I passed the Illinois bar almost ten years ago (right out of law school). However, unforeseen circumstances last year resulted in a move in California. The good news was that my firm was willing to let me transfer to a California office. The bad news was that I had to take the California bar exam (February 2016 attorney exam (essays only) - I know this post is late!) I was out of law school for almost a decade, in the midst of planning and going on a 2.5 week honeymoon overseas, and had a ridiculously busy work schedule as an associate at an AMLAW100 firm with a 2000+ hour billing requirement. So,I knew that to study for the California bar, I had to maximize the minimum amount of study time (a few weekends, two weeks off work - one week to study, two days for the actual exam, one day to just relax after it was over!). I remembered scouring the forums for any tips on study materials, tips, etc. that I could find, as well as just encouragement and commiseration from others suffering through the same studying process (studying while everyone else is at Super Bowl City, watching the superbowl, or celebration Chinese new year is NOT fun!)
I told myself that if i passed the bar on the first try, I'd pay it forward to writing about how I did it. Hopefully it will help others who are in the same situation.
FIRST, and foremost, the most IMPORTANT tool in my toolkit was a big blue book called Essay Exam Writing for the California Bar Exam (the "Blue Book") (https://www.amazon.com/Essay-Exam-Writi ... FYVBT900RR) This book was basically my bar exam bible during my weeks of cramming. It covers every topic that is tested on the essay exams, both in detailed outlines and in simple memorization outlines. It probably is a little outdated, and not as detailed as some people would like, but for someone like me (who had only a limited amount of time to cram a limited amount of information into my head), it was perfect. I figured if i could just understand and remember as much of the topics from this book as possible, I would know enough to pass.
Second, I bought a set of old Barbri books (three years old) off Craigslist. I figured there's no reason to spend hundreds of dollars for a brand new set of Barbri books, when the information could not have changed so drastically as to prevent me from passing the exam. Honestly, the only book I used out of the set was the Convisor Mini Outline. I used it as a reference tool - when there was something in my Blue Book outlines that I didn't understand or wanted more detail on, I went to my Convisor outline for a more detailed explanation.
I also printed out every old essay question and answer off the California bar exam website.
And that's it. Those were the only two study tools that I purchased. Using those two tools, here's how I studied. For every day that I had (basically 11 or 12 days), I focused on one or two topics (depending on whether the topic was big (Contracts) or small (Remedies)). I then read my Blue Book outline for that topic. Then I handwrote (yes, handwrite - it takes longer and helps with memory much better than typing)) my OWN outline based off the Blue Book outline (and the Convisor outline), in a manner and order that made sense to me. Then I read and reread my own outline a few times to help solidify it in my mind. Finally, I read the sample essay questions and answers in the Blue Book on that topic, to make sure I understood the answers. I also arranged the bar website's sample essay questions and answers by topic, and read the corresponding essays Qs and answers on the same day that I was working on that topic. So my day would look something like this:
1-2 hours – reading and understanding the blue book outline
5-6 hours – creating my own outline
1-2 hours – reading the sample questions and answers on that topic from the Blue Book and from old exams off the Cal bar site.
I did this for as many topics as I could during my limited time period. I couldn’t get through all of them, so I had to pick and choose. To do that, I literally went online and googled bar exam essay predictions. This is the site that I used: https://www.barsecrets.com/blog/dr-sacc ... a-bar-exam. I know that it’s risky and not 100% accurate (I think they were 1 topic off on my February 2016 exam), but I had to take the risk given my limited time frame.
I honestly didn’t even look at any performance tests at all because of the limited amount of time I had. I figured that after practicing at a firm for so many years, that should be the easiest areas for me to just wing it (e.g. writing a persuasive motion or a memo should be second nature by now). I know that this is also not the best way, but again – limited time, limited resources.
And that’s it. I did what I could, using the method above, crossed my fingers, and went into the exam. Fortunately it worked, I passed in one try, and I am definitely grateful that I don’t have to go through it again. But for those in a similar time / resource crunch, I thought I’d share, in hopes that it can help someone streamline their studying as well.
Good luck everyone! You can do it!!
P.S. I also immediately sold all of my bar materials the day after finding out I passed the exam. Might as well recoup those costs!
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