Howard University

Allen W. Venable, Esq., L’2003 (Michigan)

Ten Lessons Learned from My Michigan Bar Exam Experience

First, take all the law school courses that are on your bar or that usually show up on most bars. This way you will not be seeing the subject for the first time while studying, and you can focus on the things you do not remember. You will also have more time to spend on other subjects.

Second, take a bar preparation course or home study program that offers comprehensive materials, and supplement what you have from other sources. The goal is to get a variety of multi-state questions and essay questions. Check with your local Black bar association for materials and assistance.

Third, design your life around the bar to the greatest extent possible. Manage your time efficiently, including the time to be allocated for meals, sleep, friendships and relationships, and recreation. For example, if you have a 30-minute commute to your bar review course or your local study location, listen to bar review tapes while you drive. (Keep your eyes on the road, however, and don’t get into an accident).

Fourth, work to increase your discipline. For example, complete the exams (both the essays and multi-state questions) under exam conditions from day one. Do not get discouraged if or when you fail to complete the exam as timed or perform miserably because your were rushing. The goal is to start from day one to hit your mark. That way by the time the exam rolls around you will finish early, recheck questions, clear up ambiguous pencil markings, and edit for grammar if necessary.

Fifth, be honest with yourself about your “real and actual” hours of study per day. To calculate your “real and actual” study hours, you must delete all the time you spent daydreaming, plotting on how to meet the person studying in the cubicle behind you, trips to the vending machine and restroom, etc. Do not count the time you spent multi-tasking (listening to tapes while driving). Everything counts toward your success, but keep it real!

Sixth, remember that studying for the bar is not a sprint; it is a marathon, meaning that one should start early, and maintain a consistent pace in order to finish strong. I believe each person must study according to their own pace. However, if you start studying one month before the exam, be mindful of the extra mental stress that will result and take care not to burn yourself out.

Seventh, on the day of the exam, go in and execute as you have planned and practiced. Stay conscious of your attentiveness level in the exam. Do not feel bad if once or twice during the exam you have to take a maximum of three seconds to “get your mind right.” Just quickly refocus/rededicate yourself to following your exam strategy, and hit those questions hard.

Eighth, no matter how you think you performed on the portion of the bar you took first, let it go, and get ready to do well on the next portion. There is no reason for you to have a nervous breakdown and blow the next part of the exam because you think you forgot an element of a rule or did not know whether MBE Question #97 was A or B. Stay focused on the task at hand.

Ninth and Tenth, pray and have faith in yourself. These are really the first two things you must do. I have addressed them last to leave you with their great significance. There are no substitutes for prayer and believing you will pass the exam. Without them, all things become more difficult to bear and overcome.

Good luck. I look forward to your admission to the Michigan Bar.