2L Year, The Time To Check Early Bar Exam Requirements

Believe it or not, the second year of law school is when you should begin researching early bar exam requirements.

If you’re a 2L student reading this blog, yes, that means pretty much now. It’s not too early to get moving on this process. Depending on the state/jurisdiction in which you plan to take the bar, you may encounter specific instructions, special fees and other details that will require plenty of advanced planning and work on your part. The goal is to avoid pitfalls later, when you really don’t want any surprises.

Download the free BARBRI Bar Exam Digest, which has all the information you need to know for every state and jurisdiction, including the UBE.

BE AWARE OF THE STEPS, SAVE YOURSELF MONEY

The bar admission requirements are just that — requirements — and certain ones come with a fee. Pay close attention. Make sure you are fully aware of those requirements and their deadlines. You may have something to do during 2L year.

Ohio is a good example. Your Application to Register as a Candidate for Admission to the Practice of Law (fondly known as Character and Fitness) is due by November 15th of your second year of law school. That second year requirement applies regardless if you are on a three-, four- or five-year plan. It’s a 30-page application that wants to know everywhere you have lived since the age of 18. Seriously.

Another example: In Florida, there’s an even earlier deadline. It allows (and encourages) you to sign up your first year of law school. In fact, the earlier you sign up for the Florida bar exam, the lower your overall fee.

REALIZE THIS IS NOT A QUICK AND EASY PROCESS

Even if you’re going to a state where you don’t have to file your bar exam application until the third year of law school, this is not something you can do in one night. Or even over the course of a week. You will likely have to do some significant digging into your personal, financial and work histories. Remember that traffic ticket you got in the middle of nowhere driving home from college your second year? You are going to have to hunt down the docket for it to include with your application. That’s only part of it. You may have to get forms notarized and references to provide letters of recommendation.

Here’s a helpful Bar Admission Checklist that will give you a general overview of what to expect.

PREPARE TO MOVE FAST, TIME MAY BE LIMITED

Some states have a limited timeline established for you to file your bar exam application. In New York, for example, the application filing period is only one month. No extensions. Late applications are not accepted. The last thing you want is to wait another six months to take the bar because you missed a deadline. As a 2L student now, you can see these coming with more than enough time to gather and do everything you need on schedule.

KNOW THE TOPICS TESTED, TAKE THOSE COURSES

By checking bar exam requirements (going into fall semester of 2L year or sooner), you get to see what’s tested on that exam and then plan your course schedule accordingly. If you’re bar exam state tests Commercial Law and Secured Transactions, consider taking those classes in law school. Give yourself every advantage, early and often.

As with so many things related to law school, taking time to stay informed has its rewards.

Headed into Bar Review Crunchtime, the BARBRI Simulated MBE is Crucial

BARBRI Simulated MBE

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

Okay, let me just be the first to thank BARBRI for the Simulated MBE. I know, that seems like an odd thing to say, but nothing could have better prepared me for the bar exam than to sit down for six hours and do 200 multiple-choice MBE questions.

Yes, it was awful. Yes, I was tired. However, now I know what to expect on the bar exam. We’re getting into the home stretch here, and I feel confident in my ability to perform well. Why? Because I’ve been practicing (and you have, too!).

SO HOW DID YOU DO?

I’ll be honest, there were some questions on the BARBRI Simulated MBE that I definitely should not have missed. I knew the answer to them and I could recite the correct answer now for you with the correct rule statement.

Why did I miss the question? Because of reading comprehension. I know that you’ve heard “reading comprehension is key” or something to that effect since Kindergarten and it seems redundant, but seriously, the majority of the questions that I missed were because I was rushing. I got in the heat of the moment, had a knee-jerk reaction and picked what I thought was right. Sometimes I even did that without looking at the other answer choices. DO NOT DO THAT.

BARBRI Simulated MBE

Regardless of how you did, even if you did really well (yay, go you!), your scores are going to go up if you put in the time to get them where you need them to be.

The best part about the BARBRI Simulated MBE is that you get a chance to not only see how you did and where you could improve, but you also see how you react under pressure for six hours. Tbh, I have test anxiety so I knew that it would come up. However, I didn’t expect myself to get so tired through the exam. Answering 200 questions is easier said than done.

It is difficult to sit and look at questions with intense focus for hours on end.

It is difficult to keep focused and ensure that you’re doing what you need to do to answer the questions on the page.

If you need some help staying focused, I’d like to offer some advice. To ensure that I’m reading and understanding all of the important parts of the question is to underline and circle the things that are important. I underline the topic of the call-of-the-question so I know exactly what to look for when I’m reading the question. Also, if you read the call-of-the-question and you don’t know what subject it’s referring to, skim the answer choices. It’s a waste of your valuable time to read the question without knowing to which subject it’s referring.

The bottom line is now you know what it’s going to be like to sit in a room while focusing intently in three-hour blocks. We can do this.

DID YOU WATCH THE REVIEW VIDEOS?

Let me just say this: you aren’t going to get better if you don’t know what you did wrong.

Let me repeat it: you aren’t going to get better if you don’t know what you did wrong. These videos are GOLD. Not only do you get the chance to review all of the material, but you also get some GREAT tips and tricks for approaching questions. You also get some incredibly helpful mnemonics to remember crazy rules and exceptions. You know that you need to watch the videos. If you haven’t yet, you need to.

DID YOU WATCH MIKE SIMS’S WEBINAR?

Y’all need to watch Mike Sims’s webinar. Here’s the link to the on-demand replay. I don’t care if you are one of the super impressive people who got 100% on the MBE (like, how…?). Even if you did, the webinar put me at ease and gave me some peace of mind going into my last couple weeks of bar prep. It’s worth your time. Maybe you didn’t do the best on the BARBRI Simulated MBE.

Maybe you’re a little lower than you would like and you’re slightly freaking out, etc. Okay, look, we have over two weeks until the bar exam. Your scores are going to go up if you put in the time to review what you did wrong. The webinar definitely helps with that.

Y’all, we are almost there. Now we’re in crunch time and need to do what we need to do. We got this! Put in the work and you’ll #OwnTheBar.

Still Job Searching? How To Pick A State Bar Exam In The Meantime

It’s a question many law students have: How to choose a state bar exam if currently still on the job hunt? The good news is that BARBRI Bar Review is still the only course offered in all 50 states and jurisdictions, so you have options. Be sure to check with any BARBRI representative at your law school for more details and information.

KNOW WHAT YOU REALLY WANT, REMAIN COMMITTED

Selecting a state bar exam is a deeply personal decision. It may involve input from family, friends, your law professors and law school career counselors.

Start with this: Where do you see yourself in five years? (Of course, nobody really likes that question, right?) Employers tend to ask it often during the interview process. Why? The purpose is to gauge your commitment to the company or firm you’re pursuing. For the bar exam, it is a similar approach in determing your own level of commitment and the direction you want to take, literally.

CONSIDERATIONS TO HELP WITH YOUR DECISION

  • Location — When considering state bar exams, target and research where you would most like to live.
  • Bar admission requirements — Examine the state bar exam subjects tested, the exam’s format, CLE requirements and fees associated with maintaining good standing.
  • Legal industry — Is the market in that state saturated with attorneys? Is the legal industry of your choice available in that region of the country?
  • Family obligations — Do you want to go back to your hometown? If so, why?
  • Professional network — What professional contacts have you made? Does your law school have an alumni network that would allow you to pursue your goals? Do you have access to mentors in that state?
  • Family and friends — Do you have the support you may need or want (nearby) to help in pursuing your goals?
  • Reciprocity — Most states allow admission on motion after practicing for a number of years.

Know that you have access to an array of BARBRI resources, especially the free-to-download BARBRI Bar Exam Digest. It lists testing information, by state/jurisdiction, to help you prepare for eh bar exam.  While each state has unique bar exam requirements, remember that the BARBRI Bar Review course will teach you what you need to pass, the first time.

Make sure to always check your state’s bar examiner’s website for updates and changes, too.

Don’t Select Obscure Answer Choices | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

by Roger Meslar,
BARBRI Vice President of Assessment

TRUST WHAT YOU KNOW, DON’T OVERTHINK IT.

By now, you’re getting a very real understanding of the very large challenges presented by the MBE.  One big final exam covering all of your first year and more. You have only 6 hours to answer 200 questions, each of which have 4 answer choices. Or in other words, you have only 6 hours to sort through 800 answer choices trying to find the right ones. No wonder no one has ever gotten a perfect score on the MBE!

While the challenge may seem daunting, let me offer you a tip to make it a bit more manageable – one that I’ve used on all the MBE’s I’ve taken and passed. When you see an answer choice on the MBE that looks completely unfamiliar, more often than not, that answer choice is wrong.  The correct answer will probably be familiar to you. It will contain a rule of law or a use a line of reasoning you’ve seen before during your BARBRI Bar Review course. So don’t get caught up in wondering if the exam is trying to trick you. If you come across any obscure answer choice, don’t mark it. Trust what you know for sure.

The purpose of the MBE is to test your substantive knowledge and legal reasoning skills. It rewards both your understanding (not just memorization) of the law and your ability to apply that law quickly and expertly to 200 fact scenarios. You don’t want to spend your time second-guessing the bar examiners or spending too much time poring over an obscure answer choice. If an answer includes something you’ve never studied in law school or did not see in BARBRI, chances are it’s not the correct answer.

Keep that in mind and you’ll be one step closer to a great score on the MBE.

ABOUT BARBRI BAR REVIEW

BARBRI pioneered bar review and proudly celebrates 50-plus years of helping more than 1.3 million students pass the bar exam. BARBRI’s constant innovation, leadership and depth of experience based on 100-plus bar exams going back to 1967 influences all aspects of bar review – where it’s been, where it is today and the vast possibilities of where BARBRI will lead it next. Every year, the overwhelming majority of law students across the nation choose BARBRI Bar Review to prepare for the bar exam – and pass it the first time. Learn more about the nation’s #1 bar review at BARBRI.com.

The Types of Bar-Preppers to Avoid on Social Media

GUEST BLOG by Ifeoma Ukwubiwe
Assistant District Attorney at Bronx Country District (New York City)
Rutgers School of Law-Newark, Class of 2015

I’m a big proponent of Social Media

If you’re anything like me and choose to keep your social media account active during bar prep, you’ll want to avoid these following Bar-Preppers:

“The Pessimist”
Misery loves company. So if you come across a Pessimist Bar-Prepper, “Unfollow” or “Unfriend.” The Pessimist Bar-Preppers are easy to come across. They are scared they will not pass the bar exam, and want you to be scared with them. They post things such as: “I’m going to fail the Bar Exam,” “I can’t do this,” and “I’m freaking out.” You do not need to subject yourself to their social media rants. You should just avoid them like the plague. Of course, we all have doubts about our abilities, but keep positive. You can do this as so many before us have.

“The Play-by-Player”
You know the excessive poster — you can’t miss them. They. post. all. the. time. And tell you every frickin’ thing they do or are not doing. Let me tell you this, there’s nothing worse than an excessive Bar-Preppers. They will tell you that they woke up and did 50 MBE Torts questions followed by a run in the park followed by 50 more torts questions followed by a contracts essay followed by… I’m sure you get the point. No moment of their Bar Prep life is too mundane for them to broadcast. “Unfollow” or “Unfriend.” Do you really have time to keep up with their daily schedules?

The Self-Promoter”
OK, so we’ve probably all posted at least once about some Bar Prep achievement. And sure, maybe your friends really do want to know that you got 21/25 correct on a Contracts Questions set. But when almost EVERY post is about how well you are doing in Bar Prep, you sound like a bragger. “Unfollow” or “Unfriend.” These Bar Preppers will have you doubting your own abilities and you will soon compare their success to your shortcomings. “Don’t compare your progress with that of others. We all need our own time to travel our own distance.” So if your only getting 15/25 correct, then work smarter to get your score up but do not compete with other students.

“The Complainer”
The Complainer is pretty self-explanatory: they are a pessimist through and through, complaining about every little thing about Bar Prep. Many of these people are passive aggressive sorts. Don’t let this person’s complaining get to you. Whether it be on social media or in person. “Unfollow” or “Unfriend.”

“The Cool One
I’m sure your wondering who “The Cool Bar-Prepper” is! Well, they are the folks who post pictures of themselves doing some fun activity with a hashtag or a caption describing the activity as their #BarPrep. You’ve seen them before, during final exam season posting about all the wine they’re drinking when they have 3 finals and a paper coming up. “Unfollow” or “Unfriend”

Hopefully this little rundown has opened your eyes to the various types of Bar Prep Social Media posters. Maybe this even brought you to an immense realization that YOU ARE one of these types of posters. If you had an epiphany, consider journaling them away!

5 Facts All Graduating Law Students Should Know About BARBRI

By Matt Mundo,
BARBRI Director of Legal Education

In my job as a Director of Legal Education for BARBRI, I get the pleasure of working with thousands of law students each year.

My job, every day, is to help students achieve the dreams for which they have worked so hard by succeeding in law school and on the bar exam.

Recently, I spoke with some students who had received some misinformation as part of their bar preparation research, so it prompted me to put into writing “5 THINGS ALL GRADUATING LAW STUDENTS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BARBRI”.

As the nation’s #1 bar review course, there are so many things to talk about so often some of these features are overlooked; however, with the bar exam being the only thing between you and the career of your dreams, we want to ensure you have all of the information so you can choose the very best partner for your needs on this life changing exam.

FACT 1: BARBRI does not charge extra to grade extra essays.

During bar study, your goal is to write the best bar exam essays possible, as fast as possible. BARBRI knows from experience that a purely “unlimited” essay grading system does not provide the best results. Think about it. Writing and submitting dozens of essays a week for grading simply reinforces bad habits rather than correcting them.  Unlimited graded essays leads to spending a lot of time on many poor essays.

BARBRI has a better answer. It starts with Essay Architect, our exclusive powerful online platform that takes you through a series of steps to learn to critically read bar exam questions, enhance the speed of your essay writing and construct strong, winning answers. Then we assign a carefully selected series of specific essays for grading as well as many more essays for practice and self-grading.

And, if after all of that, you want additional essays graded, you can simply work with a BARBRI Director, like me, to get personal, 1:1 help, all free of charge!

FACT 2: You can do 100% of the BARBRI course online… but we won’t force you.

Actually, BARBRI Bar Review offers you the best possible learning experience by blending online, mobile and in-class study options. Each day you can choose whether to view the lectures on your computer, use the BARBRI Mobile App on-the-go or attend a bar review classroom location to watch a lecture in a structured environment with fellow students.

No matter which option you choose, you get the same great lectures. BARBRI lets you mix and match what works best for you – go to a classroom setting for your most challenging subjects, revisit specific topics and subtopics online afterward or speed through your best subjects online only at 1.5x speed.

It’s your time, your preference and your choice as to what works best for you to reinforce and recall the material you need to know to Own the Bar.

FACT 3: BARBRI is the only bar preparation course that will truly allow you to see where you sit on the bar exam curve

If you look at the MBE National Score Distribution from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, you will see the score distribution of the 2015 scaled scores. Results of the MBE fall in a pattern that look like a bell curve. This is why you often hear of people who fail the bar exam by just a few points. A large number of examinees are clustered right around the top of the curve – right around the score you need to pass the bar exam.

During the BARBRI course, you’ll have the chance to sit down and do a full simulated multistate bar exam. The simulated MBE has exam-like questions and we treat it just like the bar so you’ll know exactly how it feels to survive the multistate bar exam.

We also take your results and provide you your percentile ranking, by subject, so you know exactly where you are sitting on the curve in comparison to every other BARBRI student and where you need to focus your efforts between that time and the actual bar exam.

Since the vast majority of students sitting for the bar exam choose to partner with BARBRI, this will be your best predictor of bar exam success by far.

FACT 4: BARBRI makes it easy to take lecture notes by hand or on a laptop.

In order to provide the structure necessary to be organized as well as the flexibility that best fits your learning style, BARBRI provides lecture handouts in hardcopy AND as fillable PDF’s each day.

If you prefer to hand write your notes, then the pre-printed handout volume is there for you. If you prefer to use your laptop, download the fillable PDF’s so that you can type as much as you’d like for each blank, highlight text and use “sticky notes” for the occasional sidebar that you want to make a note of during class.

FACT 5:  BARBRI’s Personal Study Plan organizes your study time from Day 1 straight through to the day of your bar exam.

Screen Shot 2016-10-26 at 4.13.59 PM
The BARBRI lectures conclude two weeks prior to your exam but your Personal Study Plan does not. Once you’ve been taught all of the law that you need, your Personal Study Plan continues with homework, personal assignments, and practice exams to make sure that you are applying the law and memorizing the material during those critical final weeks and that you are focused on your personal areas of opportunity.

And, of course, my BARBRI Director of Legal Education peers and I will be there to support you right up to and during the exam. BARBRI’s study schedule and practice exams are the result of a dedicated academic team combined with the experience of training over 1.3M attorneys for the bar exam.

When it comes to your bar preparation and this critical decision, we want you to have all of the facts. Thousands of students have already chosen to prepare with BARBRI in 2017 – we can’t wait to welcome you to that group and help you Own the Bar.

About BARBRI Bar Review:

BARBRI pioneered bar exam preparation 50 years ago and our gold standard reputation continues to attract the overwhelming majority of law school students each year. BARBRI has helped more than 1.3 million students pass the bar – more than all other courses combined.

BARBRI focuses on you the entire way, using innovative new learning technologies that personalize your bar study. Add to all this our elite faculty of highly-respected law professors and top legal minds that know the law and especially how to teach it for you to Own The Bar.

Also, with the BARBRI Guarantee, if you take a BARBRI Bar Review course for the first time for a particular state and you do not sit for or do not pass that state’s bar exam, you may repeat the same course online once for the same state, the next time a course is offered, without paying additional tuition.

We have the longest history of pass rate success, going back 80-plus bar exams. No other bar prep program comes close.

Enroll now

9 Tips To Keep Your Over-Stressed, Over-Worked “Lizard Brain” At Bay

When law school graduation arrives, it’s time to relax … right? Not so fast. Not when the bar exam is on the not-so-distant horizon. One last hurdle to becoming a licensed lawyer, your ultimate personal and professional goal.

WE’RE ONLY HUMAN … WITH A “LIZARD BRAIN”

There’s so much pressure surrounding the bar exam. Passing means everything – mostly the opportunity to actually practice law and make a decent living doing it. Before that becomes your reality, you have to deal with the major stress of preparing for the bar exam. You are now on a deadline because the bar exam is happening on time, as scheduled, whether you are ready or not. You fear failure, which is totally normal. All this causes chronic sympathetic nervous system arousal – in other words, “lizard brain.” It’s a fight-flight-freeze survival mode that goes way back to our prehistoric days as Paleolithic humans.

YOU KNOW WHY, NOW THE SYMPTOMS

It’s likely that you may already have experienced chronic stress during law school. According to the Mayo Clinic, “lizard brain” symptoms include headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, increased illness, upset stomach, chest pain, sleep disturbances, anxiety, lack of motivation or focus, irritability, restlessness, depression, angry outbursts and social withdrawal.

IT WANTS TO DRIVE YOUR BUS

Considering the laundry list of symptoms, your body expends quite a bit, if not all, its energy to keep you going. It’s survival, literally. And that level of energy consumption doesn’t leave much for anything else, especially when you need to be able to memorize black letter law, take practice exams or simply remain upright during lectures. The lizard is driving your bus with the pedal to the metal. As you might imagine, a frazzled lizard driving a bus can be detrimental to everyone and everything nearby, including the bus itself (that’s you).

9 TIPS FOR TAKING BACK CONTROL

  1. Be Grateful. Every day, find time to reflect on 3-5 things you appreciate. Lawyers tend to be world-class pessimists. Remembering things that really matter can help you focus on the positive and, in turn, improve your overall physical health and much-needed energy levels.
  2. Make time for family and friends. Stay connected with the important people in your life. Your support system will help you feel less alone, or isolated, and keep your outlook positive.
  3. Smile. Research has shown that the simple act of smiling can slow your heart rate and reduce stress. Smiling more may even help alleviate depression.
  4. Meditate. Take a few minutes each day. Be still and focus on your breathing. Research has shown that meditation can help prevent mind-wandering, increase focus, reduce stress, improve sleep and strengthen the immune system. Om … Om … Om …
  5. Plan the day. Map out time for studying, eating, sleeping, fun activities and exercise, for example. You’ll feel prepared and ready, less anxiety, greater control and, ultimately, get the most important things completed. It will save you time, too.
  6. Eat, sleep, play. Smart food choices, enough sleep (seven hours minimum) and exercises that you enjoy (could be a nice walk outside or dancing at home, when nobody’s watching) are important to your health.
  7. Be your own cheerleader. We’re often quite critical of ourselves. Become aware of your self-talk, challenge it and replace it with a positive mantra. Research shows that people with a positive outlook can fight off colds, handle stress better and – bonus! – even live longer.
  8. Laugh. Laughter has shown to lower cortisol in your bloodstream, relax your muscles and improve your overall well-being.
  9. Eat 1.4 oz. of chocolate: Doing this every day for two weeks can actually lower your stress hormones. How much is 1.4 ounces of chocolate exactly? Google it and you’ll see there are many choices and brands you may like.

What The UBE Means To Your Legal Job Search, Career Marketability

UBE exam scores

At the time of this blog post, the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) has been officially adopted by 32 states and one jurisdiction. The UBE was first adopted in 2011 by just three states (Alabama, Missouri and North Dakota). Now there are plans to implement this “universal” testing format going out as far as 2021 (Texas).

INSTANT PORTABILITY OF UBE EXAM SCORES

The UBE was designed initially to help reduce the need for newly minted attorneys to take another bar exam in order to become licensed in another state or jurisdiction. The UBE permits you to transfer a score obtained in one UBE state/jurisdiction to another, subject to certain limitations. The NCBE Bar Admission Guide has those details.

INSTANT RECIPROCITY, MAXIMIZING JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Today, more than half of the United States administers the UBE. Students are benefiting from instant reciprocity, an immediate benefit right after passing the bar exam. With a high enough score, you can expand your job search, faster, into all UBE states. That makes you more marketable to employers in different parts of the country. You can target those firms and companies looking to hire to meet greater demand in areas less inundated with legal practitioners.

Many student have taken advantage of this mobility. Since 2011, roughly 12,000 UBE test takers have transferred their scores to a jurisdiction where they did not take the bar, according to Judith A. Gundersen, President of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE)*.

“Lawyers are more mobile than they once were. No longer do lawyers settle in one state and practice in that state until retirement,” said Jeffrey Ward, President of the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners**.

THE MBE, MEE AND MPT COMPONENTS

The UBE is a two-day exam drafted by the NCBE. It consists of the Multistate Bar Exam (50%), Multistate Essay Exam (30%) and Multistate Performance Test (20%). These testing components are not new. They have long been part of the bar exam format in many states. However, the UBE rests upon an agreement: a state agrees to give full faith and credit to a score achieved on the bar exam in another jurisdiction because that jurisdiction uniformly administers, grades and scores the exam.

UBE EXAM SCORES SET INDEPENDENTLY BY STATE

Each UBE state sets its own minimum passing score, which ranges from 260 to 280. Your passing score is portable to another UBE state as long as you sit for the entire exam at one time in the same location.

You may transfer the score to a state with a lower required passing score, even if you “fail” the bar exam in the state in which you sat. For example, a student who takes the UBE in Colorado, scores 272 and fails to achieve the required passing score of 276 may transfer that score to Utah, a neighboring UBE jurisdiction with a passing score of 270. The UBE score is not valid beyond a set period of time. Each state sets its own deadline, varying between three and five years.

UBE EXAM STATES PASSING SCORES

260: Alabama | Minnesota | Missouri | New Mexico | North Dakota
266: Connecticut | District of Columbia | Illinois | Iowa | Kansas | Maryland | Montana | New Jersey | New York | South Carolina
270: Arkansas | Massachusetts | Nebraska | New Hampshire | North Carolina | Tennessee | Utah | Vermont | Washington | West Virginia | Wyoming
272: Idaho
273: Arizona
274: Oregon
276: Colorado | Maine | Rhode Island
280: Alaska
TBD: Ohio (coming July 2020) | Texas (coming February 2021)

You can get bar exam information for every U.S. state in the BARBRI Bar Exam Digest.

BARBRI KNOWS THE UBE, SINCE ITS INCEPTION

BARBRI has been preparing students for each of the components that now comprise the UBE since their inception: 1972 for the MBE, 1988 for the MEE and 1997 for the MPT. The BARBRI Bar Review course in each state is uniquely tailored to the needs of the bar exam, accommodating the subtle grading differences among UBE states.

 

*Source: American Bar Association, Before The Bar Blog
** Source: The National Jurist

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

By Stefan Borst-Censullo, Esq.

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

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

The bar is nothing more than a ritual

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

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

A few extra things that help improve your odds

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

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

3 Steps to Success From An Attorney Who Passed 3 State Bar Exams

GUEST BLOG BY Gregory Rutchik,
Attorney at Law

Years ago, about this exact time, I was studying for my first bar exam, the New York Bar.

I remember feeling anxious and thinking “how on earth am I going to study twenty-two subjects (yes, that is what the syllabus said at the time) for the New York Bar”?!  My BARBRI course hadn’t even started and I was already having trouble sleeping. My mind was racing with anxiety. I could not afford to fail the exam because I was off to a Fellowship as soon as the bar ended. Even though I did well on law school exams, I knew that “the bar” was a different animal. At least that was my feeling at the time.

This feeling is familiar to many and some find it embarrassing to admit. I wish someone who had been there before would have taken my hand and walked me through the process. You know, like the runners who partner with newbies running their first marathon.

First and foremost, I trusted the BARBRI program. BARBRI does an incredible job. There is no need to waste time and energy asking them why. They have tested it. You signed up presumably on the referral of someone who used them to pass. If that is not the case, you are hearing it from me now. They know their stuff. If you follow the BARBRI course, you will be prepared.

Once I accepted that I could trust the BARBRI Bar Review course, I stopped asking why. I stopped asking about things that a classmate or I found in the practice answers that I thought were wrong or irrelevant. I stopped asking questions about whether I should do more than the assigned MBE questions each night. No need unless I wanted to for the heck of it. I stopped asking whether I should take another course on top of BARBRI. The answer is, if you do what they assign, it is NOT necessary.  Do you hear me? I trusted the program and so should you. It works. I am living proof as I passed three bars by trusting BARBRI and I am just a normal person.

What I did additionally, and repeated throughout my entire bar preparation, made all the difference in the world for me and I’d like to share that with you. I repeated these techniques again four years later when I studied and passed the California Bar.

I call these techniques my three steps to success and my key to passing the New York, Connecticut and California Bar Exams without a problem.

Postcards

 1.) I made my bar prep period all about me

I knew by that point that I felt best every day when I exercised to sweat. If that is not the case for you, then identify what does make you feel good every day. Schedule it in.

Back then, I was a treadmill runner. I could picture myself running on the treadmill in the morning after my first cup of coffee before every single BARBRI lecture just to get my blood flowing. I would run again at night – with flash cards and notes once I got into the studying. By coming up with an organized schedule of non-negotiables – things I had to do for me – I knew I could have some control over the craziness of the eight-week study marathon.

My personal non-negotiables included exercise, making and eating healthy dinners and break times. I scheduled my study time around these items and included rewards such as break time with friends or “TV zone out time” so I could look forward to those rewards once I hit my study goal. It is a long race so build stamina and restore.

2.) I developed the right mind set

I remember meeting panicky classmates in law school and I am a high-energy person myself. This bar prep period of time is different. I had to form and protect a winning mindset for myself during this study phase. I was in this for me and my loved ones and I had to protect my mindset with positive, good energy activities and people. No one’s advice about how to keep your mind set positive is as meaningful as your own. Listen to your inner self. Be responsible for your own positive thoughts and calm.

One way that I achieved the right mind-set was through visualization techniques. I worked every day on seeing myself successfully finishing the bar. I know it sounds silly but it works. Watch an Olympian before an important race. Swimmers are a great example as they will stand with their eyes closed and move their bodies as if they are swimming the race. Winners of races visualize for weeks prior to a race – they visualize each important part and the end. It has worked for me for decades and it worked with the bar.

3.) I chose joy

As a little boy, my father let me carry his trial briefcase. In my other hand, I used to pull a luggage cart with his trial binders. I became a lawyer because I witnessed my dad helping people achieve their goals and overcome obstacles in life. The look on my dad’s face and the look of his client after a successful trial is the look of exhaustion and pure joy. I went into law to have a joyful professional life.

What about you? Channel why you are going to be a lawyer. Taking the bar was just another opportunity to explore the exhausting challenge of the profession and I was committed to doing the eight weeks in as joyful a way as possible. There are those that slug through any challenge and they finish well. And, that might be you. But there are those who study hard, eat well, play hard and kick the bar’s you know what and do it with a smile. That was me. And it can be you too!

ABOUT GREGORY RUTCHIK

Gregory passed the New York, Connecticut and California Bar Exams – each the first time. He also waived into DC on his MBE results. Gregory is a proud BARBRI Alum. He is a 1992-1993 Fulbright Fellow at the University of Tokyo, a 1992 graduate of Temple University School of Law and 2005 LL.M. graduate in Tax Law from Golden Gate University.

Gregory’s practice started in Silicon Valley at Cooley LLP and is now a mix of business development and lawyering for established family owned or closely held businesses. Gregory identifies and qualifies business partners for his clients and forms and designs their business structures, entities and agreements so his technology, real estate acquisition and even chocolate manufacturer clients can make, sell, distribute and protect their products. Gregory has also litigated dozens of IP infringement cases in Federal Court. When not lawyering, he is a martial artist, a yogi, a writer of children’s books and helps high achievers whose anxiety and panic interrupts their performance.