As my regulars know, I’m a big fan of the book “Pass The Bar!” by Profs. Riebe and Schwartz. One reason I value it so highly is that it provides “Action Checklists” for up to 12 months before taking a bar exam.
Four months from tomorrow, most bar-takers in the US will begin their first day of the July bar exam (July 27 and 28, 2021 in Georgia and many other states). So here is an action checklist, modified from the one in “Pass The Bar!”:
- Review your intended jurisdiction’s bar admission and licensing rules. For Georgia, go to www.gabaradmissions.org. To find other jurisdictions’ websites, go to www.ncbex.org, where you can look them up.
- Plan now for your bar review period.
- Assess your own risk factors and the suggested solutions, to maximize your chances of passing the bar on your first attempt.
- Decide what if any remedial actions you need to take, including assessing your strengths and weaknesses in core bar-tested subjects, using the West Academic Assessment materials (see The Fourth Floor, on your Emory Canvas dashboard).
- Schedule time weekly to start studying or reviewing subjects you feel you don’t know as well, focusing on doing practice questions and analyzing why the answer options were correct or incorrect. Note any patterns you see in the errors you make (and everyone will be making errors!). Revisit the winter break study plan sent in December to all 3Ls and graduating LLM students.
- Create your own winning “game plan” for bar success.
- Review the time commitments you have between now and the end of July, and plan to minimize them where possible. Make bar study a top priority between graduation and the exam.
- Do a financial check-up and plan ahead for budgetary needs during your bar study period. If necessary, look into bar loans.
- Do an academic check-up: review your law school transcript to identify any gaps or weaknesses in what you have studied to date, comparing your courses to the subjects your jurisdiction can test on its bar exam, and decide on a plan to remedy those gaps or weaknesses.
- Update/refresh your legal writing skills for bar exam essays; practice so that producing a strong, clear written work product in IRAC format becomes almost automatic.
- Review your jurisdictions’ past essay and MPT questions, paying attention on the MPT to what kinds of documents you may be asked to create. Start doing practice MPT questions, comparing your answers to the sample answers most jurisdictions provide.
- Do a stress/attitude check: plan for how you will stay positive, healthy, focused, and resilient during bar study.
- If you haven’t yet signed up for a commercial bar review course, do that ASAP and start using any early access study materials it provides.
- Remember to enjoy your last semester of law school and seize any opportunities to do some things you might not have done yet, like getting to know certain professors better.
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!
If you’d like to confer with one of the Academic Engagement & Student Success team about a more individual bar readiness schedule for yourself, please feel free to make an appointment with one of us! We are available in January after New Year’s Day. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!
Bar results from the October 2020 bar exam administration have started coming in — congratulations to all of you who passed! You have shown great perseverance and resilience in what must be the worst bar study period in recent memory, and we’re so proud of you!
Best wishes for a happy, healthy holiday season!
Georgia’s Office of Bar Admissions has made the following announcement:
The Supreme Court of Georgia announced on November 9, 2020 that due to the continued threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has authorized the Board of Bar Examiners to administer a remote exam on February 23-24, 2021. Unlike the administration of the October 2020 remote exam, which included a limited number of questions, the February 2021 exam will be comprised of all components of a regular exam, including a 200-question Multistate Bar Examination, two Multistate Performance Test items, and four Georgia essay questions. The Georgia essay portion of the remote exam will be open book.
The regular application filing period for the February 2021 exam opens on November 10, 2020 and remains open until January 6, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. The dates for the late application filing period for the February 2021 exam have not been announced.
As we’ve been discussing for a while, if you plan to take the July bar exam in Georgia, you must first complete and clear the “character and fitness” process. Regular applications for clearance are due in Georgia by 4 pm on December 2; details are here: Certification of Fitness.
The Director of Bar Admissions, Ms. Heidi Faenza, held her usual annual meeting about this process with Emory Law students on September 9, on Zoom; it was recorded and Emory Law students can watch it here: September 9, 2020 meeting. You can also reach it via The Fourth Floor on Canvas.
The information will be helpful even if you plan to take the bar in another state, as character and fitness review processes mostly seek the same kinds of information. You can start gathering the information you will need (past employers, addresses, etc.) now. It takes longer than you think it will!
If you plan to take the bar in a different state, each state’s rules and deadlines are different. Look up yours at www.ncbex.org, the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, where you will find links to each state’s bar jurisdiction website as well as information about registering for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”) which most states require in addition to their bar exam. Remember that the only official information about a jurisdiction’s rules and deadlines comes from the jurisdiction itself; always check the official bar admissions website to make sure any information you’ve gotten elsewhere is accurate and up-to-date.
I recommend, again, that you read the book “Pass the Bar!”, by Profs. Riebe and Schwartz, between now and the start of classes. It includes really helpful “action plan checklists” that start with the period 6-12 months before your commercial bar review course starts, which is now if you plan to start such a course in May 2021, for the July 2021 bar exam. The book was written before some of the changes in the MBE in recent years (e.g., it says there are 6 MBE subjects and there are now 7), and it doesn’t address any pandemic-related changes made in 2020, but in every other respect, it is one of the best independent guides to passing the bar on your first attempt that I know, and a great supplement to the guidance you’ll get from your commercial bar review course (which I hope you’ve chosen and enrolled in by now).
The book walks you through the many things you can do, throughout your 3L year, to improve your odds on the bar exam. Every one of you can pass the bar first time, but it takes advance planning and this will help. It also discusses individual risk factors any student might have, that could affect that student’s bar passage; others are described here: Bar Exam Risk Factors. Specific solutions to address each of those are listed in “Pass The Bar!”; if you feel any of them apply to you, please schedule an individual advising appointment with one of the OAESS team.
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.
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.
One week from now, your 2020 remote bar exam ordeal will be over in Georgia and in most states. Remember to double-check the instructions you have from your bar jurisdiction, including the deadline to download the exam files (10/1 at 4pm for Georgia). You’re in the last stretch of this marathon. You can do this. You can pass the bar. You don’t have to ace it, just pass it. Your law school is rooting for you and we wish you the very best.