I made a few good decisions during law school that helped me succeed on the bar exam on my first try. I reached out for help early and often, especially when it came to legal writing and analysis. My first year, I constantly asked for feedback even when I did well. After my first year I was a TA and that solidified my foundation. I think it would have been very hard to learn legal analysis during bar study.
Additionally, in law school I learned how I learn. I took all of the MBE courses for a grade. During these classes I learned that I memorize by writing my own flash cards and making up mnemonics. I have to draw mind maps, and rewrite outlines to understand how rules fit together. In rule based classes, it helps me to learn the number and name of the rule along with the substance. Many people learn differently, the key is knowing what works for you before you start studying for the bar.
During the summer before the bar exam, I removed myself from possible distractions and created a support system. I wrote a letter to my family and loved ones explaining that I wouldn’t be available very often, and then I went to a cabin on the coast for a few weeks to start studying. When I got back to the Bay Area, I moved into a classmate’s apartment. We set a strict schedule where we worked out in the morning, then worked in separate rooms for a while, and then at the same table in the afternoon. We quizzed each other at night, and went over doctrines that we didn’t understand. Plenty of days we fell off track, or found ourselves exhausted and useless – but it was crucial to have a partner in crime. We studied for finals in a similar manner, so essentially, I just mirrored what was effective in law school.
My study habits also mirrored my law school style. In addition to the prescribed activities I hand wrote flashcards, rewrote outlines, and outlined practice essays. If I was to do it over again, I would write out more full practice essays. The exam is an endurance activity and I didn’t feel prepared to handle that aspect of it the day of.
I had anxiety that made it hard to sleep and eat (great for my waist line, bad for learning). I went to therapy once a week, which helped me keep the weight of test in perspective (e.g., Michelle Obama needed two tries and she seems to have done just fine). Working out was the only way to calm my mind and it also cured my insomnia. Alas, some days nothing worked and I was incapable of learning more information. On these days, I took the day off and saw non-lawyer friends or binge watched TV.
I also participated in Hastings Bar mentor program. I spoke to my bar mentor once every week or two and relayed my recent scores, study habits, anxieties etc. He assured me when I was on the right track, and steered me in the right direction when I veered. Just having someone to tell me that it was going smoothly stopped me from giving up.
If you have questions for Christine, feel free to reach out to her via email at Cdoelling@cooley.com or connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/christine-doelling-32484a8?trk=hp-identity-photo.