Ryan E. Manns, L’2003 (Texas)
The first thing to remember is: Don’t panic. As a good friend said when we started studying for the bar exam, “intelligence is myth, competence is reality.” Know that your diligence will pay off. There are people smarter than you who have failed the bar and there are people who are less intelligent than you who have passed. All your years of hard work have thoroughly prepared you for this moment so have faith.
That said, get ready for a stressful couple of weeks. I recommend exercising regularly or doing something on a consistent basis that is going to provide the necessary outlet for you to blow off some steam. I exercised throughout my bar preparation activities and this helped provide me with the necessay stamina to finish strong. The last thing you want is to get weaker as the summer wears on. If you are spiritually inclined, I would strongly recommend attending church regularly. Last, a positive attitude goes a long way. As the saying goes, “think you can, or think you can’t. Either way you will be right.” To the extent you can, surround yourself with encouraging family members, and friends, especially those who have gone through this experience. There will be times when you feel like the Bar Exam is getting the best of you.
Take classes while in law school that will start to prepare you for the the subjects tested on the bar exam. Some people advise against this because they think bar review classes adequately prepare you for the material. That may or may not be the case so I recommend taking bar courses during school if the classes are offered. I found that the Texas bar exam had a lot of subjects that were state specific and I had to spend extra time on that material so I was glad that I had a foundation in a lot of the required core subjects. As a second year law student I reviewed the BarBri promotional handout that detailed all of the subjects on the Texas bar exam and took several classes for bar preparation between my second and third years. I also recommend visiting the Texas State Bar website for additional helpful information.
Don’t worry if you were unable to take all of the bar related courses you wanted to during law school. There is enough time to learn them for the bar exam but know that you are going to have to devote extra time to those subjects early on in the review period to get used to the material.
Bar Preparation Courses
I strongly recommend taking some kind of bar preparation course. In fact, I strongly counsel against taking a bar exam if you have not taken a bar preparation course. Bar review courses are extremely expensive, but they are indispensable. Think of it as an investment in your future. Start saving for it as early as you can. I took PMBR (both the early bird and the refresher course) and BarBri. I also took a Texas Procedure and Evidence course offered separately from BarBri. I found all of these programs extremely helpful in my bar preparation. Each of them helped to focus my thinking and studying. The best thing about these review classes are the opportunities they afford you to practice answering bar exam questions. Going to class, taking notes, and studying are just threshold requirements for passing the bar. The real preparation comes from working as many questions as possible, preferably under timed conditions.
I started my PMBR class the Monday after graduation. This was my first introduction to the multistate bar exam (MBE) and it was an eye opener. In hindsight, I don’t think BarBri spends enough time preparing students for the MBE. PMBR was a great investment because it enabled me gain two months of practice answering MBE questions as well as supplementing the BarBri materials. PMBR also allows you to take mock multistate exams which I found to be very helpful. After I finished the early bird PMBR session, I immediately began BarBri. Once Barbri began I would start my day by attending the morning lecture. After the lecture, I would eat lunch and then start review that day’s lecture materials for a couple of hours. I rarely spent any time preparing for the next day’s material. I found it more helpful to review the lecture notes from each day immediately after class. This included making note cards of the material for later review. After I reviewed my notes for the day I would take another short break for dinner and exercise. I would then spend the rest of the night working on PMBR questions. I would try to do between 30-50 questions a night. This was my routine for the last two weeks of May, all of the month of June, and then the first week and a half of July until I completed BarBri.
After I completed the BarBri course, I followed the study routine recommended by BarBri for the remaining two weeks. As the exam date crept closer I spent more and more time writing essays and answering multistate questions. I also answered every short answer question from the BarBri Procedure and Evidence workbook. I also wrote out several MPT questions. I can’t empasize the importance of answering essay questions and reviewing the answers thoroughly. In my view, this is the single most important part of passing the Bar.
As you might know, the Texas bar exam is administered over two and a half days. The first day is the short day, with 90 minutes of Civil and Criminal Procedure and Evidence questions followed by 90 minutes of the MPT. The second day consiste of 6 hours of multistate questions. The last day of is devoted to essay questions and also runs for six hours. Altogether this makes for a draining couple of days. The exam is definitely rough in some parts so it is important to stay confident and completely focused. Make sure you are get your rest each night and don’t stay up late reviewing the materials to be covered on the exam the next day. Make sure you conserve your energy for the long exam days. Pace yourself, buckle down, and you will do well.
I hope I was able to answer at least a few of your questions.
Good luck. I look forward to your admission to the Texas Bar.