Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Oh Yeah, the Bar Exam

I feel like I should be talking more about the Bar, but it's not dominating my days like I thought it would and like I think it's supposed to. I'm still playing catch up in the lectures. I do about 2.5 a day and on Friday will be fully caught up, just in time for the 3-day, ALL day, MBE practice exam and analysis. I am not excited about giving up my Sat, Sun, and Mon to this Bar stuff but maybe it will be a good dose of reality.

The iPod self study option is a good one- especially if you graduate law school three weeks after the Bar classes begin. For those who don't know how it works, you (or really your law firm) pay a bunch of extra money for an iPod to arrive pre-recorded with the previous Bar review session's lectures. You can listen to them on different speeds, pause, fast forward, rewind, replay, etc as you fill in your lecture handouts. They also include a little sheet of any changes that happened between the Feb. '08 exam and the one I'll take in July. The law is slow to change, thank goodness, and my sheet only had two bullet points on it. The program requires discipline which I'm afraid I lost in law school, but I've already found fear to be an excellent motivating factor.

I think what I enjoy most is not knowing how freaked out other people are about the Bar. I really don't want to know that someone has taken 25 practice exams, read the long outlines, is summarizing the notes, and making flash cards. I find that knowledge stressful and I'm currently unstressed. On the other hand, I suppose I should know some of what other people are doing because I'm certain I should be more stressed than I am. It's an enormous amount of information tested over three days (Texas is the only state besides California that gets the joys of a 3-day Bar -- I stand corrected and should do my own research and not just repeat what I've been told, there are several other states with 3-day exams) and it's going to take a lot of work to learn enough to pass. My goal in the beginning was just to catch up in the lectures, and now that I'm almost there I want to stop just so I don't have to face the next steps- like doing practice questions and actually learning the law.

The real problem is this could be such an awesome summer and I'm finding it's frighteningly easy to ignore the Bar for long stretches of time. Landon is a blast right now. After he chased after a bigger boy's ball at the pool the other day JP took him to Wal-Mart and bought him his very own Spiderman bouncy ball. As you can see, he's pretty excited about it:

I sit in the study across from the dining room (which is acting as a play room right now, which you can see in the video) and just watch him play and squawk (we've moved beyond squeaking) and it's all I can do not to pause the iPod yet again and join in. We're looking for a bedroom set and I just want to go to furniture store after furniture store finding the right one. There's a million clothing store sales right now and given that my body really has decided to stay at this smaller size, I need to rebuy my entire work wardrobe and I don't want to wait until Fall when everything is full price again. There's also cook outs to be hosted, movies to be watched, and sitting on the back porch to be done. I also want to soak up the fact that JP is home all day. It's a unique situation we won't have again until retirement and I'm loving all our quality family time.

I don't resent the Bar or the time I need to put into it, I'm just having a hard time making it real right now. When I was really behind I felt all this pressure to catch up and now that I'm there the pressure has lessened and I need to ratchet it back up. Landon and I went to my office last Friday to say hi to everyone. They hadn't seen me since I was 8 months pregnant and had never met the Landon. He flirted mightily with all the lady lawyers and crawled full speed into several partners offices. Luckily the corporate section is used to having babies underfoot and he was a big hit. It was great to be back. I remain just as excited about working there as I was when I finished up my clerkship.

I'm staring at all these big books, which you can see in my blog header, and wondering where to begin. The barbri self paced program frightens me and there's no way I could start it now. For those who know, how did you spend those weeks up to the Exam? Should I bother with the long outlines or just review the handouts and work on practice questions. Back when I was a pre-med major I was really good at memorizing and I'm hoping those skills will come back quickly. There's also something called a Conviser mini review and an MPT workbook. I'm pretty sure it's bad that I don't even know what those are. And flashcards. I could see how they would be really helpful, but also time consuming to make. Maybe I could add them to JP's list of projects...

Oh, and this has nothing to do with the Bar (though it may be instrumental in my beign able to study for it), but Landon has fallen asleep with less than 30 seconds of protest for all his naps and at night. It's like he knows what he's supposed to do in the crib now and he just curls up and follows through. It's magical.


  1. Delaware also has a three day bar, and technically the Texas bar is only two and a half days, so you should have nothing to worry about. ;)

  2. Do not touch the long outlines. It is too much. I have not even opened mine. The mini review is all you need for reading purposes - since I have no lectures it's been my starting and review point for everything. All I use is the CMR, the Practice Questions book, and the essay questions book. And eventually I'll do the practice MBEs.

    Before you take the MBE this weekend, flip through just those outlines - you don't want those TX subjects cluttering you up too much :)

  3. I am glad you addressed the Bar exam! I have been a little worried that you weren't giving it the attention that it deserves. I was there 3 years ago, but I had the advantage of a Texas law school. My advice - push through! It is a short season, however horrible it is. Do what you are supposed to do - 5 weeks from now it will almost be over!

  4. I have to disagree with you on one point - Alabama has a three day bar as well. I'm still recovering (a year later).

    You'll do fine. I agree about not hearing about what everyone else is doing. Half the time they're lying anyway.

  5. PBB is right. Do not touch the long outlines. I only went to those outlines when I had a question about a particular issue and wanted a more in-depth explanation. Generally, the CMR is all you need to cover. Also, do not worry about the MPT. My best advice is to do as many practice questions as you can over the next few weeks. You'll start to see the patterns in the questions and the common tricks that they use to try and lead you to the wrong answer. And don't worry, the stress will come. I was completely fine until the last two weeks, and then I didn't leave the library. I think that's a pretty common way to get it done. Good luck!

  6. I'm not trying to freak you out, but I took the bar bri classes live, and I did everything they told me to do. I just followed there study plan to a t. Now, I didn't have a baby, but I had just moved in with my now husband, then fiance, and it sucked. But I did nothing else for 10 weeks then study.
    Thing is, I'm not that smart, I just work really hard. And I was convinced I was going to fail the bar. And I knew if I failed it I would never take it again.
    I will tell you this. I met some moronic practicing lawyers. If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have studied so hard.

    oh, and get a D. You only have to pass.

  7. I think I mentioned my theory before--I went to all the lectures, did 50 practice questions a day (but I used the PMBR--is that right?--book not the BarBri book) and that was about it until July 4th. After the holiday, I started hunkering down a little harder.

    I never cracked the long outline book. I used my lecture notes to make an outline, and then, as time got closer, I made an even more condensed outline.

    I only strictly followed the BarBri schedule once classes finished (maybe 2.5 weeks before we took the bar). At that point, I jumped in with both feet and did the things they recommended.

    You are so right about being glad that you aren't hearing from everyone else on a daily basis. I BOMBED my first practice test. I literally could not stay awake. I had that problem right up until the actual exam. Luckily, my nerves kept me awake on the day of the actual exam.

    Sounds like you have the right attitude. Just hang in there. You will be amazed at how stressed you'll end up getting.

  8. I went to about half of the BarBri lectures and spent the rest of the time using the outlines to fill in the blanks of the workbook. I did all of the MBE questions on the BarBri website, on a random basis, just over and over, sometimes while having a glass of wine.

    For the essays, I just read the essay answers, or some of them for that matter in a last minute panic.

    I'd look over the MPT stuff just to get an idea as to what to expect, but no one that I knew actually did a practice one.

    And as a side note to prepare for the Texas Procedure and Evidence (I was told and it worked), print all of the old exams online, put them in a binder, if possible. Take the BarBri answer book thing and fill in all of the answers to the questions. Make a large flash card and go thru all of the old exams, covering the written answer with a flash card, reading aloud the right answer. I found that one of the hardest parts is actually fitting the answer in the space provided as quickly as possible. The bar examiners repeat at least 2/3 if not all of the questions.

  9. just do practice questions after you've listened to the lectures! i am continually fuming and whining to anyone who will listen about how much barbri leaves out of its little lectures, but puts in its practice exams!!

    as for flash cards, the only ones i make are for the problems i miss while doing practice tests. i may do more in july, but that's it for now.

    that said, i am sure you will do fine! or at least as sure as i am that i will do fine.. ;)

  10. Washington State's bar is also 3 days (well, 2 and a half). It's also one of two states that don't require the MBE, so it's probably one of the easiest bar exams out there. Anyhow, I took that bar while taking care of my 18-month-old full time (except the 2 hours a day I put him in the gym daycare so I could listen to iPod lectures while working out) and passed. I did the bare minimum in terms of practice essays but busted my butt during the last 10 days making outlines and flash cards 8-10 hours a day. (I had my mom watching the baby during that time so I could focus on studying.) I consulted the long outlines only when the questions referred to material not in the lectures (which happened from time to time).

    Good luck!

  11. Ugh. I think if you make it through the hell that is law school, you shouldn't have to take the bar at all. I believe Wisconsin follows that philosophy. No fair.

  12. That video of Landon is completely adorable! He seems like so much fun at this age! I'm so glad he's cooperating with sleep now, and I've got my fingers crossed that he'll keep it up.

  13. I majorly overstudied for the Bar (I was one of those flashcard people, but that's the way I memorize so I had to). I was totally burned out after a while and didn't really study for two weeks before the bar b/c there was just no way I could possibly do any more practice MBE questions or essays. But better safe than sorry. The only thing that could possibly be worse than Barbi is having to do it twice. Here's my unsolicited advice :)

    Def use whatever method of memorization is best for you. If you outline practice essays you will soon see what's important for you to know and what you can forget about. (Wish I had figured that out earlier instead of trying to memorize everything!) I eventually visualized each subject with major headings and some bullets under each heading that I needed to know. Don't worry, you'll figure out how to categorize and filter when you finish the lectures.

    Plan out a study schedule if you haven't already. (The Barbri one is insane. I dont know who has that much time.) It will help you prioritize your time and you can figure out how much time you need to study for each subject.

    I do recommend doing practice MBE questions if you suck at multiple choice tests (which I do). And dont panic if you fail the practice MBE miserably (which I did and then panicked b/c I didn't take PMBR). When studying I had a goal of getting 60-75% of the questions right (I broke them up into 25 or so at a time). It was hit or miss. Sometimes I'd get 80 or 90% and other times I'd get 40 or 50%. Then I finally just calculated the minimum I'd need to get on the MBE versus the Essays to pass. I did substantially better on both portions, but it did help me focus my studying.

    Don't use the long outlines unless you don't understand a concept. Stick with your lecture book.

    Some of the diagrams in the consivor mini-review are helpful if you're a visual learner but that's about it.

    Don't waste your time doing a practice MPE or whatever that memo portion is called. Just look over the Barbri structure for how to write each type of essay. It's beyond easy. Beyond easy.

    I would recommend outlining past essays to help you figure out what you already know and what you still need to work on. Then just focus on those subjects you need to work on and skip the ones you get mostly right. Once you're sure you pretty much know the material (this will take a couple of weeks) do two or three a day giving yourself 20-30 minutes on each.

    I would not recommend doing anything full out. I think I did a "practice test" just to test my endurance which consisted of 6 essays (timed) and some MBE questions.

    The time factor on the essays was my biggest hurdle. I had plenty of time left on teh MBE (some ran out of time on that though). There is no time to think on the essay portion, so you have to know this stuff. You literally read the question, think for a second and write. I finished with my pencil smoking but I know people who didn't get to an entire question. I dont know anyone who had a substantial amount of extra time on the essays.

    Overall just do enough studying to be sick of it and be reviewing the week before instead of still learning.

    Exam Tips
    On the exam there will be one essay where you will sit there and say to yourself "WTF is this? I'm not even sure what subject this is! WTF!" Don't worry. Everyone else is panicking too. They do this on purpose. Just write.

    And for GOD's sake, do NOT discuss or let anyone discuss their answers with you. It will drive you crazy.

    Good luck! It's a beast. There's no way around it. When you get discouraged think of the many awesome grades you've been able to pull out of your ass at the last minute and that should encourage you :) (Plus, you don't need an awesome grade on this one, just pass. A D will do)

  14. I did the iPod homestudy program for the Oregon bar a few years ago - I also liked that I didn't have a ton of stressed out people around. Each day, I just listened to the lecture, read through some practice questions and answers, and did some MBE questions for that topic (I did the PMBR questions). Then when the lectures were over a few weeks before the exam, I went into full-study mode and memorized all the law (a topic each day). I figured I would have better odds of memorizing it at the end when the exam was closer...and I didn't want to get burned out on studying early!

  15. I couldn't bring myself to study "enough" for the NY bar, but I easily passed (well, by 'easily,' I mean I did well enough on the multistate portion that my essays didn't really matter).

    I spent a large part of that summer getting manicures and pedicures, shopping, and enjoying my last summer of freedom. It was worth it.

    When it comes to the work, though, I just did the BarBri outlines, looked at the mini-review books, and, most importantly, I did the last available 3 day PMBR course. I think the course was about 2 weeks before the exam, and the instructor gave us a roadmap for those last couple of weeks of studying. That is when I studied intensely and probably why I passed.

    You'll find what works for you, and I am confident that you'll have no trouble with the exam.

    By the way, the Landon is too cute!

  16. OK, I tagged you over at my blog with a book meme... if you've got the time, it might be an interesting exercise.

    I'm going to add you to my blogroll, too, because I think you've got a lot of interesting things to say. If you'd like me to take the link down, just let me know. Thanks!

  17. Good luck to you! I enjoyed reading your post. I just found your blog. You certainly have your hands full. It's hard to give you advice since everyone's experience is different. I think the bar is all about memorization. You have to do practice MBEs. As for the essays, a former tutor of mine told me that the best way to prepare is to read the sample essay answers in your Barbri essay book. This is also helpful to see the way certain topics are tested. Good luck! Keep us posted! If you're bored, come visit me at

  18. Love love love the happy kicky legs! SOOO cute. When Coop gets all excited he sits and moves his whole upper body like he's riding a horse and does this funny happy "mmmmmmmm mmmmmmm mmmmmmm" sound. I should probably get it on video, huh? :)