Regrets of Past Bar Exam Takers

By now, reality has sunk in: Bar Is Coming.

BTW, I have only seen one episode of Game of Thrones in my life. So I am (1) not going to understand any other reference you throw at me and (2) immune to spoilers so don’t even try.

Before you ask me why, you probably have better things to get cold sweat over, like…

“OMG, the pass rate last year (for example, California) was 40.7%… What should I know before preparing for the bar?”

They say hindsight is 20/20. Let’s look ahead instead of thinking backward.

Here’s how to get 20/20 FORESIGHT: Study your predecessors, especially the ones who took the bar more than once. What are their regrets? What would they do differently?

Luckily for you, I already asked your fellow students for help, who took the bar exam in different jurisdictions (California, UBE, and more). Here’s a sample of what they had to say after coming out of the trenches.

“Your biggest regret or mistake?”

"Your biggest regret or mistake about bar exam?" 1
"Your biggest regret or mistake about bar exam?" 2


“What was the worst advice someone gave you about bar prep?”

"What was the worst advice someone gave you about bar prep?" 1
"What was the worst advice someone gave you about bar prep?" 2


I also asked them this…

“Teach a fresh newcomer to bar prep: What advice would you give for success based on your experience?”

"Teach a fresh newcomer to bar prep: What advice would you give for success based on your experience?"

This is gold!

It’s like looking into your future with a crystal ball. Nowhere else would you see pure unfiltered truth from people who JUST came out from the bar.

Let me summarize the key points for you [with my comments]:

  • Don’t blindly follow your bar course [recurring theme if you read the comments and about my own failure]
  • Give yourself enough time to start studying seriously
  • Don’t focus too much on memorization [a whole can of worms I won’t open yet]
  • You don’t need to do a specific number of essays a day [“Do X lecture and Y number of questions on Z day… or else!” GTFO]
  • Address all subjects [even if you dig around for predictions… ONLY out of curiosity]
  • It’s not just about quantity [the number of questions or how many hours you put in]
  • Choose who you listen to. Instead of getting overwhelmed in different directions, make it simple. Pick a few people you trust (doesn’t have to be me), and go deep, instead of entertaining random “concerned” people who have never been in your situation. At the same time, don’t shut out your friends and family [did you see that comment?]
  • Remember to prepare for the performance test [often not the most important part of the exam but still something that torpedos students]
  • With the right supplements, you don’t need to waste money on an expensive bar course [but see below]

Hey, don’t start sweating all over me now.

Maybe you signed up for Barbri or Themis or whoever (#NeverKaplan) because they bribed you with outlines you never used as a 1L. That’s fine! “Big box” programs tend to have excellent raw materials.

Ultimately, you can do whatever that makes sense to you and suits your needs. Find out as soon as you can what that is. No one’s stopping you from going your own way. Don’t outsource your decisions to fear and desperation and what-if’s.

[Click to share on Facebook]

You need to find only one of them that works, which means it’s almost always doable. The question is what you’re going to do.

What matters is how you use the tool than the tool itself. The wielder of the tool makes things happen. Will you make diamonds or graphite? Use the tools rather than consume them.

Whether or not you have a “big box” bar course, bar preparation is ultimately a self-study endeavor. It’s a conscientious, thoughtful activity that helps you learn, not just “bill hours” to fill in time to feel productive. I failed the first time because I just went with the flow.

So I encourage you to trust yourself a little more. If you need help, listen to your predecessors who have come out of the exam.

If there’s one thing I’d like you to not compromise, it’s practice and feedback.

“Yeah I know, MOM. That’s so obvious. DUH!” You whip your hair smugly without making eye contact. “It’s simple. Tell me something new.”

Yes, smartass, it IS simple. Yet why are there many who end up “studying” for weeks and then going “OH SHIT” cramming in the last two weeks? 

You know this, and I know this: These words will wash over you like a warm shower as it goes out the other ear. You’ll end up saying weeks later, “You were right, Mom.”

That’s OK. Let me spare your feelings. I’m going to drill this into your head until you see me in your dreams.

We usually don’t internalize something the first time we hear it. Just like how you forget 99% of your bar lectures. So some things bear repeating if you want to be better prepared.

Yes, remember that you’re here to prepare up front, not just study. It has a specific purpose—to learn useful things that will ultimately help you pass the bar. The point of all this isn’t to just do work.

Think of the bar as another class you’re unfamiliar with, a pass/no pass class. Don’t treat the bar exam as a review of what you learned in school (though having taken the tested subject in school helps a lot).

In other words, this is not “bar review”; it’s “bar preparation.” [Click to share on Facebook]

The CEO of Dropbox is a great example of upfront preparation. He’s always found it valuable to ask himself, “One year from now, two years from now, five years from now, what will I wish I had been learning today?”

Similarly, one week from now, one month from now, once bar week rolls around in July, what will you wish you had been learning today? Take a second to comment below.

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