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I’m going to be talking about a subject that’s going to be on the thoughts of a lot of people right now and that is what do you do while you’re waiting to get your bar exam results. It’s a big topic and frankly it’s a big concern for a lot of people because it’s such a long period of time that some of you have to wait. I’m going to offer five things you can do very specific things while you wait for your bar exam results.
And for those of you who have not yet taken your bar exam you might say well this is probably not very important for me. And the truth is it’s obviously more focused on those folks who take in their exam and now are waiting. But I think it’s always useful to look ahead and see what’s going to be going on and what you might want to be doing or thinking about or preparing for when you get to that point where you’re waiting for your results. Now for those of you that are not terribly familiar with the process what happens is that after the Bar seems finished there is a fairly lengthy waiting period. But it varies from state to state. Some jurisdictions will have their results out within five weeks after the exam. Most jurisdictions typically wait eight to 10 weeks or 12 weeks and a few large jurisdictions will wait even longer than that.
And what that means is that the July bar exam results for example for California Bar takers typically don’t come out until almost thanksgiving mid to late November. Georgia bar takers are usually in that same kind of time period. And the first group of students that will get their results typically out of the July or the February exam big jurisdiction would be Florida and many of the smaller uniformed bar exam administrations. And then in the middle you got states like Texas and New York New Jersey D.C. lots of jurisdictions where lots of people are taking the exam and they’re just sitting and waiting. So for some of these jurisdictions we don’t actually have a specific release date. And you’re literally just on pins and needles waiting for the email to show up in your inbox.
So without overstating it I think for a lot of people this is a somewhat frightening time and really time when you’re thinking what should I be doing what should be going on during this time. How do you handle the stress the emotion and all of the feelings that go with this sudden buildup of energy to take the test. And then you know poof the air is all out of the balloon and you’re just in that mode of. Well what do I do now and how do I put it all together in my own brain. How do I reconnect with the world. What should I be doing. And I think for some people the reality is that their results come so quickly and they close down they do sort of a mine shut off after the exam and they don’t worry about it.
And that’s really good and hopefully they get good results and they move on and everything’s great. But you know that kind of person is typically not the the usual bar taker or most people are not in that circumstance. And so in my experience this waiting time is actually pretty painful from almost every bartaker. So if you’re watching this video today my guess is it’s probably because you’re already thinking about that process thinking about the what ifs that having those periodic flashbacks maybe to the exam itself. And I want to say that if you’re having those kinds of flashbacks I definitely don’t want you to think that I’m making fun of you because what’s happening in a very real sense is that you’re having something that we would describe clinically as a post-traumatic stress disorder. You’ve been through a high stress very difficult process and now you’ve got to work through it emotionally and mentally you have to process it.
You have to literally move on with your life. And if you don’t do that it can be debilitating and it can destroy your ability to function. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve seen many many people who literally get tied up in knots during this period of time. But I’ve also seen a awful lot of people figure it out. Work it out and there are some pretty good coping mechanisms that I think are useful. So what I want to do is share with you five specific things that you can do while you’re waiting for your bar exam results. So let’s jump into those.
The first of these five things without reference to any political organization is that you need to move on.
What do you mean by that is that you’ve got to find other interests other things to replace your bar study time while you’re waiting for your results. Now for many of you if you came from the world of law. So if you’re working in a law firm as an attorney or a paralegal or in some capacity or you were involved in some form of a legal practice it’s pretty easy to just go back to work and you’ve got plenty to do. But many of you who are waiting for better results in order to begin or advance your legal careers simply don’t have that option. And so as a result it’s really a good time I think to start looking aggressively to volunteer and to look for opportunities that you might not have had time for before.
It’s also a really good way to network. Just getting out there and getting some practical experience finding out who you can help going to your law school finding out what’s available what kind of internships and extra ships might be available. Getting yourself in some position to do some work down the road. And you know one of the things I love is that attorneys have been the first responders in major storms and natural disasters and on a number of political fronts. So getting yourself in a position to do some work down the road as a lawyer or a member of the bar. Well this is the time to get some some experience that way. And of course it’s a great time to interview if that’s going to be part of your process.
Now the reason that I suggest volunteer work right now is that because if you’re not a licensed attorney there’s obviously a limited range of what you’re going to be able to do. But the point is that you want to reconnect with the reason that you went through this entire trauma of law school and the bar exam in the first place. In other words I think you need to get back to what makes you feel valuable and useful and good when you’re doing legal work in the first place. I had a potential student contact me the other day who said I really don’t like lawyers and I really don’t want to be a lawyer. And I said Well then why are you taking the bar exam. And with that they kind of went silent and I think actually they decided not to take it.
You know if you don’t have that motivation what are you doing here. But most people do have that motivation and this waiting period is a great time to be doing some work in that regard. If you’re really stuck about what to do or where you can help out. Contact your local bar association or maybe the political or community or nonprofit groups that you align with to find out where volunteer opportunities might exist. You know people like the you know legal aid offices churches nonprofits other community groups really need lawyers and need people involved with the law as paralegals as those who can help out as clerks and interns. And so it’s a great opportunity to get involved. And of course if you’ve got a political interest and who doesn’t these days then you know the I can tell you that the camp candidates and campaigns are always looking for volunteers and helpers and that’s another terrific way to network.
There are a lot of people with legal connections involved in politics. It’s a great way to find out what’s going on in the world and in your community. And I can tell you from my experience working on campaigns at the highest level down to school board elections of really the lowest level I guess candidates are always looking for volunteers and they’re always looking for helpers. And you might choose to help out a couple of hours a week. Maybe it’s going to be more than that depending on the year and the activity. But the point is that you want to move on with your life and in order to do that you have to find some things to be doing and volunteer work is a great way to do that.
Item number two you know for those who’ve just come back from vacation they’ll recognize this one immediately. You’ve got to hug it out.
What do I mean by that. Well you know if you’ve got a family and most of you do it you and those of you that don’t have family hopefully have some friends and hopefully you’ve got some friends left. If you’ve got a job or even better you’ve got the family friends and a job all three. This is a really good time to reconnect with any and all of those people. Remember back when you were studying for the bar there were all of those missed date nights and the Hangout times and the work assignments that maybe you didn’t get to because you just had to study.
Well you might have forgotten a lot about that. But believe me the people around you they remember all those missed moments and this waiting period is a great time to make up for some of that by being extra attentive. And what I’m saying here is that I think you want to spend some additional time with friends and family coworkers. I schedule a lot of coffees at this time of the year just to catch up with old friends and kind of see what’s going on. I like to take vacation time because I’m so close to Disney World that’s easy to do. And I actually get the benefit of seeing students and other people I know who are coming to Disney World so it’s a great time to do these sorts of things. But you don’t have to go to Disney.
It’s just the point of reconnecting. You know I would say that even for me as a teacher I need that time back into the mainstream into the real world. And I would encourage you to do that as well. Now I recognize the reality is that you’re probably pretty tired from studying for the bar exam and taking the test. But to the rest of the world here’s what happens. You went to the bar exam you took the bar exam the bar exam is over. That’s enough. Get back to me. Get back to the world. And so you might be struggling a bit with how to make that transition. Everybody else is way past that they have no more forgiveness. And so what I’ve said to my students is that your presence here on planet Earth is now required. There are no more excuses.
You have to be present. You have to engage by results will come soon enough but you’ve got to get back into the world. Reengaging with family and friends and work that triple play if you will is really critical. You know if you’ve been at work and trying to balance your work and bar study this is particularly true for attorneys in practice who are moving jurisdictions where you’ve got to go back and take care of those clients you need to make sure that they know you’re still there and what’s going on in your boss your supervisor needs to know that you’re still in the game and your family and your friends need to know that too. So that having been said there’s obviously a lot going on in the world. This is a great time to reconnect and see what’s going on out there.
But just remember that to everyone else the bar exam was a finite one and done kind of event. It does not have a lingering implication to them right now. And so when you start saying to everyone around you well you know I’m just waiting for results. The truth is they really don’t want to hear about it. It’s over. You need to engage and you can’t use studying for the bar as a reason to stay away from all of those obligations and connections now. So if you know that there’s a list of items around your house that had to be done this is the time you probably want to do them and you just need to buckle down and do it. So that’s number two on our list of the five things while you’re waiting for your results.
Number three is you’ve got to talk it out.
Remember we said you’ve got to move on you’ve got to hug it out but now you’ve got to talk it out. Many bar takers not all but many have to get the test out of their systems. But as I just said in item number one about moving on in an item to hugging it out to the rest of the world. It’s totally over for you. Remember the people around you as I said don’t care about you or the bar exam in that context anymore and they don’t want to hear about the bar any more. Oh that’s harsh Jackson. I mean really. But that’s true. They really don’t want to hear about the most important test in your life right now. They don’t care.
And it’s not because they don’t care about you it’s because you’ve been studying for the test for two months or three months or six months or a year or two years or whatever and the people around you are just over it they’re over it but you still have the need to talk about it. And we recognize that you absolutely have that need. And in that situation there are a couple of things that I think you can do. One is you can certainly journal it you can write it out you can type it out. You can use your electronic device you could actually use a recording device and recorded and then transcribe it. You can do a lot of things but you can certainly talk it out. You could even talk to small animals. You know dogs and cats they’ll listen attentively.
Maybe not so much the cats but the dogs are pretty good. And you can tell them about what’s going on and how they know and understand your life and what’s happened. But the end of the day I recognize that most of you will not be satisfied with a conversation with a cat and you’re probably going to talk to a real human being. And so what I would suggest is that you go into a room with some human in your life and you say look I just have to talk this out one single time. I’ve got to go through it. I got to tell you all of the miserable details I’ve got to share with you all of the craziness and my concerns and my fears and all of those things. But here’s the key. You tell that person in exchange for that for that opportunity.
I promise you it’s one and done. I’m just going to do it again over with. And I’m going to get it out of my system. We’re going to have this conversation. I’ll talk to you I’ll tell you everything that’s gone on. I’m going to spill my guts and then I promise I’m finished there’ll be no more I’m not going to let it dribble out over time and little pieces if literally one end. And if this kind person is a spouse a partner a close family member maybe you could bribe them with a lunch or dinner or something. Maybe you could go to a baseball game. It’s that time of the year and while you’re watching the game I’ll regale you with all the Bar Exam stories because really what could be better than watching baseball and talking about the bar exam.
And as you begin to do all of those things I think what you will begin to discover is that you actually purge yourself. You get it out of your system. You force yourself to be done with it. And because the deal that you made was I’m going to talk it out and then I’m really over it. You need to stick to that deal. I mean really and truly if someone is brave enough to listen to you talk about the bar exam from their perspective ad nauseam you need to be willing to hold up your end of the deal and say OK once I’ve talked this through with you I’m really done with it until results come out. No worry we’ll just get to that point. So I hope that that would be useful for those of you that are in a course where you really feel like you just got to have some opportunity to let it out.
Now if you’re in our course at Celebration Bar Review you have an additional forum where you actually can talk to real human beings which is our private Facebook group and that’s a place where you can come talk about the exam or vent or ask questions and it’s a great resource to be able to talk about your experiences. In fact we do weekly group coaching calls where you can come on and talk with other bar takers. And it’s moderated by a staff member and you can vent about everything that happened in the exam and I know that many of our students have made those connections and they tell me that these coaching calls are a great source to just say here’s what I saw.
Here’s what I heard. Here’s what I think about or feel about the test and to do that in a supportive environment and I encourage you to do that. So if you’re in our course please make sure that you participate in those group coaching calls I think they’re great. Even after the bar exam. Now if you’re not in our course perhaps you’re in a course that gives you something similar and that’s great but if you’re in one that doesn’t allow you to do that. I think there are still other places where you can go online and you can post your thoughts you can write about them. You can communicate in the digital world but in some event and in some way I think you’ve got to talk it out. And I do think the reason I mentioned it to you the need to talk it out is that if you don’t get it out it’s going to turn into a volcano.
What I mean by that is that the pressure will just keep building and building and it’s going to erupt and that’s what we don’t want to happen. So in some way find a journal write about it talk to your dog talk to a family member make a deal that you’ll go on Facebook in a group post somewhere you’ll go crazy with your Twitter account. You’ll snapchat to your heart’s content but do something and get it out. So that’s number three. Talk it out.
Number four in our list of five things when we’re thinking about what you need to be doing about while you’re waiting for results is to assume the best. Folks I don’t know how to say this with any more emphasis or believe for concern bar takers and lawyers generally are terrific at what we call the parade of horribles.
You know what that is. It’s all the bad things that could happen or what happened or should happen. There’s the parade and I’m going to run to the front of the parade to lead it. Now you know it is entirely possible that you fail the bar exam. We know that but it’s also entirely possible that you pass the bar exam. We know that too. And here’s the difficulty. There is no way for most of you and I would say after 25 years of doing this so more than 50 administrations of the bar exam I would say my experience has probably been fewer than 3 percent of the people I’ve talked to who actually definitively for a fact know that they passed their bar exam after they’ve taken it.
And before the results come out they just don’t know. Most people don’t know. Very few people are absolutely certain. Now there are some people that are absolutely certain they failed it then they usually have a reason like my computer stopped working and I didn’t write something or I got sick or I didn’t finish all of the questions and there could be some reasons why you would absolutely know that you failed. But again those people are at the margins and the vast majority of people I would say well over 90 some of the bar takers are in this middle ground where it’s not clear if you pass or fail you may have an inclination but you really don’t know. And a lot of people will say well I don’t want to jinx myself by saying I pastor I don’t want to make it such that you know I act like I passed and then I fail and then I’m kind of feeling miserable and I’m embarrassed.
And the point is that if you have these feelings you’re pretty normal. And the people that don’t want to talk about them I certainly understand now when people tell me how they did after the test. I would say most partakers have a sort of general direction that they’re headed in They’ll say in essence I feel pretty good about the test or I don’t feel very good about the test. And while that’s helpful to know by and large most people really don’t know how they did and they don’t know what the results are going to be when they come out. So my fourth tip is that you need to assume the best.
And because this test has such a narrow range of acceptability of passing and it’s such a fine line distinction of whether you made it or not. You know I’ve said in other places you’re only one answer away from passing. And that’s really true. One or two questions might make the difference and you simply won’t know that in advance. So I think for your own mental health and sanity and the sanity of everyone around you you should assume that you passed. Now that’s my view. You should assume that you pass and not be afraid. And if you’re in our course I think you should assume you pass based on our statistical results even if you took one of those horrible big box reviews and you did all that crazy IRAC memorization rule issue spotter stuff. You still should assume that you pass.
Now the statistics aren’t so good for them but you really should assume that it works out. And here’s the interesting part. A lot of people that went to these big box reviews come to me during this period of time and they say something to the effect of well I did everything that my big box bar of you told me to do. I memorized I made flashcards I created outlines I did this and this and this. I took their test. I got back my anonymous graded essays but I’m pretty sure I failed. So I’d like to start studying now. And that really raises an interesting question and I want to address it. I generally say to people that if they think that they’re in that situation they probably shouldn’t do that they shouldn’t start studying before they get their results unless they are fairly definitively certain that something went wrong during the test.
If there was a technology failure or you didn’t write one of the essays or you didn’t complete a performance test or you only finished say 75 out of 100 questions in one of the two sessions if something of that nature happened and then I think you could say it’s very likely that you fail then I think OK it’s great start studying now but for most people studying right now before you get your results is not a good idea. And the reason is that it simply extends your study period without any break. And for a lot of people that’s a really bad plan. I think you need the mental and physical break you need the distance and the time to be able to say this is what I was doing and now I’m back at it.
You need to take that refreshment break. Now let’s look at this a little bit more. And I would encourage people to start fresh if it’s necessary. Now I certainly recognize that for those of you in the late reporting results states like California and Georgia it puts you under a lot of pressure and it’s very hard when you’ve got to then turn around and take the exam with seven or eight weeks to go. But here’s the good news. You’ve already studied for the test even if you took that crappy big box review. So the next time around it should be a review of the review. And I don’t know that it’s as critical for you as it might be for somebody that’s just coming out of law school or someone who’s about to take the bar after 10 15 20 years away from the test.
So in a sense I don’t think your it as as much of a disadvantage as you might think. No truthfully it’s better if you’re taking the Florida bar for example and you get your results six weeks after the exam that’s giving you an extra four to six weeks of study over someone let’s say from California. But here’s the reality. You’re in the same boat with all the other Florida Bar takers. If you’re taking a Florida bar or all the other California repeaters if you’re in that situation. So my general suggestion is don’t start your restudy now don’t pull out your old materials. Don’t pull out your all out lines. Don’t listen to lectures don’t do flashcards. Somebody said to me after the bar exam I’m going to do 50 multi-state questions a night from now until the results come out.
And I said Why. To what purpose. You don’t know if you pass or fail you don’t know what that study is going to be doing and what that means is at best it’s unfocused or at worst it’s just miserably useless. And I don’t think there’s any reason to put yourself through that. So why not take the time and do the other stuff she talked about instead talked to other people reconnect. Volunteer have a life and then if the results turn out to be not good all right you deal with it and we’ve got a video where I talk about five things to do if you fail the bar exam. But you see I think what happens is that we get into this mindset of assuming the worst because we’re lawyers and therefore we just basically assume that we’ve all failed.
And then because we assume we fail we just think we have to start studying right away. I have and I mean this quite honestly and sincerely I have never seen anyone during my time as a teacher studying during this interim waiting period where I honestly believed it made a bit of difference for them ultimately in their results. Never not once. I know some of those people passed but a lot of them didn’t. And I actually believe if you just took the time off if you put your hands and you took them off the keyboard and you went and did something else for four five or six or seven weeks you’d be much better off when your studies resume than if you simply studied all the way through and didn’t take any break at all. But I realize that’s a counter-intuitive position and I know that there are a lot of people out there that say oh I’ve got to start right away.
If I took the bar just start studying right away for the next one. And most of those people are really going to be just crazed when they get to that next bar exam. So my view is that you can do a lot better things with these few weeks than to be studying for the test.
Well that takes us to item number five on our list of five things you should be doing while you wait for your results. It’s actually kind of linked to this one up to the point where I said you need to know and move on with your life and hug it out with your family and friends and work. You need to talk it out with other people.
I said in number four you should assume the best. But my fifth step is that you should do your research. Now look if it turns out that you did fail the exam those moments and hours after you get your results are really tough emotionally. And that’s putting it mildly. It is not the best time for most people to consider what their next steps should be. So if you’re one of those kinds of people you know where it’s a good day. You know and you pass great. But if it’s not and you’re one of those I don’t think this is going to be a good day kind of people then you know and someone who sees the gloom in everything then here’s the way to respond. Use this time to do your research if everything I’ve told you still doesn’t convince you that you’ve got a chance of passing that use this time to think about what you want to do if you fail. Now if you don’t fail do you want to sit. You know do you want to sit for another bar exam. Do you want to try and take your UBE score and apply it somewhere else. Do you want to change jurisdictions. And if you do fail what next do you want to take the next administration of the exam. Do you want to look at different jurisdictions and you know years ago we wouldn’t say much about changing jurisdictions but I’ll say that what’s happened now with the Uniform Bar Exam is that we’ve got a shifting landscape.
So we have tests that have changed their form going from a state exam to the UBE and being transferable and the scores in those scores are different even though the test is the same. So maybe what you want to do if you took the New York UBE is think to yourself If I don’t pass maybe what I want to do is take the UBE again but focus on a jurisdiction with a lower score like Missouri or New Mexico or someplace that would give me a chance to get barred even if I didn’t make the New York threshold. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s OK to think about those things and to evaluate them.
California just went through a big change in the format of the exam so there were a number of people that started thinking you know maybe what I want to do is put my attention on California when it goes to a two day test and the same is true if they change their pass score. So the point is that there are things that are happening in the bar exam world that might make you say I want to think about which exam I would take if I had to retake or where I want to take it or when I want to take it. And this would be particularly significant for retailers if you get your results late in the game and you’re thinking to yourself do I really want to sit for the February bar exam or do I want to wait and start my studies for the July bar exam.
And so maybe that’s a better idea in certain circumstances. But the time to think about all of those things is now. It is not the day the results come out. And the point that I really want to make is that it’s a good idea to prepare in advance particularly if you’re someone that’s been taking a big box for review. There might be a little small voice in your head that sounds remarkably a bit like mine saying hello. The Emperor Has No Clothes. That course doesn’t work. Well those big box bar reviews have a 30 to 35 percent pass rate nationally based on what they’re doing. Maybe you should think about doing something differently. And that’s been part of your thought process than the time to think about it to evaluate and do your due diligence is now one of the ways you can do that would be to join me in our free live webinars called How to make the next bar exam your last bar exam and we’ll put a link to it on this page as well.
We do those every week so that you have the opportunity to evaluate and see what else is out there and what would be different for you and how successful students have prepared for their bar exam. This is a great opportunity to do that. If you want to dip your toe in that water while you’re waiting for results. So my point is that in any event I think it’s time for you to start doing your research about what’s going on. What the tests are what the jurisdictions are what the bar reviews are what do you want in your life.
Do you want a mentored course if you are in our course and you didn’t use personal or premium entry maybe you want to do that maybe you know that you want to take advantage of tools like photo reading or paraliminals or some of the other resources we offer in our course. The point is that if you feel like you need to do something think about what you could do differently if you did not succeed in all of those I think are really good questions to ask but they’re not particularly easy questions to answer. In the heat of the emotion of results coming out and so I encourage you to take the time now to talk to the people that you want to talk to. Make the decisions that you think you might have to make later. Be prepared if the news comes out for you and you pass.
That’s great news you can throw all that research away or you can put it online or you can tell people hey you should take Jackson’s course that’s pretty good. But if not if you didn’t do well if you didn’t pass then you’ve got a plan that’s been prepared in advance. And there’s a limited amount of disruption in your life you just transition right into the work that you need to know and that you have to do. So I think that one of the things that’s really important is that you owe it to yourself to find out what your options are particularly when it comes to a bar of your course. Find out why our students for example are so passionate about what we do and why we get the results that we get.
And I would encourage you to do that if you’re in a big box bar review. Think about it. What are people saying about that course. Do they love it. Do they like it. Did it work for them. Check it out. Think about it. Now why you’re still more rational than in that moment when maybe you don’t feel quite so rational. You know I’ll say that. That’s one of the keys in my mind is to be thinking about these things planning and preparing.
Well I wanted to give you these five tips about what you can be doing while you’re waiting. And I would suggest in recapping that what you want to do is go ahead and move on with your life while you’re waiting. Get involved in volunteer activities or work or internships or just getting back to work.
Secondly reconnect with the world with your family your friends and your job. Third talk to somebody. Talk to your Facebook group. Talk to your journal. Talk to your cat. Write it down. Do something. Talk to a family member. If you can negotiate that. But get it out of your system. Forth I want you to assume the best and not try to start your restudy immediately after the bar exam is over and before results come out. And finally number five do your research now in case you don’t have good results. Know what your plans are going to be. What exam do you want to take. What jurisdiction do you want to take. When do you want to study. How many hours are you going to use what level of service what bar of you of course what approach are you going to take.
Have ideas about all of those things in advance of the results. And having said all of this I want to just summarize and end by saying that I hope all of you who are watching have great results. I’m looking forward to that particularly if you’re in our course and I think that based on feedback from our students we’re going to continue to see good results from the people that were in celebration borrowed you courses around the country. We expect that even though the exams were quite difficult and the pass rates overall are continuing decline around the country. If you took the exam and you don’t feel good about what happened I just want you to know that part of that is literally the trauma of taking the test and much of that feeling will begin to recede from your brain.
It’ll begin to move away as time goes on and you’ll begin to reconnect into the world. That’s a good thing and something that we really hope that you’ll do. Now I appreciate all of you who are checking this out and finding and asking questions and I invite you to find out more about us and about our approach and what we can do to help you. But for all of you I really hope that the results when they come out are favorable and that we see your name on the pass list in the very near future.
A Major Shift
We’re currently doing a podcast series about some shifts to take as you think about study for the bar exam. The concept of study shifts is really suggested by a book called “Shift” by Peter Arnell, in which he talks about making some fairly significant changes in the way you do things in your life, in order to get different results. In this post, I want to talk about a shift that may be a bit surprising: It’s a shift about thinking, with respect to when you should start study for the bar exam.
Let me first describe what the basic premise is around when to start studying for the bar exam. Most people take their exam, whether it’s the first time, or multiple exams over a period of time, with the notion of coming out of law school, typically at the end of a third or fourth year of school, and doing nothing but studying for the bar, for an intense period of six or seven weeks. That is the presumed norm and what most people think they’re going to do. Now, nationally for about 40 to 50 percent of the people that do that, they will pass the bar. That’s the national pass rate on the bar exam. But that means that there’s an awful lot of people for whom that norm doesn’t work very well.
Now, if you’re going to an ABA-approved, top 50 law school, and you’re in the top half of the class, and you’re a prodigious studier, and you’ve paid attention all the way through law school, and you’re not going to do anything after you graduate from law school except study for the bar for six or seven weeks, a traditional bar review course in that time frame will probably work for you. You’ve got a better than average chance of passing, but that’s a relatively small number of people that we’re talking about there.
On the other hand, if you’re not attending an ABA top 50 law school, if you’re not in the top half of the class in a top school or, worse yet, if you’re attending a correspondence law school, or a state-approved law school, or if you’re in the bottom half of a bottom-tiered law school, or even the top half of a bottom-tiered law school, or if English is not your first language, or if you have failed the bar exam previously, you’ve got a problem. In any of those situations, if you wait until six or seven weeks before the bar exam to start studying, your chances of passing the test drop dramatically.
I used to say that based on experience. Now we see it empirically. Nationally, you’re probably experiencing a less than 25% chance of passing if you’re in one of those “at-risk” categories. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t pass or you can’t pass, but here’s the shift you have to make. You must begin your studies NOW.
Too often, what occurs is that we start thinking that because the big box bar reviews say to wait until 6-7 weeks before the test to study that must be the best practice. Unfortunately, it’s just the opposite.
Why the Big-Box Bar Reviews Want a 7-Week Study Plan
Let me give you some insight into why that six or seven week period exists.
This is the way the thought process goes (I can say this confidently, having run one of the big bar exams for several years):
A large bar review company has a huge expense in putting on their bar review courses. Typically, they try to do them in some combination of live lecture, although that’s less and less these days. Essentially, what they want to do is get as many bodies into seats for a relatively short period of time. Now, some of the bar review companies pay inflated premiums to law schools for the use of rooms in the off season. Some of them pay over-inflated prices to professors at certain schools, to get them to come in and read scripts for them as a marketing tool to have a foot into a particular school.
In both of those situations, what’s happening is that the bar review company is essentially saying, “We want to maximize our revenue, and minimize our outgo, by having a relatively short period of time in which we’re conducting the courses.” As a result, the historical tradition was, that you would take six or seven weeks, put everybody in, crowd them in as tightly as possible, bring as many lecturers in as quickly as possible, and get through the course in that short time frame. Now, that makes for a wonderful business model, if you think about it. If you can put a lot of people in, you’re certainly paying the same amount for the room, whether there’s 10 people in the room or 100 people in the room. You’re paying the same amount for the professor, whether they’re 10 people listening or 100 listening.
The economics makes sense for the large bar reviews, then, to push everything into that one short time frame, before the February exam and before the July exam. The problem is, that it’s really bad pedagogy. You see, virtually no one who’s involved with teaching, would tell you that the best way to learn, is to cram or study for 12 to 14 hours a day non-stop for six or seven weeks, trying to push it all into your brain and then, somehow, in a burst of adrenaline over two or three days, you spit all that back out on the exam. The reality of the numbers prove that out.
Most people that go through a traditional big-box bar review course don’t pass for this simple reason. In fact, if you look at a jurisdiction like California or New York that has a low pass rate, (in the 30 percentile range), you’ll really see how fouled up that approach is.
A Better Approach to Study
What’s the better approach… what’s the shift? Many years ago, one of the things that I realized was that people learn much better if they took small incremental steps in learning new material. This is called spaced repetition or the “stair step approach”. The idea is to learn a little bit, wait for a few days, go to the next step and repeat plus add some new material, wait a few more days then repeat, add new material and go to the next step, then to the next step, and then to the next step. To do that requires time. This is an incremental approach and it consistently returns better results for learners and test takers. Instead of trying to study for 12 hours a day, you study for one or two hours a day, maybe four or five days a weeks, but over a period of four or five months.
Now, some of you are undoubtedly saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t have four or five months to study.” If you have to take an exam, and you’re now in something like three months or less until the test, you don’t have much choice. You’re going to have to simply knuckle down and do it. I think home study gives you tremendous advantages here, because you can tailor that study to the times of the day that you’re available, and not the times that the course is being offered, when you sit in a room and watch a DVD, or listen to an audio. More importantly I think, the shift is that you need to think about how do you pass the bar exam? How do you study most effectively?
In my experience, the best way to do that is to start four to six months before the test. Using a study guide, a plan, like we prepare for our students, you work incrementally in, essentially 10 hours to 15 hours a week of study for that period of time. Now, you’ll make a little bump in study time when you get into the last 30, maybe 45 days before the test, that’s only normal, and I don’t think you should feel bad about that at all. If you’ve been ramping up slowly, at 10 to 15 hours a week, that’s pretty manageable. In fact, what really happens from a teaching and learning standpoint is that you consolidate the gains you’ve made up to that point.
The things that you learned early on in a course like ours, you build on, you repeat them again, you learn them again, you’re reinforced on the principles again. In addition, because we know that memorization is not the skill that’s being tested on the bar exam, we’re not trying to have you retain that information (in a memory sense), for a long period of time. Instead, we’re focused on teaching you how to use the information, rather than memorize it.
To accomplish that goal, the shift to think about today is how long do you intend to study. Most people underestimate the time it will take them to study. In our experience, in the states that we prepare students for, you’re going to need, on average, 250 to 300 hours if you’re an “average” student. Now, if you’re in one of those “at-risk” categories that I was talking about earlier, or if English is not your first language, or if you went to a less-than-stellar law school. …well, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s not a knock on you or your school. It’s just the reality that if you’re in one of those situations, you need to give yourself more time.
I think if you ask anyone who’s actually taken the exam and studied for it, both in the traditional six week approach, and in an approach like ours that’s over a longer period of time, almost without exception, people will tell you that it’s better to study in small pieces, over a longer period of time. Most people can handle 10 to 15, maybe even 20 hours a week, on top of their work, or their practice, or their other family and life commitments. But if you have to study over 20 hours a week, you are essentially studying full time, so that’s the trade-off that you’ll need to make.
Our Study Advice
If you try to wait until those last six or seven weeks, and then take the traditional bar review course, frankly, the only one you’re benefiting is the bar review provider. You’re not doing yourself much of a favor. So the big shift that you’ll want to consider is starting early. Give yourself more time and in return a better chance at passing by starting earlier. That’s a shift worth considering isn’t it?
If you want to know more about our approach to shifting the bar exam, click on the button below to join me for a FREE Master Class: “How to Make the NEXT Bar Exam Your LAST Bar Exam: The 4 Powerful Steps Guaranteed to Pass the Bar!”
|This post is a bit unusual for me and In fact, I think it’s in some ways unprecedented. Those of you that know anything about me may have inferred that I have fairly strong political views, although I’ve tried very hard over the 20 plus years that I’ve been teaching the bar review to keep my “snarky” comments to a minimum in the lectures and in the podcasts. That’s because I want the law to speak for itself and my goal is to be an excellent teacher and not a political commentator.
|For those of you that don’t know much about my personal history, let me just share with you that in the last 10 years or so, my wife Sara and I have spent a significant amount of our time living in some of the poorer neighborhoods in the United States, most recently in Richmond, Virginia, working with youth in a place called Church Hill which is actually one of the poorest African American communities in the country. Prior to that, we were in financial ministry in the inner city of New Orleans post-Katrina, literally helping with rebuilding lives and families. In our experience and time in diverse communities, we’ve come to recognize the wonderful privileges that we have as well-educated, relatively affluent white Americans.
But the truth is that I live in the same world that all of you live in, and it’s important to me and it’s important to us as a business, to recognize and understand where we are in the bigger scheme of things.
|Over the last month or so, since the last presidential election, it’s become increasingly clear that the rule of law is in danger. The things that I have presumed I would never see in my lifetime, we are now confronted with on a daily basis. The specter of racism, the clear implication of the white nationalist movement and its influence, the possibility of an attorney general who was so racist that he couldn’t be confirmed for a federal judgeship 20 years ago, and so on continue to dominate the news.
|Now I recognize that in those statements I’ve just written, some of you have instantly decided that I am a bleeding-heart liberal, a Hillary supporter, and you’re never going to do business with us. I am sorry for that but I can not stand by any longer and be silent when fundamental Constitutional rights are in such grave danger. And I am confident that a diverse legal community is one of the most effective ways to stand against tyranny and despotic behavior, no matter its source.
|So for over 20 years, one of the driving goals behind Celebration Bar Review has always been to bring people to the Bar who might not have otherwise made it to the next step in their career. We’ve made a point of reaching out into the minority communities, to women, to foreign-trained attorneys, to people who are marginalized because of race or sexual orientation, and tried to be clear that we want those individuals to become a member of their Bar. We believe that the Bar is better, the community is better, when it represents and is represented by people who look like the community. The reality for us is that when the Bar becomes nothing other than privileged white men over a certain age, we’ve lost something (And I say that as a privileged white man over a certain age.)
|But I also recognize that it is vitally important right now that we have women in the Bar, and members of the LGBTQ community in the Bar. That we have Hispanics and African Americans in the Bar. That we have Muslims and foreign-trained attorneys in the Bar. And therefore, a major part of our work over the last few years, both in the bar review and in our personal lives, has been to empower people who might otherwise have not had that opportunity.
|So why am I talking about this now? I think if you’ve been watching us at all, or following what we do, you’ve probably noticed a trend. I tend to highlight the stories of people who otherwise would not have been probably very successful, but they overcame great hurdles in society and in their lives, to become members of their Bar. You can find many of their stories here. That doesn’t mean we don’t interview straight white old men. We do. You can check out last week’s podcast episode for an example. But I also know that it’s important that we be able to demonstrate that there are people who don’t fit that mold who are becoming members of the Bar and this is, I think, a major part of our purpose and our mission now, and certainly for the foreseeable future.
|I want to say to those who are reading this post today, who may have felt marginalized or set-aside or whose feeling is that because of your faith or your background or your skin color or your gender, that you are not being heard in the conversation about the law: The best way to get into the conversation is to become a member of the Bar. I think it’s great that you went to law school. I think it’s awesome that you’re in that position, and you’ve heard me say in other times and places that you’re already a winner just by having gotten to the point where you can take the Bar Exam.
|But you cannot fully participate in this conversation about the law and the importance of the rule of law, whether it’s dealing with social rights or economic justice or literally business as it operates day to day, unless you’re in the game. And you can’t get in the conversation fully unless you pass the Bar Exam. That’s the way the process is set up, fair or not. And that’s why it matters who becomes a Bar Member.
|Sadly, there are far too many people that should be Bar Members but are not. These are the people who are ripped off by the traditional approach to law school and to the bar exam. Perhaps you’re someone who went to law school and you put yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and then you took a “big-box-bar-review” and they did an information dump that just gave you all the information and then left you on your own, and at the end of the process you were more in debt, more confused, and still not a member of the Bar because you failed the exam.
|That probably describes the circumstance for many of you that are reading this blog. If you’re in that situation, I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. For years, we have helped people climb out of that situation and pass the Bar to become productive members of their legal community. I’m so proud of those folks, and we’ve got a lot of their stories featured on our testimonials page.
|If you visit that page and watch some of the interviews, you’ll see the amazing people who are now living out their dream to be part of the legal community. It’s inspiring!
|My point in getting up on my soapbox is to tell you that I’m don’t intend to be quiet about this situation. I’m not going to sit back and let the rule of law be trampled in the name of political propaganda and fake news. I’m not going to stand quietly while people who otherwise would be qualified to be a member of the Bar be intimidated into silence, or to be told that they’re less-than their privileged counterparts or marginalized and taken advantage of, where I can stop it. I am going to do, (along with my staff), absolutely everything we can to help those individuals succeed. If you’re in one of those groups, or feel you’ve been treated that way in the past, I certainly hope you’ll consider our course.
|I believe, as I always have, that society is better for all of us when we Celebrate our uniqueness rather than demonize it. If you believe that there’s room in the Bar for people of a wide range of faiths, religion, sexual orientation, age and gender, then really, isn’t it time that we work together to make that a reality for even more people?
|I’m really troubled by what’s happened, as I know many of you are. I’m scared for the future, I’m worried about what it means for our country, for our security, for our family, for our children and for our grandchildren.
But I am assured by the fact that every week I see bright, new faces coming to me who are saying, “I want to be a member of the Bar,” and they represent the entire spectrum of the human rainbow. And so, I’m really looking forward to the next year, to working with many of those individuals to help them pass their bars in California, in Texas, in Florida, in Georgia, in New York, NJ and DC in the 20+ states using the Uniform Bar Exam, and in the 49 states that test the MBE.
I hope that you feel the same way and want to join me on that journey together.
If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing please join me for a Free Webinar: