Argentinian Attorney Passes CA Bar Exam from Scratch (10 Years Out of School)

Me + My MagicSheets (+ my Lenny Kravitz inspired oversized scarf) ready for a day of studying

Another foreign-trained lawyer, another success story.

Argentina doesn’t even have a bar exam, yet Juliana was able to pass the 2023 July California Bar Exam on her first try while working full-time as an attorney.

How did she learn to do that?

Quick stats

  • Attempts: California Bar Exam 1x
  • Weakness: No bar exam experience or even a concept of one
  • Unique challenge: Foreign-trained attorney, balancing full-time work and study
💬 Seek advice on how to study but lastly decide based on your OWN needs and experience. Be prepared to incorporate new study techniques, but check in on yourself constantly to see what is working and what is not, and change whatever is not working, FAST.

Resources Juliana used to pass the CA Bar Exam

▶▶ Magicsheets & Approsheets

▶▶ BarEssays (CA only)

Discount codes for BarEssays and AdaptiBar

▶▶ BarMax

▶▶ Bar Exam Toolbox Podcast

▶▶ AdaptiBar 

Discount codes for BarEssays and AdaptiBar

▶▶ Passer’s Playbook

▶▶ Mental Engines

▶▶ ChatGPT + Google

▶▶ MTYLT weekly emails and blog posts

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Here are lessons on how Juliana learned to pass the California Bar Exam from scratch, while working full-time.

1) The bar exam is learnable.

This is an acquirable skill.

This was Juliana’s first time preparing for an exam in 10 years—enough time for a person to forget how to study, how light your soul used to be, and that fidget spinners ever existed.

Juliana passed the bar from scratch a decade out of school.

💬 “I had not studied nor taken an exam for almost a decade (last time was my LLM in 2015).

In fact, it was her first bar exam whatsoever because Argentina doesn’t have one. What’s more, English wasn’t even her first language.

💬 “I graduated from law school in Argentina in 2010, and have been working as a licensed attorney in Argentina since then. There is no such thing as a bar exam here . . . I had limited contact with the US legal system. . . . my English has always been pretty solid, but it’s still not my first language. When I decided to take the bar, I had NO IDEA what it was about.

This goes to show you that it’s not about being a masterful writer or having good grades.

Juliana was starting from scratch, so it was easier to adopt a beginner’s mindset and learn techniques specifically for the bar exam.

How did she learn how to prepare for the bar exam from scratch?

In her case, she used a prep course as a starting point. Courses are useful for giving you a general framework and understanding of the material.

💬 “Before reading ANY materials, I listened to every single lecture on BarMax. Just listened, no notes. This gave me an initial understanding of everything so then I could go deeper and start learning with the black letter outlines, then practicing, and finally memorizing.

She didn’t get bogged down in taking endless notes or filling in blanks.

Instead, she used the course the correct way. She began applying her initial understanding (though she wishes she could have started sooner). BTW, this also helps with memorization!

💬 “I do wish I had moved onto the practice stage earlier because it’s the MOST important, and an extra week for memorizing would not have hurt (although I’ve never studied so much by memory, I need to UNDERSTAND + APPLY concepts to remember them).

(As a reminder, if you’re a repeater, be more selective with your attention.)

So there’s review and practice. Pop quiz: What’s the third component?

Feedback! This is part of the Practice + Feedback Loop that I talk about elsewhere.

Stop letting your ego get in the way of improvement. Be willing to get things wrong now! Once you know the truth, you can fix it.

💬 “In the Bar Exam Toolbox Podcast they talk about why people put off timed + graded essay practice until the end, and they just said “BECAUSE IT’S HORRIBLE”, which is so true. It gets less horrible after practice, so start early!!!!

💬 “After each MBE question, regardless of whether I got it wrong or right, I would read the explanation and summarize it in a spreadsheet (see below). I printed these to go over on the plane and airport on my way to the exam!

2) Write like a bar taker, not like a lawyer.

The goal is to get the grader to give you points.

You get no credit for creative writing, big words, and cute puns. You’d probably get negative credit for annoying the person grading thousands of the same shitty essays.

Write like a bar taker. Or even a college student.

💬 “The BEST advice I got from another bar passer was “DO NOT write like a lawyer, write like a kid who just graduated from college.’

And like I said above, this is easier if you have a beginner’s mindset like Juliana does.

💬 “I’m used to writing in a very specific way, which I later understood was not what bar graders look for in essays (though it was helpful for the PT portion).

(That said, if you have prior legal writing experience, that’s your advantage with the PT.)

3) Studying with a full-time work schedule

Juliana, like many other bar takers, was busy juggling work while studying for this beast (for the first time).

💬 “I work full time in a big tech company, so my schedule (and head space) was pretty packed.

So she gave herself plenty of time because she needed it. She also gave herself room for a social life (more on this later)!

💬 “I started to study EARLY (5-6 months in advance) because I knew I NEEDED the time (full time job, refused to give up my social life to study, english not my first language, hadn’t studied in a while, etc.). I took your advice on this one!!

So that’s why I suggest you work backward from the exam date to estimate how much time you’ll need. This is part of creating a schedule that works for you.

You have your own reality. Juliana had hers to contend with. She recognized her needs made a deal with herself to keep certain times for studies and certain times for socializing (and work).

💬 “I made my own study schedule (based on MY reality) instead of using a template. I knew I could not study early in the morning (I’m an absolute night owl) and I needed to keep my social life or else I would go crazy. So I decided to (1) start early -see above- (2) study mondays, tuesdays and wednesdays after work until bedtime, keep thursdays and fridays study-free, and only go out at night OR during the day (for a few hours) on saturdays and sundays.

A commitment to yourself is at least as important as a promise to other people! Stick to it. Your self-esteem depends on it.

While doing what works for you is all well and good, that doesn’t mean you can’t take suggestions and guidelines from elsewhere. That’s where you can get ideas you hadn’t considered and validate your own ideas.

💬 “I did take your recommendations for the last 3 or so weeks of studying (hitting at least 2-3 subjects per day, you shared this in a webinar ‘What we wish we knew before the bar’).

(This webinar was for the 2023 July exam. I hope to share a replay when/if it becomes ready. It was a great session!)

Speaking of socializing…

4) You’re not alone.

There’s a reason I spend my nights and weekends writing these coaching emails and case studies that are real and personal.

To inspire you. To move you. To show you irrefutable PROOF that it can be done, that you are capable. Not just the same old tired “you’ve got this!”

You also have other sources of connection around you. Family, friends, other bar takers.

💬 “Preparing for the bar is stressful as hell, so it’s harder to deal with everything else that happens in your life during that time. Be easy on yourself, take your time if possible, rely on those around you and seek all the help you can get.

💬 “Rely on the people around you, share your experience and your fears and worries, ask for help!! It was magical to see how every single person in my life (friends, family, coworkers) supported me as I began to go crazy with stress and they consistently showed up for me in every single way, and believed in me more than I did. This was by far the best part of my whole bar exam experience (I tear up just thinking about it!).

Take care of yourself emotionally. If that means being social, go for it.

I don’t want people around me, so I wouldn’t look for support by leaving the house. But you can still use the power of the Internet to connect with communities…or even the energy of others around you at the test site.

💬 “It was a bizarre experience being in a room with another 6,000 people for SO MANY hours, it felt like Squid Game to me . . . LUCKILY everyone there shared a positive sense of “we’re all going through the same crap, let’s do this!’

You WILL get people patting you on the back when you pass, so you can at least look forward to that.

💬 “When I got the results I was kind of in shock, it didn’t seem real, everyone around me just said “we all knew you would pass” and it was amazing to make everyone proud.

5) You can do this without expensive study materials.

You also have these emails and resources on the MTYLT website and blog, most of which are at no cost to you.

💬 “In my research for bar materials I came across your blog, which gave me a pretty solid initial insight on how to tackle the bar. There are MANY people talking about their own bar experience online, but your blog was the most useful one by far. The weekly emails mainly helped me stay (sort of) sane!! It was both encouraging and comforting to read success stories and also stories of repeat takers, it gave me a feeling of ‘you’ll be fine no matter the result.’

But eventually, it’s time to say less and do more. Once you find people you trust (whether it’s me or others), filter out the noise so that you don’t get overwhelmed with information.

💬 “I found you googling my life away and I really enjoyed your approach in general (the humor above all, being open about having failed once, focusing on simpler study materials like Magic+Approsheets). There is SO MUCH INFORMATION out there about the bar exam!!! It’s easy to become overwhelmed, everyone has a different view, at some point it’s important to STOP reading / listening to what everyone has to say about their own experience and only listen to the few that give you some peace. I guess this was the case for me with your materials.

6) Trust yourself (pivot from “trust the system”)

Lastly, and above all, be part of the Great Pivot from “trust the system” to “trust yourself” that bar takers are doing lately.

💬 “KNOW YOURSELF. Know what you often struggle with when studying, know what helps you, know when and how you study best, what has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t. Seek advice on how to study but lastly decide based on your OWN needs and experience. Be prepared to incorporate new study techniques, but check in on yourself constantly to see what is working and what is not, and change whatever is not working, FAST.

It’s something I’ve been writing about for years. Many success stories I see come from this switch from a mindless approach to a methodical and deliberate one.

"Trust the system" or "trust yourself"?

The default approach can work too! I’m not saying to abandon your course entirely. There are many Barbri/Themis passers.

The question is, if it isn’t working for you, what are you going to do about it?

Juliana’s full story

Juliana wrote me her story and experiences in a Google Doc here.

Excellent work, Juliana! Here are the resources she used again.

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