Perspective On The Bar Exam

We're only two weeks into the bar exam process, but I suspect many of you are feeling overwhelmed.  During the bar exam process, its easy to get tunnel vision and think nothing else matters.  In fact, the opposite of that is true and gaining perspective will ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.   

Today is a day to honor those that died in military service.  Take a moment to reflect. While the bar exam may at times feel like a life or death proposition, realize its not. Listen to actual life and death stories being told today.  In comparison to those stories, the bar exam is not only manageable, but also...easy.     

California Bar Outlines: How People Outline Incorrectly

Outlining in law school is different from outlining the bar exam.  Think about how you outlined in law school. You likely sat down at the end of the semester, went lecture by lecture, and shrunk your notes into a 10 page outline that you could memorize.  While this is perfectly fine in law school, there is a better way to outline for the bar exam.  

For those of you that have your BarBri essay book sitting next to you, open to the contracts section.  Skip reading the essay questions and read the first few paragraphs of the sample answers.  What do you notice? All contracts questions start exactly the same way.  

A big mistake is to outline the lectures in BarBri like you did in law school.  While studying for bar review, its better to outline the sample essays.  Not only will you have a better idea of what the bar examiners find important enough to test repeatedly, you will know exactly how to start each essay based on topic alone!

BarBri Practice Essays: Do Them! Do Them Now!

There is a small, but vocal group of BarBri alums that encourage current BarBri students to not turn in practice exams for grading.  The argument is BarBri purposely "fails" you and getting that "fail" is not worth the loss of confidence.  

I understand getting a failing grade can shake your confidence, but you're suppose to fail in BarBri.  Where else are you going to get feedback about your writing style, organization and reasoning? You can have all the knowledge, but without good writing style, organization and reasoning, you will fail the essay portions of the bar exam.  

Unless you pay for Essay Advantage, a numerical score is not given to you. You only receive a pass or a fail.  I failed every single practice exam.  Lets read some of the comments I received from my graders:
  • You failed because you failed to analyze 1st degree murder 
  • You failed because you did not adequately raise and analyze all issues, including relevance. 
  • Your analysis is too conclusory and insufficient. 
  • You need more thorough analysis, you tend to be very conclusory.  
  • Use headings!
  • You are disorganized. 
Only when you turn in several essays and fail all of them do you see a pattern.  I failed a lot of them because I didn't know the rule from memory.  This was a good realization and I was able to go back and focus my studying.  More importantly, I became painfully aware that my analysis was always weak and conclusory.  To remedy that I kept writing "because" after every statement I made.

The best way to improve your writing is to find the constants in your failed exams.  I can think of no better way to improve your essay writing than to fail every practice essay BarBri gives you.  

Its Memorial Day Weekend!

U.S. Nylon US Flag 3X5 ft - American Made - Embroidered Stars - SALE!Taking those MBE subject tests given in-class at BarBri are real humbling. For those of you scoring low, don't sweat it. I was getting less than half correct on each subject. I remember being a little intimidated hearing people score 80% correct on certain subjects. You're not competing against anyone, not even yourself.  These subject tests are to help guide your study.  Keep in mind, its not where you start, its where you finish!

Its Memorial Day weekend. Relax and go grill something!

Why Doing Well In Law School Has Nothing To Do With The Bar Exam

Revenge of the Nerds: The Atomic Wedgie Collection
In high school, I got mostly A's, took advanced placement classes and was an all-around nerd. I'd sit back in class, soak up the lecture and then regurgitate it onto a test.  

My sister was far more social, joined several student groups and was an A/B student.  She received good grades, but really had to work.  She studied to get A's and studied even harder to get B's.  

This academic hierarchy changed in college.  In college, my sister got A's and I was getting C's. Seeing her first report card was a real awakening for me.  It was at that moment that I realized everything that I learned in high school wasn't worth much in college.  

Similarly, people that did well in law school shouldn't think they will do well on the bar exam.  They are two completely different animals.  Don't think so? When was the last time you took a multiple choice exam in law school?  How often do you think you're going to make a policy argument on the bar exam? The answer for both is the same: never.  What's important in law school is how you come to an answer. On the bar exam, its if you can read quickly, have good comprehension, organize an argument and come to the correct conclusion in a short amount of time.

While I received better grades in high school, my sister gained something much more valuable.  She learned to study.  In the same regard, law school isn't a total waste of time because it teaches you how to study for the bar exam.  Law school teaches you how to handle stress, to work under pressure and to turn mountains of material into something more manageable.

So, if you were at the bottom of your law school class, don't worry, the bar exam is a level playing field.    

Study Groups: Don't Do It For The Bar Exam!

Gossip Girl: The Complete Third SeasonHas anyone ever joined a study group that actually studied instead of gossiping and complaining? I haven't. Here are 3 reasons why you should not join a study group while studying for the bar exam.  

1. You're not a therapist.  Groups members will complain about how bad the lecture was last week, how they didn't have time to study and their inevitable impending failure.  You will spend all your time reassuring your group members that they are strong enough to get through life and that they are not going to fail. All that time spent reassuring someone else, is less time you have study.

2.  You're the teacher. Study groups work best when all group members start at the same level of subject understanding.  This rarely, if ever, happens. If you understand many of the concepts already, you're wasting time teaching others.  While the teaching exercise can be useful to a certain extent, you don't have to time to teach those that don't teach themselves.  

3.  The material is clear. The purpose of a study group is to discuss issues that are unclear.  Confusion occurs in law school because professors present hypothetical after hypothetical without stating the clear black letter laws.  This does not occur in bar review.  The black letter laws that you need to know are clearly laid out for you in the lectures.  If you don't understand the subject, the bar review course gives you a mountain of resources to figure it out. It really is as easy as looking it up!

How To Spot Someone About To Fail The Bar Exam

Kaplan PMBR: Multistate Performance Test (MPT) (Kaplan PMBR Finals)"I know I'm a good writer, I got A's in my legal writing class." How many of you have heard someone say this? If you haven't yet, you will before bar review is over.  These are famous last words of someone that is going to fail.

There are two performance tests on the bar exam. These two essays account for 40% of your overall essay score. While this is the minority percentage of the combined essay score, examine it even closer.

Break the essay section down even further.  There are 6 state specific essays for 60% of your total essay score. Each essay has a weight of 10%.  Each performance exam accounts for 40% of the overall essay score, so each essay is worth 20% of the total score.

Now, think this through.  How likely is it you are going to know everything tested on the 6 essays? Not likely. How likely are you to know everything on the performance exam? You absolutely will! The performance exams are a closed universe and no outside knowledge is required.

The greatest opportunity to make up for lost points, is in the performance exams.  Every point gained in the performance exam is worth twice as much as the point gained in the state specific essays. So if your 10 points down, is it easier to find 10 points on the state specific essays, or 5 points on the performance tests?

People who say they are good writers think performance tests are only about writing, but there not. The performance exams also test your ability to follow directions, organize an argument and comprehend what you read quickly. Honing your skills on the performance tests are a must.  Not doing so is not only ill advised, but is cause for failure.

So the next time you hear someone say, "I know I'm a good writer, I got A's in my legal writing class," walk away knowing you are competing against one less person.

Do The Bartman When You Study

In 6th grade, we had to keep study journals as part of our study skills course. We had to write down each assignment in our journal and get it signed off by the teacher.  Oddly, this included having to get your journal signed off by the gym teacher.    

During gym class, my study journal remained in my gym bag.  After class, I would take my gym bag to my personal locker, grab my trapper keeper (tropical themed!) and head to reading class. I always forgot to pull my study journal out of my gym bag and take it to reading class with me.  

Ms. Hill was a scary teacher. She just looked gruff. So when she got frustrated with me for not having my study journal again, she told me pull out 4 sheets of paper and start writing, "I will not forget my study journal in my gym bag.  I thought she was kidding. She wasn't. I wrote that phrase 50 times and it worked. I didn't forget my study journal again and it was a lot more effective than writing my name on the board.  

Studying has become more and more passive.  We outline our subjects, print and read.  Passive studying is fine, its easier, but its more time consuming because of the time needed to drill and memorize.  Flashcards are a good idea, but again, passive learning.        

Because of the mountainous amount of material that has to be learned in limited amount of time, you don't have room for passive learning.  Important black letter laws must be actively learned.  Write and rewrite the "big" black letter laws.  The black letter laws of what is a contract, requirements for adverse possession, and the rule for hazardous and dangerous activity must be clear and ready when needed.  Handwrite these rules out over and over again until you are doing it from memory.  Not only will have these rules memorized, you will be studying less!

How Joining Team Coco Is Like Studying For The Bar Exam

I'm With Coco (Team Conan O'Brien, Face) TV Poster Print - 13" X 19"In high school, I would come home from school and go straight to bed.  I'd wake up a few hours later to eat dinner and watch The Late Show with David Letterman. I stayed with Dave until he did the Top Ten List, then change over to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in time for the monologue.  As soon as Jay finished the monologue, I'd leave to start my homework.

During that time in high school, I had a cousin working in New York. During one of our conversations, she excitedly told me about meeting Conan O'Brien.  The whole time she was telling the story, I kept wondering, "who the hell is Conan O'Brien?" I had no idea because I was always doing my homework. But, I was too embarrassed to stop and ask her because she was so excited.

The first time I watched Late Night with Conan O'Brien, I didn't enjoy it.  Conan didn't seem to have the confidence of Leno or the sarcasm of Letterman. I was confused by Conan having a sidekick and I didn't understand why the drummer was the band leader.

My cousin and I generally have the same type of humor.  We both enjoy the quirky, nerdy mid-western humor that we grew up with over the sarcastic New York or the catty Los Angeles humor. I trusted her sense of humor and kept watching the show. I'm now a dedicated member of Team Coco.

While studying for the bar exam, the people you choose to keep around you is very important. As my cousin's excitement affected me, your friends frustrations and nervousness will affect you. On the other hand, the people who give you strength and encouragement will motivate you to keep plodding forward. Its difficult enough just to get to the finish line.  You don't need anyone doing anything that may hold you back.  Make sure the people around you are positive and encouraging.  If their not, make arrangements to see them in August.

Avoiding Kirby Puckett, Being Al Newman

1985 Donruss Kirby Puckett Rookie Baseball Card #438 - Shipped In Protective Display Case!I grew up in a neighborhood that was full of kids my age. Getting a small game of baseball together wasn't too difficult.  And like kids are suppose to, each time we played we pretended to be our favorite player.  Once a player was chosen, no one else could be that player.

It was good to be a Minnesota Twins fan in the late eighties and early nineties. The Twins had two World Series Championships and Kirby Puckett was a fixture in center field.  He roamed center field, won gold gloves, and knew all the tricks to playing center field in the Metrodome.  As kids, we all wanted to be Kirby Puckett. Sometimes that ended our ballgame before the first pitch.

The times we were able to settle on different players, I was Al Newman.  Al Newman was not the superstar that Kirby Puckett was, but he was always in the game.  He was the utility player for the Twins and played second base, shortstop, third base and left field.  He was fast enough to be used in pinch running situations and was a good enough hitter to be used as a late inning batter.  Al didn't do anything great, but he could do a little bit of everything.

The bar exam is overwhelming because of the sheer amount of material your expected to learn.  Keep in mind, you don't need to be a superstar and  know everything in any one subject. You only need to know a little about a lot. Its perfectly acceptable to skip over certain topics. You can comfortably skip over the rules against perpetuities, sex crimes, and Shelley's rule.  Even if one of those topics does appear on the bar exam, how many questions could they actually ask?  As much as I love Kirby Puckett, when it comes to the bar exam, being Al Newman is better.

How To Make Criminal Law Your Strongest Subject By Studying Less

Casbah Tabouli, 6-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12)In law school, my criminal law professor only taught bar exam criminal law. We didn't study any theory or any criminal law statutes.  Her day job was as a public defender and she moonlighted at the law school to keep herself eating tabouli and other rabbit foods.

Like most public defenders, she was an entertaining presenter. To help us understand the nuances of each crime, not only did lecture, she would act the crimes out. She kicked down doors to illustrate a "breaking", tip-toed around the classroom to show "at night," and shouted "I'm going to kill you" at the top of her lungs to show intent.  

For every crime, I had a mental picture of my professor kicking, tip-toeing, shouting, running, plotting or some other element she illustrated to us in class. For this reason, criminal law was my strongest section on the bar exam, despite spending the least amount of time studying for it.  

Right around July 1st, you'll get tired of reading, outlining and staring at a computer.  When this happens, invite a fellow examinee over and act out the crimes. Not only will you get a mental image of each crime, you'll have a few laughs while you learn. 

What Days Do I Get To Leave BarBri Early? Find Out Here

Almost all classes will run between 3 hours and 3.25 hours  However, there are a couple days that differ in time. I'm assuming most of the professors will be the same as last year.

    Ferris Bueller's Day Off Bueller...Bueller... Edition (Special Collector's Edition)
  1. Agency and Partnership: This class will run less than 3 hours. This is the only day you will leave before 3 hours is up.  
  2. Torts: Each class will run closer to 3.5 hours. Long hypotheticals make for long class periods. 
  3. Remedies: This class will take the full 4 hours. The next class will be walking in before the Professor finishes lecturing. I highly recommend you skip the in-class lecture and use one of your on-line lectures. Remedies is painfully slow and with one of the least engaging professors. 
Keep sending your scanned essays and score sheets to  To those that already have, thank you for believing in this project.  I will give those who submitted essays first look once I complete the essay section.  For those looking for more information about this project, please visit the About This Blog page.  

Look Like A BarBri Insider With These 3 Tips

For those taking BarBri, welcome to the first day of hating your life! Some of you still have a week before you start, but you might as well work ahead and start hating yourself now. Yet, its exciting isn't it? Its like the first day of law school. You have new people to meet, new surroundings to navigate and a new challenge to overcome. Here are 3 tips to make your first day of BarBri successful.

1. Location, Location, Location. Get there early and get a seat. Just like law school, the seat you pick the first day, will likely be the seat you sit in for the semester. Law students are territorial, stake your claim early. 

2. Bring Your Lunch. You only have an hour to eat lunch and the local eateries are never ready for the onslaught of law students. The restaurants are always understaffed on the first day. If you forget or are to lazy to pack a lunch, during one of the breaks, call and order ahead for pick up. Weather permitting, eat outside. Its the only sun your going to get for the next 5 days. 

3. Location, Location, Location, Part II. Sitting in the seats directly up front and up the middle of the auditorium increases attention span. Therefore, the best seats in a BarBri are in the "T-zone", right? WRONG! The best seats in BarBri are the seats closest to the door, next to a bathroom. You have a 10 minute break after each hour. Do you want to spend 13 minutes of your 10 minute break waiting in line? For women, that wait time is even longer. A seat near the door assures you will be first in line for the bathroom and have all your lecture notes in order.

5 Ways To Overcome The Worst Thing About BarBri

BarBri typically has 3 options for classes each day. You can take the live version in the morning, the afternoon class where they play a tape of that mornings recording or the night class which is taped and may be on a different schedule than the earlier classes.  

Nearly everyone attends the morning class.  Parking is never an issue, but leaving the parking lot is a real problem.  Imagine 500 people trying to leave at the same time. You end up treating BarBri like a baseball game.  You either leave in the 7th inning to beat the traffic, or you stay for the whole ballgame and get a drink afterwards.  I kid you not, at the Los Angeles BarBri location, getting out of the parking lot has taken over an hour.  The first week is particularly bad since there are no afternoon or evening classes.  Here are some tips to avoid stress.  

1. If you're going to drive, try to carpool.  BarBri understands that the parking lot situation is a mess.  The two times I've taken BarBri, they've arranged for a carpool lot.  This is a huge time saver.  Ask about this on the first day of class.   

2. If you can bike, get there early.  BarBri seems to pick locations with law schools near by. That means there are several hundred students within biking distance and bike parking is at a premium.

3. If you can walk, walk.  With only one book to carry to class, this is your best choice if you live close to your BarBri location.  You don't have to worry about finding a spot for your bike or trying to get out of the parking lot.  If you have to drive, consider parking further out and walking in to avoid the rush out of the parking lot.

4. Eat lunch. Use this time to go get lunch with a friend or eat the lunch you packed. This is a perfect time to relax and enjoy a meal. If your a person that needs to unwind after a 4 hour lecture, sitting in a crowded parking lot will only make you more tense.   

5. Stay and study. BarBri typically ends early, so you will have approximately an hour before the next class begins.  Go over your notes or re-examine the parts of the lecture you didn't understand.  This time will be better spent studying than sniffing car fumes in the parking lot.  

3 Must Do's Before You Begin Bar Review

Congrats to those that passed! For those that didn't, tough luck but we'll get through it. 

If you are sitting for the July 2010 exam, you have two weeks until your bar review course begins.  Use these two weeks to make your next 3 months easier.  

1. Do your errands now. Whether taking your car in for an oil change, finding that dress for the wedding your attending or visiting the doctor, do it now. Maximizing the time you have to study and keeping a flexible schedule is key to minimizing your stress for the next 3 months. 

2. Spend time with your friends. Get all your non-law school friends together and go out on the town. For the next three months, you're going to be saying "I can't, I'm studying," to these people. Don't invite your law school friends. Over the next three months you're going to see more of those people than you care to.

3. Plan your meals.  Make a pan of lasagna, cut into squares and freeze for later. Find a slow-cooker recipe so food is ready when you get home. Or use a service like DineWise which will deliver meals to your door. Do this to avoid falling into the fast food trap.  Maintaining your health is a priority. You don't have time to be sick and unable to study. 

If anyone has any other good tips, please share!

If I Failed The California Bar Exam...

Strange, isn't it? For last three months you have been begging for this day to come. The day the bar results are to be released and you can escape bar purgatory! Now that its here, with your pride and ego at stake, another week of waiting wouldn't be so bad, eh?

I was very fortunate that I had a very supportive network while studying for the bar exam. I had a sister who got me a flexible part-time job. My cousin who was sending me gift cards from Virginia to help make ends meet. A friend back in Minnesota willing to stay up late and quiz me on my outlines. And a crew of other friends and family who gave me encouragement throughout the process. All of this support just made results day that much more terrifying.

Failure I can handle. I failed to learn how to play bridge. I failed a math class in college. I even failed to get an offer from a firm out of law school. However, my friends didn't know it was my goal to learn to play bridge, my family never saw my transcripts and it was a lousy economy coming out of law school, so not having an offer wasn't uncommon. So these failures, in one way or another, were private failures.

The California bar exam on the other hand is a public failure. They give you a two day head start before people can start downloading the pass list, but it is a public list. Not only are friends and family going to know, but employers, classmates, professors and, if your famous, the media. The bar examiners even make the list easily searchable to aid them in finding out about our failure. Jerks.

The day the results were to come out, I was sitting in LAX. As I waited for my flight to Minneapolis, I thought about what I would do if I failed the bar exam. I came to the conclusion that because it is a public failure, I had to own this failure. People were going to know and if I didn't bring it up, there would be a big elephant in the room. It would be awkward for me and the people that supported me. I didn't want that for them.

So while waiting for my plane, I wrote a text that said, "I didn't pass. Thanks for your support, I will call you tomorrow," and saved it as a draft. I took comfort in knowing how I was going to tell people I didn't make the cut. If I failed the California bar exam, this is how I was going to tell my friends and family. If you fail, how are you going to tell your friends and family? Take comfort in your process because 6 pm is still a long ways away.

Good Luck!

The Post That Freaked Me Out

I posted earlier about freaking out the night before the bar exam results came out. Of the things I read, it was this blog post from a man people call Grand Poobah, or GP for short. For those awaiting Friday's bar results, don't worry about reading the post, its specific to the July 2009 exam. GP went through what he wrote on each essay. Most of what he wrote, was not in my essay. That post was cause for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. After reading that post, I had to get out of my room and away from my computer. A 3 am stroll through the neighborhood did not help much.

I've followed his blog since I found it and enjoy his blog posts. He is now waiting for the results of his 6th California bar exam. Yet, his voice remains positive and determined. He is a far stronger person then I am. I think what I respect most about GP is his willingness to share his scores and failures with the world. Failure is embarrassing enough without thousands of people knowing and then, to insult to injury, try to give you advice on how they passed the exam. The blog is a positive place and I'm sure everyone intends to be helpful, but I'm not sure how I would handle the feeling of everyone passing the exam but me.

I highly recommend people read his blog. For those of you awaiting Friday's bar exam results...start reading it on Saturday.

Mailing of California Bar Exam Results

Just a reminder, the results of the California bar exam are mailed to you. You should receive the results within a week. The mailed results are the ones that count. Therefore, if there is a conflict between the online results versus the mailed results, the mailed results prevail.

Sample California Bar Exam Answers

The week before the bar exam results came out, I was a total wreck. During that week, I slept about 3 hours per night and was completely exhausted the night before the results. Guess how much sleep I got that night? Zero. None. Instead I stayed up all night and read everything I could about the exam. I read every sample answer, blog discussion and forum post I could find about what people wrote for each answer. This only made me stress out more since I was finding issues that I hadn't spotted or discussed.

To the lady that emailed me about freaking out after reading sample answers, stop it. STOP. IT. The people writing those sample answers are like the people writing BarBri sample answers - they have an infinite amount of time and an infinite amount of resources. Of course what they write is going to be better than yours. I think organizations who write sample bar answers try to freak out examinees on purpose so they will purchase their service should they not make the cut. For those that don't make the cut, you will look at the question you scored a 65 on realize, "this is all they wanted?" If you studied smart and put in the time, you'll pass. So quit torturing yourself.

I know all this is easier said then done. Try to find things to do that will tire yourself out. Go run 10 miles or chase your kids around at the park. Before you go to bed, visualize passing the bar exam!

The California Bar Exam Pass Page Looks Like This...

I was reading all4jds and saw that people were asking for what the pass page of the California bar exam looks like. Above is what it looks like. I removed my identifying information. Print this out and add your information if it helps you visualize passing.

I know the stresses you all are going through. I snapped at my roommate and called him an eco-terrorist because I didn't think he filled the dishwasher full enough. And that wasn't the worst thing I did. Needless to say, I had a lot of apologizing to do after the exam.

I think the bar exam was the first time my future was controlled by me, yet left me with a feeling of having a total lack of control. Its unlike anything I've ever experienced.

Bookmark this site so you can come back each day so you can visualize passing. If I can do anything else to help or if you have any other questions, leave a comment below. Also, please "like" this if you think its helpful.