Bar Exam time! The dark at the end of the law school tunnel. The last big hurdle to becoming a lawyer. Nearly every state requires would-be lawyers to take its bar examination, and July is the month when most takers sit for the exams.
Just in time for that anxiety-inducing month, here is the McKenzie Method for taking (and passing!) the bar exam.
1. Start Early: The best information to predict success on the bar exam are your law school grades. This is especially true of the grades in your first year of law school, taking those foundation courses. Year after year, I hear students who have a lot of excuses about why their 1-L year was a bust. If you did poorly in 1-L, focus and push hard to improve your standing by 3-L (or 4-L in part-time programs). You should spend 8 hours a day studying for your classes, or approximately 2 hours of study for each hour of class time. No kidding. You are putting the money and time out for the schooling; make the most of your opportunity.
2. Take the Review Courses: Some schools (Suffolk included) offer extra Bar Review courses and bar preparation lectures to their students. Take advantage of everything your school offers. You should consider paying for the commercial bar prep courses as well. Ask to find out their pass rates before you shell out the money – many states have more than one bar prep company, and they vary in quality and success rates. Ask fellow students who may have done the review already if they thought it was good.
3. Take your Review time seriously: Put in about 8 hours every week day to study and review. Add 4 hours for each weekend day, or if you are working, plan for a 40 hour week of study minimum. Schedule your study time and keep to your schedule. Focus on bar review entirely during the study hours you set up. You might find it helps to study somewhere other than your home law school library. If you find yourself spending too much time chatting with fellow-sufferers, find somewhere else to study.
4. Pace yourself: Once you have done your study time, close the books and do something fun and relaxing. I really believe that some students who fail the bar exam do so because of exam anxiety and over-preparation. They get so wound up about the exam that they just choke when the big day arrives. Spend time away from other law students preparing for the bar. Watch movies, play games, run, swim, have a drink with a relaxing friend. Don't talk BAR!
5. Chill. The bar exam is not the end of the world. There is life afterward, even if you flunk it. If you don't pass the first time, don't despair. Records show that many excellent and influential lawyers didn't pass on their first attempt. Try again; again, records show that second and third time takers often pass after failing the first attept. Some people take the exam more times, even, and eventually pass.
The entertaining cartoon of the Salad Bar Exam is by Simeon Liebman for the Londons Times at www.londonstimes.us/toons/cartoons/Simeon_SaladbarExam4.jpg. See http://www.londonstimes.us/toons/Liebman.htm for a directory. He also has Attorney at Claw.