Jami I. Copeland, Esq., L’98 (California)
Below is my nine step method for studying, taking, and passing the California bar exam.
STEP ONE: After finals and before graduation I was able to take a week off prior to my bar preparation. I think that this was particularly useful in that it gave me the sense that I had a vacation and gave me a break after finals to get my mind adjusted for the study that was to come.
STEP TWO: I took a multi-state review class offered by PMBR. This class was useful for two reasons. First, it offered a technique for passing the multi-state portion of the exam. Second, it impressed upon me the significance of being successful on the multistate portion of the bar exam in California. In California, when the bar examiners read the essay portion of the exam they have the applicant’s multi-state score posted on the front of the exam. My thought upon hearing this was that it would be better for the bar examiner to see a passing score as opposed to a failing score. In addition, because the multi-state is the only objective portion of the exam its importance was emphasized often in class.
STEP THREE: I began BAR-BRI which is another review course. BAR-BRI helped me to get the substance of each area of law that I needed to know.
STEP FOUR: During the first week of the BAR-BRI review course, I purchased a big three month calender and charted exactly what I wanted to accomplish each day, as far as studying went. My usual study day consisted of the following: (1) I began about 9am. In the morning, before my afternoon BAR-BRI class I did at least one-hundred multi-state questions and reviewed the answers. In the beginning the timing was difficult but as days went on, my time on the multi-state questions significantly improved. (2) From about 1pm to 4pm I attended the BAR-BRI course. (3) I usually took a break for a couple of hours after BAR-BRI and just did nothing! (4) From about 7pm to 9pm (the time varied) I outlined four essays contained in the barbri essay book and reviewed them. Every third or fourth day of studying I did either one performance test or wrote out entirely two full essays. On the California bar exam there is also a practical portion referred to as the performance exam. The performance exam tests things like drafting research memos, jury instructions, closing arguments, etc. In my mind there was no real way to study for this, so I just practiced the samples that were contained in the books issued by BAR-BRI.
STEP FIVE: I am a flash cards person, so on the days where I had extra time I would write on flash cards the outline that the lecturer for BAR-BRI gave us on a particular day. This assisted me in memorizing all the law that I needed to know. CAVEAT: People warned me that there would not be time to create these flash cards and that it wasn’t important, but I think it helped me tremendously!
STEP SIX: On the California Bar Exam—I was warned that the examiners do not like the CIRAC form of answering essay exam questions. For some reason the graders do not read through the entire exam so as to understand that you are not being conclusory, consequently I limited my answers to the IRAC form of writing essay answers.
STEP SEVEN: The night before the exam and all through the exam I did not study anything. I felt that it would stress me out too much if I discovered something that I did not know or understand. I am a firm believer that if you have studied hard for three months there isn’t much you are going to learn in a night!
STEP EIGHT: Do not get discouraged. There were days where I just felt like it was too much! Don’t get discouraged! If you do not have a good study day just go back the next day and go hard!
STEP NINE: Make any necessary hotel reservations well in advance of the exam date because lots of people take the California bar exam and hotels fill up fast and early! Dasse Watts (L’98) and I stayed at a hotel room in Long Beach near the location of the exam. We agreed not to talk about the exam after each day. The last thing you want is anxiety through a three-day exam over something that happened the first day. In addition, waiting for the results is bad enough without thinking about what you did not include. This worked well for us!
Finally, although I followed the steps decribed above in preparation for the bar, the analytical training and writing techniques it took to pass were developed years ago at the Howard University School of Law. I was fortunate enough to have professors like Professor Berry who explained exactly the goal and purpose of legal writing and analysis. Consequently, the legal foundation established at Howard Law helped me a great deal during my preparation for the bar exam.
I hope this information helps. Don’t let the bar exam be a bar to your dreams. Good luck.