A big law firm partner passed the 2023 July California Bar Exam while juggling a busy practice and a family life with children and a spouse.
“C” had no prior knowledge of California law, and it had been 20 years since C’s last bar exam.
💬 “I am an equity partner at ___ who took and passed the July 2023 Attorneys’ Exam in California … almost 20 years after I last took a bar exam. As a partner with a busy practice, kids, and spouse; with no real ability to take time off before the exam; and who did not go to law school in California and knew no CA law, studying for the bar was about the last thing I wanted to add to my schedule.”
Sure, you could say, “It’s because C literally works at the #1 law firm (according to Law360) and knows what they’re talking about!”
I get it because the mentor my law school issued to me was top 5 in his class and his overwhelming academic talent was wasted on me, the bottom 11%er.
But I still think you should listen to C’s advice. And not just because it parallels mine (you can question my grades, but you can’t argue with my readers’ results).
- Quick stats
- Resources C used to pass the California Attorneys’ Exam
- So how did a busy big law partner find the time to pass the bar?
- 1) There are only three things you need to pass the bar exam.
- 2) Use the bar review course to YOUR advantage.
- 3) If you don’t have time to study, make time to learn.
- Full story
- Attempts: California Attorneys’ Exam 1x
- Weakness: Some rusty subjects, no knowledge of California law
- Unique challenge: Limited bandwidth from a busy work-family-study schedule, 20-year gap since last bar exam
Resources C used to pass the California Attorneys’ Exam
💬 “I checked out your website and the Magicsheets package seemed no-nonsense and affordable, so I decided to go ahead and purchase. I am very glad I did!”
▶ Bar review course (selectively)
▶ Mary Basick’s Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam
▶ MTYLT emails and case studies
💬 “I loved the weekly emails and success stories you sent out.”
BTW, you just gotta LOL when someone who probably bills $2,000/hour appreciates my material while this person whines behind a pseudonym:
Meanwhile, I got positive feedback about the same story. Go figure.
So how did a busy big law partner find the time to pass the bar?
C is an exemplar of someone who has access to everything—except time and attention.
There are of course things C could afford to do, but there were things they could afford not to do.
1) There are only three things you need to pass the bar exam.
Source materials, how-to-learn knowledge, and self-motivation.
Source materials are the “what to know” things like outlines and past exam questions. I cover the how-to-learn. You bring the self-motivation—the will to act.
💬 “I would say that about 90% of my study consisted of reviewing Magicsheets, the Mary Basick book on California essays, and past CA exams.”
This sounds simple, but it’s about consistent effort in doing what helps you learn the material. It’s simple but not easy to stay consistent.
💬 “I focused on 1-2 subjects a week, which gave me time to cycle back and review my tougher subjects as the exam grew closer. I would read the Basick outline for a given subject, read the Magicsheets, and do a past exam or two. Rinse and repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Closer to the exam itself, I moved to studying just the Magicsheets and the Approsheets (which I found most useful as I was distilling my review in the last few weeks).”
💬 “I am generally a good test-taker, went to a fancy law school, work at a great firm … but now having done this twice in two different states, I would say the bar exam cares about nothing but the time you put into learning the material. Which is painful, but simple. Consistency is key. I never spent 8-10 hours a day studying, but once I started bar prep, I studied at least an hour every single day, with no exceptions.”
You don’t get an “A” for how hard you work or how much time or money you spend. You earn it for mastery.
Even a busy big law partner juggling a family stayed humble and made sure to methodically examine every rock. The past will guide your future.
💬 “I reviewed every single past essay question that had been published, and every set of model answers, which was really helpful in seeing patterns in how questions were configured and the types of answers that could pass.”
So what prevents you from doing it too? I’m giving you the tools. It’s up to you to use them.
2) Use the bar review course to YOUR advantage.
C had access to a bar review course, but the key part here was that C supplemented their study based on what they needed. In C’s case, they listened to lectures where they were rusty on the details.
There is no requirement to go through everything just to “complete” the course. You can if you need to. Choose your own adventure.
This is how you should use a course—consciously—instead of going through the motions making its completion the end goal. Don’t let the course push you around. Use the course the way you see fit.
💬 “The firm paid for Themis, and I did supplement by listening to their lectures on Contracts and Torts (where I was definitely rusty on the details), but I never cracked a single Themis textbook, took a mock exam, or otherwise checked anything off on the study plan Themis generated.”
3) If you don’t have time to study, make time to learn.
This is especially helpful if you’re prepping while working:
It’s not just about managing your time. It’s also about your energy and attention.
The hours after work are less valuable than the hours before you exhaust your mind and soul for your employer.
One way to get effective studying done is to do some prep before work.
💬 “I would get up every morning at 5 or 5:30 to study for 60-90 minutes before my kids woke up and the work day began, and would supplement a bit more on the weekends.”
Or use the moments that are scattered throughout your day. I tested myself with flashcards while waiting in line at Starbucks.
💬 “As I expected, I got really busy at work and took no time off apart from the exam day itself. I even had a jam-packed international business trip one week before the exam, which I would not recommend, but I managed to use the plane time for some focused study.”
If you value your time, use your time efficiently. I’ve shown you that even an extremely busy person can pass the bar exam in parallel.
Less can be more. You might think that a big law partner can afford many resources, but it’s the opposite. They CAN’T afford to get them all because they don’t have the time.
It’s like when you go to a buffet. Everything is accessible, so it’s up to you to control yourself and not go overboard if you don’t want to be bloated.
💬 “You provided me with a very efficient way to successfully prepare for an exam to which I could only devote a certain amount of bandwidth, and I’m super grateful.”
What will you subtract from your current approach to make time to learn? Here again are the streamlined resources that C used.