What to Do for the Next Seven Weeks

By now, you should have started your bar review course, whichever one you chose. Your best chances of success come from a steady routine of scheduled, systematic study and work, for 48-60 hours per week. That means 8-10 hour days, six days a week, starting now if you’re not already in that routine. Here’s what Profs. Michael Hunter Schwartz and Denise Riebe recommend for this stage, in their terrific book “Passing the Bar”:

  • Do at least 34 MBE practice questions every day, striving to get your timing down to less than two minutes per question;
  • Do at least two essay practice questions every week;
  • Do at least one MPT practice question every week if your state administers the MPT or another “performance” test;
  • Master doctrinal law for three subject areas (for the MBE plus the essay topics) every week;
  • Refresh your learning of at least two subject areas every week;
  • Take a ten-minute scheduled break every hour; take a break every evening if you’ve met your daily goals (and you should schedule daily goals for yourself every week to accomplish the practice questions above);
  • Take off one day/week if you’re up to date on your daily and weekly goals.

My additional advice: use all feedback mechanisms your course offers, including practice questions, practice tests, turning in essay question answers in time to get feedback, etc. The bar exam is harder than you may expect, but it rewards “sweat equity”, i.e. putting in the time as if studying is your fulltime job.

Also, get your brain and body used to being alert during the hours when you will take the bar exam. Now is the time to reset your body rhythms if you aren’t already a “morning person”. Establish the habit of getting up by 7 a.m. or so and getting to work on your bar study before 9 a.m. If your brain thinks it shouldn’t be awake until 11 a.m., why would it suddenly do so on the days of the bar exam, when you need it to be in top form? Try to go to sleep by midnight every night so you get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. More and more research is showing us that sleep (or lack of sleep) directly affects learning, retention and retrieval of information. Yes, I know it’s the summer, but you will have many other summers when you won’t be studying for a high stakes professional licensing exam, and there’s always August. This will be over sooner than you can imagine!

You Graduated. Now What?

Emory Law Commencement 2016 led by Professor Richard Freer, by Frank Chen.

Congratulations — you graduated and you earned a law degree! BUT … you don’t get to practice law until you pass the bar. Sooooo … it’s time to really focus on getting ready for success on the bar. Even before you start your bar review course (and start listening to Professor Freer again!), here are some suggested actions to take right now, from the excellent book “Pass the Bar”, by Riebe and Schwartz:

  1. Develop a written bar preparation schedule for yourself that includes:
    1. Time to review bar review outlines
    2. Time to attend bar review classes.
    3. Time to master or recall the substantive law.
    4. TIME TO DO PRACTICE QUESTIONS.
    5. Time for sleep, exercise and relaxation.
  2. Make sure you have sent all bar-related paperwork in by your state’s deadline: check here: National Conference of Bar Examiners. E.g., in Georgia you must file separately to take the exam, with separate paperwork, once you have been certified as eligible through the Character and Fitness process. Deadline to do so for the July bar is June 1!
  3. Contact all the people who are important to you, explain how crucial it is that you pass the bar exam and how much time it will take you to get ready, meaning you will be less available to them — i.e., at least fifty hours/week.
  4. Do at least one thing you enjoy that you won’t have time to do once your bar review course starts, until the end of the bar exam.
  5. Remind yourself frequently of your strengths and how they will help you pass the bar exam.
  6. Any other planning ahead you need to do for things like housing, meals, childcare, pet care, other obligations.

Stay in touch and let us know how it’s going! And congratulations again on your achievement in earning your law degree!

Photo: Frank Chen, 2016.

Critical Information If You Will Take the New York Bar

If you plan to take the New York bar exam this summer, you should know by now that New York has moved to administering the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). As part of that change, New York will also require bar applicants to take an online exam in New York law. This week, the New York Board of Law Examiners updated information about that with study materials, test dates and registration details. It is very important for you to review all of this information, here: New York Bar Exam.

Upcoming Bar Readiness Programs — Save the Dates!

Emory Law students who will graduate and take a bar exam this summer should add these dates to their calendars. Make sure to attend one or more of the free MBE workshops (you can go to all three!) and the important meeting with Georgia bar officials on February 29 (see my earlier post for details and advance reading to do). To sign up for an MBE workshop and lunch, go here: Sign-up for MBE Workshops and Lunches.

Mark your calendars now for the following dates:
 
* February 22, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, Tull: Faculty session on Civil Procedure with Professor Rich Freer
 
* February 24, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, Tull: Faculty session on Torts with Professor Frank Vandall
 
* February 26, 1:00 – 4:00 pm, 1D: MBE Workshop Diagnostic Test with BARBRI (follow-up BARBRI Lecture will be in March)
 
* February 27, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, 1C: MBE Workshop Diagnostic Test and Live Lecture with Themis (lunch provided)
 
* February 29, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, 1E: Bar Exam Introduction AND Review of Georgia Essay Question, by State Bar Officials (lunch provided)
 
* March 14, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, Room TBD: Faculty session on Contracts with Professor Rafael Pardo
 
* March 16, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, Room TBD: Faculty session on Criminal Law & Procedure with Prof. Morgan Cloud
 
* March 18, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm, 1D: MBE Workshop Diagnostic Test and Live Lecture with Kaplan (lunch provided)
 
* March 21, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, Tull: Faculty session on Evidence with Professors Julie Seaman and Mark Goldfeder
 
* March 23, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, Tull: Introduction to Bar Exam Essays and the MPT with Assistant Dean Katherine Brokaw (lunch provided)
 
* March 25, 9:00 – 4:00 pm, 1D: Follow-up MBE Workshop Live Lecture with BARBRI (lunch provided)
 
* March 28, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, Tull: Faculty session on Constitutional Law with Professor Charles Shanor
 
* March 30, 12:15 – 1:45 pm, Tull : Faculty session on Property Law with Professor Jim Hughes

A Bar Readiness Action Checklist To Use Now!

If you are planning to take a bar exam this summer, you should be doing a few things NOW, even before you start a bar review course. Here’s an action checklist for Emory Law students, including in part some of the action items from a book I highly recommend: “Pass the Bar!”, by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz:

  • Review the rules of the state where you plan to take the bar. For Georgia, go to the Office of Bar Admissions website, for other states go to their bar websites or start at www.ncbex.org.
  • Assess your own risk factors for not passing the bar exam on your first try. “Pass the Bar!” has a great list of risk factors, with suggested solutions for each of them.
  • Plan to attend all bar-related presentations and workshops offered at Emory Law this spring! They will include the visit of two bar examiners on February 29 (see last post), as well as “bar readiness” sessions with Emory Law faculty on each of the subjects tested on the MBE, and several full MBE workshops offered by major bar review companies, at no cost to students. Watch “On The Docket”, your email and the electronic boards for dates, times, details.
  • Plan your time: review and minimize or delegate as many time commitments as possible. Studying for the bar is a fulltime job.
  • Check your finances: plan ahead for living expenses while you study, or look into getting a bar loan.
  • Check your academics: compare the subjects tested in your state with your own law school record and decide if there are any subjects you should start studying before a formal bar review course.
  • Practice writing essay exam answers, using the practice questions posted on bar websites. They are actual bar exam essay questions and usually include sample answers.
  • Look at former MPT questions and answers to make sure you are familiar with the kinds of documents and practical skills you may have to use.
  • Get healthy and stay healthy! Wellness matters for success on the bar exam. Figure out now how you will keep stress and fatigue to a manageable level.
  • Research your options and register for a bar review course if you haven’t done so. Start using the materials they make available early.

Remember: a conservative estimate of the number of hours it takes to prepare to pass a bar exam on your first try is 600 hours. Use every opportunity this semester to put in some of those hours now.

Are you taking the MPRE in March?

If you plan to take the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam) before graduation, it will be given next on March 19, 2016.  For more information, and to register, go to the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The MPRE is required for bar admission in most American jurisdictions.

How To Spend (Part Of) Your Winter Vacation

Now that final exams have been over for a week, it’s time to talk about The Big One: the bar exam. Before you run screaming into the night — stop! By thinking about it now and doing some planning, you will take a lot of stress off yourself and improve your chances for success the first time you take one. First, let’s dispel some urban myths. Yes, it is possible to fail the bar even if you did very well on your LSAT. No, it is not a good idea to work while you study for the bar exam to pursue a job, because if you fail the bar, that job isn’t going to be yours anyway. Yes, you can pass even if you had a low LSAT and law school GPA, as long as you put in the time and do 85% or more of your bar review course. No, there are no shortcuts. Preparing for the bar exam is hard work, a fulltime job, and it take at least 600 hours.

You heard that right. 600 hours. So if you do nothing until the week after graduation (Emory’s Commencement is on May 9), you have 11 weeks to put in at least 600 hours. That’s about 55 hours/week. Fulltime job hours. Lawyer hours.

Here’s the good news: you can start putting in some of those hours now, and during the spring semester, to lighten that load. If you haven’t chosen a commercial bar review course yet, now is a good time to research your options and commit (check out the Resources link on this blog, to start). Ask the vendors questions to make sure their course is a good fit for you. Once you’ve made a deposit with any of the major vendors, you get access to lots of useful study and review materials. Take a look at the bar admissions website for the state where you think you will take the bar. They post old essay and MPT questions, with model/sample answers. You can self-test on your own and identify any weak areas, or subjects you’ve just forgotten, then use the commercial bar review study materials to brush up on your memory or understanding.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners posts old questions online at www.ncbex.org. It also posts an outline of the subject matter tested on the MBE, and other materials about its tests (MBE, MEE, MPRE, MPT, UBE). Look them over! We’ll repeat last spring’s faculty-led bar readiness presentations on all the MBE topic areas, with some additional presentations. And I highly recommend buying a copy of “Pass the Bar!”, by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz. It’s available on Amazon and you can even get it on Kindle.

Have a wonderful break, use some of that time to take stock of your bar readiness and plans, and we’ll see you in January!

Photo: UniversityParent.com

Pass The Bar! Action Checklists and More

Two of the leading lights in law school academic assistance, Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz, have a very helpful guidebook for law students called “Pass The Bar!“. It is a comprehensive guide to bar readiness, starting as early as 12 months before you start taking a bar review course after graduation. It includes action checklists, self-assessment tools, a decision grid to help you choose which commercial course to take, information about various aspects of bar exams, practice questions and sample answers, and appendices with all kinds of additional information and resources to help students get ready for this high-stakes test.

I highly recommend this book to all students who will graduate this spring, i.e. in six months. The very first action checklist covers the period 6-12 months before you start your post-graduation course, so now is a great time to get the book (available directly from Carolina Academic Press in hard copy or for Kindle, or from Amazon. com and other booksellers). Yes, you have exams coming up, but it’s important to start getting familiar with the skills you will need for success on the bar, while you still have one more semester in law school to address any deficits and strengthen them with help. Start working on that checklist now, and feel free to come ask anyone in the Office of Academic Engagement and Student Success if you have questions.