From day one of law school, the discussion about passing the bar exam (hopefully, the first time) begins. As you progress through the law-school gauntlet, it is important to start planning for the bar exam. As you draw ever nearer to that fateful experience at the end of either February or July, it is important that you recognize, and start to mitigate for, the myriad aggravating factors that can lead to bar-exam failure. No one wants to take the test twice any more than anyone wants to have a root canal twice. Take a look at this list, engage in a little self-confrontation, and start mitigating now!
Scores and Rank Say A Lot
Perhaps, you got accepted into law school with a less-than stellar LSAT score, or maybe throughout law school your G.P.A. and class rank have been just “fair to middlin.” All of these have a have a moderate to strong correlation to performance on the MBE portion of the bar exam. The higher these numbers are, the greater your chances of doing well on this part of the exam. What do you do if you are a 3L who has had mediocre or average performance? The answer is simple: be aware of it, confront it, and study like hell during bar prep. You can overcome the probabilities, but you have to be honest about them.
Take a Break from Work
Law students are usually on the struggle bus financially speaking. Working is often a question of survival, not a choice or preference. This is understandable, but it is also understandable that working during the precious short time between graduation and the bar exam is a significant aggravator that can lead to first-time failure on the bar. Be realistic. Start planning and squirreling away any extra as early as possible. Make a budget and stick to it. Be frugal! Bar loans can also serve as a financial life raft. Failing the bar is going to have long-term negative effects on your psychological, physical, emotional, and (yes) financial health. Don’t let working during bar prep derail you.
Now is NOT the Time for a Vacation
Law school is a grueling, at times painful, experience that you have managed to survive for three years. It is understandable to want to take a much-deserved vacation after graduation and before bar prep. The problem is, the commercial bar prep providers usually start their courses days, not weeks, after graduation. If you take a lengthy trip, you are missing out on significant, critical material and risking a refund if you don’t pass the exam on try numero uno. Taking significant time off before bar prep and the exam can be devastating on your success. Save the trip for after the bar. That’s when you’ve really earned it, and it’ll help you take your mind off of waiting for exam results.
Significant Life Changes Should Wait
Similar to the vacation, planning any major life changes are a bad idea prior to bar prep. Tying the knot with your significant other before the bar exam? It’s understandable to see the end of law school as a natural time to get married. After all, your significant other was patient, always supported you, and now you are done. But you aren’t really done until that exam is over. Have a talk with your better half and help them understand that. Convince them to hold off until you are officially licensed, and law school and the bar are both in your rear-view mirror.
Bar Prep is Critical
You might have been at the top of your class, on law review, or the captain of the “I can recite all Black Law Society” at your school, but you still need a bar prep course to get you ready. Much of what is tested on the bar exam, you studied three years ago during your 1L year. A lot of life and law has happened during that time. Poor study habits made worse by a decision not to take a bar review course are statistically shown to destroy a bar-exam taker’s pass potential. Buy a course, it doesn’t really matter which one (as long as it works for you), and dedicate yourself to follow its study path for the two months between graduation and the exam.
Having a Family is Hard
This one is unfair. Studies have shown that non-traditional students and those caring for families have a lower probability of passing the bar the first time out. It’s not fair that being older or taking care of a family is an aggravator for bar passage, but it is so we just have to acknowledge it, accept it, and take steps to overcome it. Talking with the family and helping them understand the rigors of bar prep, getting them to buy-in to the long hours of detachment and study, and asking them to sacrifice just a little longer, can go a long way to overcome this hurdle.
You Can Do This!
In the end, facing these aggravators can help every law student overcome them and successfully pass the bar on the first try. Self-reflection, planning ahead, and being proactive is key. Know that you can do this. Good luck!