If you’re just beginning your first or second year of law school, the last thing you’re probably worried about is the bar exam. With the stress of adjusting to law school, getting high grades and then maintaining those grades, and finding a job or internship (the list goes on…), it can be easy to forget that for many, the end goal here is to be a practicing lawyer. Of course, in most states being a practicing lawyer requires passing the bar exam! While you shouldn’t focus too much energy specifically on doing bar prep during law school, there are a few things you can focus on along the way that will set you up for bar exam success.
Embrace your First-Year Courses
Most people probably know how important the first year of law school is for your future as a lawyer. Of course, it isn’t everything – but for many reasons, the attention you pay to your first-year courses is crucial. Besides the obvious benefits of high grades (acceptance to law review or another journal, or a leg up in the job market), your success first year is highly important for your bar exam success! Most, if not all of your first-year courses are core subjects that will be tested on virtually every state’s bar exam. Therefore, working hard to excel in your first-year courses can help set you up for a much easier time when bar review comes around. The bar exam may seem like it is a long way off from your first year, but the more solid a foundation you have, the easier bar review will be.
Learn How to take Exams
Another skill that can and should be worked on during your first year is learning how to take a law school exam. The bar exam typically includes both essay and multiple-choice questions, so learning how to master both of those types of exam questions is crucial to bar exam success. The traditional first year law school exam will consist mostly of fact-pattern essays that (hopefully) are similar to bar exam questions. Because these are often great preparation for the bar exam, be sure to learn how to excel on these. If you find that you didn’t do as well as you hoped, be sure to follow up with the professor, and they should be able to help you identify where you went wrong. Multiple choice can be even trickier, because law school often teaches students to argue every side. This can make picking one answer in a multiple-choice question difficult – so be sure to pay attention to any strategies that your professor mentions for handling these!
Refine your Study Habits
We mention this again and again, but the importance of understanding how you learn best cannot be overstated! One of the key things you should be doing during your first and second years of law school is paying attention to how you learn the material best. Learning in law school (and later, for the bar) can be very different from learning other subjects that you may have studied previously. Be sure to pay attention to whether you’re more visual, where reading and color-coding outlines works better for you, or if you’re auditory and talking out issues with other people works best for you. Of course, a combination of these may work as well! Developing a good understanding of this early on will help you study for the bar effectively later.
Choose your Courses Wisely as an Upperclassman
While it can be exciting to be able to finally choose any classes that you want, you should strongly consider taking as many bar courses as possible during law school. This is important for the same reasons that your first-year courses are so important – if you spend the time learning the subjects well now, you will be reviewing them rather than learning them come bar prep time! Many states will at least test subjects like evidence, corporations, criminal procedure and tax, so consider classes like these when making your schedules after your first year. You should also consider checking your state’s bar requirements so that you know what subjects might be worth focusing on. Finally, you may want to consider when you will take these courses during law school. For example, if you suspect that tax might be hard for you, consider taking it during your 3L year, so that it is fresh in your mind for bar prep.
Don’t forget about Character and Fitness
There is so much emphasis placed on the substantive parts of the bar exam, that character and fitness can easily be overlooked. Remember, you must pass all parts of the bar exam – character and fitness included. If you think that there is something that will cause you to have an issue with this, be sure to deal with this early. Start by talking to someone at your school, like an academic advisor or career advisor. More than likely, they will be able to give you suggestions on how to deal with it so that it poses no more of an issue than necessary. Most importantly, never try to hide anything here – the earlier you get some guidance on the issue, the better off you will be!
While the bar exam can seem far off while you’re in law school, there are still things you can do to prepare yourself for success later.