Joe started preparing for the Uniform Bar Exam (in Kansas) with just seven weeks to go.
The learning process proved to be tougher than he’d imagined. The clock was ticking toward the inevitable, and like many others, he didn’t start out with the confidence to tackle the beast.
“I just wasn’t ready for it. I did not take very many bar prep classes in law school. So I knew it was gonna be tough. Once I looked at the material, I thought, ‘Man, I am screwed.’ There’s no way I’m gonna pull this together in seven weeks.”
Searching for a solution to essay (MEE) struggles
As Joe went through his studies, he found out that the MEEs were particularly challenging for him.
“Essays were a real issue for me because a lot of the essay topics were completely new to me. I didn’t have any experience with them.”
Naturally, he thought that doing MBE questions might help open up a path to the essays.
“I thought, ‘Well okay, I will do some essays later, but until then I’ll focus on multiple choice and maybe the multiple choice will open up the essays for me.’”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing much good. With not much time left until the exam, he knew he needed to pull it together to improve those essays.
“It wasn’t helping my scores hardly at all. I’d go through and self-grade after some essays and be hitting really low numbers . . . and I was just terrified that was always gonna be. About three weeks out from the bar, I thought, ‘Essays are gonna sink me. I don’t know what I need to do.’ And that’s when I thought, ‘Well I’ve got not a lot of time left. I’ve got to find something to pull this together.’”
Even well-meaning advice from other attorneys didn’t help him feel that things were coming together.
“What strange is, I had a lot of attorneys that were trying to make me feel better and say, hey, you know, once you sit down and start going through these, you’ll feel like it unboxes. Or people would say, hey, things feel like they come together the day before or two days before, and that never happened to me.”
The turning point
Even though Joe was taking a “big box” course with Themis, it was still a self-study endeavor. Like law school, it doesn’t teach you everything you need to know. You have to go out on your own and supplement what you’re missing.
That’s when Joe discovered Make This Your Last Time and the resources it offered.
“I took the Themis Bar Prep program. And you, and your materials both the Approsheets and the Magicsheets.”
A new approach and tools for essays
Armed with a new approach of “issue checking” (rather than “spotting” issues) and the Approsheets designed to help him do exactly that, Joe started “checking” his way through the essays.
“I looked at some of your samples and thought, ‘Okay, let’s give this a shot.’ So I would just go through and basically just try to memorize the flowcharts from the Approsheets and what each module of that flowchart would have its checkboxes within it. I was thinking, ‘If I just get this information down, it’s gonna hedge my chances.’”
During the final weeks, the essays that had been giving him trouble the whole time were finally starting to make sense. He finally felt like there was hope.
“I really wasn’t pulling together essays until after I spent a lot of time, specifically with your Approsheets. I did that for most of the essay subjects, especially the ones that I didn’t have any contact with, and I really saw myself picking up a lot more issues that way and scoring a lot higher. After that, I think that’s when I finally, finally started to feel like there’s a chance I was gonna pull it off.”
It wasn’t just the Approsheets that helped Joe see improvements in his essays. He found the Magicsheets useful for absorbing the overwhelming amount of law, too.
“I don’t have anything bad to say about Themis as a bar prep but their outlines were for some of these subjects could be 40 or 50 pages long. With Magicsheets, we’re talking like a four- or five-page outline. I could say to myself, okay this is something I can actually memorize, at least have these concepts down pat, and not have to worry about which of those 50 pages I needed to have down.”
The moment we want more than anything
Joe maintained a realistic outlook despite feeling like he finally had a chance of pulling it off.
“I just thought, you know, the best I can do is just study and work hard enough. And if I walked out of there and failed, I can say, well, I couldn’t have done much more. What I had in the back of my head was, I’m just gonna work as hard as I could and let the chips fall however may, and go from there.”
Joe, of course, passed the bar exam. His best work had paid off. He finally reached the end goal of law school and was able to move on with his free life.
“Immediately afterwards, I told my wife and then just took a second and just realized that it was done. It was over. I could move on with the next phase of my life which is what law school is all about.”
Joe only had to score high enough to pass. It didn’t matter anymore how well he did beyond that threshold.
“I would like to see in more detail where I slipped up, but when I passed, I’m not gonna complain about that.”
More time to enjoy a meaningful life
For some, passing the bar is a means to a dream job. For Joe, passing the bar gave him the opportunity to pursue what was near to his heart.
“I’m gonna be working largely for child in need of care [CINC] cases for child abuse, neglect, abandonment cases, which is really what I wanted to do when I went into law school. So I’m lucky enough that they’re giving me a shot, and I’m looking forward to doing what I spent the last three years training to do.”
Moving on from the bar exam meant that Joe now has plenty of time for activities and interests that are meaningful to him.
“I was kind of an older law student. I did fire EMS, was a firefighter for 15 years, and I still now am going to continue to volunteer for a volunteer department in my hometown. So that’s probably gonna keep me pretty busy, but that’s something I’ve always really enjoyed.”
Even his health and fitness are going back on track. Joe had the freedom to go biking the weekend after finding out he passed.
“The bike race is just trying to get back into shape after being in law school for 3 years and you kind of let yourself go with all that sittin’ around.”
Advice for learning better during bar preparation
If Joe had one piece of advice for other students who are just starting out, it aligns with the MTYLT sentiments that (1) lectures are a mostly useless way to learn passively (you forget 99% of what you hear) and (2) application of the rules is king in terms of learning.
“At least as far as bar prep services go, they focus a lot on listening to lectures, and some of these lecture series run 20-30 hours long with all the different modules. I really don’t think I pulled a lot from that. So if I was giving advice, start doing practice questions, either multiple choice or essays, as soon as possible. At least that’s how I learned better. But I also really want to thank you for taking the time to put these things together.”
Ultimately, Joe looked beyond his cookie-cutter bar prep course and ended up investing in resources that helped him patch up his biggest weakness.
“I really don’t know how I would have pulled it together . . . without the Approsheets and memorizing those flowcharts and reading those posts. I think that gave me the right encouragement, the right focus, at the right time. I’m really not sure I would have passed without it.”
Nice job, Joe! You can listen to my entire interview with Joe: