Reiko E. Suber, L’2003 (Illinois)
Fright scared me into passing the Illinois bar … .
Before passing the bar, I had been lucky enough to secure a position at a large Chicago law firm. Each person that I spoke to at the firm kept repeating, “No one here ever fails the bar, so don’t worry about it.” Rather than allay my fears, this knowledge made me frantic. I thought to myself, “If I don’t pass I will not only lose my job, but validate their belief that Black people generally, and Howard graduates specifically, are inferior.”
I now realize that I was my own worst enemy, but this fear is what motivated me to dedicate my whole summer to studying for the bar.
Mental Preparation Even before I picked up a book, I began the rigorous process by mentally preparing for one of the most tedious tasks in life. From commencement until June 1st, I slept ridiculously late and partied incredibly hard, knowing that the sweet thrills of life would soon end. I stocked my refrigerator with tons of frozen foods because I knew wouldn’t have time to shop. I warned my family and my friends that I would not be able to spend time with them. Then, I hunkered down for a long summer.
I began by asking attorneys what they had done to prepare for the examination. Although I first took their words as law, I eventually learned how to listen to what they did, and then to tailor it to my own needs. For instance, I was told that it was very important to have a routine. For the first two weeks in June mine was to wake up at 8am, study until 11am, attend bar class, take a break to watch the Golden Girls and eat, study until midnight, and then go to bed. I chose to do it this way because that seemed to be what everyone else was doing (sans watching the Golden Girls) but it didn’t work for me!! Luckily, I got smart. I kept the idea of a “routine,” but instead slept until 11am each day, attended bar class, then went home and studied until 5 or 6am. This worked for me because I am a night person and can focus better when I know that I am not missing anything. Further, the notion of waking up at 11am (even after only receiving 6 or 7 hours of sleep) worked for me because I psychologically tricked myself into thinking that I was “sleeping in.”
Substantive Preparation I chose to take both BarBri and PMBR. BarBri was particularly helpful because the instructors were able to tell me what I needed to know and where I needed to look to find that information. If it had not been for a bar-prep course, I would not have known what to study much less know where I needed to go to learn it. Further, it added structure to my day because no matter what, it automatically guaranteed that for at least four hours each day I would be preparing for the bar. I went everyday without fail (in sickness and in health).
The PMBR class was also helpful, although I hated it. The questions were extraordinarily difficult and the classes were tedious. I was ticked that they would ask really long questions and then present it in a really tiny font (BarBri formats its questions in either 12 or 14 font). Nevertheless, PMBR scared me into studying really intensely. Further, it helped psyche me up for passing; after all, I thought, I was doing everything humanely possible to pass.
An individual enrolled in either BarBri or PMBR will likely be advised to do a certain number of multi-state questions a day. Question arose as to whether it was best to do questions out of the BarBri books or out of the PMBR books. At the beginning I did BarBri questions, but in the last few weeks I did I mixture of both (25 in one book, 25 in the other). I don’t really think that this made a difference substantively. What really counted was training my body to sit in one spot for a long period of time without getting up and training my mind on how to stay focused. (This may seem really minor, but I had to train myself not to get up to use the bathroom every hour).
Regrets This summer I let almost everything go in my personal life in order to concentrate on passing the bar the first time. I kept getting my hair done, but I figured that going to the gym would be a waste of my time. So although I passed the bar, I looked like crap when it was all said and done. Being in good shape was something that had been important to me but I let it go and ended up paying for it in the long run. Others surely let other things go, (family, significant others, etc.) and will never be able to regain them. Be sure to make time in your life for truly important things that will matter to you once your period of torture ends.
Good luck. I look forward to your admission to the Illinois Bar.