Arrogance as a Bar Exam Mindset

Not even gainful employment can save you from the terror of the bar. The other day, I was talking about the bar exam with David, a coworker. Although he is a first-time passer, he passed each of the California, New York and Massachusetts bar exams on the first try some time ago.

I usually discuss the more tangible side of bar preparation, such as actionable suggestions (I don’t give “advice,” only what worked for me plus motivation to follow it).

But are there any mental attitudes that you may want to consider cultivating when preparing for the bar and during the actual daunting task of taking it?

We were having such fun exchanging our thoughts about the bar that I recorded our conversation. Well, more like I was basically informationally interviewing him for his thoughts revolving around his core advice that day: Be arrogant.

What did he mean?

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All Bar Essays ARE Created Equal

This is a guest post from Nadine Heitz. She is a co-founder of, a unique online searchable database of all legal issues tested on California bar exam essays since 2001. Here, she describes strategies for confronting the bar essays before and during the exam. Welcome!

The proctor has just announced “You may now begin.” You break open the seal of your bar exam essay packet to anxiously see what’s in store for you. First question appears to be Torts – not bad, you think. Second question is Evidence – yikes, it’s likely a race horse. Your anxiety level increases. Third and final question is Contracts, one of your better subjects. Now that you have a general idea of the three morning essay subjects, how do you decide which order to write them in? Do you tackle your easiest subject first to give you confidence and a great start? Or, do you get the hardest one out of the way while your energy level is high and it’s still early. Here’s my advice – you do neither.

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How to Gain 20/20 Foresight Studying for the Bar Exam

I’m probably going to black out as I remember this tearful tale.

I had inadvertently moved into an apartment with no apparent way to plug into the Internet besides the unstable public WiFi servicing the entire complex. The apartment also happened to be right on the border of the only zip code in Southern California not serviced by Time Warner Cable. The worst 40 days of my pre-smartphone life before I finally got someone to connect me to the rest of civilization.

If I’d known that would happen (among other things), I probably wouldn’t have started my stint as a free man there. But who can tell the future?

No fortune teller would accept me as an intern because I am a terrible predictor of the future. In fact, you, me, everyone else—people in general are terrible at predicting the “best” outcome or solution. Self-delusion with respect to this is called “hindsight bias.” If you don’t believe me, write down your hypotheses so that later you can see what your track record is for predicting the future.

But imagine that you could know what you should do before it’s too late. They say hindsight is 20/20. Having 20/20 foresight would be like benefiting from a second chance on your first time.

Come again? Yes, even if you’re a first timer studying for the bar exam, you actually have a crystal ball!

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