Dear students: the bar information session with Georgia bar officials that was scheduled for Monday, March 16, is cancelled due to university-wide changes because of COVID-19 (more information HERE). We are in the process of revising our planned Spring semester bar readiness programming for delivery online; we will provide details as soon as we can. Please make sure to read the weekly On The Docket, which will resume on Monday, March 16, and all Emory emails.
Meanwhile, if you are graduating in May and plan to take a bar exam in July 2020, you can make great use of this extra week of spring break to get ahead on your individual bar readiness. Please remember that getting or keeping job opportunities in the legal profession depends on your taking and passing the bar exam as soon as possible after graduation, so everything you can do right now to focus on bar readiness, including using the extra week out of class, will directly improve your options and your chances for success.
If you don’t already have a copy of the book “Pass The Bar!“, I highly recommend it. Although it was published before some changes to the MBE, it is still the most useful single-volume guide I have found to supplement your commercial bar review course. It has “action checklists” for different timeframes leading up to the exam itself; Checklists 1 and 2 are now relevant to the July bar. The biggest changes in the MBE, not reflected in the book, are the addition of Civil Procedure to the MBE subjects and the increase in the number of experimental questions to 25. Otherwise, the advice in the book is very sound.
If your commercial bar review course is making “early start” materials available by now, I strongly advise you to work on those during the extra break. If you haven’t yet signed up for a bar review course, you should do that right away, even if you’re not sure what state you’ll work in after you graduate. Most courses will let you switch states if you need to. Remember that more than half of all state jurisdictions now use the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) which gives you a portable score. For details, go to www.ncbex.org, where you can find general and jurisdiction-specific information.
Stay well, and stay tuned for more information about this spring’s bar readiness programming!
Dear Class of 2020: Congratulations on finishing the fall semester! As you look ahead to the rest of your time here, you will have much to celebrate even before graduation. Don’t forget to use this time also to make sure you are ready to make the most out of your commercial bar review course after graduation. There is much you can and should do NOW to improve your bar readiness and your chances of first-time success on the bar exam in July!
First, check to make sure you are aware and on top of all bar-related deadlines and requirements for the bar exam in the state where you plan to take it. Each state has its own rules and processes, even if they use some of the same tests, and the state bar admissions offices put the burden on you to know, understand, and follow their particular requirements. A good place to start is www.ncbex.org, the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, but always check directly on the state bar’s own website in case of any changes. You will also find on the state bar’s website information about the subjects that state can test, what kind of performance test it may give, whether there is an additional component that you take separately from the bar exam (e.g., the MPRE, or the online New York law course), and even past essay questions and sample answers. If you plan to seek exam accommodations, start that process now, it can take a long time.
Second, I highly recommend the book “Pass The Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz. Although it was published before a few changes in the MBE, so you have to update the information about what subjects are tested and how many questions are experimental, for instance, it remains the best comprehensive guide and planning tool I have found, including especially its “Action Plan Checklists.” Also, subscribe to or come back to check out our blog, “Emory Law Bar Readiness” (link is on the Office of Academic Engagement pages on the law school website, www.law.emory.edu); it contains a lot of useful information as well as links to additional resources.
Third, now is the time to confirm your choice of a commercial bar review course, if you haven’t done that already. You should have that in place by the end of your fall semester. This will allow you to start getting familiar with the course materials and figuring out where your individual weaknesses might be, with plenty of time to remedy any gaps in your recall or understanding of bar-tested subjects. You can add bar-tested subjects to your schedule during the drop/add period in the first week of classes in January, if you think that’s necessary.
Fourth, start NOW to plan ahead for your post-graduation study period. Assess your own readiness in a systematic way, and plan to take the MBE diagnostic tests and overview workshops we will offer in the spring semester. Assess candidly whether you have any particular risk factors (a chart of risks and how to remedy them is available outside the Office of Academic Engagement). Plan how you will use the time between now and July to address those. Make a plan to handle your time, finances, and other needs during the bar study period (May through end of July).
We look forward to working with you on your readiness to take and conquer the bar exam next summer! Best wishes for your holiday season – Dean Brokaw
Six weeks from today, most of you will be almost through your first day of the bar exam. Now is a great time to reassess your bar preparation plan and make any adjustments. If you haven’t yet established a productive daily routine, you should do that this week. You should treat bar study as a fulltime job if you aren’t working: getting up every morning at the time you will need to get up on the actual exam days, attending class (in person if that is an option, to reduce distractions), practicing good self-care, studying new material and reviewing older materials daily, keeping up with bar course assignments, and doing practice questions.
For most of this work, you should try to work in 60-90 minute blocs of time, then take a 5-10 minute break; human brains struggle to stay mentally focused for longer than 60-90 minutes at a time. Track your progress by using your bar course’s system to log your work; keeping up will help you stay motivated and on track. I recommend staying comfortably ahead of your cohort’s completion statistics, as those include people who have stopped studying and/or don’t plan to take the bar, so they pull down the averages.
Speaking of practice questions, some bar experts believe you should aim for doing AT LEAST 2000 practice MBE questions by the end of bar preparation. If you did the diagnostic workshops we held in February, you did 100 practice MBE questions in each workshop, and those count as long as you assessed your performance on them. Add up how many you’ve already done by now, and figure out how many more you need to do to reach 2000 by the weekend before the bar, then divide that up by how many days you have left and assign yourself that number to do every day, using all the resources of your commercial bar course and other supplements you may have. If your course offers spaced-repetition exercises or practice questions, that is an effective learning technique.
Profs. Riebe and Schwarz recommend doing MBE practice questions in sets of 34 per session, as that is how many you should ultimately be able to do in one hour on the real exam (100 questions per 3-hour session, morning and afternoon). One approach when you’re practicing is to start by seeing how long it takes you to finish 34 with a high level of accuracy; it will likely be more than one hour! Work on balancing accuracy, timing, and endurance, and develop a rhythm by daily practice. The goal is to work up to finishing 34 practice questions in one hour with a high percentage of correct answers. “High” is anything above 65-70%.
If you’re still reinforcing your knowledge of substantive law in some subjects, it’s fine to do your 34-question sets in one subject for now. After you do them, review both correct and incorrect answers to understand why each is right or wrong. As your recall and knowledge get stronger, you must shift toward doing mixed-subject practice sets. For instance, if you’re able to finish 34 practice questions in a single subject, in one hour, with 65% or more correct, you’re definitely ready for mixed question sets (you may be ready sooner). Don’t panic if your accuracy drops quite a bit when you go from single-subject sets to mixed-subject sets — it will! Pushing through that stage and persisting is where a lot of learning occurs. Keep doing the mixed sets, those are what you will see on the bar itself, and you WILL get better.
If you’ve persisted this far and you’re still reading, here is your reward: Happy Tails volunteers and their lovely dogs return to the law school tomorrow, Wednesday, June 19, to offer some puppy love and pet therapy. They’ll be in the Law Student Commons from 12:30-1:30 pm, so please join us! Doing something rewarding for yourself at the end of every productive day should also become part of your routine. You can do this!
Dear bar studiers: Happy Friday! Bethany Barclay-Adeniyi, who graduated last year, has kindly written down specifics of what helped her most to pass the Georgia bar exam in February. Bethany took BARBRI and supplemented the course as below. Here are her thoughts:
Below are a few things that really helped me during the bar prep process:
Mental Focus, First and Foremost
Without peace of mind, bar prep will go in vain. Without a stress-free environment that allows you to focus and retain information, bar prep will go in vain. Getting your mind in the right place, and keeping it there throughout the study process, is key to success. Whether it be prayer, exercising, or some other form of stress relief or means of staying encouraged, finding ways to stay motivated, at peace with yourself, and focused are key to bar prep success.
Consistent MBE practice
I tried to maintain 32 MBE practice questions per day. Given my work schedule, some days I could only get through 10 or 15 questions, and then I would make up for the remaining amounts on the weekend. When I took my leave from work solely to study, I upped my MBE practice to 50 questions per day – 1 set of 25 in the morning, and one in the afternoon.
(I realize this may be a large amount for students going through the BARBRI course for the first time, especially in the first month given the lectures can be time-consuming. I do wish, though, that I had incorporated more MBE questions in lieu of some of the BARBRI AMP questions. While helpful in learning the black letter law, AMP questions are simply not formatted like true MBE questions).
Adaptibar helped me greatly as well. Not only did it help me break up the monotony of study days, but it allowed me to track which areas I consistently got questions wrong in so I could target those topics more. While a good way to “switch it up” and keep my brain engaged, there is no substitute for putting a pencil to paper and marking up actual questions, given this is what happens on exam day
Reading the explanatory answers helped because they are structured like a well-written essay question (for the most part). So MBE practice helped in all areas of preparing for the exam because it helped me learn law that is potentially also tested on the essay portion of the exam.
Prioritized mastering the GA essay topics based upon which were tested more frequently, but also making sure I did not neglect any one subject.
It is key to prioritize which subjects are tested more frequently (in general), but I didn’t spend a ton of time tracking which essay questions had been tested each year, etc. I know some people get a little too caught up, in my opinion, with trying to predict which essay questions will be tested based upon previous statistics. I found it more helpful to not waste energy poring over what I thought would be tested, but rather spend time learning enough information about each subject so that I would be prepared to write a well-formulated essay no matter the topic.
i. For example, I think Professor Freer’s BARBRI “go-by” he provides about how many times essay topics have been tested in previous years is enough to prioritize a study strategy for essay topics. I personally did not look at another source, and was able to divide my time efficiently between subjects.
When practicing essays I also kept in mind that generally each fact was in an essay question for a reason. So even on exam day, I kept that thought in mind and the facts helped jog my memory about what legal concept was being tested.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Consistent practice of MBE questions, essays, and MPTs
i. I didn’t neglect MPTs, and followed the “Pass the Bar!” book’s suggestion of doing 1 MPT per week, and 2 essays per week. Some weeks I did more depending on how secure I felt with my performance.
Timed Performance: I started off doing a few essays and a MPT untimed. However, after that I did timed performance. I found timed performance to be invaluable because I was able to get a more accurate picture of the work product I can produce while under pressure/my MBE performance (exactly what will be happening on exam day).
Sidenote: I broke out the MBE practice as its own section above because I think people underestimate the importance of the MBE in general. I also think I did not realize how important it is to practice those MBE questions religiously because, when I did, I started seeing patterns, common distractors, and my performance improved drastically. On exam day, I was in a rhythm when it came to MBE questions. It greatly helped, given you are also dealing with anxiety and nervousness on the day of the exam, to have my mind already trained and familiar with the rhythm and pace to take when doing MBE questions.
Picture yourself succeeding
As someone told me, and what I often got tired of hearing to be quite honest, was that bar prep is a marathon and not a sprint. While cliché, it is absolutely true! You have to pace yourself and take it one day at a time. Each day, it is important to imagine yourself succeeding, and picture yourself crushing that exam. I even went so far as to picture myself sitting in the exam room, sitting at a table while doing MBE questions, practice essays, or practice MPTs (for those who don’t know what the exam room looks like, a picture is online on the GA bar admissions website). Keeping my end goal in mind was key.
Thanks, Bethany, for sharing your words of advice and encouragement!
Welcome back to all Emory Law students, but a special welcome back to you who will be taking a bar exam soon! We have a busy schedule of programs every spring semester to help you get ready to get the most out of the commercial bar review courses you will likely take after graduation, so please look out for announcements in On The Docket and in flyers on the electronic bulletin boards. You can also subscribe to this blog to get an email when there is a new post.
We will kick off our annual spring semester series of in-house “bar readiness” programs in late January, but you should take some steps now, before our first program (which will be on January 28, at lunchtime). That will be a Q&A session with Jennie Geada Fernandez about the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, or MPRE. We will then start a series of “MBE Overview” sessions, led by our own faculty, with Prof. Rich Freer walking you through the topics that can be tested under Civil Procedure, on 1/30, during the community hour. Save the dates! And watch On The Docket for details about location, etc.
1) Inform yourself about the requirements and testing for admission to the bar where you hope to be admitted. Every state has its own bar admissions rules and office, and you MUST comply with that state’s requirements. You can view them in detail at the website for the National Conference of Bar Examiners, www.ncbex.org. We strongly advise you to bookmark that site, as well as the official bar admissions site for your chosen jurisdiction. If there is any contradiction between the information provided, it is the state’s official bar admissions website and rules that will supersede any other guidance, so you need to read those carefully. NCBEX writes and scores tests such as the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”), the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”), the Multistate Essay Exam (“MEE”), and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”). The last, the MPRE, is given three times a year, separately from the rest of the “bar exam.” Not all states administer all three standardized tests that are given together (the MBE, the MPT, and the MEE). For instance, the state of Georgia writes and grades its own state-specific essay questions, instead of the MEE. States that DO give all three standardized components are giving a “Uniform Bar Exam”, or UBE. You should educate yourself about that at the NCBEX website.
2) We recommend the book “Pass the Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz. Although some of its information is out of date, such as the exact coverage and breakdown of the MBE, it remains one of the most useful bar readiness books available, since it includes action checklists and various charts to help you keep track of what you are doing to prepare, in addition to sensible, humane, time-tested advice for success on the bar exam. You can see a copy in the law library if you want to take a look at it before you decide whether to get your own copy.
3) The law school will provide at least two MBE Workshops this spring, at no added cost to you. The first one will be on February 9, from 10 am – 4 pm, and will be given by Kaplan. Watch On The Docket for more details and information about how to sign up. These workshops involve you doing a number of practice MBE questions, and then a professional bar lecturer explaining those questions and answers, and the strategies for doing well on the MBE.
4) If you haven’t yet signed up with a commercial bar review course, you should get that done before the end of this month. We don’t endorse any course over another and we suggest that you use the tools in “Pass the Bar!” to make an individual assessment as to which course is right for you. However, NOT taking a strong commercial bar review course is a known risk factor for failing the bar on the first attempt, and no one wants that to happen to you. Find the course you want, and sign up for it now! Most will offer you some “early start” materials, and working on those between now and May will likely reduce the time pressure and resulting stress you may feel during the intensive bar study period after graduation.
5) Plan a “bar vacation” for AFTER the bar exam! It’s fine to take a short week off after graduation before your commercial course class sessions start, but save the long vacations for August, after you’ve taken the bar. Your fulltime job between graduation and the end of July is to prepare for, take, and pass the bar exam. You’ll enjoy your vacation so much more once that is over!
Again, welcome back, and happy 2019! We look forward to helping you get ready for graduation and the bar exam.
Two weeks from today, right now, you will have finished your first morning of the bar exam! And if you are taking the bar in Georgia, you will be eating the lunch that Emory Law provides at the bar exam site, with your classmates and a number of law school faculty and staff who will come to cheer you on.
But between then and now, you have thirteen days of study left. Remember that marathoners often say that it’s the last leg of the race that is the hardest, and studying for the bar is no exception. You may feel burned out by now, or at least disengaged. That is normal but — like a marathoner — you have to push through the fatigue and keep doing your best until you cross that finish line. Here are some suggestions that may help, based on good advice from Prof. Steven Foster:
Take a break this weekend, at least a half-day completely off from bar study. You need to take it so that your brain can digest all the studying you’ve been doing and catch up.
Remember to study without distractions, and choose to do practice questions ahead of passively watching more video lectures or reading more outlines. “Multi-tasking” is a cruel myth when it comes to studying intensively and effectively — it doesn’t work. Put your phone on “do not disturb”, silence notifications on your laptop, shut yourself off from social media for prescribed periods of time, using an app like RescueTime or something similar. When you study, focus only on studying.
Take a short, ten-minute study break every 45 minutes to an hour. Doing one thing for too long gets boring and retention decreases. Get up, stretch, move around. When you resume studying, switch between study methods and/or subjects. The change will help your brain keep learning and retaining information. Use active study methods, such as handwriting your own flashcards and then using them, maybe even out loud.
In these last weeks, focus on memorizing the law and practicing questions. You will review each subject 2-3 times in the last couple of weeks before the exam. Test your recollection of as much black-letter law as possible (flashcards or MBE practice questions), study to fill gaps in your memory, and then do practice essay questions, writing out some full answers. You can also do “half-practice” essay questions, i.e. practice your active reading skills on long essay questions and outline what your answer would be, even if you don’t write out a full answer for all questions. You should do the same exercise as practice on some MPT questions. Keep drilling yourself with practice MBE questions to increase your score between now and the exam. You want to peak on exam day, so continue to push improvement right up to the exam day.
Last call to establish good sleep habits! If you have been staying up late to study, and getting up late in the morning, STOP! You will take this exam in the morning. You need to train your brain to be alert and ready to get to work in the morning by the same time you will start the bar exam. Start going to bed earlier and getting up at the same time you will have to get up on actual exam days, allowing for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Finally, remember that you can do this! The bar exam is hard, but you have an Emory JD, which is a huge accomplishment. Tell yourself every morning, “I will pass the bar in 2 weeks!”
If you own the book “Pass the Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz, look at their “action checklist” for this stage of bar preparation; it has excellent suggestions too. Stay engaged — you’re almost there!
Dear Emory Law graduates: first and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS! You made it! You earned the law degree in which you have invested so much effort, expense, and time. That is a wonderful achievement and I hope you take some time to savor it.
Second (of course), if you plan to use that degree to enter the legal profession, as the great majority of you do, you must take and pass the dreaded bar exam. Fear not! You can do it. But like your degree, it will require effort, some expense, and time. You don’t have to reinvent strategies for success on the bar exam, either. There are many excellent sources of guidance by people like academic support staff who have been coaching law students to succeed on the bar exam the first time they take it. And if you are taking a commercial bar review course, which we highly recommend (not taking one is a known risk factor for failing the bar first time), they will spend the next two months preparing you to pass.
Beware of bar-related advice from lawyers who are only drawing on their own anecdotal experiences with the bar exam. There have been a number of statistically significant changes to parts of the bar exam like the MBE in the last few years, so anyone who took it more than a year or two ago took an exam that may have been easier than the one you will face. Even excellent advice from knowledgeable sources must be viewed in light of those changes. For example, I often recommend Schwartz and Riebe’s book “Pass The Bar!”. It is an outstanding guide to first-time success on the bar exam and it includes action checklists for each stage of bar readiness. However, it was published before Civil Procedure was added to the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). So do use it, but remember that it won’t discuss that subject being on the MBE.
Because of the changes to the MBE in recent years, my best advice is to aim for overshooting the passing score in your jurisdiction. Those who aim only to meet a passing score often fall short. It’s just not worth it! As long as you don’t exhaust yourself, there is no harm in doing more preparation than you may think you need. Again, beware of lawyers who tell you not to bother studying too much. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t pass first time, but it’s not a pleasant experience and not one we want any of you to undergo. It can mean the end of a job offer you hoped to get, so underpreparing is not worth the risk.
The good news for Emory Law grads is that there is really no reason you can’t pass first time, as long as you prepare diligently and make full use of the next two months. You are very capable students, and the bar exam is not an aptitude test — it is all about well-managed, diligent study and practice, which are completely within your own control. If you will be studying here in the Emory Law library and building, the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will be hosting regular study breaks for you starting the week of May 21. Specifically, we are hosting a study break/bar review kick-off on Monday, May 21, with King of Pops and the King of Civil Procedure, Prof. Rich Freer, at 1 pm. Watch your Emory email and Facebook pages for details from me, Jennie Geada Fernandez 02L, and Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo! We’ll be here all summer, so you are also welcome to drop by for encouragement and coffee.
We’ll be sharing information periodically on this blog between now and the bar exam itself. For example, here is some great bar-related guidance (and post-bar guidance) from lawyer Paula Edgar, CEO of a speaking, executive coaching and diversity consulting firm in New York: Bar Exam and Beyond: 11 Strategies for Law School Graduate Success.
Once again, we are VERY proud of you and all that you have achieved. We look forward to cheering you on, toward and across the bar exam finish line!
Christen Morgan 16L published a great post last month 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 semester 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-Focused Academic Guidance. Some are behind tabs you will see if you scroll down the page a bit.
If you are wondering about course selection for the fall, you can also come to “Academic Advising in Practice” on Monday, March 26, during the Community Hour, when Jennie Geada Fernandez and I will give an overview and an introduction to resources and strategies for choosing courses, then follow up individually with one of us or with the relevant faculty members for additional guidance. See Monday’s On The Docket for details!
Prof. Steven Friedland, who has published books about bar readiness, has a great article in the current National Jurist: Using The “Four T’s” To Achieve Bar Exam Success. His advice is sound, especially what he says about staying actively engaged in your own learning process, and using active techniques to improve your learning and retention.
Spring break will be a great time to look again at “Pass The Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz, and see where you stand in terms of their pre-bar checklists, and the bar exam risk factors and remedies they identify. The spring semester will accelerate rapidly once you all return from spring break, and graduation will be upon you faster than you expect (yay!) — then your commercial bar review courses. Please use time to your advantage now, identifying areas that may be a challenge for you on the bar exam so you can address them sooner and more thoroughly, with less pressure.
Please remember that the Director of Bar Admissions for Georgia and one of the Board of Bar Examiners, both alumni of Emory Law, will be at the law school on Monday, March 19, at 12:15 to 1:45 pm. Usually the Bar Examiner asks students to review a specific past essay question in advance, so watch for an email about that and check On The Docket for any other details. You can find past Georgia bar essay and MPT questions, and select answers, here: Georgia Bar Essays and MPT Questions. A light lunch will be served but feel free to bring your own.
If you plan to take a bar exam in the coming year, including this summer, you should take some time now to assess yourself and what risk factors you may have that could put you at risk of not passing the bar on your first try. That sounds scary, but 1) there are many ways to address those risk factors, many students have done that successfully to beat the odds; and 2) you have plenty of time between now and the summer to address any risk factors if you start now.
The book I recommend that all students read, ideally starting in the summer after their 2L year, is “Pass the Bar!” by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz. Here is a chart for self-assessment based on their list of risk factors and solutions:
Take a few minutes to read it over and ask yourself if any apply to you — they DO apply even to Emory Law students — then keep reading to find out how to neutralize them! Look for and attend our ongoing programs this semester that will help you ease into bar readiness. And feel free to visit with Dean Brokaw or Jennie Geada Fernandez to discuss how you can optimize your chances of success, starting with the MBE diagnostic exams and workshops we will hold starting this Saturday. If you are a graduating student, check your email or On The Docket for info and a registration link. The bar exam is not an aptitude test; it is an ATTITUDE test — you achieve success based on the effort you invest. Sweat equity. And that’s good news, because success is within reach of you all if you make the right choices. We’re here to help.