As my last year of law school is coming to an end, I am looking forward to transitioning out of being a law student. I am so excited to start working and not have to worry about studying for class after I get home. However, I have not reached freedom yet, and I still have some studying to do. Yes, unfortunately I am talking about the bar exam. Life has been crazy with getting ready for the end of the semester and exams, but I am entering a new phase in my legal journey: bar prep. I hate to admit it, but I don’t have that much time left before I need to start studying for the most important exam in my life.
Many graduating 3Ls decide to take the time between graduation and the bar exam to focus solely on their bar prep and not work. Unfortunately, I will not be one of those law students – I will be working during my bar prep time. Although this is a controversial decision for some people, it is a reality that many students have to deal with: working and studying at the same time. As a first generation student and lawyer, I wanted to share my decision and reasoning behind it so that it could help you make the right choice for yourself on deciding whether or not you should work during your bar prep period.
I have been working for the same law firm since I was in my 1L year. I started part-time during the semester and have worked full-time during my breaks. My firm is a smaller office in the metro-Detroit area that focuses on the plaintiff’s side of personal injury law. This area of law encompasses auto-accidents, Michigan’s No-Fault law, Social Security, premises claims, negligence, and so much more. Fortunately, I have been offered a full-time position following the bar exam and a position as an attorney following bar passage. (Insert sigh of relief here) My firm has treated me like family since I started, and I have been very appreciative to my supervising attorneys. They have been flexible with my school schedule and countless meetings and value me as an employee. The decision for me to work during bar prep was a choice that I made and was not coerced by my employer. In fact, practically the opposite had occurred because they want me to do what is best for me and do not want to hinder my studying.
I have always considered myself to be financially savvy. My parents always taught me the value of hard work and I have been in the workforce since I was 16. However, most people know that knows that becoming an attorney is not an easy or inexpensive task. I am a first generation college (and law) student. To put it simply, I do not have the luxury of taking time off to solely focus on the bar exam. I wish I had that ability because I am personally worried about my preparation and what impact working will have on studying. However, I cannot afford to lose out on a paycheck for several months. Fortunately, I do have a wonderful fiance who brings home a good income and covers certain expenses, however, I still have my portion of the mortgage, bills, gas, and other school-related expenses. Not to mention the thousands of dollars I have dropped in preparation for the bar exam and for my bar application. Even though I keep to a budget and manage my finances well, working is my best option to ensure I do not have to struggle during the bar prep period.
In order to make sure I am not overwhelmed during the bar prep period by working, I have decided to get an early start on bar prep. My bar prep course opened in March, so I have been trying to work on some of the lectures and memorizing the different areas of law. I also gave up 6 Saturdays and participated in a “bar exam bootcamp” that my law school arranged. This was really helpful not only substantively on the law but also understanding how to answer MBE questions and how to format my bar exam essays. Although I still have a lot left to do in terms of studying, I feel like I have a good start to being successful!
Remember what allowed you to go to college? Student loans. Throughout my academic career, I received numerous scholarships and grants to get me through school. However, with the rising cost of education, I still had to take out federal student loans. I graduated a semester early and went through my grace period immediately before I started law school. Thus, I will have to start making payments again after I graduate, meaning I will need to have extra income to account for those payments!
In more exciting news, I am engaged to be married to the love of my life (sappy, I know). Yes, I am looking forward to finishing school, taking the bar exam, and becoming an attorney (I mean this has been my whole life’s purpose), but I am also counting the days before I say “I do!” In case you are not aware though, weddings are extremely expensive. And if you come from parents with big families and have a fiance that has two sets of parents, you will have a huge guest list. It’s big, I am not over-exaggerating, I am sure even if you lowballed it, you would still be off. My fiance and I are footing the bill for our wedding and are doing everything we can to lower the costs and do things ourselves where we can. However, since we will be getting married about 10 months after the bar exam, I will need to save up money, even during bar prep.
Still Focused on Bar Prep
Although I will be working during my bar prep period, and it is not necessarily my ideal choice, I am still focused on bar prep. The bar exam is the most important thing I will have to accomplish in my life. I am determined to pass it the first time. This means that I will have to keep my eyes on the prize, even if it means I will have to use my time wisely. If you are also thinking about working during bar prep, make sure you evaluate your choice and make sure it is the best option for you!