Dana D. Page, L’2003 (District of Columbia)
First, I was terrified of the multi-state because I am not good at this pick the Ďbest answerí type of multiple choice question. So on top of BarBri I took both the early and review PMBR, which I recommend (if you cannot afford both I would recommend the early bird course).
Second, because I spent my three years in law school taking classes that interested me but were not heavily tested on bar exams, there were several subjects I had to learn for the D.C. bar exam, including Commercial Paper, Agency and Partnership, Corporations, Conflicts of Laws. This turned out not to be a major problem for me because, as Professor Berry taught us, if you know how to learn the law, you can teach yourself any subject well enough to pass that subject on the bar exam.
Third, studying for and taking the bar exam is a marathon and should be treated like one! Picture your coach telling you (or more likely yelling at you) to work through the pain, that if you do it in practice you can do it competition, and that the event will be a breeze compared to practice. It is the same with the bar exam.
Taking a Page from Dana
It was very important for me to have a routine. Mine was to go to BarBri class, eat lunch, then go to the Law School to study in the same place everyday, surrounded by the same people working at least as hard as I was to achieve our common goal of passing the exam the first time. I would study until 7:00pm and then go swimming. Strenuous physical exercise is good for clearing a fatigued mind. During July I changed my routine to allow for more study time. I got up at 5:00am and swam with a different team until 7:00am. Then I went to class followed by intensive studying until 9pm. I forced myself to go to bed at 9pm every night because it is crucial that your body and mind get needed rest.
As for my studying regimen, I pretty much followed PMBRís recommendations and BarBri’s paced plan. I took the PMBR questions because they are harder than BarBriís. I did 50 questions and went over the answers EVERY day wtihout fail. The BarBri classes can be excruciatingly boring. Go anyway. Pay attention. Take notes; BarBri instructors have a knack for condensing a lot of information into a manageable amount. I also forced myself to write, or at least outline, three essays EVERY day. The essay format for DC is IRAC. Force yourself to use the format ó even if only outlining ó so it becomes habit. Do the essays for grading that BarBri offers. I found that in subjects where I had no clue about the law, I could get feedback based on my use of the proper format and I found out that my ability to make up law was pretty good.
As for making up law ó I took the Marino class in which he explains how to write essays. I would recommend either taking it or talking to someone that did whom you trust. Marino told us that where we did not know the law, to make up something reasonable and use the facts to support it. There were two issues on the bar that I had absolutely no idea what the law was so I used what I knew from other areas of the law to formulate a rule to apply to the facts. I didn’t anguish over it, I just moved on to the next question.
For me the multistate was the scary part so I practiced like crazy. The simulated exam that BarBri offers (and PMBR in the 3 day) is VERY helpful so treat it like the real thing. I ate a big sandwich for lunch and missed 15 in a row in the first hour after lunch. That taught me what NOT to eat. Also you will experience all the things about taking the bar that make you want to commit voluntary manslaughter (a killing mitigated by passion ó sorry bar humor). There will be people in the room coughing up their lungs, people talking to themselves, and persons doing whatever it is that most annoys you. In fact, that person will probably be sitting right next to you. There was a guy in the row in front of me who used a pen that lit up like a star wars laser. You will also have to train yourself not to be distracted by the exam proctors who have an annoying habit of looking over your shoulder and bumping into your table while you are trying to read and write.
The DC bar has two multi-state performance tests or MPTís, which are closed packet essays, and are an absolute gift to those of us from Howard because the Law School’s LRRW Program prepares us exceptionally well to excel on this type of legal skills-based, problem solving writing assignment. The MPT requires you to prepare a memorandum, brief, judicial opinion, or other legal writing based on a given fact pattern and a closed universe of legal authorities. If this sounds familiar that because it is just like the Tort Memorandum, Rule 11 Memorandum, and Motion Brief we were required to write in LRRW during our first year of law school. (I am thankful now that LRRW was required and that Professor Berry was my teacher!) I practiced the MPT often so that I was familiar with all of the possible formats ó you donít want to have to deal with figuring out how they want you to write the document when you are panicked. But if you have dealt with the various formats ahead of time you can just rack up points with these; in DC you can get your 266 points needed to pass from anywhere!
One warning. BarBri predicts what will be on the bar. They were wrong. We were told that there were certain subjects that are always on the bar and within those subjects there are certain areas of the law that are always tested. They were sort of right on the general subjects. For example, we had a civil procedure question ó but BarBri was absolutely wrong about the subject. We were told that there would be a jurisdiction question but there was not. There were, however, two issues that were among the list of subjects areas BarBri claimed are NEVER tested! It seemed to me that EVERYTHING BarBri and PMBR said would NEVER be on the exam was tested (it was as if the bar examiners were in those classes listening and planning)! So my advice is learn all the information BarBri gives you ó donít rely on what they suggest is not important. There were some things I added to my answers that were outside my BarBri knowledge and I knew from school.
Take a few breaks, but not a lot and schedule them in. Know you will have at least one emotional breakdown. Have it and move on. You should keep in mind that people who have not or are not studying for the bar donít understand what you are going through and donít want to hear your whining about how hard it is and that you are afraid you may not pass. They really donít understand. So it is better to save your whining for your comrades in the struggle to pass the bar but remember they donít want to hear much whining either.
A last note on breaks: I took a day off here and there to decompress. But only after I had spent many, many, many long days of studying with laser-beam concentration. Donít convince yourself youíve done enough if you know you havenít.
Good luck. I look forward to your admission to the District of Columbia Bar.