The COVID-19 pandemic has truly sent our world into a tailspin. As we’ve finally begun to get settled into this new normal and as many recent JD graduates have completed their unconventional graduation ceremonies, they are now faced with a new issue, the delayed bar exam. Now, defining this delay as a problem or a blessing, is truly subjective. Personally, I believe that a delay is essential to provide some semblance of fairness to exam takers whose lives have been upended by this pandemic. However, a delayed exam date means delayed results leading to delayed bar admissions and possibly the delay of starting a legal career. Thankfully, several jurisdictions have considered this reality and put in place provisional practice rules for recent JD graduates. However, this new era of bar prep is unprecedented, as the traditional ten-week prep is now extended and altered to possibly include active job searches, the start of a new job or homeschooling etc. Preparation is always key in the face of a bar exam, but it will be even more crucial now, when, let’s face it, no one really has any idea what’s going on. So do yourself a favor and try to get ahead by putting a plan in place. It may not be perfect, but I hope these five tips can help.
1. Determine your jurisdiction’s bar exam status
Step one of your preparation should be to determine whether your bar exam is actually delayed. Although many jurisdictions have already postponed exam dates to September 9-10 or September 30 -October 1, some jurisdictions will still be administering their exam on the original July 28 -29 dates. If your jurisdiction is still slated for a July date, I recommend checking in frequently to determine whether this changes, as this is truly an evolving situation where a postponement could be very likely.
2. Get started on your bar prep course once it becomes available
Even if your jurisdiction’s bar exam may have been pushed to the Fall, I strongly recommend starting your bar prep course as early as possible. Bar prep courses such as: Barbri, Kaplan and Themis have begun to adjust to the reality of these times. They have started adjusting their schedules for Fall exam takers and some have even provided early access to bar study material, regardless of your exam date. If you have this access, jump in and get started early! You may also want to consider a more personalized plan in order to accommodate this strange schedule.
Although your timeframe is no longer restricted to a ten-week prep, you should anticipate that even with the added time, you may still be restricted by the many distractions this pandemic brings i.e. having a full house 24/7 in quarantine, juggling your job search, juggling your bar prep with the start of your job or even the unfortunate possibility of getting sick or having a family member who becomes sick. Regardless of the cause, don’t become lax due to this additional time.
3. Apply for provisional/supervised practice if available in your jurisdiction
A major concern of the bar exam delay is that it will ultimately delay bar admissions. As a result, the ABA has urged jurisdictions to consider practice alternatives for law graduates. Several jurisdictions have responded positively to this, by either instituting or expanding supervised/provisional practice rules. This rule would enable recent JD graduates to begin their legal practice without a bar license for a limited time period and in a supervised setting. This allowance is exceptional, as it aims to increase job security for recent graduates and also serves to benefit the public, as legal representation is needed at a much greater rate due to this pandemic.
Be sure to determine whether your jurisdiction has adopted or expanded a provisional practice rule and if so, be sure to follow the steps to apply. This benefit may not apply automatically, so you need to ensure that you meet any deadlines and follow the necessary guidelines so that your job start will not be delayed.
4. Set a schedule that accommodates your job search or job start
As you begin to learn the steps for a solid bar prep routine, you will quickly learn that having a schedule is necessary, if not the most important step to keep on top of your studies. However, in this new bar prep era, many examinees will have to actively juggle their job search or even the start of their legal careers with their bar prep. Considering this reality, I recommend incorporating your job search or job start into your study schedule.
As we all know, it is very likely that we are headed towards a recession, therefore, if you are on the job hunt, you will need to be aggressive and strategic with your search. Set time aside each day to send out job applications, to complete networking chats or even for interviews. If you already have a job that is slated to start before your bar exam date, I recommend looking into whether they can defer your start date until after your exam or allow you to incorporate studying into your work schedule. It’s likely that your employer will be accommodating of at least the latter option, so don’t be afraid to ask. This added time, will enable you to begin earning an income but also have the essential time needed to study.
5. Study somewhere you can actually get studying done
In light of the pandemic, many people are still quarantined at home. If you have a packed house, and you find that there are too many distractions to focus, don’t resist the urge to study elsewhere. This may mean studying at a park, a library or local bookstore etc (depending on what is open and available in your area). However, you should always follow CDC guidelines, maintain six feet apart from others, wash your hands frequently, and have a mask in tow.
Wishing you the best of luck during these unprecedented times.