Bar Exam Success Commandment 4: I Will Give You Actual Confidence (to Identify Issues Without Issue Spotting)

The angel on your shoulder whispers to you as you hallucinate from studying…

Don’t cry, you’re going to be a fine lawyer… You’re a good person no matter what… Life is short, just YOLO it…

Screw you, it doesn’t matter even if you never appear again! We’re trying to pass the bar here!


This is the last of a four-part series on what I think are fundamental study strategies, whether you’re a first timer or a repeater. They are fundamental in that they are important concepts that I focused on that made a difference in my second attempt, but you can tailor the concepts to your own needs.

Part 1How to Gain a Superpower for the Bar Exam
Part 2Time to Apologize to Math Now (and Improve Your MBE Score)

As mentioned at the end of Part 3: How to Exploit Scarcity on the Bar (and Improve Your Essays), recall that you can still salvage partial credit for incomplete rules and application. But without identifying the right issues, you get zero credit for those unraised issues.

I mentioned the WHAT (identifying issues) and said I would tell you the HOW (to systematize that mystical process).  We try not to use the s-word (“spotting”) around here. We don’t randomly “spot” issues that we happen to catch in the stream of facts.

This was actually one of the biggest game-changing insights I had for my second time.


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Bar Exam Success Commandment 3: How to Exploit Scarcity (and Improve Your Bar Essays)

Excuses, excuses… Let me know if any of these sound familiar.

We like to tell people we “don’t have time” or that “time is the most valuable resource” or that “life is short~” (even though we love to procrastinate).

You’ll never hear me say that last one. Life is actually really long! Can you even imagine being confined in prison for more than 1-2 years? Compare that time to our lifespan of 80-90+ years. Having lived 31 years already feels like forever, and with my luck, I’ll have to go through it two more times.

Point is, we do have a lot of time at our disposal. We just choose to squander a lot of it, too.

Whatever “squander” means to you, if that’s the way you want to live your life, I support your right to do so. But don’t blame the human condition or your age for a “short” life; blame yourself.

Then what’s the true scarcity of this world? What is the one thing that’s radically limited and expires very quickly?

Money? Everyone wants it, but you can always make more.

Time? You don’t necessarily lose time forever. You can get your time back to do what matters to you: Hire a maid instead of cleaning, get takeout instead of cooking, get Magicsheets & Approsheets to assist with practice instead of painstakingly recreating condensed outlines and essay attack sheets, etc.

(BTW the time for investigating and hemming and hawing is over; do not get them if you’re a tool collector who wonders why they’re so overwhelmed)

I think there’s something even more scarce.

Read on to see my answer and how you can use this scarcity principle to give yourself an edge on the written portions of the bar exam.

Continue reading Bar Exam Success Commandment 3: How to Exploit Scarcity (and Improve Your Bar Essays)

Memorizing for the Bar Exam (to Recall and Recite Rules)

There’s this weird phenomenon where you meet someone new and then 1 second later it’s impossible to remember each other’s names.

To be honest, if I didn’t care about them 10 seconds ago, I’m not gonna care about them all of a sudden as if they were my newborn (whom I’d name Genghis (Hahn) so I don’t forget).

But what can I say? It’s impressive, for that exact reason, when someone actually uses your name in conversation without having to say, “Sorry what was your name again? I’m so terrible with names hahahahaha.”

When I was a 1L, I used a notepad to write down new people’s names so I could refer to it and remember the names forever. Kristina has no clue who I am now (she clearly forgot my name just like my Legal Ethics prof who referred to me as “one of us here” when I was dropping some truth in his class)… but I sure remember meeting her on the metro bus on the way to the APALSA bonfire in 2010 thanks to that notepad.

Useless information I wish I could forget—I tend to remember the very things I want to forget about the most. But it reveals a principle to remember all the shit you need to know on the bar.

One of the themes I maintain here regarding improving is to focus more on “big wins” and needle movers. Not spending hours exhausting yourself with lectures, flashcard arts and crafts, or memorization. However, memorizing (or more directly, remembering) is still an unavoidable base requirement for succeeding on your essays and the MBE.

And the fact is, your bar exam requires you to remember a LOT of shit. The typical brain is made for processing data but not so much for forcing discrete information to be inscribed into your memory forever.

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A candid, no-BS look at bar exam preparation after everyone else has bounced