It is the best of times and the worst of times. The excitement and sunshiny goodness of graduation (you’re finally done with law school!) all too quickly gives way to the looming black cloud of bar prep. As you’re gearing up for your bar review course, now is the time to consider whether there is anything else you can or should be doing to better position yourself for success on your first effort. Below are a few questions to ask yourself to help ensure that you are the best bar examinee you can be when that date in July rolls around.
1. Should I Start Studying Early?
As you’ve heard so often in law school, the answer is, “It depends.” There is no one-size-fits-all approach to bar study, so it’s a very personal decision. Although there are differing opinions on this topic, most tend to agree that quality trumps quantity (i.e. you should “study smart”). Additionally, there may be some disadvantages to starting early that you should consider, like burning out or forgetting what you learned.
However, there are a few situations in which you should give serious thought to getting an early start. It’s most important to think about whether there are any circumstances that are going to seriously impact the amount of time you can study in the months leading up to the exam. Are you also working full-time? Do you have a learning disability like ADD? Are there any major life events happening during bar prep? One of the students I know who will be sitting for the July exam started studying before graduation because she’s getting married and moving to another state this summer. Perhaps you’re having a baby or are a new parent. These are obviously two huge endeavors to take on at the same time, but let’s face it, parents know how to get shit done. I’ve seen several new mamas (some very new) crush the bar exam.
2. Do I Need Additional Help?
Some of the above situations might warrant not only an earlier start to your studying, but also some extra assistance along the way. Bar exam tutor Ariel Salzer provides a comprehensive overview of several other factors to consider in determining whether you could benefit from additional help, including how you performed as a law student, which bar electives you took, your law school’s pass rates, and where you’re sitting for the bar.
I recently spoke with Michelle Elkin, an attorney who passed the UBE as a first-time taker in July 2017. She shared that, in her opinion, “memorization is everything.” By placing a great deal of emphasis on that from the very beginning, she felt much more confident going into practice tests and essays. If memorization is not your strongest suit, you may want to spend some time exploring a few methods that will help you retain large amounts of information long enough to regurgitate it for the bar exam.
3. What Are Some of the Resources Available to Me Outside of a Traditional Bar Review Course?
One-on-one tutoring can be a great way to make you more competitive and maximize your chances of passing on the first go-around. A specialized bar essay workshop might be beneficial for those looking for additional assistance with the writing component. Some law schools also offer workshops and programs or individual assistance designed to help you assess and practice the skills necessary for passing the bar, so be sure to find out if yours is one of them.
One Last Tip
My friend Michelle, who I mentioned above, said that if she had to do it all over again, she would have been better at shutting down all of her social media during bar prep: “Not only was it a distraction, but it was filled with a bunch of people who were going through the same thing at the same time, and it caused severe nerves and anxiety.” Let me add to this that I deleted Facebook from my phone last month, and have found that it dramatically reduced my TSOPH (Time Spent on Phone) and has made me much more intentional about how I spend my free time. I can still check Facebook on the computer and have Instagram and Twitter on my phone (I’m not that hardcore, y’all). The moral of the story is you may want to consider which of those devilish little social media apps (or Candy Crush, if that’s your thing) is the greatest time suck for you and/or the most likely to invite negative energy and throw them in the virtual trash can. There’s even an App that might be able to help you to block these distractions!
For more helpful advice, check out these additional resources: