This is a challenging time to be finishing law school, and the current uncertainties about the timing of bar exam in light of the COVID-19 pandemic likely add to your stress. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to bar studies in this context, and I thought it would be helpful to consider different approach to bar studies during the last weeks of the semester.
For some of you, the transition to online learning has been difficult. You may find it hard to stay focused on school work for a variety of reasons – family or roommates are distracting, you have financial concerns, your job actually has increased demands, you’re facing physical or mental health challenges, the internet doesn’t always work, or being forced to study at home may have disrupted successful strategies you’ve used in the past to address a learning disability. You may not be ready to shift your attention yet to studying for the bar exam, and if that is the case, that is OK. It is OK to just focus on what needs to be done right now, and wait until after your final exams are over to worry too much about the bar exam. (Aside from making sure you don’t miss any deadlines for filing your application to take the bar exam.) And in particular, if your bar exam has been postponed until Fall, just remember that there will be additional months to study for the exam.
In comparison, some of you may have found the transition to online learning a smoother process. You may have more time than you’ve had in the past to study, and, if so, you may be looking for something productive to do with that time. If you will have to work during your bar studies, you may want to spread out your bar studies over a longer period of time as well. So for those who are ready to get a jump start on their bar studies, I have these suggestions:
- First, think about whether you are currently taking a course that relates to the bar exam content. For example, many law schools offer courses in the final year that focus specifically on bar exam skills, or review of Multistate Bar Exam content. Or, you may be taking an upper level course that is bar tested, such as Business Associations/Organizations, Trusts and Estates, Evidence, or Family Law, or Criminal Procedure. If so, these courses relate directly to your bar study goals. As you study for your final exams in these classes, think about how to create study aids that will still be useful during the bar prep period. For example, you can create flashcards for the black letter law, set up comparison charts for the distinctions between your state’s laws and the majority rule, or create flow charts or other visual study aids for complex issues you are studying. Taking this approach has a double benefit – you will perform better on your final exams for these classes, but also build a stronger bridge to your summer bar studies. (This suggestion works for those who feel like they can’t worry about the bar exam right now as well – if you are taking one of these classes, you are automatically advancing your bar studies without additional effort.)
- Second, BarBri is offering this 70-question Baseline Assessment for anyone planning to take the bar exam this summer. The Baseline Assessment is free, and you do not have to be signed up for BarBri’s bar prep course in order to take it. It is available to everyone. If you take the Baseline Assessment, BarBri will send you a report giving you specific information about areas of strength and areas that you will want to prioritize for improvement during your bar studies. If you are signed up for BarBri’s bar prep course, your results will also be integrated into that platform to further personalize study suggestions for you in the early weeks of bar prep. (Note: I do not receive any benefit from BarBri for mentioning this assessment.)
- Finally, over the next several weeks, most commercial bar prep companies should begin providing early access to their course materials. If you find that you have the time to do so, you could begin using that early access to study for the bar exam. Just a note of caution though – don’t overdo things early on. You still want to make sure you focus your attention first on your classes this semester, and you don’t want to burn out before you get to the bar exam.
The important thing is that you ultimately determine what is the right thing for you to be doing right now. For some students, waiting to focus on the bar exam after graduation in the best plan, while for others getting started now is key. Don’t listen too much to what other students are doing in this regards, but really consider what you need. And if you need guidance and support in that process, don’t forget that you can reach out to the academic and bar support person or persons at your law school. They can help you develop your personal plan for bar exam success, taking into account your priorities and challenges. And they can suggest further resources to support your study efforts.
Looking for updates about your state’s bar exam? The National Conference of Bar Examiners provides updates about each state’s bar plans on its COVID-19 updates page, available here.