Once in a while, I get a reflection that I want to feature front and center.
Drew passed the 2021 February California Bar Exam (Attorneys’ Exam with essays and PT only) on his second attempt while working full time and as a father to young children.
He really hit the nail on the head about the experience of a repeater—and what first timers should heed—from the initial underestimation of the exam, the uncomfortable resistance to actually trying to solve the problems, to his essay answers evolving into a more organized format.
I didn’t want to waste Drew’s very organized thoughts (and lessons for new bar takers) by letting them archive in my inbox like the many other reflections I get. His message had a lot of parallels to what I and many other repeaters have gone through, and what I encourage my readers to do.
I went on a Zoom call to discuss how to study for the bar exam. If you’re just starting out, you may be lost on what the right way to do this all is.
So I distilled three key strategies from what I did differently to pass the California Bar Exam on my second attempt. These are applicable to all jurisdictions and whether you’re taking a bar exam for the first time or you’re a repeater.
It’s socially acceptable to shit on math. It’s politically incorrect to dislike “travel” or “dogs.” And it’s considered weird and risky to not sign up for a big bar prep course by the end of your third year of law school.
Let’s start by addressing that last one about bar courses.
Unless you were already exposed to the idea of alternate paths, you probably naturally assumed that you needed to go with a bar prep company after graduation. The question was framed as “what’s the best bar course” rather than “should I?” You were bombarded with offers from the usual suspects since day one.
So it’s not your fault. Also, there’s nothing wrong with using a course per se. I’m 100% for educating ourselves.
It’s just that you don’t NEED a course. You don’t NEED a tutor. You don’t have to spend $10,000 or $4,000 or anything close to that (besides registration fees) every time you take this test. (I’ll show you how below.)
I’m not wagging my finger saying you must or mustn’t enroll in a bar prep course. The right investments will pay off. I’m just saying you can think about it and consciously decide for yourself.
Start by checking for any internal narratives you may have about what you need to buy to prepare for the bar. Here, I’ll help you reexamine the default assumptions born from “big bar” lobbying by answering these questions:
What are the drawbacks of “big box” bar programs?
What can you do instead to address these drawbacks?
What are the benefits of big bar courses?
Should you sign up for one? (It depends)
How do you prepare for the bar exam without a prep course or a big budget?