Next semester’s course schedules are being posted which means it’s time to start strategizing about which classes to take. There are many factors that may influence your decision to take a particular course, including the time it is offered, the professor, whether it satisfies a graduation requirement, or whether it furthers your career goals. But there’s one factor that should carry more weight than most: whether the course will help you succeed on the bar exam. Selecting courses with the bar exam in mind will ensure that you’re in the best position possible when it comes time start your bar exam studies, and that could make all the difference. These suggestions can help you create a class schedule that will satisfy your graduation requirements while also ensuring that you are as prepared as possible for the bar exam.
Don’t Neglect your Academic Advisor
Some law schools have complex course requirements or special conditions that must be met in order to graduate. Meeting with your academic advisor prior to each registration period will ensure that you’re on track to graduate and won’t encounter any last semester surprises. Advisors may also have insight into courses at your specific school that are particularly valuable (or not so valuable…), so seek out their advice.
Knock out Onerous Requirements Early
During 2L year, students are generally more motivated and not as distracted by the prospect of graduating, so it’s a good time to satisfy any onerous graduation requirements. If you’re required to complete a lengthy research paper, a time consuming externship, or any difficult courses, consider scheduling them during 2L year. Completing these courses early will ensure that you have plenty of time and energy to focus on preparing for the bar exam during your final year of law school.
Use Summer to Lighten the Load
If you anticipate that you’ll need to have an unusually heavy course load during a particular semester or that you’ll be busy with outside employment, you may want to take a summer course or two to lighten your load. You don’t want to sacrifice gaining work experience over the summer, but if you can manage to work and take a class, it can free up your options during the regular academic year. The summer is also a good time to take a course that you expect to be particularly difficult, because you will only have that one class and that one final exam to focus on.
Take Your School’s Bar Course
Make room in your schedule to take any bar review or bar strategy courses offered by your school. These classes are generally taught by faculty that are experts on bar prep, and they are an ideal way to start familiarizing yourself with what you’ll need to know to pass the bar. Although you will still want to take a commercial bar review course after graduation, taking a bar prep course during the school year will put you in a much stronger position when you start your summer review.
Choose Electives Wisely
Electives are a great way to discover more niche areas of the law or dive deep into a particular subject. You should choose electives that interest you or will enhance your long term career goals, but don’t overlook the fact that some electives can also help you prepare for the bar exam. When choosing electives, consider taking some that touch on MBE-tested subjects. For example, an elective on real estate transactions may review key Property Law principles or a seminar on civil rights cases could refresh your memory as to important Constitutional Law cases.
Take a Significant Number of Bar Tested Subjects
While it may not be feasible to take every single subject covered on the bar exam during law school, you should strive to take a significant portion of the subjects tested. Bar prep will only last around 8-10 weeks, so the more you know going into it, the better. You should make a point of registering for classes covering subjects that are highly tested in your jurisdiction or that cover areas of law that are unique to your state. Additionally, you should definitely take courses during law school that cover subjects that will be particularly difficult to learn for the first time during bar prep. Secured Transactions, Conflicts of Law, and Trusts/Future Interests are just a few of the subjects that students usually find to be challenging during bar prep. If you have a foundation in difficult subjects like these from law school, your bar prep process will likely be much smoother.
When planning your schedule for next semester, remember to keep the long game in mind. Taking a class just because it has a reputation for being easy, or it’s at a convenient time, or you happen to have a friend enrolling, may seem like a good idea right now, but it could lead to more work later. While it’s fine to factor those considerations into the equation, make sure you also give due weight to the bar exam when selecting your course schedules. Some thoughtful planning and strategizing during law school can have a big impact on your readiness to take – and pass – the bar exam.
For more helpful advice, check out these articles:
- Podcast Episode 61: Making the Most of Your 2L and 3L Years of Law School
- Thinking Ahead: Don’t Let the Bar Exam Catch You By Surprise
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?