I saw an awesome story last week â€“ the deans of the law schools at Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and Phoenix School of Law petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court to allow 3Ls to take the February bar exam before they graduate. I think it’s a brilliant idea.
If 3Ls can take the bar exam, they will be admitted to practice so much faster. This was my 3L year and admission to the Arizona Bar:
- Mid-August â€“ Mid-December: Fall Semester
- Mid-December â€“ Mid-January: Winter Break
- Mid-January â€“ April: Spring Semester
- May â€“ July: Study for & Take the Bar Exam
- July â€“ September: Wait
- Early October: Results Out â€“ I passed!
- November: Recommended for admission to the Arizona Bar (I had to track down a few documents for character and fitness)
- December: Admitted to the Arizona Bar
- Total Time: ~15.5 months
I survived the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam!Â Â I never want to do that again.Â I’m grateful for the love and support of my family, friends, and professional mentors during this time.Â I wanted to share my top 5 tips of what I’m glad I knew or wish I knew going into the test.
Eat a Filling Breakfast: We had to be at the convention center at 6:45am on Day 1 of the test and we weren’t going to break for lunch until 12pm.Â In the week before the exam I did a breakfast experiment and found that oatmeal made with Â½ cup water, Â½ cup milk, raisins, sliced almonds, and brown sugar kept me full all morning.Â I was so nervous on both mornings of the test that it was hard to force myself to eat, but I knew that would be better than getting half way through the morning and being starving.
- Sleep:Â I’ve heard it takes the body 2 days to feel tired after a bad night of sleep so the night that really mattered was 2 days before the test.Â I often have insomnia, especially when I’m nervous.Â I took a sleeping pill 2 nights before the test to ensure that my body and brain would get adequate rest.
- Take the Free Lunch:Â ASU did a very cool thing and provided lunch for us during the bar exam.Â It was nice not having to worry about getting lunch in just over an hour and having to deal with the general public.Â ASU even humored a superstition that many people in my class have and provided Jolly Ranchers for us.Â It was also nice to see some friendly faces from the school.
- Prepare for Arctic Conditions:Â When the Arizona Bar Exam is in Phoenix, it’s held at the convention center, and it’s freeeeezing.Â I heard about this and wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt on Day 1.Â By lunch, my lips were blue and I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers.Â I asked a proctor if we could raise the temperature in the room and she dismissed my request saying that â€œIt’s always this cold.â€Â For Day 2, I wore a thicker fleece and I was more comfortable, thought by the end of the day, my feet had started to go numb.Â I should have brought an extra long-sleeved shirt, fingerless gloves, and a lap blanket.
- Do What Works For You:Â When I’m running in a race and being passed by other people, I often remind myself that I need to run at my pace.Â The same idea works for the bar exam.Â It didn’t matter how fast or slow the people around me were going.Â There was no need for me to freak out when someone finished and walked out of the room with an hour left on the clock.Â All that mattered was that I was thinking clearly and answering the questions to the best of my abilities, and ultimately passing.
I gave it my all on this test.Â When I walked out, I had no brain power left.Â Since the test, I have been sleeping a lot and slowly been regaining my cognitive functions.Â I’m glad that I’m spending my first week after the test on vacation where I don’t have to see anything related to law school or the bar exam.
To the loved ones of people taking the bar exam:Â The best thing my family did for me during my bar prep was to give me space.Â From the time I graduated until the bar exam, my family never called me.Â I occasionally called them to let them know I was alive.Â They knew to leave me alone and let me do what I needed to do.
I need to give a special shout out to the woman who went into labor during Day 2 of the New Jersey Bar Exam.Â She calmly finished her exam, walked across the street to the hospital, and delivered a healthy baby boy 2 hours later.Â You are a phenomenal person.Â I hope the labor pains didn’t interfere with your ability to pass the test!
- Northwestern Law Grad Finishes The Bar Exam While In Labor And Delivers A Baby Two Hours Later (businessinsider.com)
- We Have A Winner For ‘Most Gutsy Bar Exam Performance’ (abovethelaw.com)
The bar exam is tomorrow!Â I’m praying that what everyone has told me about law school and bar exam prep being harder than the bar exam is true.Â I’m ready to kick this test’s ass and to get it behind me.
I have met some amazing legal minds during law school.Â I asked a few of them to share some final words of wisdom.
“Don’t try too hard. All you have to do is pass; you don’t have to ace the test.”
Sam Glover, Lawyerist editor-in-chief and ABA Legal Rebel
“Trust your preparation.Â I had the good fortune of studying for the 1997 New York and New Jersey bar exams with my wife (my girlfriend at the time) who was the smartest law student I knew (and is now the most gifted lawyer I know).Â If you sincerely completed all of the practice questions and tests the course required, and trained yourself to respond (correctly as often as possible) within the allotted time, you should pass.Â That said, I still remember feeling intimidated after seeing the person sitting next to me smiling widely before the exam began on the first day at the Javits Center.Â In response, I lowered my head and simply tried to concentrate on the test.Â Block out all distractions and solely focus on your goal of passing.Â Then, once it is over, let it go and enjoy some time off.”
Ari Kaplan, founder of Ari Kaplan Advisors and author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace
“It is a stupid test. Most of the time, people less intelligent than you pass it. Sometimes people smarter than you fail it. If you pass, you get to be an attorney. If you fail, you cannot immediately be an attorney. Either way, you are a winner of sorts. Eat a decent breakfast and completely wipe the test out of your mind after the last question. Most people use the bar exam as another reason to be unhappy and stressed out. Don’t do that.”
Tyler Coulson, former associate of Sidley Austin, left his law firm to walk across the US with his dog
“Hyperventilating won’t help. Really. The day before the VA bar exam (my first bar exam), I had this mini-panic attack. I suddenly felt the weight of it. However, after a glimpse of rationale thought, I decided that, with less than 24 hours to go, I was better just taking the day easy and letting fate – or rather all of my hard work – take its course. Worrying can be productive but not when it is time to perform.Â If you have studied, then simply go out and play your legal instrument. This is one of the last tests of your life where 75-90% will pass. Listen to the symphony in your head and play elegantly.”
Mark Britton, founder of Avvo and ABA Legal Rebel
At this point, there’s nothing more we can do but to walk into the test and do what we know how to do: kick ass.
More Bar Exam Wisdom: