ever since the bar ordeal wrapped up, i haven't talked about it much.
it became this completely encapsulating time suck that enveloped all of my interests.
in fact, if i'm being honest, the brain fog is just now starting to lift. a little.
the job is ok. not as tantalizing as i'd like it to be. but i think that's mostly because being a real grown-up isn't like being a kardashian. (dammit.)
i have a lot to update on - but i wanted to do a blog post about bar prep. (for those of you not interested in studying tactics, disregard this entry. and rest assured that i will resume blogging again one day.)
because most people that read this (aside from my family - LOVE YOU!) got to this blog after googling "failed the bar" or something along those lines. i've also been getting questions about what worked for me. and what you should do if it's close to go-time and you still feel like you know, well, nothing.
i will make this as short as possible. because it's not like you have time to read (or care about) long blog posts when you're studying.
when i graduated i was bombarded with representatives from barbri. they were everywhere
. i was absolutely 100% convinced that i had
to take barbri to pass. because it's what everyone does. in fact, barbri is facing a lawsuit
that deals with their massive (and, according to some, a somewhat suspect) hold on the market. but, hold or not, barbri has tremendous pull. every bar hopeful knows that the bar is graded on a curve. and every bar taker wants to ride it out to pass. so, logically, it makes sense
to know what everyone else is going to know. and if everyone else takes barbri? well then you should, too. right?
i thought so.
and, to be fair, i came really
close to passing. 2 points is ridiculous. my regrade was even more ridiculous. but a fail is a fail. and it's another 6 months.
barbri wasn't the best fit for me. the program jumps around from subject to subject and provides extremely
limited feedback. the amount of information thrown at you is unbelievable. and, quite frankly, impossible. which is probably why the virtual professors remind you at every turn that you need not memorize everything, you just have to memorize "enough." queue anxiety. because i wanted to know it all. and i went way, way, WAY overboard. i made outlines from outlines from outlines. i made 8 billion flashcards. and i tried to know it all. (note: and i didn't even do everything
they told me to! i never cracked the mini outlines and focused almost exclusively on the state-specific lecture book.)
but guess what? no matter how many times i spewed on about armadillos eating tacos from texas (?!?!), it never made sense to me.
i also bought into their guesses about what types of essays to expect. and they were totally and utterly WRONG. was this my fault? oh yeah.
so ok. what should i have done?
if i could go back to 3L year leading up to graduation, and was trying to pass the freaking FIRST time, what would i do? or what would i do if it was nearing d-day and i wanted to
stop hating myself
feel even jokingly ok?
1) honestly, i don't think i could have departed from a mass bar prep provider out of the gate. the masses provided a security blanket that i
needed. but if i did it over, i probably would have gone with a company that offers a REFUND if you fail. barbri lets you retake the course. but this is sort of lose/lose since it didn't work the first time.*
2) once i saw the mass amount of stuff that was expected of me, i should have freaked out, read blogs (not freaking Facebook), and scoured the internet for shorter outlines.
3) for UBE jurisdictions (or for the MBE/MEE portion of the bar) i should have relied almost exclusively
on outlines from law preps
. i heard about this company from posts like this
from a fellow repeat taker in the blogosphere. the service was expensive. and time-consuming. and effective
. i worked with john one-on-one (via Skype) once a week. i signed up for 20 hours, so i got a complimentary subscription to adaptibar
, which only uses REAL past bar questions (not that i didn't love
the clarity that the overly long and unrealistic barbri questions provided). unlike expecting me to tackle the paced program, john set out a timeline for me and divided up everything i needed to do on a daily basis. he understood that i was working full time and therefore couldn't devote 8+ hours a day. (and seriously, even if i wasn't working, i don't think anyone can stay focused that much?!) he drilled me on essays. harped on me about formatting. made me do over 1,000 MBE questions. and my score the second time? was over 20 points higher
than the first attempt. and got my name on a pass list in 2 states.
4) if tutoring was cost-prohibitive, i should have still bought the outlines from law preps (above), perhaps signed up for adaptibar (above), and probably bought a used copy of this book
what was my strategy?
1) using law prep's outlines, i made flash cards. for everything. and i went through them about a billion times. only this time i HAD SOMEONE ELSE read them to me. instead of twitching in the basement hyped up on caffeine after another restless night reading them to myself (like during round 1), i had someone else do it. it was like being cold-called 300 times a night. but it actually made me say it out loud. and understand it. (i also had about 1/10 the amount of flash cards since i was basing them off much
shorter outlines, which helped.)
2) right before the test, i read VERY condensed versions of the outlines that i bought from law preps that i had created while studying and got down to about 45 flash cards that i didn't know. i skimmed through the strategies & tactics book (mentioned above) and remembered some of it. i skipped town and stayed in a nice hotel so that people would stop telling me it was going to be ok. and then i did NOTHING for 24 hours before the test. at all.
so, my advice (IN A NUTSHELL):
* Get short outlines from a trusted source (i liked law preps, as described above).
* Rely almost exclusively on the shorter outlines (that you buy today or that you make based on Barbri - but don't keep going back to 100+ page outlines)
* Make flash cards of all the key points. include some things you know. (it helps after you get 10 wrong to get a few right.)
* Do 30+ MBE problems a night. Preferably real ones.
* Outline an essay or two every night. Remember to write "at issue is XYZ" in every. freaking. one of them. for every. single. issue. you get a point just for saying what's going on. i didn't do this on round 1. that was really really costly, since it might have resulted in a pass.
* Once you feel pseudo ok with things (you'll never feel even close to 100%), do a full length practice test. note where you need to improve. don't light your books on fire if you have to improve in everything.
* Narrow down the flash card piles to the concepts you routinely miss. Explain the concepts to your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/sister/b
rother/friend/coworker/dog/wall so that they understand it. use crazy and inappropriate hypotheticals to drill the point home (I learned all of my FSA/fee simple/remainder BS using the Kardashians. i still
* Calm down. Take a couple nights off. Drink wine.
* Remember that the majority of the world doesn't care if you pass. And that somehow, the world keeps spinning. I let this test take a good year away from me. I questioned myself at every turn and wondered if I could ever be an attorney. I'm still not totally over it. But things get better. They just do.
PS: the jfk bs doesn't make anyone feel better. read my archives under "bar exam" and see how a normal person deals with failing. you're not alone in feeling the way you do right now. promise.
*if you are doing barbri now (or loved it - and sing its praises), it can be a good program. for many people, it is. and lots and lots of people pass with it. on the first try. so it's 100% possible. i just wanted an alternative.