So you’re thinking about taking the bar exam in Florida? Well, me too. The idea of having to take another bar exam is absolutely terrifying to me. I write for Bar Exam Toolbox, Law School Toolbox, and A Girl’s Guide to Law School mostly on the topic of being positive in the face of stress. But, I have to say, just thinking about sitting for another bar exam, gives me actual, visible, hives.
When I graduated from law school, I decided to take the UBE in New York because I’d hoped to move there that fall, and if I didn’t, I knew I’d be staying in Massachusetts, which would be adopting the UBE in February of the following year. After failing the New York bar, I moved down to Florida to have more of a support system. I lived with my parents, which helped me cope better with the stress of the exam, and I decided to retake the New York bar because I needed to conquer that beast and prove to myself I could. Additionally, I assumed I was moving back up to New York or Massachusetts, and I could use my license there. What actually happened has been somewhat of a family joke: I passed the New York bar, applied to every job between New York and Massachusetts, was rejected from every job because I still lived in Florida, and then met my future partner, decided to stay in Florida, and now don’t have any ability to get a typical law job down here.
The steps below are the ones I have been taking these last few months as I try to decide whether or not taking the Florida bar is something I want to do. I hope they help you make your decision as well!
1. Do You Want to Live and Work in Florida at Any Point in Your Life?
This one is self-explanatory: if you want to live in Florida any time in the next 40 years, and you want a typical law job, it’s probably a good idea to take the bar exam there. This is true whether your interest lies in litigation or transactional work. Many of my mentors and classmates took the Florida bar as soon as they’d passed the bar exam in the jurisdiction they currently lived in. In doing so, the bar material is still fresh in your mind and you are still primed to study like a law student. The longer the time between studying for one bar and sitting for the next, the harder those habits are going to be to rebuild, and the more likely you are to have a full time job getting in the way.
For myself, I took and passed the UBE in February of 2018, it’s now over a year later, and I am contemplating taking the February 2020 Florida bar. This idea is even more daunting because not only would I have to study like a law student again, I’d have to learn Florida specific law – something I never learned in law school. And I know myself, as much as I think I could study and work at the same time, I would be hard pressed to do so with my mental health in tact. So, if you are thinking about taking the Florida bar, after already passing the bar in the state you wish to live in for the foreseeable future, you should be really sure you have the time to study the law you may not have learned in school.
2. Figure Out Your MBE Score
The Florida bar has one thing going for it in my eyes: I can transfer my MBE score from the UBE. In Florida, you have 25 months to transfer your MBE score (if you achieved over a 136) to Florida and only sit for the first day of the exam – the Florida law specific day. This takes a huge amount of stress out of the exam, especially for someone who has failed a bar exam already and isn’t exactly sure if taking this test is worth her time. This is especially true because the Florida bar has more topics than the UBE. So not only would I be learning new law, I’d be learning a lot of new law in a short amount of time.
Something to think about: if you achieved a lower, but passing, score on the MBE, you may still wish to take the MBE portion on the second day because it could boost your overall score. This was suggested to me by a number of tutors and the Florida bar website.
(Author’s note: I just realized that this February will be my last chance to take the bar exam if I wish to not retake the MBE. The hives are back.)
3. How old is your MPRE Score?
Additionally, MPRE scores must also be within 25 months of taking the bar exam. For myself, this means retaking the MPRE. I took the MPRE the summer before third year, which I actually suggest to current law students because it gives you two other attempts before your bar exam to get the required score. This is also probably the biggest hassle for me when considering taking the Florida bar exam. I just don’t want to sit for an additional test. Nor do I want to spend the time revisiting those Barbri lectures.
Do you have the time and resources to sit for the MPRE again if your score is as old as mine? This is a question that should be figured out quickly and early on, but it’s not to say you can’t take it after the bar exam – you just won’t be able to apply with your passing score for Florida licensure until it’s completed.
4. Decide and Commit
If you’ve gotten this far, don’t mind retaking the MBE or have a high enough score that you can transfer it, have a current MPRE score, and plan on living in Florida, you’re probably coming to the conclusion that you can, and should, take this exam. So now is decision time: is it worth the effort? Whatever you decide, commit to that decision. If you decide to take the exam, commit. Set aside the time to study; find study materials you feel confident in; consider getting a tutor; and allocate some time each day to gentle movement, eating well and enough, and getting enough sleep. The hardest part of this decision will be making these commitments, but once you do, the rest of the habits will come back. The desire to pass will override the fear of not having enough time.
Some of you may have gotten this far and definitively decided that it isn’t; I envy you. I have gotten this far in my own article and still don’t know. I have two more months to decide, and I’m sure it’ll take me until the very last minute of registration day in November to make that decision.