So you’ve found yourself having to study for the bar exam while holding down a full-time 9 to 5 job? Just the thought of having to do this inspires fear in the minds of most examinees. Most examinees, however, spend way too much time reviewing concepts that they already know or just plain procrastinating. With a few tips on how to organize your time and what material to focus on, you should be able to successfully study for the bar and keep your boss happy. Take it from me, I passed the February Oregon exam while working full-time and even finding a few opportunities to unwind.
Studying for the bar takes time and plenty of it. If you’re working, then you’ve got less than the average examinee. The easiest way that you can maximize your time is by starting early. Most examinees start studying about two or two-and-a-half months before the test (end of May or beginning of June for the July exam, and end of December or beginning of January for the February exam). If you can, start studying as soon as possible, so that you maximize the time you have to devote to tough concepts.
But what do you start studying so early before the exam? The material. The bar tests a ton of subjects from the entire 1L curriculum to various upper-level courses that you may have had no interest in taking in law school (assuming that they were even offered at your school). When I took the Oregon exam in February, I had already passed California, but the Oregon essays tested seven subjects that California either tested differently or didn’t even test at all. Plus the NCBE (the National Conference of Bar Examiners) decided to go ahead and add federal civil procedure to the MBE (the Multistate Bar Exam, a multiple choice test) since I had taken California. Erie on the MBE?! C’mon.
Make a Schedule
To tackle these additional subjects, I planned to study and outline one, occasionally two, subjects per week. I wrote a schedule and posted it on my refrigerator so that it was clear to me (and to my girlfriend) which subject I was responsible for each week.
Practice, Practice, Practice
But the schedule should reflect more than just what subject you plan to study and outline each week. More than anything, studying for the bar exam takes practice. As you finish outlining a subject, consider adding an essay or two per week to your schedule in each of those subjects. You can also add the number of multiple choice questions that you aim to complete per week to your study schedule.
Find Ways to Enjoy Studying in Your Free Time
Unless your job involves managing the checkout desk at the library or signing in people at the gym, you probably won’t have much time at work to study. Depending on whether you’re a morning or an evening person, you should plan to spend some of your mornings or evenings and especially weekends studying.
The key is to make studying enjoyable or at least as tolerable as possible. As more of a morning person myself, I woke up about an hour earlier each morning and added an essay to my morning coffee. My coffee time is sacrosanct, but I love coffee so much that I found I can get myself to do even the most monotonous tasks while drinking it. In the evenings when I was tired from work, I usually curled up in bed and knocked out an hour of multiple choice questions. Sometimes, I paired an essay or two with a craft beer from the brewery down the street (Welcome to Colorful Colorado). On the weekends, I did practice tests in the park.
The point is that if you’re studying while holding down a full-time job, then you’re not going to have a ton of free time to relax and enjoy yourself. The best thing you can do then is to try to enjoy your study time as much as possible.
Take Advantage of Free Moments During Your Day
Now, I’m not going to suggest that you completely forget about your work and start studying at the office. If you’re on the clock, you’re on the clock. Occasionally, however, you might have a few free moments while you’re waiting for someone else to bring you the latest TPS report, walking to the cafe to grab a coffee, or sitting on the subway. The best thing you can do with these brief moments is to answer a few multiple choice questions in an area with which you’ve been struggling or to read over an outline in a subject that you haven’t memorized yet. I’ve found that reviewing outlines is perfect for these free moments since they can be stuffed into a back pocket, but so can a few photocopies of a multiple choice book. The point is that spending even a few minutes throughout the day on the one subject that you’re having the most trouble with can really help with your retention of that material.
Don’t Forget to Take a Break
Lastly, don’t forget that even with a job to do and the bar exam to study for, you should take a break once in a while. I’d suggest enjoying the outdoors or at least getting out of the house. You deserve it!
A little advance planning and organization should make studying for the bar exam while working a full-time job as painless as possible.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Working AND Studying? Tips for Surviving Bar Exam Prep
- Five Tips for Studying for the Bar Exam While Working
- 10 Tips for Working and Studying for the Bar Exam
- Working While Studying? “Play” Bar Prep Like You’re Playing Risk
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My brother-in-law just passed his bar exam and is officially a lawyer. It took a lot of studying to get there and sometimes he would be studying during dinner. A lot of times he would be overwhelmed with studying; however, he kept a reward in front of him like a dangling carrot. When he passed the bar, he went off to Asia with my sister before he had to start working for the firm that had hired him. I suggest that others studying for it should also reward themselves as well.