When I started studying for the bar, my husband had already moved to California because of his job so I was basically a “single” mother, working full-time, and I passed on my first attempt. I can tell you what I did but the best advice in the end of the day is to do what works for YOU. Focus on YOUR weaknesses.
For me, I have a really bad memory. So I bought just one book from the internet (conviser Mini review) and I made flashcards on each subject on Quizlet. The website is free and has this cool option where you can record yourself reading your flashcards. So, I listened to my flashcards literally during every single free time that I had (e.g., when I was driving, showering, cooking). You also have the option to “highlight” the flashcards and only listen to the ones you are getting wrong. Let’s say my daughter also memorized a lot of BLL lol. I started doing this back in November.
The second thing I bought was AdaptiBar. I did almost 1k questions. Practice, practice, practice. The website allows you to generate the questions you get wrong and I would review my wrong answers every, let’s say, 100 questions.
Last thing I bought was access to BarEssays. This was probably one month or so before the bar. I reviewed essays by subject. So I would, for instance, review my community property flashcards and do 5 essays. Now, this is where my advice will probably not work for everyone. I did not write one single essay in full but writing under pressure is my forte.
So I would just read the essay question and make a quick bullet point outline on the issues I had spotted (trust me, my answers were pathetic). This approach allowed me to review over 90+ essays before the bar. I would then read BarEssays model answers. I didn’t even bother reading the answers submitted by users (even the high scoring ones). I know some people are against reading perfect answers because they are unrealistic but it worked for me. I like to see the logic behind a good answer and, in the process, I learn new issues.
I thought the model answers were concise, to the point, and applied IRAC well. I actually liked the BarEssay model answers way better than the “perfect answers” that are in the Bar’s website. I created “outlines” from the model answers. They were somewhat lazy and consisted of only copying the black letter law from the model answers and pasting them to a word document. I think it is important to memorize BLL but it is also important to memorize saying things in a particular way; aka how you would actually write them. E.g., you need to memorize the introductory paragraph of community property. Period.
Finally, I really didn’t practice PTs. Again, I like to write so I understand this may be a weak spot for a lot of people. I think I read only one model PT. I read a few articles on how to attack PTs but none of them worked for me. Why? Because they all told me to either read everything first to get the big picture or to make an outline and freaking waste 1/3 of the time “preparing.” Now, remember the part where my memory sucks? Yeah, if I had read everything without writing or had just made an outline, I would have completely forgotten the directions and details by the first essay. And who got time to read things twice? Not me. So I wrote things as I read them.
So here, for example, as soon as I read the instructions and saw it was a brief, I made my headings, “Brief in Support of Forfeiture of the Bond,” “Summary of Facts,” “Analysis,” “Conclusion.” I then wrote a quick introduction (based on the instructions alone) that said something like this: The Cruz County District Attorney’s Office respectfully submits this Brief in Support of Forfeiture of Bond and argues that the $45,000 cash bond posted to release Henry Raymond should be forfeited because he failed to appear at the trial.
Then, I went to the “Summary of Facts.” I summarized the facts as I read the transcript from the hearing. I then went to the “Analysis” and did the same thing. E.g., I read the first case and summarized the case. In People v. Whatever, XYZ happened. The court ruled X. This is different/similar from the facts before this Court because... I made a few subheadings as I went that said things like “Case X is Not Applicable.” Because I didn’t waste time reading things more than once or making an outline, I even had time to write a little policy session about the implications of not forfeiting the bond (e.g., incentive for people not to show up for hearings). I will add though that I made very very short bullet point outlines for questions 1-5 just to make sure I didn’t forget any issues (hello bad memory).
I will say that one of the most important things for me was to keep a positive mindset. I know, for example, a lot of people panic when they get a bunch of questions wrong on AdaptiBar but getting something wrong brought me joy, literally. Because I knew I was learning something new before the bar, and not AT the bar. And that’s probably why I also focused on reading the model answers. My goal was always to learn new things.
The morning of the bar I did things to calm me down. For me that meant listening to classical music, doing yoga, and meditating. That is not to say things went down perfectly. My mind failed me a couple of times. I had a brain freeze during the professional responsibility essay. For the life of me I could not remember that the competence standard was that “Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” So I literally just wrote that lawyers need to be competent and explained why. I did not let that shake me and I moved on.
I will say that reading this board after the bar only made me feel bad about myself. All those discussions about who was right about the community property essay was pointless to me. I knew I had missed issues because one cannot simply spot them all. But I’ve been a law clerk for almost two years and I’ve read enough briefs at this point to know that two brilliant lawyers can submit opposing briefs, argue the law in different ways, reach different conclusions, and still submit excellent work product.
In the end of the day, your ability to spot the facts and analyze them in an intelligent manner is way more important than finding the right conclusion like some people make it seem. Heck, if there were one right conclusion to everything, SCOTUS opinions wouldn’t have dissents.
Keep it positive peeps and good luck next time!