Don A. Rouzan, L’2003 (Louisiana)
Although the Louisiana bar exam is everything that you may have heard and more, do not become discouraged. Here is what you can do to maximize the likelihood of passing the exam the first time.
I sat for the Louisiana Bar Exam in July 2003, but the real story began much earlier in my law school career. While in law school, I made an effort to carry a full load of credits every semester to protect myself from poor performances in certain classes (just in case) and to allow for a very light class load in the spring semester of my 3L year. The idea was to free up time to get a head start on preparing for the bar exam. Well, it did not quite work out exactly as I planned because I ended up spending most of my time with family and friends during my last semester. Thus, my serious bar exam preparation did not really begin until the week after graduation.
I did, however, get a very early start (October 2002) in completing my application to take the bar exam. Do not neglect this important aspect of the bar exam process. Boards of Bar Examiners have a way of asking about all of the skeletons in your closet (yeah, even that one!) I was determined to be proactive about any issues that might delay my admission to the bar. All Black Americans inevitably have some issue, no matter how minor, that suddenly becomes major when the powers that be realize that you are seeking admittance to one of the most exclusive clubs, namely your state bar. Grab this bull by the horns early on and do what you must to address these issues because sooner or later you will have to revisit them.
With my application timely submitted, I concentrated on graduating from law school (if you choose to start studying early, make sure you get a copy of the most recent BarBri materials from someone who recently took the examination in Louisiana). Graduation from law school was anti-climatic for me because the next day I had to move my family from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Lousiana to begin my BarBri prep course which started a week after my graduation.
Kiss your family and friends goodbye. Do not try to explain to them the difficulty, pressure, or intensity of the bar exam. If they have not taken a bar exam, they will not understand. Unless you have been there, you will not understand studying 12-16 hours a day. That is the reality of it. Tempers will flare and profanities will fly, but you must persevere. Make sure you kiss and make-up when it is over. Unless you are physically caring for someone, you will have to keep your contacts with friends and family to a minimum or you will become distracted and take your eyes off the prize. Because I was married with a one year-old child, studyiing for the bar exam was perhaps a bit more difficult for me because I always felt that I was neglecting my wife and son. But I had to remember that the real neglect and dereliction would have been failing the bar exam and not having a job which might result in us living under bridges, stealing food from the market, and begging for bread in the streets. So start lining up your babysitters now!
Banish the foolish thought of trying to pass the bar exam without taking a bar exam prep course! You might as well save yourself the bar application fee. To spend three years in law school and incur tens of thousands of dollars in debt but fail to invest a paltry $2,000 (or less) for a bar prep course is worse than foolish; it is stupid and reckless behavior for someone aspiring to be an attorney. Do whatever it takes to come up with the money for a bar prep course. Start flipping burgers now if you must but come up with the money to take a bar prep course! In case you did not know it already, LAW SCHOOL DOES NOT PREPARE YOU FOR THE BAR EXAM. Especially in Louisiana which is the only Civil Law state in the country. Although there are very few substantive differences between Louisiana Civil Law and Common Law (most involve terminology and semantics), you will be in big trouble if you do not know what a usufruct is (life estate), or prescription (statute of limitations), or solidarity (joint and several liability). BarBri teaches you all of these terms and the few substantive differences in Louisiana law. But the real value is that it narrows all of the laws of the state down to two review books. The instructors not only tell you what to study, but also what not to study. Do not try to reinvent the wheel by not taking a bar prep course!
During the second half of May and most all of June, I went to the prep course for four hours everyday. There was not a single day that I did not look at something bar related. I studied an average of 8-16 hours a day from the beginning of the course until the bar exam. I studied longer and with more intensity as the exam date neared. I did not exercise because I was lazy. I did not eat healthily because I figured that since I was depriving myself of every other pleasure in life, I would at least eat what I liked. I did not shave. I showered regularly, however (T.M.I., maybe, but you are still reading). I did not spend excessive time study subjects I fully understood. Instead, I concentrated on those subject that still gave me trouble. But, and this is important, I made a point of reading every page of every outline at least once to make sure that I would not see anything for the first time on the bar exam.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
I cannot stress the value of taking previous Lousiana bar exam essay questions. Louisiana bar examiners fare not trying to trick you and will often use the same questions from old exams, verbatim. If you do enough old exams, you will start to memorize the model answers and be abundantly prepared for these questions when you see them on the actual exam. If you do nothing else review old exams and the BarBri model answers that accompany them!
Understand what is necessary to pass the Louisiana bar exam. The test is administered on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 8 hours each day. All questions are essay! It truly is a beast that will leave you with blisters on your fingers from the writing. There are 9 individual exams (5 Civil Code exams and 4 Non-code exams). You must pass at least 7 exams to pass the bar, 4 of which must be Civil Code subjects. Louisiana allows examinees to condition the exam in lieu of an outright fail (this means you are only required to retake the portions of the exam you failed provided, however, you passed the established minimum number of the subjects taken. A conditional pass, however, should not be your goal. Your goal is to pass outright the first time and your focus should always be on this objective. Another distinguishing feature of the Louisiana Bar Exam is that there is no Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). But the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) is required just as it is in every other state. So be sure to take the MPE early (preferably the August exam prior to your last year in law school).
TAKING THE EXAM
Taking the bar exam is nothing compared to stress brought on by inadequate preparation. If you are well prepared there is nothing to worry about. If you blew off studying, then the exam may actually cause you to have a nervous breakdown (but hey, you brought that on yourself). There was nothing on the bar exam that took me by surprise. I had encountered everything tested on the exam during by bar exam study and preparation. There were some areas I knew much better than others, but the long hours I spent preparing to pass the bar exam enabled me navigate my way successfully through those questions in areas where I my mastery of the subject matter was weaker. Remember, unlike law school where you should be striving to earn an “A” on every exam, there are only two grades one can earn on a bar exam: “Pass” and “Fail.” To pass the bar exam you need a minimum score of 70% (a “C-“) on each of the bar exam subjects. The standard for passing a bar exam is not brilliance, but minimal competence. Remember that when you start feeling sorry for yourself and complaining how difficult is the obstacle you must overcome. Excuse the pun but the bar is not high and it can become a mental bar only if you let it. I have every confidence that you will not.
Good luck. I look forward to your admission to the Louisiana Bar.