Like most bar takers, Samantha began preparation intending to pass the July bar exam in one go.
“I went in thinking I want it one-and-done. I didn’t want to exhaust the resources nor the time to take it twice, so that I can manage to pass the first time.”
Not only that, she had a limited amount of time to work with, given other responsibilities she had to attend to, not to mention her children.
“I worked a full-time job and studied at night. I wanted to maximize my study time and be the most efficient in the time that I had in studying.”
What’s more, the statistics and odds of passing the bar were truly stacked against her from the start.
“The law school I went to had a 30% pass rate. I guess it would be considered a second-tier or third-tier school.”
Walking the unconventional route to bar prep
Many law students have a fear of not being able to pass the bar, and go with whatever is offering the best guarantees or what everyone else is doing (totally fine if you’ve made a conscious decision). But Samantha thought about the process more thoughtfully, and did what made sense to her and what was going to work for her even if it was going to be unconventional.
“I don’t learn by watching lectures all day. I didn’t learn like that in law school, at any point in my life did I learn like that. So why would I do that for the most important test in my life? . . . They inundate you with the fear through the bar prep program, even the law school, that you don’t do it this way, but that’s not true.”
But straying from the big bar prep courses didn’t mean that she had to go at it on her own.
“I researched a lot prior to taking the bar. . . . I found your website by googling self-study bar prep. Your site came up, and I thought I’d read all of your advice and suggestions. And then I saw some of your sample [Magicsheets] outlines, and I said, ‘I need these.’”
Using a few key resources to hone in on practice
Besides Magicsheets, other excellent supplements proved to be key tools for her MBE studies.
“The MBE was probably the most challenging section. . . . I used Magicsheets as you know; that was one of my main outline for study purposes and memorization. I used a little of Critical Pass cards. I also used AdaptiBar and Strategies & Tactics by Emanuel. And that’s pretty much it.”
Samantha found the Magicsheets condensed outlines to assist her memorization—and most importantly, practice. She also made sure to use them to solidify her understanding and intuition of the law tested.
“I used the Magicsheets primarily for memorization and reacquainting myself. When I ran across a question that I got wrong, I would refer the outline to go back over the law and get a thorough understanding of why I missed the points … to hone in on the rule because sometimes the rules have these little nuances.”
Samantha referred to Magicsheets to help with her essay practice, too. Of course, this also included consistent practice and self-feedback, not just the safe work of memorization.
“I printed all the essays, and I would practice one of those at least once a day. I used interchangeably the sample answers as well as Magicsheets and Critical Pass depending on the topic.”
As it turns out, Samantha didn’t really need to grapple with hundreds of pages of outlines to succeed on the bar exam.
“In a comparison, I’d like to add that your outlines, the Magicsheets were much, much more succinct and to the point. I got a sample Kaplan book and Barbri that were like three or four hundred pages.”
The fruits of beating the beast on her own terms
As a result of her deliberate approach to studying and learning, Samantha passed the Georgia bar on her first attempt. It showed her (and classmates who questioned her) that one doesn’t necessarily need a “big box” bar course to succeed on the bar exam.
“Unless you just slept through law school and didn’t learn anything and you gotta learn it all it now, I don’t see why you would have to go through all of that.”
When Samantha cleared the hurdle of the bar exam, many paths and opportunities all of a sudden opened up to her. It was as if a floodgate flung open as soon as people around her recognized her credentials.
“I have a world of opportunities available to me. I don’t feel like I’m stuck in any job. My goal is to go on to practice for myself as a solo practitioner. I’ve been offered other jobs, projects. And you know with that comes additional income; that’s always nice. A whole new world, like I didn’t even know existed.”
Best of all, she can now enjoy her favorite leisure activities in peace with people she cares about. In fact, she went on vacation with her children two days after finding out she passed the bar.
“I play softball. I’ve got to start my kickboxing classes again. I like to bake, hang out with my friends, read leisurely. It feels good to be able to read for fun again.”
Her success was found forward and inward
If there was there anything that helped with Samantha’s confidence levels, it was to gain 20/20 foresight by hearing the wisdom of those who took the bar exam more than once.
“I think there was an entry on your blog, about the fear, with the intimidation and setting all of that aside. I remember reading that, and then secondly, talking to people who have taken it the second or third time. The majority of those people tell me they skipped the lectures . . . so why not do it that way the first time.”
Lastly, Samantha’s parting advice to those taking the bar was to trust yourself. Making the best decision for yourself could mean forgoing the default and preparing for the bar exam on your own terms.
“Trust yourself. You’ve made it this far in the process, so you can continue forward by making the best decisions for yourself. Whatever study method works for you, works for you. And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. . . . Thank you for all that you do. You really did help me, and I appreciate the existence of Magicsheets.”
Great work, Samantha! You can listen to the entire interview: