Many folks who are re-taking the bar exam need to study while working part or full time. Although it can be best to study for the bar exam full time, this just is not the reality for many bar takers. When considering studying while working, there are a number of things you should take into consideration, especially if you are re-taking the bar exam after disappointing results.
1. Talk to your supervisor at your job about whether you can take any time off to study. Many bar studiers are hesitant to ask about taking time off from work to study. But this “time off” can come in different forms. Some may want to limit their overall hours per week to allow time for studying. Some may want to take a few weeks off before the exam in order to study. Regardless of your preference and plan, you should talk to your supervisor sooner rather than later so you know what your bar prep period is going to look like.
Here is what I don’t want to happen to you. I knew one bar studier who had a huge deadline at work just two weeks before the California bar exam. So because of this deadline she was unable to study the necessary hours for about 10 days of her prep time. With some careful planning and dialogue with her supervisors, maybe she could have changed that deadline so it did not interfere with her bar study schedule.
2. How much time can you study for the bar exam each week? This is the first question I ask students when they tell me they are planning to work and study at the same time. “At night and on weekends,” in my opinion, is just not good enough. You need to commit to a set number of hours. Perhaps 10 or 15 hours a week. Regardless, you need to be able to plan ahead based on the realistic time that you have available.
3. Depending on how many hours a week you are planning to study, you might need to prepare earlier than most. Most people prepare for the bar exam for two months, and many do this preparation full time. If you are studying only 10 hours a week, studying for just eight weeks may not be enough. So should you consider starting your prep early? Absolutely!
There are a number of things you can work on early that will help you get ready for the bar exam. If you are in a jurisdiction with a performance test, that is one part of the bar exam you can work on early (since it doesn’t require any memorization or knowledge of the law). In addition, especially if you work with a tutor, you can spend time working on writing skills prior to the typical prep period. Essay writing skills will help your overall scores, and writing is something that can be worked on even without extensive memorization of the law.
Being smart about your early study time will allow you to focus on practice and memorization in the final weeks of preparation.
4. Find the right flexible bar review provider for you. We have talked a lot on the blog about selecting the right bar review provider for you. But if you are going to be on an alternative schedule and studying while working, it is important that you find a bar review provider that will support you on your schedule. This means that you may want to select a provider with substantive lectures to listen to remotely in the car, office, or at home after work. Or you may find that you need to hire a tutor to help you target your weak areas and study effectively based on your needs. Regardless, do your research. Make sure that the bar review provider will work within your available study time.
5. Commit to your bar study. Sometimes, when studying for the bar exam while working, students use work as a crutch to avoid studying. Often students will say that they were too busy at work to study that week, or that their boss changed their schedule to give them more hours, or that they were just too tired after a work project. If I had a dollar for every time a student gave me any one of these explanations for not studying, I would have some good money. You need to decide that you are going to commit to the process and make it happen for you. This needs to be a priority in your life, one that is balanced with work responsibilities. It is not going to be easy, but it will pay off in the end. If you are struggling with keeping yourself accountable, try to select a bar review provider that will “check in” with you. As a tutor, I frequently call out students when I think they are not studying enough or not committed to the process. If you need that accountability, get it. Get the right support for you. You will be glad that you did, come bar results time.
Do you have any other suggestions for studying for the bar while working? Please leave them in the comments.
Check out these other helpful posts:
- Yikes! I failed the bar exam.
- Seven reasons the bar exam is hard. See our thoughts on what makes the bar exam so challenging for bar takers!
- Tips on whether or not you should take the next bar offered or take a break. Generally you should take the next bar offered, but there are situations where Lee recommends students wait to re-take the bar exam.
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