[an email I sent to my friends and sorors in law school specific to MY experience of bar prep and sitting for the exam.]
Yeah, I know. It’s early.
But you wanna start planning as far in advance as possible so this doesn’t smack you in the face like that football in that one Brady Bunch episode.
You can look and see my pointers for now OR you can ignore it and save it for the end of 3rd year.
Just thought I’d leave this available to you since I’m circulating it. Some shit likely doesn’t apply to you but you’ll deal lol
Feel free to call/text/email with anything you have questions about.
Also - this is excessively long. I tried to do formatting things to make it less shitty to read, but I mean, I’m not buzzfeed so…
First. Take a prep class.
This is not really an option in my very strong opinion. As you now well know, you are not graded on your performance, but rather how your performance stands among that of everyone else. Too many people are taking prep classes for you to not take one. There is too much insight given that you would not otherwise have, and too many habits that are reinforced that too few people are able to create alone.
What that means for your life as a law student:
- Start saving now. The shit is expensive. Set a goal amount for yourself and start setting aside the cash now. [If you’re bad at budgeting, this site is helpful, but also hit me. We can talk about it. I’m likely the most frugal human you know.]
- Look for all alternative means of income possible.(I picked up jobs, but also put my place on airbnb & got the gym-pact app to get as much money elsewhere as possible.).
- For me, my savings goal included: bar registration fees, laptop registration fees for the bar exam, bar prep course, hotel stay for the duration of the bar, and as much personal expenses possible to maintain myself while I studied for the bar exam.
- Talk to the financial aid folks at your law school. Is there a loan you have access to that you didn’t know about? Is there a way to get additional cash back? Are there scholarships to apply for? Outside funding they know about? You will be surprised what you find out just by asking. [note: be careful and try to avoid bar loans if possible]
Be encouraged though! Know there is a LOT of wiggle room. Lock in your price with the reps at your school for your prep course of choice. But also, when it comes time to pay up in April and May - ask for a discount. That’s it. Just ask. The worst they can say is “no”. But they won’t. Everyone knows law students are broke. Everyone knows Themis is cheaper. Make them work for your coins.
Secondly. Actually participate in the prep class.
Get used to the monotony that will be your summer of discontent. Get in the habit of putting your phone on airplane mode, and check for these daily assignments and actually do them. You will fall behind because they give far too much, but that’s ok. Just keep going.
Just listening to the lectures won’t help you to just absorb the information necessary. You must put it into application.
What that means for you at this instant still in law school:
- Learn shit forreal. Actually retain what you can. For the most part everything you will need for the bar exam, you will learn in the bar prep course. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I was at an extreme advantage for having taken (AND taking the time to actually understand) tax and corporations. [and evidence and crim pro.. but a lot of people had taken those] I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly salty I didn’t take Wills. Would I go back in change it? No, I needed to not take it for the sake of my GPA.
- In assessing your current needs and future class load, just be mindful to develop a desire of actually wanting to ingrain this legal knowledge into you. It will be helpful.
Thirdly. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Do hella multiple choice questions. Write out hella essays. Grade yourself harshly and learn from your mistakes.
During bar prep time, don’t get frustrated with your mistakes.
Everytime you fuck up: CELEBRATE. Be geeked as hell that you found that concern now and not after you got your bar results.
Each mess up is an opportunity to learn something you didn’t even know that you didn’t know!
What that means for you now?:
- Learn to write succinctly and clearly.
- Learn to become very critical of your legal analysis.
- When you get your grades back, go over your exams with your professors. Even when your grades are great - understand why.
- When at your internships, be active with your supervisors and bosses and ask them for feedback, and practice using it.
Lastly. Do what’s been working for you… and then some.
At the end of the day the bar exam is just one big ass closed book exam. You’ve done this before. Yes, it’s more serious. Yes there are way more rules. Yes it was much more expensive to get there. But this is not foreign stuff. You’ve had to write under timed conditions about stuff you crammed in your brain mere weeks (at best) prior. You know how you learn.
Do you need to download audio lectures to listen to them regularly? Do it.
Do you need to make acronyms and mnemonic devices out the wazoo? Do it.
Flashcards? Index Cards? Outlines? Pottery making? Whatever - DO IT.
That sort of thing will not be assigned within the bar prep course but those fundamental things you learned about how your brain compartmentalizes information and what is necessary to commit things to memory is vital. Whatever it takes to make this subjects familiar to you and feel like you have mastery over them… what.ev.er. it. takes. DO IT.
But ALSO be open to adding new tactics. For example:
When I reviewed essays that I didn’t write the full answer to or outline an answer to, I looked at the model answer and highlighted the rule statements.
Writing and re-writing just the rule statements + making flashcards of concepts/issues with their accompanying rule statements helped with memorizing potential model answers and made the task seem a lot more surmountable. (that worked for me and a large group of classmates - It’s something I’d advise).
What that means for you now:
- Pay attention to your learning style. You probably already know what you do that makes you feel most comfortable for exams, but also be willing to upgrade and add on.
- Are there more efficient ways of doing it? Are you using flashcard apps? Do you process your thoughts/analysis better writing or typing? Have you checked? Do you need to talk it out? Have you tried videoing yourself or outlining your notes in lecture style?
- Be actively critical of your methods and willing to better it to suit your own needs.
I know it seems super far away and I know that law school moves so sloowwwlllyyy because time reluctantly trudges along when you’re miserable. At least that’s what it was like for me…
I just wanted to give a heads up where I could, while it’s still fresh on my mind, and before I hop to these job applications.
Feel free to pass along omitting profanity where you deem necessary
And enjoy the rest of law school. Or at least make it count. <3