Ray A. Johnson, Esq., L’98 (Virginia)
The greatest encouragement I found to be successful in passing the bar was to look at all of the lawyers I know and realizing that (a) they are no smarter than I am, and (b) if THEY can do it, I KNOW I can!
I was not successful the first time I took the Virginia Bar (missed it by two points), but I learned and realized that if I focus and re-dedicate myself to be successful I will pass. For the ten weeks leading up to the bar examination, I set up a schedule. Just like a full time job, I was at the library (or in the Bar Prep class) when the library opened at 9:00 am and studied multistate questions all morning without getting up until noon. Took one hour lunch, and spent the afternoon until 5 - 6 pm alternating between outlining course material and writing essays. With one hour for dinner, I remained in the library EVERY NIGHT (excluding Fridays for a sanity break) until it closed at midnight writing essays, outlining and taking mutlistate questions. I tried to take as few breaks as possible and reducing any breaks that I did take as I got closer to the week of the actual exam. This was my PHYSICAL CONDITIONING to be able to sit down for an extended period of time and keep my concentration throughout. You need to not only build your mental concentration up to endure three straight hours of examination, but you must also condition the seat of your pants and the rest of your body to be able to endure sitting for such an extended period of time while maintaining your concentration.
BAR PREP COURSES
You must invest BOTH the time and money to take both a multistate preparation course (such as PMBR) and a state specific bar preparation course (such as BARBRI). Taking both of these will provide test taking tips, provide the more important subject matter you should concentrate on, allow you to “hear” the subjects, “read” the subjects, and “practice” with them. I was amazingly surprised (especially with the multistate subjects) that by doing the practice questions provided by PMBR I learned ALOT of new subject material that I did not get while in law school. You want to maximize your ability to pass the bar, and if you know anything about finance, this investment of time and money in both of the bar prep courses, will yield you a tremendous rate of return (to successfully pass).
PRACTICE AND COMMITMENT
You will learn that the greatest commitment you can make toward being successful in passing the bar examination is to practice both the essays and the multistate questions over and over and over and over again. I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the actual bar exam questions for Virginia came directly from the BARBRI essay practice exam book. Therefore, I STRONGLY encourage you to (at a minimum) to outline EVERY question in the essay practice book, and to write out completely at least one or two essays from different subject matters EVERYDAY! You too will be surprised that if you have at least looked, studied and outlined every question in the essay practice book, you WILL see an exact same question on the actual bar exam again (“with the names changed to protect the innocent”).
In writing out the essays completely, if you can get someone that is barred in the state you are examing for to review your essays and work with you, it will help you program yourself to stay within the essay pattern recommended for your state (“IRAC”; “CIRAC”; etc.) Also an “outside view” may spot some weakness you may have that you may not be able to see yourself.
Lastly, in writing out the essays, take a couple of days (as you get closer to the actual exam date) to do three to four essays in a row and in one sitting. Timing is VERY IMPORTANT to know when to move from one essay question onto the next without tying too much of your time on one question and getting stuck. I am sure the bar prep class will tell you the approximate time you should spend on each essay. STICK TO THE TIMING AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE! Outline every question including those you write out completely because it will help you with your flow of thought as you IRAC (or CIRAC). Include your time for outlining in your time for writing the question, and again, stick to the limit. With practice you will find that you are able to put down a complete coherent thought in the allotted time and move on to next question with confidence and no hesitation. THAT IS THE GOAL!
- Never say never, YOU CAN DO IT!
- Studying for the bar is a FULL TIME JOB (treat it as such with overtime).
- Take care of yourself and give yourself a scheduled break for sanity reasons.
- Focus and forget outside distractions as much as you are able to.
- Eat right, exercise, get a good amount of rest (especially the night before the exam).
- And for me, once you are at your hotel for the actual bar exam do not study anymore! If you have spent the last ten weeks working hard to prepare yourself for this day, you are ready and able to pass the exam. If you didn’t put in the time and effort, it’s too late to make up for that the night before the exam.