Monday, June 30, 2008

Volokh Conspiracy's Post on Reducing the Pain of Taking the Bar Exam

One of our own law students directed me to Ilya Somin's post (here) on the Volokh Conspiracy blog, never a boring blog. Prof. Somin's advice is to study less for the bar exam: read the review books, take some practice tests, memorize the rules, and relax.

Hoo, boy. I disagree heartily. Maybe his advice is true for a few brave and risk-taking souls, but I can't imagine wanting to take that type of risk with the one barrier to entry to practice that's given only twice a year that would stand between me and my ability to practice my choice of career.

Full disclosure here: I am a lecturer for a bar review course, which may taint my perspective, but I also sat for a state bar a year ago. In order to prepare for the Nevada bar, I took a bar review course (not, BTW, the one for which I'm now a lecturer). Let me say right now that I was extremely grateful that I had taken that course, could not possibly have passed the bar without having had that level of review, would not have had the stamina or sitzfleisch to have studied that intensely on my own, did not have the knowledge base in at least six of the Nevada subject areas being tested, and could not have imagined having the chutzpah to have risked my results with LESS study than I had given any of my law school courses. Moreover, I did not need to pass the bar to keep my job. I'm a law professor, not a lawyer. I took the bar because my husband and I had an understanding that, if he had to take the Nevada bar when we moved here, I had to take the Nevada bar as well.

And the Nevada bar is HARD. Hard as in H-A-R-D. Hard as in "I sweated out waiting for my results" hard. (We both passed, but we both worried about passing.)

So, Prof. Somin, I respectfully disagree with your post. (So, by the way, does Jim Chen--see his post here.) THIS law professor wants to send out a different message about studying for the bar. DON'T slack off. Embrace the pain of studying. Suck it up. Work your butt off. Face it: you'd rather have three months of pain now than three months of pain now and then three more months of pain later, when you have to retake the bar. Maybe you'll have wasted your effort and, looking back, you could have worked less hard. But is it so bad that you worked hard to achieve a goal?


Unknown said...

I loved this post. I often talk about the same points that you make. I read the original post to which you are reacting. There is only one thing I would agree with in the original post -- that the bar exam is a test of memorization. The poster is wrong in suggesting that examinees study light, however. Memorization is a lot of hard work. Thanks again for the post. Feel free to stop by my blog ( I am a re-taker and post about my study experiences. I passed one bar and am taking another state bar (Virginia) next month.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancy! I thought this was a great post, too. As you may remember, I took the Oregon bar before starting to teach- and the exam prep was like the ocean. If you turned your back on it for a few days, it could "get you."

The advice I do give my students is to study hard enough up front so that in the last week, you can study at a human rate. You don't want to train for the sprint, but be exhausted going into it.

Stephen said...

He is claiming that he studied for two weeks, 4-5 hours a day, and that is all anyone needs to pass a bar exam.

I rather agree more with your perspective than his.

Stephen said...

Guess I should have quoted him:

Bottom line: I spent about two weeks preparing for the Massachusetts Bar, working perhaps 4-5 hours per day. I know several other people who used similar tactics and spent less time. All of them passed, including a few on the very difficult New York and California exams. I was not an innovator, and was actually on the more cautious side relative to most of the people I know who decided to follow this approach.

When I took my second bar exam, (Texas) I read through bar review materials for 2-3 hours a night, five nights a week until I'd read them all.

I'm not sure how long I studied, but I'm pretty sure it took me more than two weeks to read it all.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean?