Archive for October 14th, 2009

Oct 14 2009

Passing the Bar

Published by under Advice,Best Practices

A lot of wonderful folks yet to take the Bar ask for my advice these days, and I think it’s time to share my enlightened wisdom with the masses…

1. To Thine Own Self Be True

By the time you sit for the Bar, you’ve been through three long, hellacious years of law school. And passed! By now, you ought to know what works for you and what does not when it comes to studying. If you don’t, then you can stop reading now because nothing else I say is likely to help you. Really. I mean that. Just stop.

Realizing that different material often requires different study techniques (e.g. I flow-charted Con Law, flashcarded (not a word) the hell out of Torts, and outlined Wills until my eyes blurred), take some time to seriously asses the beast you face and the best way to kill said beast. Will you make flashcards? Outlines? Practice hypos? All of the above?

The only correct answer is the one that will enable you to pass the Bar, regardless of what your professors, BarBri, and your ever-wise friends may tell you to the contrary.

2. It’s NOT About the Hours!

The single most asked question regarding the Bar exam is, “How many hours are you putting in??”

The single best answer to this question is, “Who gives a crap!? Bugger off!”

Passing the Bar is NOT a question of hours spent studying! IT. IS. NOT!!!! Do not be fooled by the “Oh, I arise with the dawn and study ceaselessly until the bewitching hour” idiots. They’re probably going to fail. Because they’re “studying” a lot, but they’re probably not studying well.

Studying for the Bar, in my humble opinion, should be a checklist, not a stopwatch. Make a list of things you must accomplish before you sleep. Then make a list of things you’d like to accomplish, but could always do on Sunday if sleep finds you sooner rather than later. Crack down the list until the list is finished. Then STOP.

If it took you 12 hours, oh well. That’s life during Bar study. If it took you four hours, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY! GOOD FOR YOU!! W00t!!!

Now, in the manner of Jesus, a parable to prove my point:

Two lumberjacks competed to see who could cut down the most trees (in the pre-environmentalist days … today it would be bamboo, but I digress). The first lumberjack worked day and night. He took no breaks. He barely ate or slept. He was a machine. The second lumberjack took a nice lunch break every day. He took an equally charming dinner. Called his wife to tell her he loved her (I added that part).

When the time came to see who won, low and behold! It was the second lumberjack. The first was confounded. “I worked around the clock! I never stopped! How did you beat me!?”

The second lumberjack replied, “Easy. I cheated.”


The second lumberjack replied, “It’s true that I took breaks. But I used those breaks to sharpen my axe.”

Cool, huh?

3. RELAX!!! Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

Stressing yourself out will NOT help you pass. IT. WILL. NOT!!! Admittedly, stress is part of the game. It just is, so accept that fact and don’t let it eat you alive. And DON’T make it worse!

I suggest easing into Bar study. The first week of BarBri (or whatever) is not an ultimate predictor of success. It’s a time for you to figure what the heck is going on and what happened to your once happy life. Ease in. Remain calm. Everyone else is just as lost, hopeless, panicky, and freaked the heck out as you are. EVERYONE. (And if they say they’re not – like on Facebook – they’re lying.)

After about a week or two, kick it into gear. Now you have an idea of what’s going on and how little you learned in law school. Make your checklist. Attempt finishing it every single day. DO NOT EXPECT SUCCESS. The point of BarBri is to set you up to succeed … eventually. If you could pass the Bar in the first week of the class, you wouldn’t need the class!! So relax!! Everyone else is failing to some extent, too. EVERYONE. (And if they say they’re not – like on Facebook – they’re lying.)

When BarBri (or whatever) ends, you’ll be a couple weeks out from the Bar. Ease out. OUT!!! I SAID OUT!!!! If you’ve kept up with your checklist, then you’re right where you need to be. If you made 1,200 flashcards (ahem), now would be a good time to learn them. While sitting on your balcony. With a beer. Then a coffee. Then a Bible. Now is also a good time to write practice essays. And re-write them. And RE-write them. (We Charter Class members are quite good at re-writes. Just ask us. We’ll tell you. We’re “masters.”)

When you’re a week away, accept that Jesus still loves you even if you fail; that you cannot possibly know everything you will need to know for the exam; that you’re powers of BS are exponentially higher now than they once were; and that now would be a good time to review, as opposed to learn. You will not learn. Anything. Nothing. Zero. What’s there is there. Sorry. Deal with it.

If you ease in, crank it up, then ease out (a lot like certain other pleasant life activities that work kinda well that way .. ahem), you’ll arrive at the exam a lot less stressed than a lot of people. Again, you WILL be stressed. But it’s better to be stressed, well-rested, and well-fed than just stressed. And your chances of success should increase dramatically.

4. Here’s What I Did, So If You’re JUST Like Me…

Again, I stress that success on the Bar depends on doing what works for you. That said, here is what worked for me.

I am NOT an outline reader. I do NOT have a photographic memory. I don’t care which genius professors tell you to just read outlines (ahem), if you can’t recall and use what you’ve read, then it’s useless. Needless to say, reading outlines and taking notes on said outlines is the thing I did the week before the Bar when I wasn’t going to learn anything anyway. It is NOT something I did prior to that point.

My checklist:


Excuse me. Terribly sorry. Where was I?

Right. After BarBri, I made an outline (made, not read) of the lecture notes. Then I typed flashcards based on that outline (50-100 per subject).

If I was still awake, I worked practice MBE problems either in the BarBri books or online.

Then I went to bed. Sometimes having (gasp!) not worked practice MBE problems! Oh, the shame!!!

Saturday was a day of practice essays. All day. Like 30 essays. In a day. Every Saturday. Sometimes I’d write the same one five or six times in a row until the law was nailed into my brain. But then, I really enjoy legal writing so it was kind of fun. Yep, I am that much of a dork.

And then I’d play golf.

Sunday was a day of rest on which I always felt too guilty to rest so I’d review flashcards. While watching golf.

All the other advice you [don’t] need will be heaped upon you in droves, rest assured. And whatever happens, you’ll most likely survive. And the sun will still shine. And all will be well in the end.

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