For California lawyers, law school did not really end with graduation. While we all put on our caps and gowns and smiled for our parents, the real work of becoming a lawyer was still three months ahead of us. Law school confers upon its graduates a Juris Doctorate. Passing the California bar exam, however, is what makes us real lawyers. So, after three grueling years of course work and late nights, how much time should one spend studying for the exam of all exams – the California Bar? At a swearing-in ceremony years ago, a Federal Court Justice congratulated the new admittees on “passing the hardest exam administered in the United States”. Seriously, there is a lot of truth to that statement.
The answer to “how much time should I spend studying” is dependent on the type of applicant sitting for the next bar exam. If you are coming straight out of law school, then the traditional eight to twelve weeks should do it. For many applicants, however, the ability to sit in a library for 10 to twelve hours a day has come and gone. We are now either licensed attorneys in other jurisdictions, working full time, have families, or simply do not have the mental acumen that we once had. This article does not focus on recent graduates sitting for the California Bar Exam. The focus here is on applicants whose law schoolbooks and notes are somewhere in a distance storage unit collecting piles of dust.
The further removed we are from law school, the more difficult it becomes to recall and memorize substantive law. Cramming for a test like the California Bar Exam simply does not work. Time is your friend and should be treated as such. Each subject tested on the California Bar averages roughly 90 pages of substance. This information usually comes in the form of a commercial outline. There are 17 subjects tested on the California Bar Exam, so with that many pages per subject, you are looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1530 pages of text to master. Yes, you read that correctly: One thousand, five hundred and thirty pages of text. So, if you had any thought of trying to do that in a four to six-week period of time, think again. Not only does the attorney’s exam require your knowledge and recall of all these topics, but it also requires you to write with an air of sophistication and a natural ebb and flow – all within a 60 minute per essay time frame. And if that is not enough, you must be able to rapidly switch gears from Community Property to Torts, to Professional Responsibility, to Evidence, to Contracts, just to name a few.
Ready to throw in the towel? As insurmountable as this might seem, also keep in mind that, to date, well over 300,000 attorneys managed to pass the California Bar Exam. Somehow, they all managed to get through, and so will you. The key to passing is having the ability to match a real-life hypothetical with a substantive rule of law. Bringing the law “to life” helps tremendously with memorization and rule-specific recall. Stop reading and re-reading outlines. Stop making your own outlines (lots of bar review courses have already done it for you). The ultimate equation for admission to the State Bar of California is time + examples + substance review + practice + feedback = a passing score.
In follow up blogs we will address examples, substantive review and practice. The goal here is to address time. If you are a practicing attorney, full-time parent, or full-time professional you should give yourself a four to five-month lead time in advance of any bar exam. This head start will allow you to carefully and methodically address all the topics in a calm and measured way. By doing so you will not have to quit your job or put your kids up for adoption. All kidding aside, California bar exam professionals at Executive Bar Review can customize a detailed study plan that fits into your already very busy life. With clear objectives in mind administered in small increments, our bar exam experts will ensure you are ready to take and pass the California Bar or Attorneys Examination.