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

by Alexandra Zaunbrecher
Senior Associate | Mergers and Acquisitions Tax Group | KPMG 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.

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.

Bar Prep Assigned Essays: Don’t Miss Easy Ways to Pick Up Points

Practice Essays

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

Assigned Essays for Grading, Anyone?

How many weeks are we in now? What day is it? Should I wear a hoodie or shirt today? Tbh, I’m at the point where I don’t know what day it is, but I can rattle off the Criminal Law distinctions in Ohio. Isn’t that what’s important?

LET’S TALK ABOUT ESSAYS

Y’all, I cannot tell you how thankful I am that BARBRI spends so much time working with us on essays. Not only did we start out at the beginning of the bar prep course with an in-depth “how-to” on writing essays, but now we have completed numerous assigned essays and should be getting the hang of what to do, right?

Okay, so maybe we don’t have perfect bar exam essays at this point, but we’re not aiming for perfection. If your essays aren’t perfect, BARBRI will help.

This past week, I had the opportunity to submit a an essay and receive personalized feedback from BARBRI essay experts.

WHAT YOU CAN DO BETTER

The more that you practice writing bar exam essays, the better that you are going to be at them. Obvi.

But, what are we actually getting out of the essay sample answer in the book? Maybe a lot, maybe a little. But I can think of a few times when I may have read them a little too quickly and didn’t put in as much effort in reviewing what I could have done better on the essays (the days are long, okay? Let me live).

So, that’s why I was absolutely thrilled to see the opportunity to write out and submit essays to BARBRI.

Our first essay was an open book essay. What? Why? How does that help!?

Let me tell you: the first essay that you submit should not be about what you can recall in terms of a rule statement. It should be about how you craft your essay and how you can improve. You can’t assess how good you are at crafting essays if you’re hindered because of a bad rule statement or unfamiliarity with the rules.

Okay, picture it, (Sicily, 1922 … if you get this reference, then we’re friends) … I’m sitting here, with an open book and my rule statements ready to go. I craft a great essay, in my opinion. I submit it. The turnaround time is less than 24 hours. Turns out, I had some work to do. I had missed some easy ways to pick up some easy points. Here’s the thing: it’s not that I didn’t know the applicable facts to the essay, it’s just that I didn’t think that they were necessary to include.

MINOR DETAILS CAN LEAD TO EXTRA POINTS

Although I had everything that I needed in front of me, I didn’t craft the best possible essay because I was missing out on what I thought to be minor details that were irrelevant. Nope! Turns out that by adding a couple of sentences here and there (with information that I already knew, but chose not to include), I was able to add another point to my essay score.

Had I not submitted my essay to BARBRI and had someone with more experience review it, I wouldn’t have known to include the additional information that captured me some added points.

THINK SMARTER, WRITER STRONGER ESSAYS

This led me to a seemingly obvious conclusion: if there is some extra relevant law that you can throw in, do it!

Don’t get too far outside of the scope though. How do you know what’s outside of the scope? Keep writing essays! Keep working on your essays and make sure that you’re dedicating time to review your essays. Just make sure that you’re taking the time to go over what you got right and what you got wrong. If you do this, you’ll be more inclined to add relevant law that can help you pick up points.

We don’t need to be perfect on the bar exam, we just need to pass. What better way to do that then to add easy points to essays? Keep practicing so we can all #PassTheBar.