I know bar prep isn’t something any law school grad likes thinking about much less any law school entrant overwhelmed with the start of their 1L year. But let me ask you this: how many of you would feel comfortable going into surgery with a doctor who has virtually no experience despite their credentials? Also, how many of you would sign up to run a marathon in a few days when you barely survived a one-mile jog just last week? My guess is not very many. As human beings, we recognize the positive correlation between experience, long term preparation and excellent results. Although there exists the possibility to yield excellent results with limited experience and preparation, why take the chance if you don’t have to? Preparing early for the bar exam gives you the confidence that you will excel. Confidence which is key to maintaining focus and ultimately passing. So take the practical step and begin preparing early.
When Should I Begin Preparing?
So how early is too early? Spoiler Alert: It’s never too early to begin your preparation. Although I don’t recommend asking your parents to purchase a Barbri course book during your freshman year of high school, I do think it’s important to be cognizant of this exam from as early as 1L year. Your 1L year courses will make up the core of the bar exam, and you will be required to remember everything you learned years later as you sit for the bar. Unfortunately, many law school curriculums don’t present an opportunity to consistently nurture the skills you learned during your 1L Contracts course etc., therefore, by the time you graduate and walk into your first bar prep course, you may find yourself struggling to remember what “Consideration” is and to fully grasp whether an ”Offer” exists, despite mastering these terms years before. This gap presents a hurdle of insecurity which can cloud your judgment and cripple your ability to move quicker during your ten-week bar course. Therefore, until law schools make an active effort to bridge this gap, students will have to take this issue into their own hands and ensure that they are consistently reviewing and building on their 1L coursework throughout all three years of law school.
How Do I Begin Preparing?
Preparation during your 1L year could primarily mean building your study database. You won’t exactly need to do anything outside of what 1Ls traditionally do, i.e. attending classes, taking notes, creating outlines or creating flashcards etc. However, do these things with the intention of long term preparation in mind. This means no cramming so that you can hold on to information long term. Creating complete notes, outlines and flashcards while you have a good understanding of each topic and storing them in a study database that you can easily access throughout your three years.
As a 2L, prior to selecting your classes, I recommend reviewing the full bar exam topic list and ensuring that you enroll in some of those courses. I do recognize that some law students have a set career path and frequently opt for courses to build on this path. Yes, that is a crucial strategy but if none of your career path courses fall on the bar exam list, I recommend still prioritizing at least one or two of those courses. Be aware that some of your 1L courses have a part 2 course offered to upperclassmen. If so, I recommend taking those courses, as the bar exam topics will likely lean into the more complex aspects of those courses which go beyond what you learned in 1L year. Finally, I recommend allocating review time each semester to review your 1L course database. If you don’t have the time during the school year, your summer break would be a great time to catch up.
As a 3L, I recommend doubling down on your bar topic course selections. If your schedule permits, try enrolling in at least two or three of these courses. I also recommend that you continue to review your 1L study database. By this point, the material should still be somewhat fresh in your brain, therefore any added review you do going forward will only complement the summarized review your bar prep course will offer.
Additionally, I recommend jumping into an early bar prep course during your 3L year. Some law schools may actually offer free bar review/exam prep options for their 3Ls. If so, take full advantage of this. Also, if you’re already enrolled in a bar prep course, most courses offer early access to the course material. During your last semester, I recommend completing a soft review of the material. Take that time to see if you can recognize where your stronger or weaker subject areas are. This knowledge can aid in making your preparation more efficient.