Saturday, July 05, 2008
More on how to study for the bar exam
Ilya Somin's updated his post (here), and I agree with some of his points: (1) figure out your own, best way of studying and key your bar prep to that, (2) try not to overstress, (3) be disciplined in your studying, and (4) remember that failing the bar exam is not the end of the world. (Ilya, did I summarize these points fairly?)
Where he and I disagree is on how risk-averse the average law graduate should be when preparing for the bar. And, of course, everyone should determine his own level of risk-tolerance. When I took the California bar, a year after law school (after my clerkship ended), I took Bar/BRI, made flash cards, commiserated with my friends, and made it through the test relatively unscathed. Twenty years later, when I sat for the Nevada bar, I looked a lot more like Kevin Costner in Tin Cup. (Remember the scene where he's wearing every golf-swing gadget ever made?) I took Bar/BRI again, bought flash cards and old bar review books off eBay, did the computer-generated review tests, made outlines of my outlines of my outlines (I'm not kidding!), and basically worried myself into a tizzy, because I know how awful I am at memorizing things and how bad I am at taking multiple-choice tests.
The stakes were much higher for me the first time around. I had a law firm job and, even though the firm would have kept me around if I'd needed to take the bar exam a second time, my career would have been stalled for a bit during the extra time, and my stress level would have shot through the roof. I was a tenured full professor when I took the Nevada Bar and my life wouldn't have changed one whit had I not passed (although I probably would have lost some credibility with my students had I failed).
Here's what I think that Ilya and Jim Chen (his post here) and I are all saying (Jim, let me know if you agree): like Robin Williams's character in the movie Dead Again, it's important to know what you are.
In the movie, Williams plays a disbarred (or whatever you call a de-licensed doctor) shrink. Kenneth Branagh plays a detective who, among other things, may be trying to quit smoking. Williams tells Branagh that "[s]omeone is either a smoker or a nonsmoker. There's no in-between. The trick is to find out which one you are, and be that. If you're a nonsmoker, you'll know."
So, when it comes to studying for the bar, you're either risk-averse or risk-taking. The trick is to find out which one you are, and be that.
Good luck on this summer's bar exams--in every jurisdiction.