I am a first time passer of the July 2012 CA Bar Exam. I started this gif blog to encourage others (and give them some comic relief) during the grueling bar prep process. Recently, I was contacted by a recent law school graduate about how to study for the bar. Here is how I responded.
Graduation is a scary and exciting time. But it can also be very calming. Keep in mind as you follow the pace program that this is all you have to do from here on out till the bar. No reading for classes. No cold-calling. No moot court stuff. No law review. No internships. Sure, it’s difficult, and you’ll probably get your ass kicked every day in terms of material you thought you knew (or now have somewhat forgotten). You’ll also be with all your compatriots who are going through the same stuff. Sure, it’ll be warm and sunny outside, and you’ll probably spend days indoors learning about Torts and Contracts all over again but it’s better than having nothing to do,
or studying for the bar completely on your own with strangers. (this is a possibility for some!)
It’s really quite a nice experience despite the pressure of wanting to pass. Sometimes I kind of miss bar prep.
To be sure, I’m not the angel of the bar prep program. I wasted countless hours surfing the net and somehow managed to finish watching all seasons of Peep Show during the bar prep program by watching at least 45 mins of Netflix every other day. I also started a gif blog about bar prep. I definitely goofed off a fair bit.
I doubt I did well on the MBEs. Luckily (I think) my PTs and essays saved me. I was terrible at MBEs and have almost always been terrible at multiple choice except for (a certain professor’s) Final in 1st Year which I still have no idea how I did so well in. That being said, I had decent to good grades in law school and from a statistical standpoint had a good chance of passing the bar given my academic ability up that that point. So I decided not to freak out but I also didn’t let up because the bar was seriously the hardest thing I probably ever had to do in my life (academically speaking).
Some key rules:
- Attend every single class.
- Complete every graded essay and PT
- Stay behind after class to do the timed essays if someone has offered to set that up
- Do MBEs other than those offered by BarBri (you’ll find that BarBri’s is exceptionally harder than real MBEs)
- Follow the pace program as best you can.
For the most part, if you can do about 70% of what’s offered in pace, you should be alright. Near the last 3 weeks of bar prep, you’ll know by then what you’re good at and what you’re not. You should you tailor your own program to your weaknesses so that you do more of what you’re not good at.
As for groups, I was lucky to have studied with around 3 separate study groups: 1 was those group that stayed behind after class to do the timed essays together, another was a group of dudes who smoked and liked to listen to dubstep and electronic music, another was a group I formed that studied quietly. I switched in and out of these groups every day. It kept things interesting and hit home concepts because I was hearing them explained by different people and in different ways. Having different people explain concepts to me helped ideas stick. I am absolutely terrible at reading outlines and memorizing them. I guess that makes me an auditory learner.
Be sure to eat healthy and try to workout. Get massages too as you’ll be hunched over a lot of the summer (I can recommend a place that’s $15 an hour). Splurge from time to time on stuff you want just because. I shaved my head because I didn’t want to style it every day. I was lucky to live about 3 mins away. I also wore sweats almost every single day. I studed from 8am to about 10pm (and often 12am) every day as well). I lived and breathed the bar. You’ll have to do that too. For food, I ate salads a lot because I often didn’t have much time to workout. El Pollo Loco had $5 salads with drinks which were $4 after I used their coupons. I ate there practically every single day.
Don’t dwell on concepts you don’t understand. Seriously. There’s a huge possibility that it might not even show up on the exam. Your goal is to get coverage with bar prep and understand everything competently. Not as an expert. Rule statements aren’t as important as they’ll say. As long as you get it about right, you should be fine. Analysis on exams is key. Still, try your best to get succinct and accurate rule statements. It makes the analysis much easier.
As for MBEs, I highly highly highly recommend picking up a set of flashcards called Critical Pass MBE Flashcards. They’re not cheap (about $70 on top of S/H) but they’re immensely useful. If you spend hours making flashcards, you’re probably wasting precious time that could be spent writing essays or doing more MBEs. Don’t do that. Get these cards. If you add them on FB there should be a checkout promo code for a discount. They’re also sold on Amazon used for less (that’s where I got mine).
Make sure your hotel, transport, and everything for the days of the bar are fully planned out. Don’t let there be surprises. You want to be in a zen like mode the whole time. You also want to be zen while studying for the bar. Let everyone know that you need time off from all your other responsibilities. Make it known. And when you relax, make sure you take full advantage of it.
I’m still amazed that I passed the bar on my first try and am grateful to everything and everyone who helped me pass it. It feels good to never have to study for it every again (unless you want to do that for another state, which is cool). There’s so much more that we can chat about and advise I can give you on the bar exam/prep. I hope I’m not scaring you too much. Then again, it’s really good to have a strong fear of the program itself. It’s no walk in the park. But the program is tried and true. Trust it. They know their stuff and they’re intimately interested in your success in the program.
In a nutshell, relax. Breathe. And give me a call if you need to vent/need advice/whatever. You should be ok.
(Photo Credit: alexbsmith)