I Was Dedicated, and I Passed
GUEST BLOG by Harrison Thorne,
Graduate of UCLA Law
The Bar Exam is a tough test.
You spend three years studying (hopefully) daily in law school, and realize fairly quickly that you are not at all prepared for the Bar as soon as the preparations begin. You get years of material crammed down your throat in a few months, and are expected to not only retain it all, but also learn how to write in a new way, take multiple choice tests (which many students haven’t taken in years), and write horrible performance tests.
BARBRI was a life-saver for me.
Obviously I was a BARBRI representative, and wrote a blog for them, so my view might seem biased. But, I can say with certainty that BARBRI was the reason I passed. I used their lesson plan, and while I did not always follow it 100%, I received a lot of ease knowing that I had a schedule and was not “winging it.” I liked that there were people telling me what to do. I liked that people graded my essays. I liked that there were sample essays and performance tests. I liked that their multiple choice questions were way harder than actual MBEs, such that the actual test was pleasantly easy in comparison. I liked that BARBRI made things feel manageable.
Overall, if I had to do things again, I would not change my approach.
From day 1, I decided I was going to dedicate myself 100% (within reason) to the Bar, and I did just that. I used what worked for me, left behind what did not, and worked hard. It was not always fun, but having the support of a proven program like BARBRI really helped me feel confident that I was moving in the right direction. I managed to pass the California Bar on my first attempt, and I feel confident that BARBRI is the reason for my success.
Three Steps to Success
GUEST BLOG BY Gregory Rutchik,
Attorney at Law
Years ago, about this exact time of year, I was gearing up to study for my first bar exam, the New York Bar.
I remember feeling anxious and thinking “how on earth am I going to study twenty-two subjects (yes, that is what the syllabus said at the time) for the New York Bar”?! My BARBRI course hadn’t even started and I was already having trouble sleeping. My mind was racing with anxiety. I could not afford to fail the exam because I was off to a Fellowship as soon as the bar ended. Even though I did well on law school exams, I knew that “the bar” was a different animal. At least that was my feeling at the time.
This feeling is familiar to many and some find it embarrassing to admit. I wish someone who had been there before would have taken my hand and walked me through the process. You know, like the runners who partner with newbies running their first marathon. Well, here I am for you.
First and foremost, I trusted the BARBRI program. BARBRI does an incredible job. There is no need to waste time and energy asking them why. They have tested it. You signed up presumably on the referral of someone who used them to pass. If that is not the case, you are hearing it from me now. They know their stuff. If you follow the BARBRI course, you will be prepared.
Once I accepted that I could trust the BARBRI Bar Review course, I stopped asking why. I stopped asking about things that a classmate or I found in the practice answers that I thought were wrong or irrelevant. I stopped asking questions about whether I should do more than the assigned MBE questions each night. No need unless I wanted to for the heck of it. I stopped asking whether I should take another course on top of BARBRI. The answer is, if you do what they assign, it is NOT necessary. Do you hear me? I trusted the program and so should you. It works. I am living proof as I passed three bars by trusting BARBRI and I am just a normal person.
What I did additionally, and repeated throughout my entire bar preparation, made all the difference in the world for me and I’d like to share that with you. I repeated these techniques again four years later when I studied and passed the California Bar. I call these techniques my three steps to success and my key to passing the New York, Connecticut and California Bar Exams without a problem.
THREE STEPS TO SUCCESS
1. I made my bar prep period all about me.
I knew by that point that I felt best every day when I exercised to sweat. If that is not the case for you, then identify what does make you feel good every day. Schedule it in.
Back then, I was a treadmill runner. I could picture myself running on the treadmill in the morning after my first cup of coffee before every single BARBRI lecture just to get my blood flowing. I would run again at night – with flash cards and notes once I got into the studying. By coming up with an organized schedule of non-negotiables – things I had to do for me – I knew I could have some control over the craziness of the eight-week study marathon.
My personal non-negotiables included exercise, making and eating healthy dinners and break times. I scheduled my study time around these items and included rewards such as break time with friends or “TV zone out time” so I could look forward to those rewards once I hit my study goal. It is a long race so build stamina and restore.
2. I developed the right mind set.
I remember meeting panicky classmates in law school and I am a high-energy person myself. This bar prep period of time is different. I had to form and protect a winning mindset for myself during this study phase. I was in this for me and my loved ones and I had to protect my mindset with positive, good energy activities and people. No one’s advice about how to keep your mind set positive is as meaningful as your own. Listen to your inner self. Be responsible for your own positive thoughts and calm.
One way that I achieved the right mind-set was through visualization techniques. I worked every day on seeing myself successfully finishing the bar. I know it sounds silly but it works. Watch an Olympian before an important race. Swimmers are a great example as they will stand with their eyes closed and move their bodies as if they are swimming the race. Winners of races visualize for weeks prior to a race – they visualize each important part and the end. It has worked for me for decades and it worked with the bar.
3. I chose joy.
As a little boy, my father let me carry his trial briefcase. In my other hand, I used to pull a luggage cart with his trial binders. I became a lawyer because I witnessed my dad helping people achieve their goals and overcome obstacles in life. The look on my dad’s face and the look of his client after a successful trial is the look of exhaustion and pure joy. I went into law to have a joyful professional life.
What about you? Channel why you are going to be a lawyer. Taking the bar was just another opportunity to explore the exhausting challenge of the profession and I was committed to doing the eight weeks in as joyful a way as possible. There are those that slug through any challenge and they finish well. And, that might be you. But there are those who study hard, eat well, play hard and kick the bar’s you know what and do it with a smile. That was me. And it can be you too.
Your BARBRI course is getting ready to start – Get Ready to Launch!
Gregory passed the New York, Connecticut and California Bar Exams – each the first time. He also waived into DC on his MBE results. Gregory is a proud BARBRI Alum. He is a 1992-1993 Fulbright Fellow at the University of Tokyo, a 1992 graduate of Temple University School of Law and 2005 LL.M. graduate in Tax Law from Golden Gate University.
Gregory’s practice started in Silicon Valley at Cooley LLP and is now a mix of business development and lawyering for established family owned or closely held businesses. Gregory identifies and qualifies business partners for his clients and forms and designs their business structures, entities and agreements so his technology, real estate acquisition and even chocolate manufacturer clients can make, sell, distribute and protect their products. Gregory has also litigated dozens of IP infringement cases in Federal Court. When not lawyering, he is a martial artist, a yogi, a writer of children’s books and helps high achievers whose anxiety and panic interrupts their performance.
Gregory runs his blog www.thepanicproject.com and is based in Los Angeles.
Passing After Passing Out
Guest Blog by Michael C. Oldweiler, Esq.
Graduate of SLU Law
“It’s a lot quieter on the way down than the journey up.
No one wants you around when you’ve got nothing left. I wanted out so badly, but I couldn’t just walk away with nothing.”
I would be lying if I said that I felt confident about the July 2016 bar exam. Even though I had spent 430 hours studying for it, I still was uneasy. I had completed 100% of my BARBRI personal study plan, but I was still anxious. By the end of bar prep, I had tallied 1,950 MBE questions, 133 MEEs, and 13 MPTs. On top of that, I had participated in every SLU Law bar prep workshop. On paper, I had this test smoked. For whatever reason, however, I just felt like I’d be the first person to do all this work and still find a way to fail.
The bar exam itself is two days of testing – each day features a 3 hour morning session, an hour lunch break, and a 3 hour afternoon session. For Missouri, the first day is all writing – two Multistate Performance Tests in the morning (20% of overall score) and six Multistate Essay Examinations in the afternoon (30% of overall score). MPTs are packets that feature a fake client with a problem and fake cases/statutes that must be synthesized and organized into a coherent format based on what is being asked of the applicant. MEEs are essay questions, which are ordinarily comprised of multiple parts. The second day is the dreaded Multistate Bar Examination (50% of overall score), which is 200 multiple choice questions (100 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon) handcrafted by some of the most sadistic individuals that aren’t currently incarcerated within federal penitentiaries.
Since the first day is entirely written, applicants are thankfully able to use laptops to draft answers. With the use of laptops comes the necessity of exam software. About three months before the bar exam, the Missouri Board of Law Examiners sent out an e-mail seeking volunteers to test new exam software. The e-mail mentioned that volunteers would save some money on the laptop usage fee as well as enjoy a smaller testing room (around 50 instead of the usual 600). I immediately responded to the e-mail and was able to secure a spot testing the new software. I eventually received a link to download the new software and instructions on how to submit a practice exam. I followed the steps and went out of my way to really test the software. I started with basic stress testing and was eventually able to crash the software. I was impressed by the software’s recovery from the crash and submitted my practice exam without hesitation or further thought. I was excited about using the new software and mainly excited about being in a smaller testing room. I had even joked with some friends that if I didn’t pass I could just blame it on testing the new software.
It was the morning of July 26, 2016 – the first day of the bar exam. I had about 97 minutes left in the morning session. Things were going well. I was putting the finishing touches on my first MPT. Word count doesn’t necessarily mean anything one way or another for an MPT, but I’ll never forgot 1,703. 1,703 words for my first MPT. I felt some pride about that number. It seemed respectable. I closed my first MPT booklet feeling a surge of confidence. I was starting to believe that I could do this. I opened my second MPT booklet with plenty of time and began dissecting it. After working on my second MPT for quite a bit of time, I was becoming irritated. I could not make a decision. It wasn’t about a case. It wasn’t about the client’s wishes. It wasn’t something in the task memo. It was a formatting decision. I couldn’t decide the wording for my first heading. I typed it one way and then immediately wanted to change it. About thirty seconds later, I changed it back. After another minute staring at it, I changed it again. I finally felt like I had it the way I wanted it and glanced up at the clock. Thirty minutes remained on the timer. The head proctor made the standard announcement. For whatever reason, when thirty minutes remain in the bar exam, no one is allowed to leave his/her seat. There are no exceptions to this rule: no bathroom breaks, no leaving early, etc. Once thirty minutes remain, the doors are locked and that’s it.
I was in great shape as I came to the final stage in my second MPT.
I had sketched out everything I wanted and just needed to fill out the details. I was changing another heading when it hit me: the wording in my first heading looked stupid – I had to change it. Since I hadn’t made that many changes in my answer, I started hitting the undo command (ctrl + z) to try to get back to my previous wording. As I kept hitting the command, I realized that I had changed more than I initially thought since that heading. I pressed it again. And again. Again. Irritated, I pressed it two more times in rapid succession. The screen flashed and the document looked different. I started reading it. This was my first MPT answer. I looked over to the side of the program. Both answers had 1,703 words. I clicked to my first answer. It was intact with all 1,703 words. When I clicked to my second answer, it was identical. Exactly. The. Same. I remember telling myself: “You’re a computer guy. You can figure this out. Just take a second and start troubleshooting.” As I took that second, I watched the following words flash across the bottom of the screen: “All changes have been saved.”
The last thing I remember is thinking: “I need a proctor right now.” Some expletives were probably laced in that thought, but it’s all a bit blurry. I remember a cold aura radiating from my spine. Then, there was nothing. No color. No sound. Nothing. Everything was black. I could hear a distant voice and there was this ungodly hot feeling on my face. The voice slowly came into focus: “Sir, are you okay? Sir! Sir! Sir, are you alright?” I realized that the searing sensation was this lady’s hand on my face. I remember that her hand felt so warm. Almost scalding. My senses slowly crept back into commission. I felt like someone had hit me in the jaw with a baseball bat. The pain was a deep throbbing agony that radiated along the entire right side of my head. My glasses were bent out of shape. I could taste blood and realized my tongue was cut. I was now sitting up on the floor and another proctor had brought me a glass of water (which is ordinarily forbidden at the testing desks, but I had found a nifty loophole in the system). After some water, I was able to point to my laptop and rasp out something about my situation. I returned to my seat as one of the proctors went and got the IT specialist in the back of the room. [It’s worth noting that this is the same guy who had to help me find my testing seat because I couldn’t navigate the room with my pre-test nerves.]
Once he reached my desk, I explained what happened and he took my computer to the back of the room to work on it. One of the proctors brought me a blue book and told me that if my digital answer couldn’t be recovered, I’d have to submit a handwritten answer. By this point, it had started to sink in that there was a possibility that I might have lost all of my second answer. This overwhelming feeling of dread coupled with the fact that I thought my head might explode resulted in a less than desirable test taking environment. I couldn’t catch my breath. No matter how deeply I inhaled, I felt like I wasn’t getting any oxygen. I was sweating buckets. Now, I know people use that phrase all the time, but I was sweating with a passion. It was disgusting. My test booklets and bluebook were saturated with sweat. I tried to write an answer. I tried to write anything. It was unsuccessful. It looked like hieroglyphics. The bluebook kept sticking my arm. Half of the hieroglyphics that I had carved into my bluebook were now smudged and smeared into what could only be described as wingdings.
About five minutes later, the IT guy returned and I caught a glimpse of what looked like my second MPT answer. He asked if this was where I had left off, I told him it was good enough and thanked him. I spent the next 20 minutes spewing words into my answer. I’m not sure how much of it made sense, but I just knew I needed to finish filling out the content under my obviously perfectly worded headings. I became an expert in concise reasoning. Unfortunately for me, however, I was not able to clean up everything in my answer and I am reasonably confident that somewhere in my answer I wrote the following sentence: “Dogs are not children.” It made sense based on the problem. I swear.
I hit the “End Exam Session” button on my software, stacked my MPT booklets, and started looking around. A lot of people were looking at me. I’m not sure if it was because I just had just attacked the carpet with my face during the bar exam or because of the sweating. Let’s hope it was the former. I was becoming a bit self-conscious about the sweat. Once the proctor released us for lunch, I was mobbed by colleagues and fellow applicants. Everyone wanted to know what happened. Everyone needed a medical history. Everyone was worried. It was a good feeling. There was hope for this profession. I explained what happened with my software. When they heard about the glitch, most people said they would’ve freaked out worse than I had or just left. The guy sitting behind me said I just went down without a word or anything. He told me that I was probably out cold for close to a minute. I asked him if I said anything embarrassing as I was coming to consciousness. He assured me that I hadn’t. People in the back of the room said they had heard a thud, but didn’t know what happened. I felt bad for being a distraction, but people assured me that it was fine. I sought out the proctors and thanked them for making sure I was okay.
As I made my way to the back of the room, the IT guy wanted to chat. I gladly explained what I could remember. It wasn’t his fault and I am so thankful he was able to recover the answer. I don’t think anyone plans for someone to spam the life out of the undo command during a bar exam, but hopefully they will update the software before the next bar exam. As I made my way into the atrium of the hotel, I was met with more eyes. I think people must’ve thought I died when I fell. Since our testing room was only 70ish people, it took the proctors a lot less time to pass out and collect test books, which meant we were able to get out for lunch sooner. As a result, I was back to my hotel room before the larger testing room was released for lunch. Once I got upstairs I immediately changed my undershirt. I would say that I sweat more than the average person, but this was the first time that I could remember actually being able to wring out an article of clothing. I cranked up the air conditioning. I tried to eat some lunch and calm down. Neither task was successful. Thankfully I was able to keep down water. I felt like someone was driving a semi truck across the right side of my face. While I was lying down, I took some time to try to bend my glasses back into a recognizable shape. I set a timer on my phone and listened to some music while I tried to just relax.
I made my way back downstairs for round 2. I still felt like trash, but this day wasn’t over yet. As I entered the atrium, a few people approached me and asked what happened. I explained the situation quickly and thanked them for their concern. I could tell that some people had heard, but thankfully it wasn’t global yet. I got some water and prepared for the MEEs. Within 20 minutes of starting the MEEs, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I put my head down for a few minutes. I felt like a VIP applicant because for the entirety of the MEE portion there was a proctor within 20 feet of me. I just could not shake the throbbing pain in my face.
On top of that, I still felt woozy. I chewed up a pen to distract myself. I focused on my breathing. I would type a sentence and take a 15 second break. About halfway through, I was cooked. I had nothing left to give. I was so ashamed because I had worked so hard, but I had to tap out. I wanted to lie down. I wanted to sleep. I wanted out of that room. I closed my booklet and put my hands on the desk to start to sit up. As I shifted my weight off my chair, everything faded out. All I could hear was a high pitched ringing. Shapes and colors swirled in front of me. Well, so much for trying to leave. I had already passed out once. I didn’t want to eat carpet again.
After another 20 minutes of resting and trying to throw some words at the MEEs, the fog started to lift. I started to feel human again.
It was game time. I started cranking out answers like it was my job, which was great because I needed some type of catalyst to make it through this. Anyone that knows me knows that I type louder than a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant. With my newfound vigor, I’m sure that I was typing even louder than that. It’s amazing how such a small laptop keyboard could make so much noise. I felt sorry for my neighbors, but they seemed like smart people that could handle it, so I (key)pressed on. Once the proctor called time, I actually felt pretty good about what I submitted. Somehow. I was just so glad to be done. I got the hell out of there, retreated to my room, and contacted my friends to see what the plans were for the evening.
I don’t remember much of the rest of the evening. I remember fragments, but I can’t distinctly remember the sequence of events. I think there were Buffalo wings involved at some point. I remember telling my friends what happened. I remember the IT guy offering to buy me a drink for my troubles. I usually remember everything, so it’s beyond frustrating to be typing this and not able to recall all the details. Contrary to popular belief, this had nothing to do with alcohol. I would later be told that the memory loss, along with my other symptoms from the day, were consistent with suffering a concussion. I had never had a concussion before. Hell, I had never passed out before. It was quite an exciting day of firsts for me. Another thing I remember, however, was calling my parents to tell them how the first day went. That was hilarious.
I remember waking up for the second day.
I remember having a headache. I remember bits and pieces of the multiple choice questions. I distinctly remember the rumor mill being in full effect following yesterday’s events. I heard that a guy died taking the bar. I heard that a guy had a heart attack and refused medical attention. I heard that a guy passed out for thirty minutes. I heard a lot of funny variations of what had actually happened. I didn’t correct people. It was more fun that way. Thankfully, the second day was less eventful than the first. After it was all said and done, I met with friends for dinner and just took it easy. I had made it. Somehow. Someway. I had survived the bar.
Fast forward a few weeks and I received a notification that I passed. I think it’s safe to say that I was a little nervous about my chances considering that I took an impromptu nap during the exam, but it turns out all the worrying was for nothing. Thankfully, it was all over. I made it! Not only that, but I had one killer story to share for the rest of eternity: how I passed after passing out.
An Eventful Road to Becoming a Successful Health Care Attorney
GUEST BLOG by Jackson Long,
1L at SMU Dedman School of Law
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Brian went to Denison University located outside of Columbus, Ohio. In college, Brian earned his B.A. in Spanish while playing for the school’s soccer team. Upon graduation, he decided to take a teaching position in Spain for a year.
Now for the eventful part.
Upon graduation from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Brian faced the daunting challenge of the July 2015 Bar exam. He studied for fifty consecutive days with a bar prep company (that wasn’t BARBRI). His preparation wasn’t as clear or concise as he would have hoped and it led to a “super nervous” feeling heading into exam day.
After the agonizing wait, Brian had to take in the bad news of a failed attempt. “It felt like a death,” he said. “It was debilitating for a few days. I always thought I was smart and I couldn’t believe other people passed when I didn’t.”
That’s when Brian found BARBRI’s online course. It was important to him to seek out another prep strategy to improve his results. BARBRI worked with Brian throughout the process before his second opportunity at the Bar exam.
“The fill-in-the-blank outlines, the elements of the law, the organized structure of BARBRI all stick out,” Brian says. “It’s easy to digest and seeing BARBRI’s program allowed me to identify some of the flaws of my previous preparation. BARBRI is the master of bar exam prep.”
Brian’s results from his next bar exam were masterful as well. He finished in the 98th percentile of all test takers statewide and the feeling of that kind of success made the long journey worth it. “I was overwhelmed with joy; so happy to have overcome that hurdle. It made me feel like I had nothing left to prove.”
He says the impact of BARBRI’s preparation was paramount in his stellar performance. “Do BARBRI 100 percent. Don’t mess around. They will work with you and truly care about your success.”
Currently, Brian works at one of the biggest firms in Cincinnati with the health care services team. His goal is to become an expert in the health care industry and eventually advise hospital systems and life sciences companies. Now that he’s in the door, his options are limitless.
“After passing the Bar exam, I felt like I could do anything. BARBRI opened up that door for me – a door that has led to so many incredible opportunities.”
5 Strategies I Used to Get My 2nd Law License Faster
By Sam Farkas,
BARBRI curriculum architect and instructor
5 Strategies I Used To Minimize Time And Maximize Success On My 2nd Bar Exam
I took my first bar exam in the state of Florida in 2012.
Through my role at BARBRI, I help students every day prepare for success on the bar exam; however, when I personally began preparing for my second state bar exam (Georgia) this past February, I seriously questioned whether I was up for it—particularly given the demands on my time and my work responsibilities.
I invariably recalled the stressful and angst-ridden few months following graduation from law school when I marshalled every ounce of effort to pass the most important test of my professional career the first time.
As I began studying for the exam though, I realized that the skills, knowledge and grit that I had cultivated over the past few years impacted how I prepared for the exam.
5 ways in which I approached studying
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