Several years ago, a friend from law school needed to take the bar exam to get licensed in a different state for her job. At the time, she was almost in her third trimester of her first pregnancy, and I had just given birth to my first child. I was absolutely in awe of her. Having gone through my own first pregnancy, I couldn’t imagine also taking the bar exam during that time.
Yet, every year many pregnant women take and pass the bar exam. One notable woman in 2020 even gave birth between the two days of the exam and passed! Suffice to say, it is indeed possible to not only take the bar exam while pregnant but also to pass.
Although possible, it is important to remember that the bar exam is a stressful, challenging situation under most circumstances. For those exam takers who are sitting for the bar while pregnant, there are some special factors to consider.
Every Day Is Different
If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that every day throughout the blessed forty weeks is unpredictable. One day you feel perfectly fine, as if you aren’t even pregnant. The next day, even a sip of plain old water makes you feel like you want to hurl. Some days you have energy to spare and other days, you can’t keep your eyes open.
It’s impossible to know how you’ll feel from one day to the next. The best you can do is make the most of the good days that you have while you’re studying. If possible, extend the amount of time you plan to study to account for extra days you may not feel at your best.
When you feel especially lousy, do what you can do. If you feel so nauseous you have trouble reading practice questions, then try listening to an audio outline instead or perhaps a lecture.
If you can squeeze just a few minutes of studying in between bouts of nausea and fatigue, then do that. If you can’t, then don’t and do what you can the next day.
Inquire Early About Accommodations
If you expect to sit for the exam while pregnant, most states do offer accommodations. There have been many controversial situations regarding pregnant and breastfeeding mothers sitting for the bar exam and not being allowed certain accommodations. However, there are also many personal stories on blogs and in lawyer mom groups about how various states went above and beyond to accommodate a pregnant test-taker.
To ensure you can get the accommodations necessary for your situation, make sure to inquire with the board of bar examiners in your state as early as possible about the accommodations you want. In the event that the board denies your request, or you need to appeal, you want to leave yourself as much time to make alternate arrangements as possible.
In order to know what accommodations you’ll need, you’ll first need to understand what the rules are in your jurisdiction for the bar exam. I’ve sat for some exams where I could only bring so many ounces of water into the exam. In other states, I wasn’t allowed to wear any jewelry at all and could only bring a list of items such as my identification, pens and pencils, and earplugs in a clear plastic bag. Any item not on the approved list was not allowed in the exam room.
Common accommodations to request include extra time for frequent bathroom breaks, the ability to bring mints, chews, or candies that may help you with your nausea, seating close to the bathroom so you don’t miss even more time walking across a huge room multiple times. Some moms may request special seating if you need additional back support. You may also want additional water to stay properly hydrated but be careful as that can lead to more of those inconvenient bathroom breaks!
Take Care of Yourself
Above all, give yourself lots of grace. Growing a human is hard. Taking the bar exam is hard. Doing both at the same time—that’s incredible. It takes a strong mama to do something like that, but even strong mamas need time to relax, time to de-stress, and to ensure that you have the resources to care for yourself and your growing bundle of joy.
Make sure you have what you need when you travel such as extra water for your hotel room, comfortable attire that stretches, compression socks if you expect to be traveling any significant distance to get to the exam site, and plenty of healthy snacks for before and after the exam. At this stage, self-care is critically important.
When the exam is all said and done, and you’re rocking your little angel in your arms, just think of the stories you’ll be able to tell your little one about the challenges you faced together. You are a strong mom, and you can do this!