Passing With BARBRI (Twice!) | Tax Attorney Success Story

by Alexandra Zaunbrecher
Senior Associate | Mergers and Acquisitions Tax Group | KMPG US

Passing the bar exam twice as nice for taxation attorney Alexandra ZaunbrecherI chose to sit the Louisiana State Bar Exam right out of law school. Being a Louisiana native and having attended Louisiana State University for my undergraduate and law degree, I thought I would most likely practice within my home state. I also focused the majority of my studies in Louisiana law during my time at LSU. I felt like I had a head start on the Louisiana bar material.

Despite my coursework during law school, the BARBRI Bar Review course best prepared me to take the bar. Before the course, I was most worried about being able to get my hands on the right information. And then sift through it in a way that I could learn what was important for the bar.

Passing with BARBRI, which did all the legwork

My Personal Study Plan, or PSP, was intuitive. It picked up on what I already knew, as well as where I needed to focus more of my time. I simply had to concentrate on managing my time to follow the study plan laid out for me.

After passing with BARBRI on the Louisiana Bar Exam, I was ready to conquer the world. Or at least New York City. I spent a year in the northeast while I pursued my LL.M. degree in taxation from New York University School of Law, specializing in tax law. I was interested in the transactional side of business law and I wanted to position myself as far away from the inside of a courtroom as possible.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I was offered an associate position with KPMG in their Mergers and Acquisitions Tax Group in Dallas, Texas. Working in an accounting firm is more of a consulting role, so I’m not required to be barred in Texas. I advise and consult with a variety of companies and law firms around the world on different transactions and their tax consequences. However, I wanted to be able to take full advantage of my law degree in the state in which I lived and still have options within my career. So I decided to sit the Texas Bar Exam.

I turned to BARBRI without question for my bar exam prep

I didn’t need to make use of any other resources beyond the BARBRI PSP. The PSP fully covered each bar topic with enough breadth for me to feel comfortable not seeking out other materials. And with enough depth that I felt like I fully understood each topic. I loved being able to follow a study plan that I knew was “tried and true.” All that was required of me was to soak up the material that was put in front of me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BARBRI hasn’t failed me yet in passing the bar

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

100% online bar exam prep was a huge convenience

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

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

BARBRI practice questions are shockingly accurate

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

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

Watch One, Do One, Teach One | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

by Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT THE HEADLINE.

Now repeat that mantra: “Watch one, do one, teach one” and then go find a study partner to use it on during your bar exam prep. If you’re by yourself, on a computer or tablet or smartphone, sitting at the local coffee shop or in your room toiling away, working through the vast amount of bar review questions – I encourage you to try this interactive education model.

“Watch one, do one, teach one” originated in medical school and can effectively be applied to law school and bar exam studies. The idea is that seeing someone do something, then doing it yourself and being able to show someone else how it’s done leads to greater understanding and confidence. You just need to partner up with a fellow law student or someone to listen as you explain the rules and elements of the law.

Inherently, bar review starts out as an individualized experience. It’s you one-on-one with the BARBRI Personal Study Plan that guides you through the daily assignments and recommended homework. What you need to be keenly aware of is that you may, at first, be alone to focus on your studies but that can morph into being lonely. A study partner will keep you energized and motivated and, most of all, provide the dialogue and discussion necessary to comprehend the law.

If you have a bar exam study partner (and you really should at some point), learn a rule and teach it to that person. If you know a rule well enough to teach it to someone else, you know it well enough to pass the bar exam.

Plus it goes both ways. Your study partner can explain legal components to you, as well. Listen closely. There may be a nuance or even broader topic of the law you are grasping for the first time – after all, you’re taking three years of law school subjects and condensing it all into about 10 weeks of bar prep. Meet daily or weekly, at least, and discuss aloud – this will help with your understanding, retention and, ultimately, application when answering those multiple-choice MBE questions and essays.

Say it one more time: “Watch one, do one, teach one!”

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.

You’ll Play Like You Practice | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

by Everett Chambers,
Vice President of Institutional Programs

INCORRECT ANSWERS ARE INVALUABLE OPPORTUNITIES.

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 the 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. This way of preparing for a major test is ingrained in our psyche ever since elementary school. Step back from that mindset for a moment and reverse it – look to embrace the practice questions you got wrong instead. These moments are not judgments on you. Rather, they are opportunities to dig deep into learning what you don’t know.

After three years of law school, unless you have a photographic memory, you aren’t likely to quickly recall many specific 1L rules and elements. And you probably didn’t take every subject that will show up on the bar exam. No matter, you still need to learn all 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 of the bar exam, don’t hesitate to dive into 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 bar review as early as possible, answer practice questions, 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.

Here’s the bottom line: If you practice right, on game day, you will play like you practiced!

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.

Leave The Heavy Lifting To Us | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

by Stephanie Goetz,
BARBRI Director of Publishing and Online Course Creation

TRUST THE PROCESS. IT WORKS.

Throughout the year, the BARBRI learning and innovation team that I’m a part of adapts and enhances the BARBRI bar review course. We track the trends of what’s been tested and the frequency. We pay close attention to the latest exam updates that range from scaled scoring changes to the ongoing adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in more states and jurisdictions. We rely on our bar review history in combination with the latest advancements in learning science to develop new innovations for a “study smarter, not harder” methodology that eliminates some stress during the intense bar prep time-frame.

We diligently analyze every bar exam in the country. We also commission our most discerning BARBRI subject matter experts to carefully critique BARBRI Bar Review substantive content to make sure it’s comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date. And we remain keenly aware of trends and current issues.

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.

ISAAC and the PSP incorporates learning science and the latest learning technology to best prepare students for their state bar exam. It also provides information each individual student needs to know in real time regarding personal strengths and weaknesses in understanding the law.

Ultimately, you benefit from the confidence of knowing you can keep moving forward during bar preparation without worrying about creating a schedule or wondering if you are doing enough of various types of assignments. Do the work, one assignment and one day at a time. Follow your adaptive BARBRI Personal Study Plan. It knows what you need to focus on most to improve your weaker areas. You don’t have to waste one ounce of energy thinking about whether or not you’re studying the right subject areas, at the right time, and in the proper sequence.

You feel empowered to lean in, learn the law and how to apply it. While you lean in and trust the process, you can leave the heavy lifting to us.

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.

Question The Question | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

By Everett Chambers,
BARBRI Vice President of Institutional Programs

HINT: START AT THE END. YOU’LL KNOW HOW TO START.

When it comes to the MBE, MPT and essays on the bar exam, you want to answer the question that is actually being asked. Many law students forget this and jump right in without identifying and fully understanding the call of the question. The key is to first “question the question.” Ask yourself: what exactly am I being asked to do? Then apply the law (with the call of the question already in mind) to arrive at the correct multiple-choice answer or construct a winning essay.

Sounds simple enough but this can be a little tricky to tackle, especially if you dive straight into a question’s facts and details. Beginning with the “call of the question” and grasping exactly what is being asked will ultimately save you time and energy. And you have a better chance at capturing those valuable, extra points on all areas of the bar exam.

The “call of the question” is your roadmap of where you are being asked to go. It will give you solid up-front direction for what to key on when analyzing the facts of the question. Using this roadmap will enhance your ability to quickly answer questions and will maximize your scores on essays and multiple choice questions.

Before deep-diving into the fact patterns and potentially wasting precious time on irrelevant details, make sure you know what you’re being asked to answer. Question the question and focus on the call. It’s a winning bar exam strategy.

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.

Submit Practice Essays To Develop Skills | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

By Steve Levin,
BARBRI Vice President of International Development and Legal Writing

DON’T WAIT TO BUILD UP YOUR BAR EXAM FOCUSED WRITING SKILLS.

When I ask students who scored lower on the bar exam or were just below the threshold of passing, whether they submitted practice essays during bar prep, often the answer is “no” or “not many.” I’ve heard from students, in the past, that they felt the need to know all the rules of the law before they could or should submit a practice essay during bar review.

As many of you know, the written portion of the bar exam is critical to your overall score in every state and in some states, there is greater weight on the written portion compared to the MBE. (Download the BARBRI Bar Exam Digest for details.) Essay writing for the bar exam is quite different than the final exam essays you took in law school – it’s an acquired skill you must strengthen during bar prep.

On the bar exam, you’ll need to know how to provide an answer to the call of the question in the format bar examiners want to see. The best way to achieve proficiency is to tackle practice essays multiple times during BARBRI Bar Review and submit them for personal feedback – even while you are still learning the substantive material. This will enable you to continue your essay writing skill development.

Note that I said, “skill development.” Do not hold back on submitting a practice essay just because you are still learning the black letter law. When reviewing your essays, we aren’t just looking at your substantive knowledge – we also focus on feedback that helps refine your essay writing skills.

With each submitted essay, you’ll benefit from personalized input from a trained bar exam writing expert. You’ll come away knowing where you will capture points and where you may lose points, as well as how to frame a better essay answer. Submitting essays as they are assigned during bar review, over time, will allow you to incorporate previous feedback into the next practice essay. You’ll move along an upward trajectory of continuous improvement and bar exam readiness.

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.

Grapple With The MBE Materials | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

By Stephanie Goetz,
BARBRI Director of Publishing and Online Course Creation

MORE DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN BETTER.

In preparing for the Multistate portion of the bar exam, many students think the best strategy is to tackle the largest quantity of multiple-choice practice questions as if it’s a race to reach some magic number. The truth is, there is no magic target number of practice questions you should complete. Running through “thousands” of MBE practice questions does not automatically mean you’ll score higher on the MBE. Instead of focusing on more, faster, you should focus on grappling with each individual question with which you interact.

Rather than take on a large volume of MBE practice questions at one time, work them in smaller groups. Consider working 18 questions in a 30-minute session. Why 18? To finish the MBE’s 200 questions on time, you must complete at least 17 per half hour – you have just under two minutes for each question. You want to practice a little faster than what will be needed on the exam. This will get you into the rhythm of answering a question quickly, ideally in about a minute-and-a-half.

THEN, MAKE THE MOST OF EACH QUESTION.

Another reason to work smaller groups of practice questions is so that you use each question as a real-time learning opportunity. If you answer a question incorrectly, understand why at that moment of study. If you answered one correctly, take a moment to ask yourself if you really know why that answer was correct.

If you missed one or don’t know why you got it correct, stop, take time to review the explanatory answer and delve deep into your BARBRI outlines to master points of law that are causing you trouble.

BARBRI provides 24/7 online access to hundreds of MBE practice questions so you have plenty of learning opportunities. Just remember to work a smaller group within a shorter timeframe and then take time to grapple with each one to truly learn.

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.

Thoroughly Review The Explanatory Answers | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

By Everett Chambers,
BARBRI Vice President of Institutional Programs

EXPLANATORY ANSWERS CAN BE ONE OF YOUR BEST TEACHERS OF THE LAW.

In the realm of bar review, explanatory answers exist for an important reason: to simply break down the rules and how they work, driving to a deeper understanding of the law.

As I wrote in another bLAWgical Thinking bar exam study tips post (“You’ll Play Like You Practice”), sometimes you can learn as much or more from spending time and really digging in to the explanatory answers as you would from a lecture as you move from passive learning to active learning and application.

Working practice questions and carefully reviewing the explanatory answers, regardless of whether you answered the question right or wrong, will help build and reinforce your foundation—both your knowledge and skills. Remember, the bar exam is not a test of your ability to simply (and only) recite rules. Ultimately, it is a test of your ability to apply the rules to new factual situations.

Most MBE explanatory answers provide a helpful template of how to construct a bar exam essay. Specifically, model answers will show you how to structure your essays. They provide clear and complete rule statements, and more importantly, they show you how to write strong fact-driven legal analysis.

Here’s how you can use them: Read through several model answers first before you tackle writing essay questions on your own. Next, annotate several answers. Label the components of the sample answer, using either the CRAC or IRAC paradigm – “C” for conclusion, “R” for rule, etc. Remember that sometimes the sample answer will contain rule explanations. Notice the shorthand way in which the sample answer handles minor issues. While it is not necessary (and sometimes not possible under time constraints) that your essay answer matches the sample answer perfectly, your answer should at least address the core issues, rules and analysis.

Remember your goal is to answer bar exam essay questions in a way that demonstrates your proficiency as a new lawyer. This means performing a concise legal analysis for each of the small problems presented in the fact pattern. This will show the examiners you possess minimum competency to practice law.

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 Low Hanging Fruit: The MPT | Expert Bar Exam Study Tips

by Steve Levin,
BARBRI Vice President of International Development and Legal Writing

IT’S WHERE YOU CAN PICK UP VALUABLE POINTS.

The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is included in most state bar exams (see the jurisdictions administering the MPT) and carries a good percentage of your overall points. For example, if you’re sitting for the bar in a UBE state, the MPT is worth 20% of the total bar exam score. If you are like most students, you’ll be spending a majority of your time working practice MBE questions and writing practice essays, but you don’t want to lose sight of the MPT. It’s a part of the bar exam that’s more important than you may realize because on each exam, many examinees fall just below a passing score. The MPT is an easy place to pick up valuable points or, conversely, lose points if you’re not prepared.

The MPT is designed as a real-world readiness measurement for bar examiners to assess your fundamental lawyering skills. Rather than testing substantive legal knowledge, the MPT requires you to think critically and resourcefully with the information presented/available and complete a realistic task a beginning lawyer might encounter. For example, you may be asked to create a persuasive brief, legal memorandum, client letter, discovery plan, settlement offer, will, closing argument, etc. Whatever the given assignment, you’ll need to demonstrate your ability to evaluate the facts of the case file, analyze the problem, and perform the task within the 90 minutes allotted for each MPT item.

If you prepare for this portion of the bar exam by putting finger to keyboard or pen to paper and practicing, you can leverage the MPT to put yourself in a stronger position to pass. The best way to familiarize yourself with possible MPT tasks is to work practice MPTs during your bar review. Your BARBRI Personal Study Plan will assign practice MPTs to you and the BARBRI MPT workbook will get you prepped for this, often-overlooked, area of the bar exam.

Remember, every point on the bar exam counts and just a few points can make the difference between passing and not passing. So if you’re taking the exam in any of the states that require the MPT, be sure to keep this low hanging fruit in sight, spend time on it, and pick up those valuable exam points. Be sure to download the BARBRI Bar Exam Digest for information about your state’s MPT and bar exam scoring formula.

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.