Advice from a 2018 Grad: Essays Are Studying!

Published on: Author: Bar Passage Support

The Bar is what it is and we can debate its ability to assess us, but at the end of the day it’s the hurdle we all have to overcome to be called a lawyer.   Here are the things you can control to better your chances of overcoming the hurdle.

What you can do as a law student:

Stamina Building = Read Now

It’s important for law students to understand you need stamina to study every day for ten weeks to pass the Bar.  You get stamina by keeping up with your readings during 1L, 2L, and 3L.  Reading is like training for the marathon.  You can pass law school without doing readings, but the goal is to pass the Bar.  Keep your eye on the ball.

Choosing a Bar Prep Course: Do Research

As far as choosing a Bar company, it’s very personal.  I collected the free MPRE books during Fall Bar sweeps and used each when I studied for 2 weeks for the August MPRE.  I purchased the Bar program that I hated the least.  None is perfect.

Using your Bar Prep Course:

Do More

Do not rely on a Bar prep program alone to prep for the Bar.  I know, it’s expensive and you don’t want to sink more cash into it, but the truth is you’ll need to supplement your weaknesses.  For me, the essays were where I struggled.  I used Hastings BEST essay, attended essay workshops, and rented the Mary Basick Cal Bar Essays book from the library the last three weeks.  (All these were FREE)  At the end, I had 18 graded essays.  It was around essay #8 when it clicked.  Bar programs have about 3 graded essays.  I wouldn’t have gotten there without supplementing.

Essays ARE studying

My best advice is “Don’t be too busy studying to study.”  Value essay writing.  I had friends worried about catching up with their Bar program and they “didn’t have time” to practice essays with the Hastings’ workshop.  A lot of people think they can’t write essays until they have everything memorized.  Essays are tools to memorize, too.  Essays teach you rules, elements, organization, and analysis.  You’re studying the same material as an outline and more.

Early on in prep, take a sneak peak before writing the essay.  Review the essay topics the night before, work on memorizing the elements before bed, and then write the essay the next day.  Don’t try to memorize all of property if your essay is only on Landlord-Tenant relations.  Learn in chunks.

Find Your Pace

Do not rely on the Bar prep program’s pace.  My program showed the plan for the week in a pie chart (ex: 72 assignments) but then gave me 6 assignments for Monday and 14 for Saturday.  I did math then set my daily goal accordingly (ex: 10-11 assignments a day).  The algorithm won’t keep you on track because it doesn’t account for being human, so take ownership over your pace.

Study in Chunks

I studied for three chunks of 3-4hrs each day.  Burn out is real.  This was doable and you’re getting more out of three hour 3’s than you’ll get out of studying at any hour 7.

Mental Well-being:

It’s a rollercoaster

My Bar program had graphs of how we scored each week in each subject.  You’ll be at 80th percentile one week and 25th the next.  Don’t get too upset.  It’s a dynamic process and information sinks in then gets lost.  Keep at it without judging yourself.  It feels like you’re pushing information in one ear while last week’s lesson leaks out the other ear.  

Have a Social Life, but Limit it

Friends/family got one hour a week with a hard stop.  Only the people who center me were allowed.  Only the people who respected the time limit were allowed.  Everyone else was put on hold for ten weeks.  I still resent sacrificing 10 weeks of my life, not working, not socializing, not living, but was blessed by friends who waited.

Money, money, money

I planned financially for the Bar which gave me focus.  I prepared for the fees and course cost starting 1L.  I set aside money for May (graduation) through November’s (results) cost of living.  I came to law school with $1,500 to my name.  I had $18,000 saved up when I graduated.

It was not easy. I didn’t work my first three semesters and my 1L summer was unpaid.  I took summer classes so I could get cost of living loans.  I worked 2L winter break, 2L Spring, Summer, 3L Fall.  My monthly budget was $2200.  I basically saved all my work money and some of my cost of living loan money for the expected 6 months of unemployment.  During law school, I didn’t buy alcohol or coffee.  I made my own meals.  I lived with four roommates.  I did not take a post-Bar trip.  Not worrying about money freed me up to focus on the Bar.  This might not be your plan, but it is necessary to have a financial plan.

Best of Luck!!!

Melanie O’Day, Class of 2018