Your first year of law school is filled with many new learning experiences. It is difficult to think of studying for the bar exam when you have three years of law school to first complete. However, it is a good idea to keep in mind that you will be seeing the first year course material again during your bar preparation. Additionally, there are critical skills that you will be developing and refining as you learn to become legal thinkers and writers. Mastering those skills is essential to your success in law school, passing the bar and practicing law.
A few key points to consider:
Subjects Tested Keep all of your outlines, flashcards and study aids that were useful to you during your first year classes. You will see these subjects again as you prepare for the bar exam. Some of the information from first year may be helpful to you as you begin your bar review.
Ask Questions! If you are confused about an essential concept in one of your first year courses, ask for help sooner rather than later. Your confusion will only continue to build. Many legal concepts and theories from your first year classes will be the building blocks for the rest of your legal education and career.
Jurisdiction: Where do you want to practice law? Think about where you may want to practice law. Each jurisdiction requires application procedures and administers different exams. If you know you will be leaving Washington to take the bar exam in another jurisdiction, it is best to find out the requirements of the state in which you plan to practice.
Financial Planning It is never too early to begin planning financially for the Bar examination. Registering for the bar examination, bar review classes and living expenses during bar review can be a substantial burden as you are studying for the bar exam. If you plan early, (yes, even in your first year) you will not feel so overwhelmed upon graduation. Signing up early for a bar review to lock in a lower price, stocking away a small sum of money every month or creating a financial plan will ease this potential burden.
During your second year of law school, you will have much more control over your schedule and your class selection. Review the list of subjects tested on the bar exam in the state in which you plan to practice. Furthermore, some states require additional examinations (such as the MPRE) which are given on dates other than the usual bar examination dates.
A few key points to consider:
Bar Tested Subjects Use the list of subjects tested on the bar examination as a guide when selecting your classes. That said, you should not take a class for the sole reason of it being tested on the bar exam. However, it should just be one factor in your decision making.
Prepare Financially for the Bar Examination. Again, putting a financial plan in place early will help ease this potential burden during bar review.
Attend Bar Workshops and Speaker Presentations. The Bar Studies Program provides workshops and speakers throughout the year to assist you with your bar preparation. Check out the Bar Studies Program front page for new postings or through the PR. Take advantage of these resources, or make an appointment with Professor Isabel Freitas Peres (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Director of the Bar Studies Program to discuss your questions or concerns about the bar examination and preparation process.
In your third year of law school, you should be thinking about the upcoming bar examination. Advance planning is the key to your success. Making some important decisions and creating a time line of significant dates will get you started.
A few key points to consider:
Sign up for a Bar Review Course. After graduation, several private companies offer bar preparation courses. Bar Review courses assist graduates during lecture class formats in learning substantive law and essay writing techniques. There are several different bar review providers and you should independently research each to see which one is best for your learning style and scheduling needs. Most courses offer distance learning options as well.
Prepare Financially for Bar Review. Bar review courses can cost up to $5000.00 depending on the jurisdiction and how many components are tested. It is important to plan financially so this added expense is not a burden to you upon graduation. Additionally, since bar prep can be a full-time job, it is wise to avoid working during your bar review period. This may require using your vacation and/or sick time as well as saving in advance for your living expenses. There are also a few lenders still providing bar loans, which will help play for your expenses during this time. Contact Student Financial Services for more information.
Contact The State Bar Or Licensing Entity In The State In Which You Plan To Practice. Find out your state's licensing requirements, registration requirements (if any) for the bar exam, deadlines for registering, registration fees, dates and locations of the bar exam, format and subjects tested on the bar exam, whether your state requires the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), and other relevant rules that govern your state's licensing process. You can find more information at the National Conference of Bar Examiner's website. Download and print an application to sit for the bar examination. Make sure that you allow enough time to complete and submit your application by the deadline (it takes longer than you think).
Create a Time Management Plan. In order to study for the bar exam in an efficient and productive way, you need to have a clear plan for success. Try to minimize your commitments during your bar review period including but not limited to: work, volunteer work, religious groups, childcare and housework. In other words, clear your schedule of all non-essential duties. Try to delegate some of these tasks and minimize others. Record on your calendar all that you need to accomplish, including your essential "life" obligations and needs. Do not forget to include exercise, eating and downtime in your calendar. These are just as fundamental to your success as your study time.
De-Stress and Remain Positive. You can and will pass the bar exam if you take it seriously. Repeat after me, "I will pass the bar exam!" You need to find ways to remain confident in your success during the bar review process. Think of healthy ways to de-stress and keep negative thoughts (and people) out of your life. Incorporate stress reduction activities such as: exercise, a balanced diet, social time with family and friends, watching a movie or engaging in a favorite hobby. Study hard but also find time to relax.
Prepare Your Significant Others. Find ways to remain connected to your loved ones while you are studying. Create a healthy space for family and friends in your life despite the amount of time and effort required for studying. Help them, help you pass the bar by allowing them to take the lead with delegated chores and responsibilities, letting them know why you need to study and why you want to pass the bar exam and finding ways to integrate them into your study plan. Significant others can help by providing a quiet space for you to study, can test your knowledge of the law with flashcards, flowcharts or checklists and can assist by timing your practice essay exams.
Fine Tune Your Time Management Plan. Review your bar review schedule given to you by your bar review provider. Insert work and family responsibilities into your calendar while creating a plan for how you will get all of the required bar study completed. The bar review period is not a good time to plan a wedding, complete a big move, plan an elaborate vacation or make major life changes. Your time and focus should be devoted to studying for and passing the bar exam.
Take Care of Last Minute Details. If you have to work during your bar review, try to take off at least 2-3 weeks before the bar exam is given. Secure childcare during bar review and/or during the exam week. Book your hotel close to the testing site early. Hotel rooms fill up quickly especially for the summer bar examination. Request a quiet room with a refrigerator. This will come in handy for keeping snacks and lunch items cold. You will not have time to go out for lunch during the examination. Bringing food for lunch, as well as breakfast and/or dinner, will help you save money and time and help you to avoid stress during the bar examination week. Arrange reliable transportation if you are unable to book a hotel room and do a test run. Visit the exam site before the exam day. You do not want to worry about where to go or where to park the morning of your bar exam. Pack comfortable clothes that will allow you to dress in layers. The temperature may fluctuate and you want to be as comfortable as possible. Plan what and where you will eat while you are at the testing location.
Sleep! If you are well rested, you will perform better on the exam.
Arrive early to the testing location for check-in but be prepared to wait.
Do not bring all of your study materials to the testing site. Bring your checklists or short outlines but not all of your bar review materials, outlines or books. You will not have space to store them nor time to look at it.
Do not discuss the exam during breaks or after the day of testing. Many students become even more stressed when they begin talking with classmates after the exam.
Don't forget to breathe! Take a deep calming breath before you begin each essay or each section of the exam.
Remember to bring your picture identification, laptop computer with power cord, pens, highlighters, and other permitted necessities to the testing site.
Remind yourself why you believe that you will pass the bar exam. Repeat, "I will pass the bar!"