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The last lesson you learn in law school: The Bar Exam

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Bar Exam Failure

“Nothing that worthwhile is easy. Remember that.” – Nicholas Sparks

A number of my friends and colleagues received their bar results from the spring bar in May. There were success stories, and there were failures. It is always hard as a person who passed the bar to console a person who doesn’t, because sometimes, I feel if I got lucky when I passed. But I know for me it was not luck. I worked hard, but I had no choice.

Anyhoo, a few days after that, I ran into a 3L at University of Texas (I live in Austin) and discussed her upcoming bar prep, and she was very blasé about it because she had done very well in law school, and was not concerned about the bar. So of course, I felt compelled to write a post about it.

(Disclaimer: This was not the post I was supposed to write, so if you’re reading this, it might just be meant for you, because they posted it. #divineinspiration) 

So I didn’t do exceptional in law school, but I obviously passed all of my classes. For me, there were times I studied as hard as I physically possibly could and the exam did not care about my hard work. It was like nope, you lose. Other times, I did not give the proper time and attention, but maybe I grasped the concepts better (who knows, not me) and I was blessed with a B+. Therefore, you can imagine, I never fully grasped the method that worked best in school. But let me tell you, that fact didn’t matter when I finished law school and it was time to study for the bar. It was and is a different beast. It isn’t necessarily harder, just different.

The best piece of advice I received before the bar: “Bar Prep is a Marathon. Not a Sprint”

But I have altered that advice, to go a little something like this: “Bar Prep is a Marathon. A Marathon of Sprints, so go hard from beginning to end, it’s only 2 1/2 monthish of your life”

I say this not to scare you, but the reality is if you study and work hard, and are in law school, you can pass the bar, no matter how you did in law school. But remember if you did really well in law school, you can fail too.

The class before us had a couple of law students who were very good students and were even accepted onto our school’s law journal and they failed. People who did exponentially better than me. Now, people fail for different reasons. Sometimes the stress is truly overwhelming and distracting. Sometimes students study the exact way they did for law school exams and suddenly it wasn’t good enough. Either way, after seeing people near and dear to our hearts fail, my law class had one of the highest percentages at our school, because we were scared. None of us wanted to be that “person” who had a job and failed.

Remember if you did really well in law school, you can fail too.

I for sure was scared. So what did I do?

I evaluated my studying habits, talked to a couple of different people about their strategies and approaches, and then I laid out a study plan. This included knowing that I didn’t need to go into a class, because I love people and would be distracted. I needed to focus. (This included me staying with a family member and not in my hometown, but I am sure you don’t need to take that precaution)

But I do want to share my simple studying concoction:

  • Resources: Kaplan Foundation Prep ( This really assisted in reducing the stress of bar prep to be honest), BarBri Bar Review Course, Supplemental Practice Exams and Questions.
  • I studied 6 days a week, and took every Saturday off (the last 3 weeks, I would take one MBE test on Saturday night)
  • Sunday through Friday, I studied the material and watched courses from 8 a.m. until noon (and then ate lunch and watched an episode of “Murder, She Wrote”). I finished any remaining materials, worked on flashcards or outlines from 1 to 5 p.m. (then ate dinner and watched an episode of “Murder, She Wrote”)
  • After dinner it was test, test, and test – then off to bed.

Wash and repeat. And I am serious about watching “Murder, She Wrote.” I watched at least two episodes (sometimes three if it was a two-parter or if I need to rest my mind after a day of studying). Jessica Fletcher has the best analytical skills of any TV character in history of mankind and it help me past the bar. Okay, maybe not really. And as the 2½ months passed, I did make adjustments. I focused less on outlining – and made more flash cards and took more practice exams.

I don’t believe there is a best way to study, but as with anything, you have to be intentional and you have to make a plan. I have shared this advice with any law student that asks, and I believe that people feel free to ask me, because I was in the percentile that is most likely to fail. But I didn’t.

If you’re reading this post, you probably have read a number of other articles, and all of the advice might have started to run into each other, but I promise that it will be over before you know it.

Take it seriously.

Take a break along the way.

Whatever happens from it, trust me, you will grow.

Note for bar-preppers: Visit the ABA’s Bar Prep Program page for exclusive discounts and content from top bar review providers such as Kaplan, Themis, and Quimbee. 

$300 off Quimbee Bar Review (UBE)
$100 off Quimbee MBE Review
» Learn more about Quimbee discounts

Additional $100 discount on Themis Bar Review
Access to the Themis Achievement Package
» Learn more about Themis discounts

$100 off Kaplan Bar Review
$250 off PMBR Supplemental Course
» Learn more about Kaplan discounts

Jackie Monroe Jackie-Monroe currently lives in Austin, Texas and has her hands in a number of things. She currently works in external relations and community engagement for a state agency. Her blog is Missing / Perspective and she is the blog manager for Alibi X, a non-profit, at www.alibix.co/blog/.