Think bar preparation begins after you receive your diploma? Think again. There are things you can do as early as your first year to ensure that you are successful at your first (and hopefully only) attempt at the bar exam.
- Learn about different bar review options. Your school will likely be full of commercial bar review providers telling you about their programming. You should learn what you can, but don’t think that you need to commit to a bar program. Sure, they may offer discounts, but you don’t know enough about what kind of bar prep you are going to need when you are a 1L. If you are sure you want to take one program over another, okay. But there is nothing wrong with waiting. If nothing else, read the fine print on those bar review contracts before you sign on the bottom line. You need to understand how much money you are going to be spending and what your cancellation options are if any.
- Pay attention to your 1L classes and do as well as you can. These 1L classes are on the bar exam so putting in the time now will benefit you after graduation. Also, become the best essay exam taker you can be! Those exam skills are very important come bar exam time.
- Reassess your goals. How were your grades last year? If they weren’t what you hoped, talk to a trusted professor or academic support office at school to see how you can improve. You can even reach out to a law school tutor. Unsure about whether to continue in law school? This calls for serious soul searching. The reality is that law school is NOT for everyone. That’s perfectly OK. If you’re not sure that the practice of law is what will fulfill your life, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your goals. There is no shame in deciding law school isn’t for you.
- Every state has different bar exam application requirements. Some (such as my home state of Ohio) require a registration application, which is typically completed during the second year of law school.
- Make sure you have fulfilled all of your requirements for graduation. You don’t want to be caught off guard and taking a heavier load than necessary your last semester. With the right planning, you may be able to take “easier” courses during your last year, or at least your last semester.
- Make sure you have signed-up for the bar electives you want to take (or confirm they will be available the semester that you want to take them.
- If you haven’t done so already, enroll in your bar prep course.
- Take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of professional conduct standards for lawyers. All jurisdictions in the United States except Maryland, Puerto Rico, and Wisconsin require a passing score on the MPRE. If you’re fortunate enough to be seeking admission to the bar in New Jersey or Connecticut, the successful completion of a professional responsibility course during law school may be substituted for a passing MPRE score. It’s only offered three times a year, so you want to make sure you get this out of the way before the bar exam.
- Try out bar review providers to help you study for the MPRE! Most of the bar review providers offer free MPRE offerings so you can check out their study approaches. This is a great way to figure out which bar review provider will work for you without spending a dime!
- Enjoy graduation!
The Month Before the Exam
- Make a list of possible study spots. It’s natural to just say “Hey, I’ll study at the law school library.” However, that may not be such a good idea. Your classmates will be there and that can lead to distractions (i.e. commiserating about studying). Check out your local public libraries, which probably have the same (if not more) amenities than your law school library. Coffee shops are also a great alternative. Also, don’t feel that you have to study in the same place every day. One study showed that retention may be increased if study locations are varied.
- Automate as many aspects of life that you can. Set your bills to auto pay. Have a grocery store nearby that will do your shopping for you? Give it a go (as long as it doesn’t cost too much). You want the next few months to be as easy as possible. Studying will be hard enough.
- Think through your finances to make sure you won’t run into financial drama during bar prep.
- Spend some time with your loved ones. You may be taking the exam, but the preparation also affects those around you. Explain to them that your schedule will probably not allow for impromptu get-togethers and long phone calls (or chat sessions-does anyone talk on the phone anymore). This is especially true if you are taking the February bar, since bar prep begins during the holiday season. Look here for tips on how to prepare for the bar during the holidays.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Thinking Ahead: Don’t Let the Bar Exam Catch You By Surprise
- What to Expect from Law School Bar Prep
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
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