30-5:00: Class
7:30-8:15: shower/breakfast/
check emails
5:30-7:00: Study
8:15-10:30: Study7:00-7:30: Dinner
10:30-11:00: zone out, check emails, whatever7:30-9:30: Study
11:00-1:00: Study9:30-10:00:
Pleasure Reading
(never give this up!)
1:00-1:30: Lunch


The MPRE May Have An “Easy” Reputation, But Don’t Fall For It

Introducing the pièce de résistance.

What you’re up against with the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam: 60 multiple-choice questions. Ten of them will go unscored. You have two hours to complete it all. While nowhere near as long or as demanding as the bar exam, the MPRE is definitely in a category of its own.

Download the free BARBRI Bar Exam Digest for state-by-state MPRE information.

Just how hard is the MPRE?

It can be complex and tricky. All by design. The MPRE is meant to task you with thinking like a lawyer when ethical situations aren’t so clear cut. And it’s a different exam format compared to law school.

Even though it has the reputation as being “easy” and “not a big deal,” you’ll want to study. Especially if you’re a 3L student with only a few more opportunities to pass it before taking the bar.

Almost every state/jurisdiction requires that you pass the MPRE for admission to the bar, so be sure you have this requirement completed.

Comparing “apples to oranges”

Many students opt to take the MPRE after completing their law school’s Professional Responsibility (PR) class. This is a good idea; however, do not rely solely on your PR class notes as a way to streamline your preparation. It won’t work well.

The MPRE tests on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, whereas some law school courses may focus on state-specific rules of professional conduct or teach a combination (ABA and state). Plus, the hypos you encounter in PR class are likely to be quite different than the scenarios presented in the MPRE questions. To borrow a phrase, it’s “like comparing apples to oranges.”

You need to devote the study time

If you can swing a few days off work or school to study for the MPRE, do it. It’s a bar admission requirement so you’ll want to take it seriously (regardless of the exam’s reputation). Consider the free BARBRI MPRE review course. Taking a legal ethics or PR class in law school won’t guarantee a passing score. The BARBRI MPRE Review covers everything about ethics, is highly organized and always current on legal ethics information. The course has a video lecture component and a ton of practice questions.

Overall, the MPRE is an exam that requires knowledge of the rules and the application of the rules. Know that studying for one night is simply not enough. It is best to take some time off and really dive into the material. Your hard work will pay off in the long run.

Law School Cold-calling. The Socratic Method. Here’s 3 ways to bring it on.

Law School Cold-calling

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

From talking about difficult Supreme Court cases to trying to stay alert for law school cold-calling, being prepared for class can be a daunting task. Everyone has their own preparation process. After having a conversation with a fellow classmate, I figured I’d share my preparation style.

How I read the case

I was a journalism major in undergraduate school. So, I’m prone to focusing on the high-level facts. When I read cases for the first time, I just need to know the facts, the rule, the holding. Generic online case briefs are helpful in this sense, but I wouldn’t rely too much on them.

While it can be easier said than done, I try to stay out of “the weeds” of the case. The fact of the matter is that the case represents a specific topic. So, I try to ascertain what the case signifies as it relates to THAT specific topic. Example, if we’re covering the Administrative Procedure Act and the case mentions a tort doctrine, I don’t spend 30 minutes trying to understand the tort doctrine.

Law School Cold-calling

When I read the case

I also find that when I read the case matters, as well. For some classes, I can read the day before and be fine with a quick review right before class. For other classes, I have to read right before class or I won’t retain the information. Nonetheless, to be on the safe side I’ve always tried to schedule classes where I had about 30/40 minutes between classes for this specific purpose.

Case briefing

The final thing about preparing for class is briefing. I’ve probably written a full-fledged case brief 3 times in my law school journey. It just doesn’t work for me. Instead, I might highlight the rule in the casebook or make notes in the margins. Very rarely do I formally CREAC or IRAC a case. I just think that’s too much work, but I also know people who do it for every case. So, if it works for you, by all means, have at it! All in all, you’ll be ready for law school cold-calling.

Make school easier, less expensive — without the trial-and-error.

When entering law school, many students don’t know what to expect. They haven’t been able to attain relevant advice and aren’t sure of the ways, if any, law school varies from undergraduate. Most students plan to dive in — and hope to succeed — using trial-and-error. That’s not really the wisest approach. Here are several more proven ways to help make law school life much easier.


First year law school grades are by far the most crucial. A high GPA is a requisite for big firm jobs and many law reviews and journals. If you fail to do well your first year or even just your first semester, it is incredibly difficult to bring up your GPA.

There’s always the opportunity to catch on faster and get ahead for what’s coming next, what to do and how to do it. At any point during 1L year, you can still take BARBRI Law Preview to better position yourself for success. In just a week, it teaches proven academic strategies and how to take law school exams. It also gives an overview of 1L classes and offers personal service and support throughout law school. Essentially, to use a metaphor, students who use Law Preview are typically the first out of the gate, while other students are still learning to run.


Many students will wait until the last minute to enroll in or think about a bar review course. But keep in mind all that you’ll be getting: BARBRI offers a laundry list of study aids and resources. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of first-year students who spent an extraordinary amount of money on supplements. You don’t need to do that. Simply enroll in BARBRI and sign up for the 1L Mastery Package (free for a limited time) to start using highly-effective study tools — ready-to-use outlines for all first-year classes, on-demand video lectures for all 1L subjects, plus essay and multiple-choice practice questions. Download the BARBRI Mobile App, too, for added convenience and flexibility in how and where you want to study.


In school, there are always a few professors with whom you might not mesh well. In those situations, you’ll often feel that you don’t fully comprehend the material after lecture and must teach yourself the information. BARBRI professors delivering online video lectures (with 1L Mastery) offer a third alternative. Chances are that if a professor at your school does not fit your learning style for a particular subject, a BARBRI professor will.


BARBRI doesn’t just offer material for your 1L year. We also have all the same resources for many of your 2L and 3L classes, such as Evidence, Constitutional Law, and Criminal Procedure. Additionally, BARBRI has a free MPRE Review course to help students pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) that’s required by almost every state and jurisdiction.

Getting a head start on law school by using Law Preview and then using BARBRI’s materials can help you lower your stress and financial expense, get you on the right track immediately and help you stay ahead of the curve throughout your law school career.

3L Study Habits

Back To Law School

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

3L Study Habits – I’m Already Changing

I’m a 3L. WHAT?! How insane does that sound? I feel like I JUST got acclimated to the beast that is law school. I feel like just last week I’d sent out my applications. My, how times have changed. 


Last year this time I’d evaluated my 1L year and decided that I need to change my study habits. In fact, I did just that. During my 1L year, I’d often take work home. During my 2L year, however, I determined that I wouldn’t bring books home and I would, instead, finish all of my work at school before leaving.

Looking back, I’d say that worked quite well for my schedule, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that this semester.

Homework in Library

Looking ahead…

I’ve been in school for about a month, now. Two weeks in I saw that the “No homework” stuff might not work. After being assigned two completely different 25-page papers I QUICKLY realized it WON’T work…at least not this semester.

I have no choice. Back to my 1L ways, I go.

Luckily, however, I know how the game goes. So, I won’t have a lot of that anxiety and worry that I had my 1L year. If there’s anything that I’ve learned in this law school journey it’s that flexibility is key! Sure…you may have an elaborate, aspirational plan, but, as I’m sure you already know, that plan may not always work. So, remember to stay flexible!

Nonetheless, here’s to our final hurrah! Let the countdown begin!