Strategized Preparation is the Key to Passing the Bar Exam — Fleming's Fundamentals of Law
Passing the California bar exam on the first attempt is the dream of every law student. Historically, the bar exam was a three-day exam. In July 2017, the bar exam was changed to two days. Day one is comprised of five one-hour essay exams in the morning and a 90-minute performance exam in the afternoon. Day two is comprised of 100 Multiple Choice Exam (“MBE”) questions in the morning session and 100 in the afternoon. There is pressure to pass the bar exam on the first attempt because it is only administered in February and July. As such, your preparation to pass the bar exam commences in law school and does not cease until you pass the bar exam.
Your Journey to Passing the Bar Exam Begins in Law School
I passed the bar exam on my first attempt. However, only in hindsight as a practicing attorney and law professor, have I been able to recognize and promote how imperative your dedication and work ethic in law school is to your success in passing the bar exam.
1. First and foremost, you must brief all your assigned cases in law school
Students who use canned briefs or share the work with a study group are cheating themselves and make it much more difficult to pass the bar exam. Case briefing teaches you how to understand and synthesize the law, which is an essential skill for writing essay exams as well as mastering the performance exam.
2. Learn to outline your course material
Learning to outline through lectures and case briefing in law school is a necessary skill. In addition, you also need supplemental outlines while in law school because they fill in gaps as well as assist with comprehension of the subject. I recommend the Fleming’s substantive law outlines because I have extensively utilized their Baby Bar Examination Review Material books when teaching students how to write first-year subjects. They are comprehensive yet concise and provide the required rule splits.
3. Learn to write essay answers by practicing regularly
Learning to write essay answers is crucial to your success on the bar exam. By the end of law school, you must be able to spot the relevant issues, know your rules, and be able to use the facts as well as synthesize the law to write persuasively on behalf of both parties.
4. Learn how to take MBE questions by practicing regularly
The MBE questions on the bar exam are extremely difficult and you will need to take thousands prior to taking the bar exam. You will benefit greatly from purchasing a program and practicing the MBEs for each bar-tested subject while you are taking the course in law school. This will assist with comprehension and application of the rules for each subject. Taking MBEs is beneficial because it prepares you for the bar exam as well as can assist with achieving a higher grade in the class.
You must attend your classes. The July 2008 bar exam had a question about executive orders which was a mere blip in bar review. What saved me was being able to recall the professor’s lecture. If I did not attend class, I would not have been able to write on the issue. It may have only been two or three points, but it may have been the difference between passing or failing.
5. Preparation Requires Taking a Bar Review Course
After graduating, if you have not accomplished all of the steps discussed supra, you are not out of the game. However, you are going to have to work much harder in a shorter amount of time to prepare for the bar exam. Either way, a strict study schedule, a bar review course, taking practice essay exams and performance exams, as well as practicing MBEs are absolute requirements to sharpen your skills for the bar exam.
A very strict, written study schedule is required when preparing for the bar exam. You must write a detailed schedule for each day of the week from morning to night and share it with your family and friends as boundaries are necessary when studying for the bar exam. Your schedule must include time for studying for each subject, time for taking 60-minute timed essay exams, taking 90-minute timed performance exams, and practicing MBEs. Make sure to include breaks after every four hours as your brain needs time to absorb the material. It is also a good return on investment to reduce work schedules, if possible, to provide as much study time in support of your preparation for the bar exam.
A bar review course is required because it reviews each substantive outline for each bar-tested subject. As it may be years since you have taken the earlier subjects, your memory needs to be refreshed as to all the caveats of the subjects. Bar review courses also provide updates regarding changes in the law that have resulted from Supreme Court decisions. Again, I recommend Fleming’s as their substantive outlines are comprehensive, they are dedicated to assisting students with passing the bar exam, Prof. Fleming is funny which is definitely a plus, and he has tremendous insight regarding the bar testing trends and predictions of what subjects will likely be on the bar exam. Their students have also had published answers for the bar exam and baby bar.
6. Finally, Take a Break Before Taking the Bar Exam
Studying for the bar exam is exhausting. As you should be rested for the bar exam, I recommend taking a day or two off before the exam to relax because at this point you should be fully prepared to take the bar exam.