As another crop of law students ruin another beautiful summer studying for the bar exam, I thought I’d take a moment to pause to reflect upon the things I hated most about studying for the bar. I could go on for days, but for the sake of brevity I’ve narrowed it down to my top five. Feel free to leave your own. Misery loves company!
The Five Things I Hated Most About Studying For the Bar Exam
- It’s existentially pointless. Can we all just agree to the bar exam has nothing to do with the actual practice of law? In fact, if you did what you’re asked to do on the bar exam as a lawyer, you’d be committing malpractice. I was a patent litigator. I knew a lot about that. But, if my friend had called and said, “Bad news! I’ve just been arrested. Can you help?” I would have given him only one piece of advice: Call a real criminal defense lawyer, ASAP. The fact that I’m “a lawyer” does not mean I have useful advice to provide on every single legal topic. But in bizarro bar world that’s somehow supposed to be true.
- It’s isolating. Maybe this is mostly because I skipped BARBRI but I found studying for the bar to be incredibly isolating. Even if you’re taking a class you’ll still have to sit alone and memorize stuff for hours on end. (If you’re not doing this there’s a very good chance you’ll fail. Taking the bar is not a group activity.) None of your friends and loved ones will understand what you’re going through, and you probably can’t stand to be around anyone else who would understand — because they’re also studying for the bar and, therefore, terrible to spend time with.
- It’s extremely boring. With limited exceptions (community property, criminal procedure) most of this stuff isn’t something any sane person is actually interested in. Commercial paper? Seriously? It’s really hard to get motivated to learn things that you could not possibly care less about. I’m good at tricking myself into being interested in things, but this skill set was sorely tested on the bar exam.
- It’s massively time-consuming. Let’s do a little thought experiment. Imagine how much good could be done in the world if every lawyer-to-be studying for the bar instead spent an equal amount of time this summer doing legal work in the public interest. Thousands and thousands of hours. Not to mention, they all might learn something useful. Maybe this is really a subset of #1 but — really — it’s such a waste of time.
- It’s needlessly stressful and unpleasant. At its root, the bar exam is fundamentally a hazing ritual. If you really wanted to test whether someone is ready to practice law, wouldn’t you give them the tools they’d actually have available? Like, say, hornbooks? Legal research databases? More experienced attorneys to consult with? Knowing what you don’t know is a fundamental part of being a young attorney. Making people pretend to have all the answers is, frankly, crazy. As well as crazy–making.
So, if you’re studying for the bar exam, I feel your pain.
Just keep in mind this is a antiquated hazing ritual. It has nothing to do with being a good lawyer and you just have to get through it.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Tools for Bar exam Success: Smarter Review
- My Best Bar Exam Tip: Just Decide You’ll Pass
- If You Don’t Know Why, You Won’t Pass
- Please DO NOT Spend All Your Time Studying the Law!