How to Overcome Failing the Bar Exam and Change Your Reality

A law firm was about to give me a job offer.

Turns out they had a strict GPA cutoff of top 10%. Even the partner who pushed for me got in trouble for ignoring their antiquated policy.

The gatekeepers said: No.

That’s OK. A different firm had given me an offer the day before.

I accepted it. I withdrew from yet another interview process.

But there was an issue with a conflict check that took nearly a month to conduct. They rescinded the offer. I had already moved apartments to be closer to the new firm.

Blue balled at the last minute again! Three birds in the hand, nothing to show for it.

“Who the hell are you to compare my failure to yours? Waa… at least you still have a job!”

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The 3 Things You Need When Starting Bar Prep (Live Stream Replay)

“What should I know when I’m starting bar prep?”

I did a live stream with Jennifer Duclair to talk about how to take the guesswork out of bar preparation and get a better sense of direction as you start studying for your next bar exam.

It was fun! Japes and nuggets of insights were dropped, and I’m pleased with how this turned out. (Maybe I’ll do another one next year…)

Here’s me throwing Kaplan under the bus:

What to do with your schedule when starting bar prep

Here’s the recording (go to 8:12 where I talk about the study schedule shown above), along with timestamps so you can jump to the parts you’re most interested in:

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Not Passing Hurts MORE than Struggling Now! How Drew Used Pain to Efficiently Pass the CA Bar Exam (While Working Full Time)

I collect every bar exam success story. Sometimes I post unique stories in a small vault of success stories. Other times, I screenshot and put them in a big folder.

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.

Here’s what he did differently…

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3 Strategies I Used as a Repeater to Study for the Bar Exam: Fight for Simplicity!

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.

Here’s the recording (volume/quality warning):

Slides (with links and coupons)

Giveaway link (enter by 11:59 PM PT on Thurs, May 20, 2021)

Writeup & timestamps below…

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Taking the Bar Exam Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

It’s socially acceptable to shit on math in America and law schools in general. It’s politically incorrect to dislike “travel” or “dogs.” And it’s considered weird to not sign up for an expensive bar review course when you’re studying for the bar exam.

Even though I have a lot to say about all of these, let’s stick to the topic and address that last one about bar review courses. Look at this article from Business Insider:

"If I tried to take the bar again, the cost for a class and the test itself could be up to $3,000, which I just can't afford — so I'm stuck with the debt of law school without the prestige of bar membership."

No, it doesn’t have to be this way just because you want to practice law!

You probably assumed that you NEEDED to go with a bar prep company after graduation. The question was framed as “what’s the best bar exam prep course” rather than “should I take a bar course?” You were bombarded with offers from the usual suspects (Barbri and the gang) since day one of being a law student.

So it’s not your fault that no one exposed you to the idea of alternate paths such as self-study. Also, there’s nothing wrong with using a course, as long as you use it properly.

It’s just that you don’t NEED a course (by default). You don’t NEED a tutor (unless you want personal guidance). Bar exam fees are high enough already.

You don’t have to spend $10,000 or $3,000 or anything close to that (besides registration fees) every time you take this test just for the chance to become a licensed attorney. (I’ll show you how below.)

"Simple math told me it was cheaper to take and retake the [bar exam] 3-4 times using ... 'non-traditional' decent-priced materials ... than to spend an outrageous $6,000 on the BARBRI Prep Course (also apparently not made for anyone working full time)."

I’m not wagging my finger saying you must or mustn’t enroll in a bar prep course. The right investments for you will pay off. I’m just saying you can think about it and consciously decide for yourself.

There is a way to pass the bar other than with big box bar prep courses.

Start by checking for any internal narratives you may have about what you need to spend your money on to prepare for the bar exam. (Below, I’ll share my take on how you only really need THREE things for preparation.)

I’ll help you reexamine the default assumptions born from “big bar” lobbying by answering these questions:

  • What are the costs of taking the bar exam?
  • 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?
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