Even though this blog has only been up for a handful of weeks, we've already gotten a ton--OK, not a ton, but a lot--of bar exam suggestions, and we're weeding through them right now. We'll post the best of over the next week or so as we're in the home-stretch for the exams.
A couple of bar exam tips I was thinking off the top of my head:
You know those first multiple choice problem sets you get from Bar/Bri? The ones that you tend not to do so well on because you just got done with re-learning the law? Sometimes it's not so helpful to plow through them and get a ton wrong that you shouldn't have gotten wrong. What I did was go through these Qs a "bunch" at a time, circling the answers I think were right, and marking my second-best choices. Then, after 5 or so (depending upon how the answers were spaced so I don't accidentally "cheat"), I'd go back to my notes and verify whether my selections were right or not. And then I'd check them against the answers.
The theory is that I shouldn't self-penalize myself for an answer I was only slightly-off by. Furthermore, why not learn the law while I'm at it instead of trying to blindly convince myself that I was right--and get the law incorrect in my mind? Fix it immediately before you move on, especially if you then later rely upon the incorrect understanding on a subsequent question--thus solidifying that incorrect law in your head.
Second, really quick tips: When doing those Evidence MCs? Yes, first read the question--and the line or two above the question if necessary to get who's suing who and for what. Then as you read the question, figure out if it's criminal or civil. And make a quick note of that "civ" or "crim." Not that you'll refer back to that note--but just so it's in your head as you get through the question.
Similarly, with Torts questions, jot down "int" or "neg"--it's crucial to know whether you're talking about an intentional tort or negligence.
The great blog, Above the Law, has a running series on career alternatives for law school graduates. For example, they offer graduates to look to become law librarians, law school administrators, or in law firm recruiting. But these mostly feel like "jobs that you can do with your law degree" as opposed to "jobs you can do because you're really smart and have legal training."
One thing I noticed in law school is that often law school is a "default: good" option for kids who did well in college. But they don't know much about law besides what they see on Law & Order--ADAs and defense attorneys. If they're lucky, they would have seen movies like Michael Clayton. (Any other movies that better portray what law firm associate life is like?)
To an extent, it does the world a disservice to stereotype the legal profession in the purely criminal arena--or even a "law firm" arena. It's similar to the medical profession being reduced to ER doctors. Doctors, though trained in medicine, can still be CEOs or politicians. Likewise, alternative careers for lawyers could be in business and politics. And if you're a do-gooder, than in non-profit administration.
I'd love to see more JDs going into international development--and not as legal scholars, but as administrators of NGOs or political/governmental consultants. That's broadening horizons for law graduates.
So another tip to those studying for the bar exam (right now!): You know how BarBri asks you to read the outlines before class? Well, it's a little tiresome and rote... But better would be to just read through your flashcards. It's a bit more interactive, and it gets you one step ahead by forcing you to vet your flashcards, sorting those which are "easy"--and put those in the intermediate, or "blue," pile--and then putting those that you don't know perfectly into the hard, or "red," pile.
This way, you're not just staring blankly at a stack of outlined material, but actually playing a mental game--with a goal--with your flashcards.
From the National Law Journal: Professionalism is Everything. Thomas Coyne, of Thompson Hine, quips about what it takes to be a successful associate.
Follow the link for all the tips, but just to highlight and expound on a few:
Coyne talks about "client focus." As an associate, you don't really have "clients"--you have partners or senior associates who are effectively your clients. But that doesn't mean that you can't be client-focused. Of course, focus on the individual and idiosyncratic needs of your internal client, but always think beyond the legal issues your supervisor tasks you with. If you're always thinking about what the actual client needs and wants at the end of the day, that will give you a broader perspective and specific focus on where all those memos, motions, and briefs are going.
"Confidence and presentability." When I was in the tech industry, I probably had one of the messiest desks in the business. The culture cultivated this as a status symbol--the more your desk replicated your home, and a busy home at that, the more important you were seen to be. The same stereotyping goes on in law to a certain point. There are those attorneys who have messy offices; those who have voluminous but neat stacks of paper pillars about their offices; and those whose offices are nearly bare. At the end of the day, as a client, I'd rather see the latter. It shows organization and focus. And if I were to visit your office, it shows that you're there, at that moment, to serve me. Nothing else competes for your time. It's a ruse, but it's one I want to see.
"Charging and recording time." Similarly with the messy desk, some attorneys pride themselves in the rush of their schedules, and how they can't find the time to track time. That's not busy-ness; that's disorganization. Get in the habit of recording your time daily.
Just a few comments and reflections off the top of my head as I perused his list. Any tips and comments you'd like to contribute?
So, it's bar exam season. And it's probably about the time (or maybe it's every time) that you start stressing out that you're not getting enough multiple choice answers right--and what did you learn in law school?
I know it's obvious, but I know a lot of people who don't use these: commercially-produced bar exam flash cards. You can buy a box of these cards covering the MBE for about $100 from Kaplan/PMBR (or $72 from Amazon) or even cheaper ($50) from Law Decks. Or buy them used online from eBay, Amazon, or Half.com.
I remember, during some MCs, I was getting like 8-10 out of 18, consistently, which wasn't good enough. But after a few days with the flash cards, I was up to about 14 out of 18 on average--which puts me well in the clear of passing the MBE portion.
There are many methods of using flash cards, but I used a simple Three Stack Method:
I used three colors of rubber bands: green (I know this), blue (I know most of this), and red (I barely know this).
I'd go through the entire stack and put each card into the appropriate pile. For green, I had to know the entire card cold--the definition and the common examples. For blue, I knew the general idea but not the details, or I couldn't recall an important example. For red, I just completely flubbed it.
Then, when it came time to study with the cards, which would be whenever I had free time, I'd start with the blue stack. Any blue card that I knew cold, I'd still keep in the blue stack--but after some time, maybe once or twice more, I'd move it to the green stack.
If I had time after going through the blues, I'd hit the reds.
This method works because (1) the commercial cards are comprehensive, whereas making your own might not be, (2) it trims down your study time by removing cards you know cold (green), and (3) there's no barrier to studying because you can just pull these out any time and just study away.
On top of it all, I *did* create my own cards, but I'll go into that technique in another post.