Don’t Miss Bar Exam Application Filing Deadlines!

If you will graduate this May (2021), you have probably been planning your summer of bar study since last summer, or at least last fall. However, please make sure you are doing or have done all the paperwork related to actually signing up for the bar exam. State jurisdictions have different deadlines and requirements. For example in Georgia, you must clear the character and fitness review before you can apply to take the exam itself, it’s a two-step process. Once you get that certification, you file your application to take the exam, starting in early April.  In New York, you are reviewed for character and fitness for admission to the bar after you take and pass the exam and meet New York’s other requirements.

Many state deadlines to sign up for the bar exam range from the spring to the summer; a few have rolling late deadlines with increasing late fees, until the final late deadline is reached. Make sure you know the deadlines for your bar jurisdiction! NCBE publishes this helpful chart of states and deadlines in its annual Comprehensive Guide to State Bar Requirements.

If you don’t yet know where you will be working after graduation, i.e. a specific employer, don’t let that stop you or delay you from signing up for a bar exam — you can and should sign up to take it in a Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”) jurisdiction and earn a transferable score, unless you are sure you will be in a specific non-UBE state for reasons other than a particular job (for instance, your family or your partner’s job is located here in Georgia). If you are sure of your future location, regardless of employer, sign up for that state’s bar. It is simpler to find a job after graduation if you have already taken and passed a bar exam, even if you end up seeking employment in a different jurisdiction.

A Cautionary Tale and Some Heartfelt Advice from a Bar-Taker

This post just appeared in a Reddit forum for bar-studiers; it includes heartfelt, sound advice from a bar-taker who just found out that s/he failed the bar for a second time. As the poster writes, this is AVOIDABLE! There are specific steps you can take as a bar studier to maximize your chances of success.  But the struggle is real, especially as we’re not yet through this pandemic and its impact on our physical and mental health. Here it is:

I failed for the second time. The first time I took it, I completed all the [commercial program’s] lectures and some MBEs. I didn’t do any MPTs or MEEs. The sheer anxiety of taking an in-person bar during the midst of a pandemic as an immuno-compromised person paralyzed me. I couldn’t study no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t finish two MEEs and guessed on around half of the MBEs. So, I wasn’t surprised when I failed with a dismal 234.

The second time around I decided to redo the [commercial] program since I didn’t really finish it the first time. I got past some of the lectures but I remembered most of the lectures so it felt repetitive. I fell off course again. Four weeks before the exam I snapped back to reality and bought [a supplemental commercial course]. I watched all the lectures and rewrote lecture notes by hand until I had them memorized. I barely did any MBEs and didn’t do any MEEs or MPTs. So, unsurprisingly, I failed again with a 244.

I’m not sure why I repeated the same pattern of not doing any practice for the second exam. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of discipline or motivation that’s serving as a roadblock. It could have been my depression and anxiety, my bruised ego or a combination of all three. I have no one to blame but myself. So many of my loved ones feel sorry for me because I failed again after trying so hard. But, I didn’t. I really didn’t. I have too much shame to tell them the truth so I decided to tell strangers on the internet instead.

I’m in a better place mentally this time around. I’d be an absolute idiot to not do practice this time. I already have a game plan, unlike last time… The key is to just do the damn practice exams.

Yes. Active learning is more effective than passive learning, always. As you continue your bar readiness journey, do as much of the recommended work as you can, making bar study your fulltime job as much as possible after graduation. If you’re short on time, always choose active learning options like practice questions, followed by careful self-assessment, over passive options like watching online lectures. When you watch lectures, take active notes, ideally by hand as that is know to improve retention for most learners.

It’s mid-April. You have plenty of time to create your own plan for success on the July bar. You can do this!

New York Announces Remote Bar Exam in July 2021, Caps Applications

You may have heard this news from other sources such as your commercial bar review course, or directly from the New York Board of Law Examiners via their Applicant Services Portal: the New York Board of Law Examiners (NY BOLE) announced yesterday that 1) New York will administer the July 2021 Uniform Bar Exam remotely; and 2) it will cap bar exam applications at 10,000. This is comparable to the number of NY bar takers in July 2019, so no need to panic, but you should register as soon as you are able to do so, following the instructions at the NY BOLE website and any official communications you have from them.
 
The application will open at 12:01 am EST on April 1, i.e. just after midnight tonight, Eastern Standard Time. To apply, you must have an NCBEX account (which you have if you took the MPRE) and a NY BOLE account (which you have if you’ve already taken the New York Law Course and the New York Law Exam online). I suggest you make sure today you have taken all steps to be ready to submit your application, following the NY BOLE instructions. Note: “An application is considered filed when it is filed electronically online and the application fee is paid. The application must be completed and the fee must be received during the application period for the application to be considered filed.” Credit cards accepted for online payment are MasterCard and Visa. Applications will be open until April 30 or when the cap of 10,000 is reached, whichever happens first.
 
As a further reminder, per the NY BOLE website: “The results from the March 11, 2021 NYLE have been posted to candidates’ BOLE Accounts. To access the exam results, log in to your account in the Applicant Services Portal using your email address and password and navigate to the NYLE section within the portal. The next administration of the NYLE is on June 10, 2021 at 12:00 pm Eastern. The deadline to complete the New York Law Course and register for the March [June] NYLE is May 11, 2021 at 11:59 PM.” 
 
Finally, make sure to read all the published information at the NY BOLE website and the FAQ at the NY BOLE website, and check your email and applicant portal often to make sure you don’t miss any official communications, as those will be your first and most important information channels. If you have questions that can’t be answered via information on the website, you may call the BOLE office at: 518-453-5990.
 

Good Luck on the New York Law Exam!

Good luck to those of you who will take the online New York Law Exam this week as part of the bar admission requirements of the New York State Board of Law Examiners! If you aren’t taking it this week but you plan to take it in the future, please remember the dates and application deadlines, which are separate from the dates and deadlines for the Uniform Bar Exam that New York administers (also required for bar admission). The New York Law Exam is given four times a year.

If you expect to apply for admission to the New York bar (or any other state), make sure to review carefully all the rules and instructions that every state provides on an official website, such as www.nybarexam.org or www.gabaradmissions.org. An easy way to find the website of the state where you plan to take a bar exam and seek admission is to start at the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, www.ncbex.org. Bookmark that website and the website for your bar jurisdiction if you haven’t done so already!

AccessLex Offers Free Bar Success Webinars

Happy Spring! The AccessLex Institute has launched a new series of webinars to help support students’ informational needs as they prepare to take the bar exam. These will be especially helpful to students who will graduate this spring and take a bar exam in July, but they are open to all law students, regardless of the stage of your legal education.

Law students may register for one, or all, of these free bar success webinars:
 
The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
For many students, taking the MPRE is one of the first steps towards bar admission. Learn about the subject matter eligible for testing on the MPRE, along with important logistical information, tips for studying, and more.

 
The Road to Licensure
Becoming a licensed attorney goes beyond graduating with your J.D. This session will walk you through the steps to licensure and help you find the information you’ll need to meet all of the requirements for your specific jurisdiction.

 
What You Need to Know About the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)
This session will cover each component of the UBE, including the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

 
5 Tips for Bar Exam Success
Questions about what the bar exam experience will be like? Join our team of licensed attorneys as they share some of their best tips, answer your questions, and help set you up for success.

Course Selection and Bar Readiness

Christen Morgan, Emory Law 16L

Two years ago, Christen Morgan 16L published a great post with some excellent advice for all law students with regard to bar readiness: Three Things I Would Have Done Differently for Bar Prep at The Girl’s Guide to Law School. Her points are valuable for 1Ls, 2Ls, and other continuing students as you consider your course selections for next year; and for 3Ls and soon-to-graduate LLMs as you continue to increase your “bar readiness” this year and once you start your commercial bar review course for a bar exam this summer.

For more specifics on how you can choose courses to optimize your readiness for success on a bar exam if you will return to law school in the fall, and on how to manage your own bar readiness if you are in your last semester, go to the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success webpage and click on links for Bar Readiness, Choosing Courses, and Practice Areas (for practice-focused academic guidance and information). Some are behind tiles you will see if you scroll down the page a bit.

If you missed our session on Course Selection and Bar Readiness last Monday, 10/12/20, it was recorded and the Zoom link is here: OAESS Session on Course Selection and Bar Readiness.

The Powerpoint from that session is here:

Finally, if you will graduate this academic year and plan to take a bar exam next year, you should make a decision now about which commercial bar review course you will use. If you know for sure which state’s bar exam you plan to take, whether or not you have a job offer yet, sign up for that; if your plans change, most vendors will let you switch states. Ask before you commit. If you are unsure or you are keeping options open depending on employment, consider signing up for a course for a UBE (Uniform Bar Exam) bar jurisdiction. The UBE offers a portable score that is valid in over 30 states now. Again, most bar course vendors will let you switch specific courses among their offerings if your plans change, so ask. In any event, don’t delay your bar readiness plan, which should be in process this whole academic year if it is your last one.

Staying Composed During The Bar Exam

You’ve absorbed so much information already about exam-taking strategies — this is not that. These suggestions come largely from Professors Riebe and Schwartz, my favorite bar readiness authors (“Pass The Bar!”):

  • Get plenty of sleep the weekend before, and each night before, each day of the bar exam. (I will add, stay hydrated; it does help!).
  • Check your technology and allowed materials. Make sure your laptop and charger are in good order.
  • Get set up in your test location early, to allow for any unexpected situations, whether it is in your home or somewhere else.
  • After test sessions, DON’T talk to your fellow bar-takers about the exam or compare notes. They don’t know any more than you do, and you could end up feeling discouraged without there being a real basis for that.
  • Stay focused on your goal, use stress management techniques that work for you before, during, and after exams, stay positive and think of “success” as doing your own personal best.
  • Pay close attention to all instructions, before the exam and on the exam itself, and make sure to follow them.
  • Think ahead and remind yourself how you plan to use your time wisely during the test sessions.
  • Forget each section or questions as you finish it; put it behind you and focus on the next opportunity to do your best, i.e. the next section or question.
  • Remind yourself how far you’ve come and why you believe you will pass the bar.

I’ll also add, after the end of your last session, breathe deeply. You’re done. It will be a while before you get results. Try to put this whole ordeal behind you and refocus on aspects of your life that you may have had to put on hold since May. This stage is over. Be kind to yourselves and to each other. We’re very proud of all your hard work and resilience this year.

Remember the MPT

Dear bar studiers: some of you will be tempted to do scant preparation for the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”) portion of the bar, because it doesn’t require as much memorization as the MBE and the essays. This is a strategic error that can mean the difference between passing and failing the bar first time. Emory Law students, especially, should be able to do well and gain points on the MPT, because of the strength of our legal writing courses and the fact that so many Emory Law students take Contract Drafting and other similar classes.

Take the time now to get familiar with the MPT and how it works. Look at the past MPT questions used on the bar exam you plan to take, whether the Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”) or the Georgia Bar, which posts past questions and sample answers, to both essays and the MPT, here. February 2020 questions are here. (The MPT parts will be at the end). Most commercial bar review courses offer the option of taking a practice MPT, submitting it, and getting graded individual feedback. Make sure you take advantage of that in time to get and use the feedback, so you can fine-tune your approach.

Prof. Mary Campbell Gallagher, founder of BarWrite and author of books on passing the bar and of a blog on the same subject, gives a detailed analysis, below, of one of the 2018 MPT questions that proved difficult for many bar-takers, including our graduates. She explains what was needed to score well on that question, and how bar-takers may have fallen short, to their cost; most importantly, she suggests how to do better. Because it’s possible to fail the bar exam by one point, you should make sure you are well prepared to grab every point available to you, and I believe our graduates could pick up more points on the MPT with more strategic preparation.

  1. Practice doing the close reading of MPT instructions Prof. Gallagher describes, using real MPT questions, and practice outlining how you would respond to them.
  2. Write out full practice answers to a few, looking for questions that ask for different types of written work product, and compare them to sample answers.
  3. Remember that your answers on the MPT will be graded on your responsiveness to the instructions regarding the task you are to complete, as well as on the content, organization, and thoroughness of your responses.

You may be asked to produce a memorandum to a supervising attorney, a letter to a client, a persuasive memorandum or brief, a statement of facts, a contract provision, a will, a counseling plan, a proposal for settlement or agreement, a discovery plan, a witness examination plan, or a closing argument. You should know what those look like and how to create them with specific reference to the instructions you are given. There are free MPT questions and point sheets from 2010-2015 available here at the NCBE website (scroll down).

Yes, you must do your very best on the MBE and the essays, and that will require memorizing a lot of material, but don’t leave MPT points on the table. Those points count too! Go get them!

Prof Gallagher’s article and analysis:

Bad News on the First July 2018 MPT Task

Some Tips for The Last Weeks before the October Bar

No matter what state’s bar exam you will take in October, it is essential that you complete as much as possible of your commercial bar review course before then. For example, the average completion percentage of BARBRI’s successful bar-takers last summer, July 2019, was about 82%. We advise trying to do more. We also advise that bar-takers aim at having done a total of about 2000 practice MBE questions by the time you take the real thing (that includes all practice questions you’ve done since beginning your bar study). Use the tools your bar course provides to calculate how much time you need to budget daily to finish your work, including — VERY IMPORTANT! — taking the simulated MBE if you haven’t done that yet. And just as important as taking it, you must assess your own performance on it so you can target any subject areas of weakness between now and October 5.

Here’s the recorded Zoom session with Prof. Rich Freer and BARBRI’s Director of Legal Education, Jonathan Augustin, held on Sept. 23: MBE Strategies.

When you review your simulated MBE score, Profs. Riebe and Schwartz recommend analyzing WHY you got any particular answer wrong so you can plan how to do better. They identify four main categories of error: 1) reading comprehension (RC); 2) missed issue (MI); 3) error of law (EL); 4) applied law incorrectly (A). As you review your test results, jot down those letters by each one you got wrong, and identify which kind of error you make most often, then work on improving that skill.

Emory Law graduates, if you weren’t able to attend last week’s session on how to tackle the Georgia essays, plus other tips on the MPT and what you can do to reach peak bar readiness over the next few weeks, that session was recorded and you will find it on Zoom here: Georgia Bar Essays and Other Tips for Readiness. The Powerpoint used during that session is here: 

If you missed last week’s separate session with Georgia’s Director of Bar Admissions, that was also recorded and the recording is available on Zoom: Information about the October 2020 Georgia Bar Exam.

Check communications from the Georgia bar or your bar jurisdiction as to whether you will now be allowed to use any scratch paper during the MPT, as that was a recent change option, but not all states have changed their restrictions.

If this feels like a heavy lift after the long months of delay, quarantine, rule changes, schedule changes, etc. — it is. But this exam is the last obstacle between you and the license to practice law that you’ve all worked so hard to achieve. You’re almost there! You can do this! We are all cheering you on!

Georgia Bar Publishes Details About October Exam

The Georgia Office of Bar Admissions has updated its FAQ section with more details and specific logistical requirements for the remote October bar exam: here. If you plan to take that exam, please review those very carefully, as a failure to comply strictly with all requirements could result in your being disqualified. You all have waited too long and endured too many changes to have that happen in the home stretch!

As set forth in the new FAQ and in an email you should have received from the Georgia Bar this week, laptop registration is now open. It will close on September 18 at 4 pm, so please don’t leave that until the last moment. There is other paperwork you must complete, so do read their email carefully, it has detailed instructions in addition to the FAQ posted. Both are essential for you to review.

The Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will host a special review session for Emory’s Georgia bar-takers on September 10 at 4 pm, on Zoom, to discuss how to tackle the open-book Georgia law essay questions. Check your Emory email for details and a link.

Take good care of yourselves, the light is showing at the end of the tunnel.