Today we’re excited to have bar exam expert Alfred M. Zappala here to answer some questions about preparing for the bar exam. Beyond writing The Multistate Digest (see my review here), Alfred is an experienced law professor, bar lecturer, bar tutor and coach. He also practices law, focusing on assisting clients with business matters abroad. He splits his time between America and Sicily (in fact, this interview was done while he was in Sicily!).
Without further ado…
Why are you so passionate about helping students prepare for the bar exam?
My grandfather taught me and my family to “Do good and forget it, do bad and regret it.” It is a belief that I have passed onto my own children. It is really that simple. I am one of the original proponents of “paying it forward.” If I help you, you repay me by helping someone else.
In the case of the law, that means you remember that the practice of law is sacred and act accordingly.
What led you to write The Multistate Digest? What did you intend to offer students that wasn’t already part of the bar prep marketplace?
The Digest started out as my own original set of study notes. Over the past twenty years, I have updated it to reflect changes in the law, eliminated and added items, and recast concepts so that people can get “the big picture.” My view is that if I can understand a concept, then ANYONE can. The biggest problem with the large commercial bar prep companies is that they miss the big picture.
You have helped thousands of students find success on the bar exam through your lecturing, tutoring and coaching. Do you have any advice for students about selecting the best preparation program or tools for them?
Essentially, all bar preparation materials offer the same product, but present it in different ways. The bar prep businesses have only a handful of people who truly have a “fastball,” a clear, concise way of presenting what you need to know so that you can pass the test. Generally speaking, almost all of the outlines are good.
The question is this: can the student use them in such a way to pass a test?
That is what this is all about, simply passing a test. Once a student realizes that this isn’t Mount Everest that he or she is being asked to climb, a light clicks on. I still believe in printed materials, though I now offer electronic versions of my materials as well, as students are accustomed to digital media and the bar exam itself is moving in this direction. However, if something works for you, don’t fix it!
What are three tips you would have for students studying for the bar exam right now?
- You must dedicate significant time for bar study, but it is quality of study, not the quantity that is important. “Learn” and record five new concepts every day, and review this growing list every morning before tackling new material. If you do this, make plans for the swearing in ceremony.
- Keep your composure. Every time you think you cannot do it, think of how many truly dumb attorneys out there passed this exam. Ponder that for a while.
- Work into you study schedule a physical component, like working out, walking, etc. Stress management is crucial.
What, if anything, do you think law students can do to get ready for the bar exam while they are in law school?
If the law school offers something, take it. The two main law schools I have taught at over the years, Northeastern and Suffolk Law in Boston, offer their own bar review classes and it is no wonder they consistently have high bar passage rates.
The earlier you begin to think about the exam, the easier it will be to pass.
“To defeat an enemy, you must become him.” Sun Tzu, from The Art Of War. The more you learn about the process, the better!
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Thanks, Alfred! For more information about Alfred and his work, check out his website.
Have a question? Feel free to leave questions in the comments!
Check out these other interviews with helpful people:
- Lauren Fire, Mind Over Bar
- Jessica Klein, Author of The Goat’s Guide: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide To Preparing for the California Bar Exam On Your Own (Part I)
- Jessica Klein, Author of The Goat’s Guide (Part II)
- Sean Silverman, MBE Expert – Preparing for the MBE
Image provided by Alfred Zappala, Esq.