It used to be common to take the bar exam using a bluebook. Now, the vast majority of people use a laptop to take the bar exam, while a very small minority writes. This may be due to a generational shift, and a resulting reliance on technology. People now “keyboard,” they don’t “write” – just look at examples of signatures. Other than your parents, how many people do you know who still write letters, checks, or thank you notes? Instead, most of us communicate with our phones – not actually talking on them. We text, email, and use social media sources on our phones. We use laptops for work or school – but we do not “write.”
What if you are one of the few who really wants to handwrite the bar exam? Everyone is telling you to reconsider, but should you? It depends. If this is something you want to do, first ask yourself some very serious questions:
1. Why Exactly do you want to Handwrite the bar Exam?
Is this an impulsive decision, or is this something you have thought about for some period of time? If it is an impulsive decision, forget about it – you’re just setting yourself up for disaster. It requires a completely different mindset. If this is something you have been thinking about for a while, then I would ask you, “why?” Are you one of the few who wrote your midterms and finals in law school by hand? If so, I would say that is the best reason to continue the practice with the bar exam.
2. Do you understand you will have to be more efficient with your Time when Handwriting the bar Exam?
Now is not the time to change your approach. You barely have enough time to relearn all that material. You must also accept the fact you will never be able to attain the same word count your fellow bar takers will reach with a laptop. Instead, you will have to be more dedicated to mastering test taking skills. Outlining and sticking to a time schedule during the exam will be crucial. Going into the exam with tight rule statements is a must. You will not have time to write out detailed rules with a lot of parts. Instead, you will need to be adaptable, understanding how to provide just enough of a rule as is needed.
3. Are you committed to Practicing with Full Sessions of the bar Exam?
So, what do I mean by this? You will actually need to practice a full session of the bar. It would be even better to practice a full day with two sessions. How long has it been since you handwrote anything for most of three hours at one time, let alone twice in one day? You need to understand what that will feel like – not just mentally, but physically as well. Do you really want the first time your hand cramps to happen while you are taking the bar exam? Think about strengthening those muscles now.
4. Do you have Good or Legible Handwriting?
If your handwriting is not easy to read, or if someone has to spend extra time to decipher what you have written, give up on this plan now! You will not get points for what the bar grader cannot read. If you make it beyond this hurdle, there are a couple of other things you should consider. Try to write larger rather than smaller. There is no restriction on how many bluebooks you use – so stretch it out. Also, consider skipping lines and writing on only one side of a page. Again, make it a more pleasant experience for the bar grader – they might be more generous if they are not annoyed. Leaving all this space has other benefits as well. If you later realize you forgot something, now you have the space to “insert” relevant information near the proper place. You can use either the extra lines, or the back of a page.
I will admit that when I was teaching, the few students who chose to handwrite their exams usually performed better than the class average. Without the confidence a keyboard gives you to include every theory or word that pops into your head, these students had to be more discerning. So, if your answers to the questions I posed are mostly “yes,” and this is not something you are considering on a whim – go for it! Just make sure you remain disciplined throughout the whole process, as your personal discipline will become even more important.