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Here’s a transcript of our interview with a February 2018 Successful Bar Exam student who refused to give up and found her way to success on the UBE
Jackson: Hey everybody. Welcome back to hanging out with successful bar exam takers. We have a story and an individual you are going to love. Welcome to Amanda Mill Genomic. Oh my gosh. I tried. I really identify under, you know, did I get it right? That’s right. You know, but really it’s not your name that’s hard to pronounce. It’s the story that you’ve been on because you are now passing the uniform bar exam, bar taker. And what try was this?
Amanda: This was the ninth try.
Jackson: Okay. Yeah. Folks, I want you to hear that nine tries. This lady hung in there for how many years?
Amanda: Five now.
Jackson: Five years. And just got your results that you passed and you’ve got the opportunity to waive into, I think five or six states, right? With your score?
Amanda: Yeah, DC once I wave into one of those. So six. And then Monday rolls around, so last Monday, and I get the letter from South Carolina that says here’s your score. Well my score didn’t pass in South Carolina, but it was a 263 and passing six other jurisdictions. So I technically pass.
Jackson: Okay, that’s pretty exciting. So how are you feeling?
Amanda: I’m still in shock. I wake up every morning and ask my husband, is this real life? To be quite honest, I can’t believe it. It’s been a long road. I actually carried the letter around all last week to just keep double checking the score.
Jackson: Like it didn’t change the Penn and Teller trick or David Copperfield tricks, number stays the same.
Amanda: Maybe I didn’t read it right.
Jackson: It’s funny how we train ourselves that way. Well, why don’t we start off with your story and how do we get to this point of being ready to take the exam and your success. But let’s go back and tell us a little bit about the backstory.
Amanda: Yeah. So I went to law school in 2010 and I’m actually going to be a lawyer since I was nine. So, it was always a huge goal and I kind of always knew I’d been one of those people that just knew what I was going to do with my life, which is a blessing. Then it kind of became a curse because I couldn’t pass the bar. I graduated a semester early, took extra courses during the summer, had a ton of internships in law school and in 2012 December 2012. I went to law school in Florida, took the North Carolina bar in February of 2013 for the first time and failed it and was devastated, absolutely devastated. And to be quite honest, I had never failed at anything in my life.
Amanda: Which I thought to that point was a blessing. This “just wait”, just been on my shoulders. I was a failure. I graduated early, but for what? For nothing. I failed the bar. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t do anything in my career. I was working at a large pharmacy. As a sales associate because nobody would hire me with a law degree but not licensed. Yeah. I was stuck in that limbo where nobody, people didn’t want me because I had too much education. But I couldn’t, I just couldn’t find a job. It was a really, really rough road. So then I kept attempting because I said to my husband, I don’t want to quit. I worked my whole life for this. I took the big box bar reviews. Every time I took them up on their free retakes every time. I took one bar review retake from 2013 to 2015. Then I said, “This isn’t working, let’s take another one”. So I took a different big bar box review course until I found you in December of 2017.
Jackson: Okay. So, when you found our course, what was it about our course that stood out? Why did you decide to make the switch? At that point?
Amanda: I really, I listened to one of your webinars. It was the last bar exam you’ll ever take. Yeah. And I wanted that to be me.
So that caught my attention. I said to my husband, you got to watch this. So he’s not a lawyer, but I said, you’ve got to watch this. It’s totally different. It’s changed my mindset in 20 minutes and to be quite honest, I just needed someone to say it’s not you and it’s not this test, but we can teach you to pass this test because I was so down on myself that I just needed someone to say, let’s take a whole new approach instead of just let’s memorize all this information and let’s just keep doing practice questions and, and let’s keep writing essays. And I mean, the thing was never the big bar box reviews. I wasn’t scoring well in those because I was in those reviews and then they were shocked that I was failing. I mean, I even got a personal tutor in 2016 that I paid a lot of money for and she was appalled that I failed the bar exam again. I think that that was the fifth time and that’s just what drew me to you guys. It was just a whole mind approach.
Jackson: Did you ever have a feeling that maybe you should just give up that you should just put it away? It wasn’t going to happen?
Amanda: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. About, I think it was my fifth time I said to my husband, “When do you decide that this isn’t God’s plan?” It isn’t, you know, maybe this is my plan and I’m not Christian and spiritual. And I said, you know, this is my sign, my sign from the universe, I can’t pass it. Maybe I’m meant to go do something else and help people in a different way and maybe I needed to, to get a grip on that. My husbands actually the one who pushed me to say like, you know, this doesn’t define you and you just, you sure feels like it defines you.
Jackson: So how did you sort of rediscover or discern that it, your path was still to keep at it? Because that’s a big question. It’s a question that comes up an awful lot for folks. And I want to dive a little bit deeper. I know it’s really personal, but, if you don’t mind sharing, I mean, what was your discernment process at that time?
Amanda: Absolutely. So I looked at that huge pile of student loan debt, and had just decided that I couldn’t let that pile up. It wasn’t fair to my husband who married me during law school. He knows going to go to law school would give me a lot of debt. It was a conversation, but I just decided it wasn’t fair to saddle him with all that debt and that’s not the way he views it, but that’s the way I had viewed it. And to be quite honest, I did know that I’m supposed to be an attorney. I knew that’s what I am supposed to do and I thought God’s not going to bring me from high school to four years of college, two – three years of law school and then take this bar for five, six times to just leave me here in this, in this interim space. It really just clicked one day and I said, I’m just going to keep trying something different every time until I can get this right.
Jackson: I’ve had students say to me over the years that they felt like there was this higher calling in their life, but also that they came into their lives, for sort of strangely, and that, that was the piece, you know, that seemed to be missing. And I’m always pretty amazed by that and humbled certainly, but I have a feeling that, that more often than not we might be that answer to prayer, that the people are like, I just need to find something. And there may be somebody watching today who was saying, I know I need something and I just want to encourage them. We’re not right for everybody. But, there are a lot of circumstances where somebody’s listening and hearing and viewing things differently can say, oh, you know, maybe that makes sense. So I appreciate you sharing that.
Amanda: The way I actually found you guys on that Webinar is through podcasts. I haven’t been a huge podcast subscriber and I was just looking for bar review podcast because clearly the big bar box review lectures I had watched them. All right, so I’m doing what they keep telling me to do, but on repeat because this was my fifth, sixth, seventh time, so I’ve seen all this information multiple times and so I started looking for podcasts on my own and found your webinar and then found one of these interviews on the site.
Jackson: So we talked before we started, I asked Amanda, you know, did you ever visualize doing this interview? And your answer was …
Jackson: Yeah. So in here you are right now. That’s a pretty cool feeling. Well let’s get into the studies just a little bit. You registered for our basic coaching program, which is our most economical program. So you didn’t go all in, you didn’t buy the high level tutoring or any of that, but you did add the Photo Reading piece and I’d like to ask you about that and what that meant to you and what you thought about it.
Amanda: I did add on the Photo Reading piece. I loved how you and the course tells us to, you know, when you get in the bar exam to photo read your MBE questions because people would get freaked out and it just kind of made me laugh inside. It gives you a good laugh, you got to keep your sense of humor in all this. So, I loved that. But the photo reading course teaches you basically how to open your mind and then take in all the information on each page at one time. But quickly I’m talking 100 page outlines in 20 or 30 minutes just flipping through when it would take me hours and hours after my full time job coming home to read those outlines and memorize them and study them and highlight them and all of that craziness. So that was one huge time saver, but I also think that because you were able to take it all in at one time, I just recalled it a lot easier and a lot quicker.
Jackson: Were you able to finish all hundred questions on the MBE in three hours?
Amanda: Oh yes, something ridiculous. Like I left at least 30 minutes early, maybe 45 when I looked at that clock. The proctors were shocked when you raise your hand, “Hey, I’m done.“
Jackson: That hadn’t happened to you before, right?
Amanda: No, I was using all full three hours. I was finishing the 100 questions in each session, but I was using literally every second and then going back and changing my answers if I had time to do it on the exam.
Jackson: When you were writing your essays, how’d you feel about knowing the law?
Amanda: Oh, it felt it felt natural, it just kind of came out and I wrote, I did the MPT and in the essays as well, and it felt so logical the way that you teach us to write and structure those essays, you know, versus the direct method and it just kind of flowed better if that makes sense?
Jackson: Perfect sense. So you’re studying differently, you’re using photo reading, were you mind mapping at all or were you just taking notes?
Amanda: Yep, Yep. I was mind mapping.
Jackson: Okay. So mind mapping is kind of a weird thing too, isn’t it? It’s like drawing pictures and more pretty pictures and then more pretty pictures still. Then you’re going back and reviewing those, the other thing that you were doing that I thought was really noticeable was that you were an active participant in our private Facebook group and in our group coaching calls. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Amanda: Yes, absolutely. So when I did the other bar, a big bar box reviews, I didn’t feel like there was any support. There was support from the proctors and people that were grading your essays. But there wasn’t support and communication between people that were taking the bar exam. I went to law school in Florida and then moved back to North Carolina to the North Carolina bar exam. So I didn’t know many people that were taking the bar exam in North Carolina. And then all my friends, by the time had passed. So I didn’t have anyone to kind of commiserate with. I don’t mean it in a negative way because the community with the study group on Facebook and then with the group coaching calls is very positive, but there are those moments where you can be like, I can’t study another question, I can’t look at another essay. I don’t care what the rule against perpetuities I’m done, you know, and everybody feels that way. And it’s nice to know that if you’re having a freak out on a Saturday and saying, I’m never going to pass this, I can’t do this, that there’s someone in that group that I made friends from in, in our study group from California, Texas, Florida, New York, everywhere you taught. I mean everybody is all over.
Jackson: Yeah. I heard the virtual cheer when you passed. It was a big deal. I think that’s an awesome thing. I think it’s a very positive thing because it is, it’s an isolating experience and it feels very much alone. And in your circumstance, which is a typical one for people that are repeating and it feels like everybody else has passed you by. You know, we talk about getting your life back. I think for a lot of people it feels like your life is on hold, in whole, you know, the only thing that’s not on hold are your bills, but you know, everything else is on hold. And so you feel like being able to share that with other people, that get it, get you don’t get that out of your system a little bit. Makes a difference, doesn’t it?
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s what I was just telling one of my girlfriends that is a repeat bar taker as well, you know, it’s one of those things that you don’t understand the support that you need from other bar takers until you have it. I didn’t realize that that piece was even missing because you’re like, well, I can call the practice at any point, what have you. The proctors aren’t taking the bar exam again, you know, and they’re not taking it for the ninth time. Those people in the group that we’re friends with and that you commiserate with and lift each other up. I mean, I have never been more proud of people that I have never met in my whole life. I’m just so many people that were passing this week and last week and I was just so excited. I’m like, please just let me be one too.
Jackson: It’s a pretty amazing thing and I got to say from our perspective, we watch it on the sidelines because we know the backstories and were like, “Oh yes!!” So when you passed, when I say there was a virtual cheer, there was, on the slack channels, on the back end, my staff is going crazy. I mean, they’re like, oh my God, yes!! I mean, all of a sudden my computer’s just flashing, you know. That’s pretty awesome. I want to talk a little bit about the strategy we employed a because one of the things that, that we decided to do early on was to switch you out of North Carolina and get you into the uniform bar exam. Now it happened to be that South Carolina was the easiest place for you to sit for the exam. And I think sometimes people lose sight of this fact.
Jackson: It doesn’t matter where you sit for the exam with the uniform bar exam, you could have gone to Colorado or Minnesota, you could have gone to New York, you could have gone to. I mean there’s a lot of places, right? So people kind of get. Yeah. And another three coming on board. So sometimes people get this in their mind, you know, I’m sitting for the South Carolina bar. Well, kind of, but you’re really sitting for the uniform bar. So you took it in South Carolina. and it’s a two day exam. It’s not state specific. So it’s a very different experience than you had in North Carolina. Right? I mean, the test is different in that sense. The MBE is the same performance tests, but the essays are certainly different in a different approach. What did it feel like? Well, actually, let me back up. Why did you like that strategy? What was it about that strategy that made sense to you?
Amanda: So it made sense to me because what’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting different results. I was changing on my bar course. I was changing up, you know, the jurisdiction because I needed something different. North Carolina clearly wasn’t working and their passage rates truth be told are continuing to go down. I just said we’ve got to do something different. And so when we decided on South Carolina, to be honest, I mean that opened up a whole new ballgame because if I pass the UBE even, you know, if I did pass in the six jurisdictions, I mean, look, if I had passed in North Carolina this time, it’d be only one state.
Jackson: That’s it. One which is kind of hard to pass. And suddenly you start going, oh, okay, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. Your score for the UBE was a 263, correct? Correct. Okay. That’s a pretty good score. I mean, that gets you into six jurisdictions. It probably gives you enough that you could sit for the Florida only part of the Florida exam if you were crazy enough to do that. Yeah, talk about crazy. But it gives you this opportunity to be licensed now in those jurisdictions. And does it really matter all that much where your license is?
Amanda: Not to me.
Jackson: Yeah. See, that’s the point. And I think a lot of folks kind of lose sight of this. They think I have to be in this state only. But the truth is that the way laws being practiced today, if you are a member of the Minnesota bar and you’re living in North Carolina, it makes little or no difference for most of the legal work that you want to do. Please tell our audience, how does it feel to have ESQ. behind your name?
Amanda: It feels insane. I can’t believe it. I have the most amazing friends that are sending me plaques and these beautiful things that say Amanda Miljenovic Esq. it just, it feels, e good,
Jackson: Feels good, doesn’t it? Alright. So I just want to get that out there to folks because I know that the strategy, we kind of pushed the strategy early on and I got a lot of, it got a lot of heat, a lot of pushback from people saying, oh, you got to suffer the one exam. You got to sit there, you got to make that exam. I was like, I don’t think so. I mean, you know, let’s be smart about this. You know, the point is to get over the hill. If you get over the hill, it, it changes everything for people. And you are the next in a very long line over the last few years of people who’ve done just that. And I can tell you the results have been absolutely wonderful for people. They were so fixated on a state and then they switched, got them over the top and it was like, oh wow, you know, the sun is shining over on this side of the mountain.
Amanda: And the cool thing about that strategy that we did, that I did with you, is that if I wanted to go and retake it because I want to be barred in, you know, I don’t know New York because they have a higher score, so I want to be barred there. I can go and take the UBE again and I’m going as a licensed attorney. That’s different, my confidence level is just through the roof. So if I wanted to do that I could, but North Carolina allows me to wave in with my Minnesota in four years.
Jackson: You see it’s a whole different world. And the truth is you’re only three points off of a New York, New Jersey, DC. You’ll get in New York, New Jersey license right away. So this is pretty amazing. So this was a big jump in your scores. It was a different way of approaching things. And you didn’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars, right? So take that big box bar reviews. Alright. Sorry I couldn’t resist. I’m having so much fun with your story, Amanda. This is way cool. All right. So you take the exam and a different experience obviously finishing earlier, feeling more confident, all of those pieces. But now you’ve got to go back and wait. And you’ve been through this waiting period a lot of, a lot of times I like to ask people about the waiting period because I think it’s probably when most folks have to come face to face with their greatest fears. Is that a safe statement?
Amanda: Absolutely. My greatest fear at, you know, at the time is getting that letter in the mail for the ninth time that says, “sorry you failed.”
Jackson: Yeah, absolutely. So, results come out. Tell me what happened. Tell me what that was like?
Amanda: So I’ll tell the South Carolina portion of my story. I live right on the county line in South Carolina so I can practice in north and south. And that’s what a lot of attorneys do here. Just because you want to be flexible like that. So, I actually got the results not this past Friday, but the one before and they weren’t supposed to come out till like May 8th. I’ve got the results. I got an email that said the results are coming and they’d be posted at four pm. So I’m driving in the car actually to New Jersey. My husband’s family lives up there, so we were on our way to New Jersey and in the car I got the email. This is, they’re posted, opened up my phone and my name wasn’t there and it was devastating again. So I did feel that failure right away and I said to him, “I felt like this time was different.”
Amanda: I don’t know why I failed. I felt time was different. I know it was. I worked on myself. We did the daily affirmations. I literally just put them down yesterday. They were on my bathroom mirror there on my entryway mirrors. They were everywhere. They were my car. So I had all of those, you know, I, I really did think I was going to see my name on that past list and then Monday rolls around and I get the letter from South Carolina that says here’s your score. Well my score didn’t pass in South Carolina, but it was a 263 and passing six other jurisdictions. So I technically passed.
Jackson: I wanted to share that story. I know it’s a little embarrassing, but I wanted to share it because I want people to understand that when you’re sitting for the UBE, you’ve got to take a broader view and, and I think yours is a great example of that. Yes. It would have been wonderful if you’d had the 266 you needed in South Carolina? Yeah. So your three points off. Okay. Which is not a lot, but you don’t get that, but you get a score that lets you waive into all these other jurisdictions and do what you want to do it. It’s unbelievable. And it just takes a couple days to get it processed through. So don’t lose heart folks. I mean, you know, you got to take this bigger view just as Amanda did and then you start to see it. And I, no matter what words I’m saying here, you got to see the smile and this woman’s face to know that she’s pretty happy with this result. I like that, I like that. This is really exciting stuff. When you figured all this out, obviously your husband, you’d tell your husband, right? What was his reaction? Because he’s been your biggest supporter.
Amanda: He had just been the most amazing supporter. You know, the people that tell you, okay, maybe this is the time to quit. That was never him. He said, I know you’re going to pass. He literally tells me you’re one of the smartest people I know you need to do this for you, you know, don’t do it for me. Do it for you. He was actually right, it was a perfect storm and he was a godsend again. So he was with me when I got the news and I’m so devastated on Friday, Monday rolls around, I had to take a personal day from work because the ninth time just kind of did me in for a little bit and I just needed a break. I took the day off work and I was here when the mail came, which never happens because I’m at work and my husband was working from home.
Amanda: He got home at 2:00 or the mail came at three and he’s never, we’re never home together during the workday. And he and I took a personal day. He was here working from home. I got the mail open up the letter, sat down on my kitchen floor and cried a good cry and ran into his office and he, you know, deals with clients and it’s usually on the phone and all of that. Are you on the phone? He said, no, no, no, it’s okay. And I said, read this, read this. What does this say? Because I couldn’t even process it. I knew it said 263, but I wasn’t quite sure. Was I reading this right? Was that manifesting the center existed for my eyes playing tricks on me. He said it says 263. He said, that means you can be barred in some jurisdictions. I was like, oh my gosh, look them up. You know which ones. And I was screaming and crying and he, he was just hugging me a week. It was just, it was the moment that I’ve been waiting for, for nine times, five years. It was insane.
Jackson: I got nothing, man. Folks, if this doesn’t get you, I’m like, I don’t cry, but I’m about to.
Amanda: I’ve cried so much in the last week. I just, I can’t believe it. And you know, we had already told my family, my family, his family, you know, my friends, my attorney friends that have all passed. They knew I was getting the results soon and they check in on me about once a week and said, “Hey, what is it, we know you’ve passed this time”. And they were also sure too, and you always feel like you’re letting them all down, because you’re lettIng yourself down, but you also feel like you’re letting all the people that have brought you to this point in your life and carried you through when you couldn’t carry yourself through. You feel like you have let all of them down. So not only is your life on hold, I put my husband’s life on hold and now I’ve let my family down, his family down and all of my friends.
Amanda: I had told them all that I had failed and I just said I’m not taking it again. I’m done. This is clearly a different road for me. I’m not taking it again. And by Sunday, you know, before I got the results, my husband’s like, we know you’re taking it again. I’m like, no, I’m not doing it. And he was like, yes, you are. We didn’t know the score. Then he’s like, you’ve got to be close. You can take the UBE again. It’ll be a different ballgame, you know, call Jackson, call Kelly, get something set up. You can do this again, and I said, I know, I can do it. I’ve got to do it. I’m so close. I can feel it. And then that letter came on Monday.
Jackson: I’m so proud of you. It’s a fabulous story. You know, I say this sometimes to people when they’ve struggled to get over the bar. You are exactly the person that I want as my lawyer because you won’t give up. And that’s what I wanted in a lawyer, somebody who fights it, has the passion for what they believe in, has the passion to do what they know they’re committed to doing, what they know they should be doing in life. That is who you want as a lawyer. I don’t think I really want the person that goes, you know, I didn’t really care. I took the bar and passed.
Amanda: I get it. I took a week off work and decided I’d go take the whatever bar and I’m like, that’s so nice of you.
Jackson: I really want fighters. I want passionate people. And I think you’re, you’re one of those, I know that from our Facebook group. One of the great things is that we have past students who are successful who stick around and offer support. I know you’re planning to do that and I think that’s going to be like an awesome thing. I believe you’re going to be a guest speaker at some of those group coaching calls.
Amanda: Yes, I might be on this Sunday.
Jackson: Okay. See, there you go. all right. I just want to thank you for sharing your story, for being so transparent and so open about what you’ve done. I think watching your future is going to be really fun because you’re going to be incredibly successful. My experience has been when somebody bursts through, like you have, not only do they get their life back, but they get it back in a big way. There is a manifestation of that.
There will be people watching this interview, Amanda, who have failed the bar a lot of times and are very discouraged and saddened and frustrated, and I know they’re going to be encouraged by what they’ve heard, but, but if you’re speaking to them directly, what would you say right now to those folks?
Amanda: I would say that ditch the big box and that’s not, you know, I’m not trying to promote you. I’m just saying you have got to give up the big bar box review. I always kind of stuck with them, they offer a money back guarantee if you don’t pass what I mean, that’s great, but when the bar passage rates are 30 to 40 percent in a lot of the states in the United States, I mean, that’s really bad odds that you’re going have to retake it. And I would also say, you know, give yourself a little bit of grace. I have always pushed myself and I had this plan and felt like I put my life on hold and my husband’s life on hold and I would just say, do let go of that guilt. You’re doing the best that you can and you are doing everything that you know to do in your power and that sometimes you have to change it up.
Amanda: Sometimes you have to do a little something different. Just like the UBE. Sometimes you have to take a different bar review course sometimes. Maybe. I mean, it could be something as little as you got to study in the morning versus the evening. I don’t know, it’s just you have to do something. But most of all I think you have to find your confidence again. That’s what your course really showed me, is that by doing those daily affirmations, the paraliminals and doing the just the support in the Facebook group doing that kind of stuff really brings you back to wait, okay, I passed law school. I am smart. I do good things for people. I want to do this profession because I want to help people. And you have already come so far and you said that in one of the webinars and I burst into tears and I was listening to on the way home from work and I thought maybe I should pull over, pull over.
Amanda: Before I have a car accident, but you have to get to the spot where, where you were. Okay with this point. You said, you know, all you have to do is remember how far you’ve come. And that has just resonated with me because no one had looked at me and said it’s okay to be in this spot and it’s okay to have to take in the bar and I signed and that doesn’t make you any less than so big or box reviews that would really like to name don’t say that they don’t say that it’s okay to be you. Nobody says it’s okay to fail. And to get back on. I just recently told my employer that I have been with for a three and a half years now that it took me nine tries because I was so ashamed. I would say you have to find your confidence and don’t be ashamed. We all have a different journey. So, you know, just have some confidence. A little faith and grace.
Jackson: Yeah. oh man. Well folks, now you know who the new motivational speakers going to be at Celebration Bar Review. It’s not me
Amanda: I am so grateful for you guys. You have no idea.
Jackson: Oh, well yeah. Okay. So you’re. Now you’re making me cry too. Don’t do that Amanda.
Jackson: I want people that I know you’re the real deal and I’m so thankful. I’m so glad that we could be on this journey with you. I’m glad that you were a lead or found us and I know that you will be an inspiration to so many folks. This interview is going to go crazy. I can tell you that right now. I’ve done enough of these that I just know it’s an extraordinary story that you’ve got, but the real extraordinary story is just who you are and where you’re going to go. And so that’s why it’ll be fun. We’ll check in with you periodically and see what’s happening. Thank you again and congratulations. I hope that smile stays on your face for a very long time.
Amanda: You guys have no Idea. I’m just so grateful. From the bottom of my heart and whether I found you guys or were lead to you or however the universe brought me to you guys. It literally, when I say you guys changed my life, I’m mean it wholeheartedly. I mean, it literally, you have changed my life and I am just so, so grateful.
Jackson: Well folks, I got nothing. This has been so much fun and so great. So to our audience. Thank you for being with us today. I hope that Amanda story has inspired and lifted you up the way it has me. We’ll see you agaIn next time with when we talk to another successful bar exam taker. And for now we’ll say goodbye. take care of everybody.
Here’s a transcript of our interview with a February 2018 Successful Bar Exam student who used Celebration Bar Review to raise her score by 33 points and pass the Texas Bar Exam on her 3rd try!
Noelle: [EXCERPT] I mean, you’re amazing. Your course is amazing. I wish everybody had access to your course. So the whole bar exam experience would be so much better if people did it this way…. [END]
Jackson: Hey everybody. Welcome to hanging out with successful bar exam takers and I have probably one of my all timefavorite students that I get to talk to today. Hi Noelle, how are you?
Noelle: Very well, Jackson.
Jackson: Well this is a big, big moment one that you’ve been waiting for. I’ve been waiting for it. You want to tell the world what you just did?
Noelle: I passed the Texas bar exam and was just sworn in as an attorney. .
Jackson: And this is no small accomplishment folks. We’ve got a lot to unpack today because Noelle has had quite a journey to get here and had to do an extraordinary amount of work and this is a great, great accomplishment. So let’s start by you just telling folks a little bit about your background and how you got to school and what kind of led you into the taking the Texas bar.
Noelle: Yeah. So well after graduating from college I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do next. I was either going to do something, something in education. I knew I really cared about education, so I was either going to do education law or education psychology, wasn’t really sure and I thought I really care about social justice issues so maybe I should go the law route. And so I applied to law school and I got into law school and I went to American University and I had a wonderful experience there and I got a chance to work in the disability rights law clinic and got to work on special education issues there. And, after law school I got married right away and, we had been dating for a long time and that was wonderful. The timing was right in terms of that, but I’m not sure the timing is right in terms of taking the bar exam.
Noelle: So I went ahead, I took the Connecticut Bar exam and I just felt very kind of like scrambled during that whole process and, I remember thinking when I was about to submit my application to take it, I don’t know if I should do this, I don’t really know. I’m probably not going to live in Connecticut, so it was just kind of, you know, everyone was taking the bar and so like I guess I’m supposed to do this right. And I didn’t pass that time and I worked with another, bar review company and it was a very, hard experience. I felt like I didn’t get very much guidance. I felt like nobody was really telling me where I should be. It seemed like my assignments were very cumbersome. I was trying to create my own outlines after reading their outlines and making flash cards and I was just doing a lot and it just seemed like there just wasn’t enough time to do it all.
Noelle: And I remember asking for advice and no one was really able to give me much advice. Eventually, someone sent me their outline and I guess I was supposed to study that, but it didn’t really mean that much to me because I didn’t create it. And anyway, so that was that experience. , then I moved to Texas and I waited about a year and took the Texas bar exam with another bar review company that I thought would be better because they said you could study on your own schedule. , it was supposed to be tailored to you because you can study on your own schedule. That was helpful, but I still didn’t get very much personal guidance. , I spoke to someone on the phone a couple of times. He sounded like they were also a recent law school graduate and, they didn’t really have anything particular to tell me about what was going on with my studies and they just said, you know, keep going.
Noelle: I know it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of time, but you do. And very general statements like that so I did my best. I did the best I could and I felt pretty good about the test that time but I ultimately didn’t pass that time so and before I found out I didn’t pass, I had been surfing the web on facebook and I came across a Celebration Bar Review seminar and thought it sounded really interesting, so I listened to it and Jackson was talking about various techniques and methods that he could use to help people pass the bar exam who hadn’t been successful with traditional methods or regular methods that most people use and it sounded really unique and interesting. He talked about knowing instead of memorizing and he talked about different resources that he had there were something called paraliminals.
Noelle: There was something called PhotoReading. There are all these different resources that I had never heard about. So I decided I would keep that in my back pocket. I actually watched that before I view my results and so I just thought, you know, at least I know that if something happens and I don’t pass right away, I can get plugged into this resource. So I have it in my back pocket. So I ultimately needed it. And the very next day I think I had after I found out my negative results, that time I made an appointment with Jackson and we just kind of went from there.
Jackson: Yeah. And I remember, I remember when we first talked and the sort of the two things happening. One was the enormous disappointment that you had failed, obviously, but also this really strong will determination that you could pass, that you knew in your heart of hearts were capable of doing this. Now you had some accommodations that you had to get and some challenges. , you went to a pretty good undergraduate school, a Princeton, wasn’t it? Yeah. So we know you’re a really smart person, but at the same time, some of those time limits were really difficult for you weren’t a, on the bar. And so there was a whole series of things. Yeah.
Noelle: Yeah. So I’m actually, the first time I took the bar exam, I didn’t even finish it at all. I was rushing. I was like, okay, you know, I just got to fill in these blanks, these boxes. I just can’t get through all these questions. I struggled to read through the whole question. , especially some of the longer ones. I, I was wondering how people possibly get through this material in the time allotted. And, and actually at that time I did have extra time to, but I had never struggled with finishing tests like that in my life. Like it was very strange. So I, I didn’t really know what to do because I hadn’t had that issue before. I mean I’d always had extended time I was diagnosed with dyslexia from a young age and so I had accommodations and different resources and they had always worked, you know, so I was very kind of confused about why I needed, why wasn’t happening.
Jackson: Yeah. And I, and I wanted to talk about that because it helped form the approach that we took when you came to me, one of the things that we did was to get you involved with photo radio and I want you to talk about that in just a moment. But the other thing that I want to just point out so you know, you took the Texas bar with us and I know you’ve got a lot to say about that in terms of the first try and you came up short, but instead of giving up what you did was you put your head back down, we continued to build from a higher base that you developed and it just took us a little longer to get you there so that you were able to pass. Is that a fair statement that it was just, it was a longer road, but we were on the same path the whole time?
Noelle: Yes, and I was able to adjust some things. I was able to enhance how I was applying the different resources, like PhotoReading and I was able to talk to other students like Andrew to masters. He spent some time talking to me about how he used voter rating and I thought, oh wow. He used it differently from how I used it and maybe I can try what he did. And, and I did and I incorporated it. So what I did was I photo read more regularly and more frequently, didn’t just go to read a topic when it was assigned in the syllabus and then leave it and never look at it again until right before the test it was, I was constantly bringing out the books and PhotoReading and voter reading and it was kind of like a refresher it was all getting into my mind, but without having to spend hours and hours.
Jackson: Yeah. For those of us in our audience who aren’t familiar with PhotoReading, can you describe it for them quickly?
Noelle: Yeah. So PhotoReading is you pick up the book and you really. There’s several steps of it, but the most important one is called photo flipping. And you just flip through the pages. You look at it, you make sure you can see all four corners of the page and you flipped through page after page and you might like to yourself really lax three lax or three to one as you’re going through it. And, it’s really trying to put your self in a state of relaxation so you can just absorb the information that you’re looking at. And it was very helpful.
Jackson: Yeah. How many times would you say you’d PhotoRead an outline for a subject?
Noelle: Oh, I mean several times. I don’t know. 40, 50, 60 times.
Jackson: Yeah. And the reason for that is that you could take an outline that might’ve taken you eight to 10 hours or more to read traditionally. Correct. You were PhotoReading it and about what? 15 or 20 minutes.
Noelle: Right, right. So the value of accumulated reading up. I could do a whole outline if it was a long outline in like three to five minutes, but some of them were shorter, so it would be much shorter than even that.
Jackson: And so PhotoReading was a big part of what you did, but another big part of what you did, and we’re going to come back to your story. I’m just sort of wandering around here. A big part of what you did, particularly the second time around was mindmapping. Right? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Noelle: Mind mapping was amazing. So, I really incorporated that into my studies the second time, the first time you introduced it to me, but I didn’t really get very familiar or comfortable with it and it felt like more of a drain and I was more caught up and figuring out the right way to do it and it was taking me a long time and so I ended up not using it really the first time. The second time I went to boot camp, I remember I had a one, one or two conferences with you before Bootcamp and you had said you wanted me to do mind mapping and I thought well I tried that before and I really didn’t like it and it just didn’t work for me. So I’m like, I was feeling overwhelmed to be honest. And then you told me that in Bootcamp I would be getting more direction in mind mapping.
Noelle: And so I thought, okay, well maybe after the Bootcamp this will be something that I do, but I was still kind of, I don’t know, I didn’t really know if it would work so, but I did try it at camp. I gained a lot of competence in my mind mapping and Bootcamp and I ended up incorporating it fully into my studies for every single subject. So I would mind map after I had her write an outline, I would do a general broad mind map and then as I did practice questions, I wouldn’t mind map them whether I was correct or incorrect. And then as I started to get more and more correct, I would just mindmap the incorrect answers so that I would know the correct law,
Jackson: And you told me that you would read your mind maps to your husband, right? You would read this.
Noelle: Well, after I would make a mind map set for a subject, I would ask my husband to come over if he was willing or sometimes I would. Sometimes I would just record myself if he wasn’t available. And sometimes over Christmas, oh my gosh, that was another thing, this time I had to study over Christmas and I was at my grandparents house and my family was there, so I would grab a relative talk to them about or mind map.
Jackson: This is a dedicated person folks? Yeah. And nice family. So you did the mind maps and you did the PhotoReading. You also incorporated paraliminals. Can you talk a little bit about those paraliminals?
Noelle: Yes. So the paraliminals I used those to help to change my mindset because after you’ve had negative experiences with this exam, which is a grueling exam, and in Texas it’s actually like three days. So it’s kind of hard to get your confidence back and get your groove back and feel like, yeah, I can do this. So I started listening to these paraliminals, which you put on your ear, do, you can actually sleep while you’re listening to it. And it delivers messages to you about belief in yourself. I’m anti anxiety messages, things like that. So it starts to work on your subconscious so that you start to have different thoughts than what your mind might automatically revert to.
Jackson: Yeah. So pretty powerful. Now, in addition to all of that, we taught you a different way to write essays. We used an approach called fact law application, which was very different than the issue spotting IRAC approach. Can you talk a little bit about what the difference was like for you in switching over?
Noelle: It was so helpful. It made so much more sense than IRAC, which is what the other companies teach. , it was much more so for the bar exam, if you don’t use a method like they teach in celebration bar review, which is knowing instead of memorizing it can be very overwhelming to try to memorize all of the law. But with Facts /Law/ Application, you are really focusing more on facts and arguments and it allows the law to kind of surface to the top of your mind. And so then you’re able to just pull out the law from your subconscious basically. And it’s just there even though you didn’t sit there memorizing flashcards about the law.
Jackson: And so, to be clear, you didn’t memorize anything when you took the bar this time, you didn’t set up flashcard, you were using your mind maps, you were PhotoReading your writing based on the arguments that are coming up. Okay. Absolutely. So that’s a completely different role.
Noelle: Relied on flashcards for my whole entire life. Ever since I first learned about flashcards in elementary school, I’ve been using flashcards and they gave me great success up until now and suddenly it just wasn’t good enough.
Jackson: Yeah, you hit a wall with that for sure. When you get to the bar exam, we’re going to get back to your story in a minute, but because you employed all of these different tools, I want to make sure we covered all of them. You mentioned boot camp. This was a live two day training that we do periodically and you were able to attend that. Can you tell people a little bit about what that experience was like, and what it meant for you?
Noelle: It was an amazing experience. Let me tell you. Okay. Bootcamp, we did a lot of substantive work. We did a lot of work on technique, okay. It was great, but also at Bootcamp was a chance to meet other people in person who are going through the same thing that I was going through and listened. Celebration Bar Review has a great community on Facebook and it’s wonderful to be supportive there, but to have the chance to meet the people at the Bootcamp who you’ve been conversing with on an, on the facebook group or in Group coaching, it is amazing and it was very encouraging and a wonderful opportunity. And yes, I gained a lot of substantive skills. That’s when mind mapping really came to life for me. , and I was able to confirm that my plan with the PhotoReading that I actually discussed with Andrew was a good one at that Bootcamp. So, I was able to write essays there and you know, Jackson was telling me, you know, I see what you’re doing, you’re doing good work, you’re working hard, you’re on the right track, you can do this.
Jackson: It was, for me, it’s a lot of fun because I get to actually meet students live and in person and you know, that that’s like the best. But then in your case it was, it was great for me to be able to see how you are actually working, be able to look over your shoulder and see what you were doing and see that it was coming together. Because I think for you a big part of the challenge was just coming to believe in yourself enough that you really could do it. You know, when you’ve had success all your life and then you hit the wall of the bar exam. It’s pretty, pretty demoralizing, isn’t it?
Noelle: Yeah, it is. It is. It can be very demoralizing, especially something, you know, I’ve worked so hard, I’ve invested in so much in it and I have this dream of becoming a special education attorney and I needed to do this, you know, I, it was this hurdle that I had to overcome in order to achieve my goal. So
Jackson: And I know that you felt like your was on hold while all this was happening, which was very challenging.
Noelle: Yeah, for sure.
Jackson: So you’re studying along. You take the Texas bar with us the first time in a fairly short period of time and you made some improvements but you didn’t get quite over the hump. So we recalibrated, as you said, you talked to one of our former students, Andrew. And one of the great things about our course I think is that we have all of these folks that have been formerly in the course and successful who stayed to help and mentor. I know you’re already doing that for other people, which is so awesome. And, and so you kind of got yourself refocused and you were in our premium course. So you and I were talking pretty frequently. I mean, we did probably between the two sessions we did probably something like 30 to 40 conferences, right? To talk about your work and you know, you just kept pounding away and pounding away and pounding away. And then one day you sent me an email and you said I had an, I had a semi-fight with my husband and he said, stop acting like a lawyer or something like that. Am I right?
Noelle: Yes, he, he said, you’re acting like a lawyer or something like that. You’re right. He did. And it was this weird thing because I was like, what? I was upset, but then I was also like, oh, he called me a lawyer.
Jackson: You said, “I’m not mad now,” but we didn’t know the results yet. But for you it was an awakening moment that other people perceived you as being a lawyer, right?
Noelle: Yes, yes, exactly.
Jackson: Yeah. And that’s, that’s kind of a big deal. All right. So now with all of that background, all of these tools that Noelle used and put together, you now have back to the Texas bar exam for February 2018. Tell me a little bit about how that felt, what your mindset was, how you were going into the test.
Noelle: Yeah. So February 2018, I definitely felt like I was on more solid ground because I knew for sure between the PhotoReading and the mind mapping the information was definitely in there. I previously felt like, well I don’t know if I studied x subject or why subject enough and, but I knew that it was there. I just had to execute it. So my challenge, I viewed my biggest challenge is getting enough rest because I had had a sleep issue previously that I didn’t talk about, but I wasn’t able to fall asleep before the exam, so I was just like really excited. It wasn’t so much nerve but it was excitement. So I am thinking like how am I going to calm myself down? And so I did several things to help myself with sleep over the course of months. Like I had been working on this as well, like developing a bad ride bedtime routine and, it was very helpful. So I was able to sleep. Yeah. And so I had that and then I felt like I was more prepared than ever in terms of substantive foundation. I knew the information was there and, I felt kind of sober, but I did have a little bit of nerves. I did, but it was a good feeling going into the exam. Jackson had me dressed up for the tests, which I didn’t want to do, but I thought, okay, I’ll sign and do it.
Noelle: And I did get some questions about it when I was going to sit down, like, oh wow, you dress up for this. And I was like, yes. My mentor told me to dress up. So I did.
Jackson: It’s okay, throw me under the bus, but, you know, I think it’s pretty cool, but that’s probably nothing compared to when you started PhotoReading on the exam, right?
Noelle: Yeah. So I use PhotoReading during the exam now. I mean, I did ultimately slow down. There’s different steps that you take, but you start out with the photo flipping through the test and then you do read through each question regularly, but the thing is, you go through the questions more quickly using the PhotoReading and also picking answers intuitively using the intuitive method causes you to just read the question prompt and pick an answer. That’s it. You don’t spend a lot of time deliberating and which one is, it is, I don’t know. And you sit there and you’re meanwhile time is going by. No, you just read it and then you pick and you move onto the next one and you don’t go back and change your answers.
Jackson: So how long did it take you to do 100 questions on the MBE?
Noelle: Well, I don’t remember the exact time, but I know for sure that, the first for the morning session I finished five minutes early. I’m the afternoon session. I slowed down a little bit. I think I was tired even though I was able since I finished 55 minutes earlier, I was able to take a 30 minute nap and have a relaxing lunch. , I only finished 15 minutes early the second time, but like, look, I started this process not being able to complete this test at all. So that was a very big improvement.
Jackson: Yeah, I would say for somebody with dyslexia that you could finish a section in 15 minutes early, much less 55 minutes early is remarkable. And you pass the multistate, Huh? Yep. Yep. So there you go. All right. So, what about the essay writing then? It’s a long day. It’s the third day of the Texas exam. You got 12 essays. It’s, oh my gosh, these crazy people. Thirty minutes at each, you had, but for you as a little bit longer day because of the accommodation, so you really got an endurance test in, in some way. Right. Okay. So you come into that third day of the test and how, what’s your mindset at that point?
Noelle: I just got to keep going, just got to keep moving forward. , I felt like essays were actually stronger for me than multiple choice, so I felt good about that. , and I was just ready to go. I was ready to write.
Jackson: Could you do, did you have a sense that you could see the mindmap? So as you were writing, as you were getting into a topic and you would come up on something, did you have a visual sense of it?
Noelle: I didn’t. I don’t think while I was taking the test, but I remember during my studies having moments of thinking that to specific mindmap and just kind of seeing how it branched off and that helping me. So I know I had done that process and it was there, but I didn’t so much visualize the mind maps during the test. It’s
Jackson: so during the writing itself you’re making arguments and then the law is just coming to you, right? You’re just typing what the, what you think the law would have to be. Right. So when the test was all done and you’ve got this very long waiting period, what was that like waiting for results to come?
Noelle: It’s very hard. It was so hard. It’s harder than the study process because you can’t really do anything more. There’s nothing more you can do. I, at one point, I know you’re not going to like this Jackson, but I took a couple of weeks after studying and then I said let me take 20 minutes every morning, 30 minutes, 40 minutes and just do some PhotoReading and do a couple of questions and I think for two or three weeks and I think I only got two or three questions wrong during the span of that hold two or three weeks. So I was like, you know what, I think if I was performing at this level on the test, I was probably okay. So that was a confidence booster and then I think I had some relatives visit me and my schedule got thrown off and I was like, Jackson wouldn’t want me studying anyway I felt good about it.
Jackson: Yeah. And I felt very confident that you were going to pass. You’d worked hard. You put in the effort, your mind maps were absolutely spectacular. We use them as examples in some other webinars that we did. They were just that good and the growth that I had seen from when you. And I first met and we talked and you were so frustrated and so scared and just sort of bewildered by the whole process from that person to this very confident, talented, and just sort of secure in herself person going into the exam, which is why I wanted to about the test itself because it was such a marked change and I thought, wow, she’s really got it. Well, results day comes as always, Texas says they’re going to release on one date and then they release early. Don’t ask why, I don’t know. But in any event, so my spidey sense was that results are coming out and lo and behold, they come out. Can you tell us what, how you found out about your results?
Noelle: Well, normally I find out at the end of the day because I just ignored my emails and everything for the whole day. I think results are coming out. But this day I decided to check my mail while I was still in bed before I got to bed. I was like, okay, well what if it’s negative? Then I have to go through work all day. But what if it’s positive? So I just, I just checked my phone email and I saw I got one email from the Texas Board of Law Examiners and I thought, okay, this is different. In the past I’ve gotten two emails on result day. So I said, okay, maybe this is good. So I pulled out my computer and my computer took forever to boot up and it kind of like, you know, kind of saturated the moment because I was getting excited. He decided and then I’m like, oh gosh. So then I finally, everything pulled up. I was able to log into the website and it said, congratulations, you passed. And then I was excited and husbands excited or crying, you know, we’re very happy and I have to call my relatives before work and it was just very exciting and I’m glad I did it that way.
Jackson: Yeah, isn’t that awesome? That’s a great, great experience. And I mean, you know, and now you’re sworn in, you’re member of the Texas bar, which has just got to be like amazing feeling to have,
Noelle: Absolutely. Absolutely. If I didn’t go through the struggle, I don’t know if I would appreciate it as much because I just went to law school and you know, I knew what I wanted to do, but you know, I always pretty much, you know, accomplish what I set out to accomplish. So, you know, I had done my undergraduate degree and then I did a master’s degree and I just kind of did those things and I’m like, okay, now I’m going to go to law school. And then I had this struggle and people in law school we’re talking about, oh yeah, you’re going to be an attorney. And I’m thinking I don’t, I really don’t care about titles. Like I just, I don’t. Whatever. Okay. Yeah, I’ll be an attorney. Fine. But now I really appreciate it because I went through so much to just pass this test that, I really feel proud of it now and I don’t think I would if I didn’t go through this struggle.
Jackson: Yeah. And just to put a fine point on it, the pass rate for repeat bar takers in Texas in February was something like 15 to 20 percent. The overall rate for the exam was a well under 50 percent. So you beat all of the odds. I mean, at every level you beat the odds. , and that is an extraordinary accomplishment. I mean, in the time when pass rates are falling like a rock, you swam against the tide. Now I know that there are going to be a, and congratulations for that for sure. I know that they’re going to be a lot of people watching and listening who are going to be saying, well, I’m kind of in that same position. I mean you only get a few tries at the Texas Bar, so you had that pressure working as well. But regardless of what state you’re sitting in, if you failed the exam, it’s pretty frustrating. And that’s to put it mildly. What advice would you give somebody who’s in that position right now? They’ve taken the bar maybe more than once they fail and they’re really frustrated about what to do next. What would you say to them?
Noelle: I would say make sure that you really want to do it because it’s not something you want to put yourself through. If you’re not sure it’s a lot of work, but if you decide that you really want to do it and you’re determined to do it, you believe in yourself. You have to. I mean, you know, I was very feeling discouraged, but I did know that ultimately I could do this. So you, you want to have some level of competence. Like if I get the right tools, I, I should be able to do this. There’s no reason why I can’t. If you feel that way, then you should find a resource that will provide you the type of instruction and maybe it’s a different type of instruction than what you’ve used in the past and really do it all out and trust the person who’s giving you those instructions. I would recommend celebration bar review because they do things completely differently. They’re not focusing on traditional memorization. They’re focusing on your intuition and using that to get you through this exam. And it’s so much information that I really do think that it’s the best way to get through the exam. It’s not as stressful. There is some stress, but there’s, it’s not as stressful as the other method, which is traditional memorization.
Jackson: Yeah. I mean sometimes people think that what we teach is this, you know, hocus-pocus woo stuff. But you worked really hard. I mean, it was, it was not like you just kind of rolled over and said, oh yeah, we’re going to take the bar. I mean, you really put in the effort and you were working full time. , so there was a lot going on in your life, right?
Noelle: Yeah. And some people really struggle with changing their way of doing things. I didn’t think that I did, but I guess there were some ways in which I wasn’t really taking on the suggestions because I, there was so much room for improvement the next time around that I did it with you. So you really do have to trust the people who are teaching you and realize there might be a different way to do it than what you are aware of. , you have to be open to that.
Jackson: Yeah, and I think, I think you became increasingly open to it. You have, you embraced it, you did the Bootcamp, you did PhotoReading, you did the paraliminals, you took the mind mapping approach and you used all those tools and sometimes I think people assume that they just, well, I’m going to buy the PhotoReading course. And then they never opened the book. And it’s like, yeah, that doesn’t work. So you actually did all of that and you, you put yourself out there and I just want to congratulate you on the accomplishment because it really is extraordinary. I mean this, this is not a Gimme to pass the bar anymore. It’s not something we just assume everyone’s going to do. A lot of people don’t. And you did it in spite of some extraordinary challenges. And really I’m proud of you. Proud doesn’t begin to tell you what I feel.
Jackson: , you, you are, as I said at the beginning, one of my very favorite students of all the years that I’ve been doing this. And I think one of the reasons you were one of my favorites is because you just laid it all out there. I mean, you just went through it and did it and you had some ops and you had some downs, but you kept plugging away. And to me that’s the mark of a really good member of the bar is that determination and drive to succeed. You’re going to be that way for your clients. I know that in special education law, where you’ve got clients who desperately need your help, and who the system doesn’t particularly care for in this particular world, me, good advocates. So you’re going to be a great advocate and a, I’m very excited to see what happens there. I’m really excited that you’re sticking around to help our students in our facebook group and the group coaching calls and all. I’m, I’m, I’ve already heard from people that have said that you’ve reached out and, so we appreciate that a great deal means a lot.
Noelle: Yeah. And I definitely want to be an encouragement to others. So yeah, I love it.
Jackson: That’s great. Well, any, any final comments that you’ve got for folks? I know this, this interview is going to really resonate with a lot of people. They’re going to be like, yeah, what she did, that’s what I want to do.
Noelle: , Well, just a couple other things that they’re really important to me. I had so much support in terms of family and friends who’ve been diligently praying for me and encouraging me along the way and I’ve appreciated it so, so much. And I think I’m. One of the things that allowed me to be “teachable” is that I was a figure skater growing up and so I had the experience of being coached and having kind of like tough love. And so that helps me too.
Jackson: Yeah. Are you saying that was hard on you?
Noelle: You were not hard on me, but you know, you do give some criticism, you’re honest. And so I, I was more able to take the constructive criticism maybe than some other people might know. You were definitely coachable.
Jackson: Okay, good. Yeah. So that’s, that’s good. Yeah. Anything else? I just couldn’t let that go.
Noelle: I’m very appreciative to Jackson and to everyone at Celebration Bar Review. I’m appreciative to my heavenly father, the Lord who I believe directed me to you all because that’s what I needed and I think he knows all of my needs, so
Jackson: And I think your faith was a big, big part of this. It made you’re coachable and teachable, but it also gave you the encouragement and the understanding and the wisdom to know that it would be not in your time necessarily, but there was a plan for your life, and we’re starting to see that plan unfold. So that’s exciting. I have to say I’m going to miss our conversations. You and I had a lot of calls and you know, it’s kind of sad but I look forward to, to other opportunities and other chances.So, congratulations. It’s just awesome to see what you’ve done and what you’re going to do and, I so much appreciate you coming on and sharing your story. I know it will be encouraging to so many people and it will give them the hope and the belief that they can do it. And so we’re very grateful for that.
Noelle: Thank you for the opportunity to share and thank you for helping me with this hurdle in my life.
Jackson: It’s been our pleasure. We’re glad to give you your life back. So with that, folks we’re going to sign off for now and we’ll see you again on another episode.
Recently, the American Bar Association announced a new way to compare law school bar exam pass rates in a single place with the publication of a spreadsheet designed to report “ultimate bar passage percentages.” To the surprise of many, the study showed an uptick in bar pass rates and an ultimate pass rate of 77% for 2017 graduates. Oh, if it were only that simple and clear cut. Instead, like most studies, the new numbers recall Mark Twain’s famous quip about “lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Here are 5 things that make the report not so rosy:
1. The Aggregate Numbers Mask Individual Results
Large law schools generally had good first time bar taker results. That’s great news but it masks the reality that most law schools are much smaller and the pass rates there were often dramatically lower. But, because of the sheer number of bar takers from schools like Harvard (590 Bar Takers in 2015) and Georgetown (656 Bar Takers) that had good pass rates, the numbers skew upward for the overall rates.
But according to Inside Higher Ed, 24 schools actually had pass rates below 75% and another 13 had rates below 80%. The reality is that there is a wide variation in law school rates and the expected success of T25 law schools with large enrollments hides much of the failure in the bottom 20%. Graduates from the law schools with the worst pass rates were generally schools with smaller enrollments.
2. It Still Took 4 Bar Exams for Many Applicants to Achieve a Passing Score
It’s great news that so many 3Ls pass the bar exam, but worth noting that it took many of those applicants up to 4 attempts before succeeding. A 2-year+ gap between graduation and bar passage is an eternity to a student with loans due and life on hold.
Instead of cheering, I suggest we revisit the traditional “big box bar review” methodology of memorize, cram and recite that leads many students into a retake, in place of a modern approach used in courses like ours that ultimately allows many of these applicants to pass the exam. In other words, since we’re cleaning up the mess these big guys make, let’s not give them credit for the pedagogy behind the pass rate.
3. Law Schools are Taking Liberties with their Reporting
It’s no surprise to anyone who’s followed the US News Law School Rankings that some schools are “creative” in their reporting. That’s also the case here. One example: some law schools pay (or incentivize in other ways) at-risk bar takers to not sit for the first exam after graduation, thereby moving those applicants out of the first-time taker pool. Law Schools were unable to give the ABA information on over 1000 students in 2015.
Because self-reporting is fraught with opportunities to massage the data, applicants and consumers should be wary of taking these numbers as wholly accurate – or even representative of some school’s performance.
4. The Study Ignores Non-Traditional Bar Takers
In my view, this may be the largest problem in the study. It only focused on traditional ABA accredited law school first time bar takers. That’s helpful but it ignores at least 3 massive groups of bar takers: Foreign Attorneys, Students from non-accredited schools and delayed or distant bar takers.
The number of Foreign Attorneys sitting for the bar exams in jurisdictions like California, NY, Texas and a growing number of other states has risen dramatically in the past 5 years. This group is also far less likely to pass the bar, with pass rates often under 20%. The results of foreign attorneys were not compiled in this report.
The same is true of students who attended state approved or correspondence law school programs. These “non-traditional” students have a substantially lower pass rate than students from even the lowest ranked ABA schools. Again, this cohort was not considered in the study.
And finally, there are many bar takers who are relocating across state lines and taking an exam for the first time in years, or those who graduated more than 5 years ago and are just now taking the bar due to changes in their life circumstance. This growing group of both licensed attorneys and adults seeking entry to the profession later in life are not part of the study.
All 3 groups have dramatically lower pass rates than a traditional 3L from an accredited school. While the study only focused on the latter group, its exclusion of the non-traditional bar takers make the numbers look dramatically better than they really are.
5. There are More Repeat Bar Takers than First Time Takers in Many Jurisdictions
For many who read this study, it seemed like a happy picture when it comes to bar pass rates, but unfortunately, this is only a cropped version of the whole landscape. The overall pass rate in many jurisdictions continues to be an abysmal rate that in some states, consistently remains in the 30-35% range (we’re looking at you, California). How can that be true? Simply put, there are more repeat bar takers than first time takers in a number of jurisdictions (particularly on the February test administrations) and the result is a dramatically lower state pass rate than the numbers touted by the ABA in this report.
So, while it’s wonderful that so many 3Ls pass the bar exam within 2 years (4 exams) that still leaves a staggering number of bar applicants who fail their exams repeatedly. By focusing only on the privileged group of ABA accredited school graduates, we are ignoring a large (and growing) subset of applicants who do not pass. This includes foreign attorneys, non-accredited school students, distant applicants and the unfortunate 12-23% of the study group who do not pass in their first 4 exams. For those applicants, the traditional approaches to bar review and test taking have not proven successful. Studies like the ABA report only serve to mask and hide that unpleasant truth.