5 Bar Exam Tips to Go from Repeater to Passer with the Grand Poobah Podcast (Episode 016)

Today, we go 1-on-1 with the bar exam legend, the Grand Poobah.  He will share the 5 things he did that took him from Bar Exam repeater to Bar exam passer.  Take a listen!


1) Review actual sample answers

2) Study the MBE topics first

3) Focus on Improving the Weak areas

4) Finish Outlining Before Writing Essays

5) Be Very Complete, at least at beginning of essay


6) Don’t neglect a topic you originally passed on prior bar exam

7) Focus on Writing Answers, not reading outlines

8) Write Like a Lawyer


Visit the Grand Poobah’s Blog and send him an email at bllypoobah@gmail.com.

Here is the full transcript:

Intro: You’re listening to the IPassedMyBarExam.com podcast. Helping you pass your bar exam with ease and confidence, episode number 16.

Dustin: Hello and welcome, future bar exam passers! My name is Dustin Saiidi, author of the 7 Steps to Bar Exam Success. And today we’re going to bring someone on the call today who went through a lot of mistakes as he was preparing for the bar exam, and he’s going to tell you what those mistakes were and how you can avoid them. So, this individual actually took the bar exam 10 times, finally passed on his 11th. He’s a well known legend in the bar exam space and he goes by the Grand Poobah. So without further adieu, let’s here what the Grand Poobah has to say about the bar exam.

Alright, hello and welcome to the call! We’re here with Brian Johnston a.k.a. the Grand Poobah, that you may know from bar exam prep who has been kind enough to come on to the call today. And today, Brian is going to share the 5 things that took him from being a repeater into becoming a bar exam passer. He took the bar exam 10 times, didn’t pass. But the 11th time is the charm, he was able to pass. And he’s going to share with us today kind of what happened in that 11th time to make him a passer. So, how are you doing Brian?

Brian: I’m doing well, thanks.

Dustin: Thanks for coming on the call today.

Brian: Sure, Dustin. No problem.

Dustin: If you want to just give a little bit of background about you and kind of your experiences with the bar exam in general, so people get to know who you are.

Brian: Well, most of who I am is already up on the blog. I think I shared most of the publicly available information. I’m a 55 years old, and I went to law school at 45 and graduated on time and then it took me a few years, 5 years I guess, to pass the bar. But prior to going to law school I worked in information technology as a programmer and did technical support for a large memory company in Orange County, and migrated to web design – the old acronym for web master. That’s what I did, I maintained a website. And then as my skills became stagnant, I decided I had to move on to something more lucrative for my future and something that I can do until I’m old and gray, even though I was already old and harshly gray. And so I cashed in before ??? and paid up my bills and went to law school with the hopes of being to now work until my feeble years until I could barely get to court and represent people or do whatever I wanted to do.

So I guess much more flexibility was my thinking, and it would ensure me that type of maintaining a consistent stream of income throughout my life, instead of having to rely on the fickle I.T. Business industry to keep that up.

Dustin: Wow! Well, I admire you for having the courage to take the leap at that point in your life, and then also the discipline and persistence to keep fighting through it until you broke through. So, definitely admired the persistence.

Brian: Yeah, after 2-3 years of trying I had – many people had suggested that I quit or go do something else. I mean if you’re familiar with the blog, you’re familiar with the naysayers on there, and a lot of them suggested I go off and do something else. But at the point I have so much time and money invested in it, it was really not a realistic option to quit. And so, I was almost forced into continuing and I’m really glad I did because I’m extremely satisfied now. Things couldn’t be better, well they will get better, but right now having accomplished this is a hugely satisfying achievement.

Dustin: That’s great! How was it dealing with that, with kind of going through the process of not passing and/or having people telling you, maybe you should give up or quit. How’s that emotionally, how did you deal with that?

Brian: Well, it’s pretty much as what you would expect, it’s a constant torment. I mean, when you talk amongst people – laypeople who hadn’t gone to law school, they don’t really understand. They don’t know what law school’s like and they don’t know what the bar exam is like and they don’t know any of the associative pressures and the things which go along with that. So I kind of write that off because they just didn’t know. But amongst my peers it was tough because there’s a lot of people out there who went to law school and haven’t yet passed the bar, and there’s kind of a threshold where you’re considered reasonably successful for. I guess your smart or something for having gone in to law school and graduated, but until you’ve actually pass the bar you’re kind of like a second class citizen. People are like, “Yeah great, you went to law school.” But in the change in people’s perception, and the way they treat you and talk to you and everything else, after having passed the bar is tremendous.

So the whole time, I was just dealing with the stigma of having gone to law school and graduated but not having passed the bar exam. And most of my friends said it didn’t bother them and they still, I was still their friend. But personally it was tough to include myself amongst them simply because I hadn’t passed yet and it was an achievement that I struggled with, in a stigma if you will. Kind of a scarlet letter that I attach to myself and I wore everyday. And I think I hid it pretty well, the disappointment of not having passed. But man, it was tough. Every single day.

And plus, me starting my blog and having my face up there, going to the bar exam every time people will recognize me. Some people will talk to me and some people will just point and kind of talk to their buddies.So there was a little more pressure because of that as well. It was tough but you just have to log-on, just forget about it and put your head down and keep working, and know that someday you’ll get through it. And that was the attitude that I had. I knew I was smart enough. I knew I know enough about law. I knew I had to keep going and so I did.

Dustin: Awesome! So let’s talk about what are the 5 things that really, you feel that you did differently that time that you passed, that took you from repeater to bar exam passer. What are kind of like the top 5 tips that you give?

Brian: Well the first thing, as I mentioned on the blog, was that I gave up on my manic adherence to the strict direct method. Being a programmer and all, the level of attention to detail that you have to employ in that business to be successful is immense. You have to cover all the options, all the basis, you have to code for all the different possibilities and all the different variable, the way people will input it and the way they come out – that kind of thing. So, when I look at a question I would do the same thing. It’s like, “Okay, I have to consider all the facts, from all different angles, and I have to try and code for them if you will. I have to try to write in them my solution.” And I discovered that after a while I wasn’t able to get nearly enough analysis on the paper because I was so busy trying to include every fact and every possible way it could fit. And I just wasted a lot of time, with a lot of extra words I didn’t need.

So i gave up on the strict direct, and I decided to just kind of wing it, if you will. Because I looked at some of the model answers closely, finally, because I kind of been avoiding them. I was just off to myself, “You know my answers should be good enough. I’m not going to look at someone else’s answer.” But I finally forced myself to, and I notice that they had the issues and the rules and the elements there. Once they got the analysis part, they kind of free-flowed a little bit. They showed a level of comfort with the subject that showed the grader that they knew the material. And I think the ability to write in that casual way while still addressing all the facts and relaying all the rules but not in such a strict way shows that I was comfortable with the material and that I can write about it confidently and competently and in a lawyer-like way, like they say you should.

So that was a big change, that was partly due to the fact that I kind of throw in the towel and say “Screw them. Piss off myself and everything else, I’m just going to write what I think instead of what I think they want to see.”

Dustin: Very interesting. So something that changed, again, for you then was look at that sample model answers and seeing kind of how are they wording it and then that helped you cater your writing style in that manner.

Brian: Yeah, and I also looked at some past answer that hadn’t scored so well. There’s a website or two out there that have a collection of past answers. And looked at the way they wrote, looked at the way the passing answers wrote, and notice the same difference. So in the back of my mind I was thinking, “You know, that’s probably something I should aspire to and I just hadn’t done it, hadn’t been able to do it, hadn’t been able to break free of my background enough to do that.

Dustin: That’s awesome. So I hope all the listeners on the podcast go and look at some sample answers to see exactly what is it that looks good. What is it that’s passing, so that they know what to write. And I know that helped me in my bar exam a lot, when I actually saw an actual 65 passing answer then I saw kind of what it is that people are looking for, what’s really need in order to pass. That really changed the game for me as well.

Brian: Right. And right after, they should pay attention to, right after the issue and the rules stated. The bar obviously puts different styles of answers out there, but one thing I notice was, they don’t write – and in the front of the essay packet they say “Don’t just write the law, so that you understand what you are talking about.” And you see that these people kind of go on a risk. They just start writing about the fact and the rules and it become more casual. And that’s what I noticed, and I hadn’t paid attention before.

Dustin: Okay, awesome! What’s the second thing that you did?

Brian: I started this actually in February, for the February exam of 2012. I started studying my MBE subjects first, and I went through all those and made sure I was comfortable with them and remembered all the rules because the MBEs are 35% of your grade and they’re also roughly half or better of the essays. So I thought that, if I knew the MBE subjects, forward and backward, I would cover most of the material. So I made a conscious effort to get those down first before I move on to the other subjects. And I think that helped because, you know, 3 of the essays or so, are MBE subjects and they’re going to be crossed over on 1 or 2 others. I felt like I did myself a favor by doing that because the information was really ingrained in my brain. Of course it all was by that point, I’ve taken the darn thing 10 times. I thought I knew the rules pretty well but I still wanted to re-enforce those.

Dustin: Right. Brian, you should read my blog in 2011, that’s the exact advice I give is to study the MBE topics first.

Brian: Oh okay, great!

Dustin: Obviously, Brian is not reading my blog but that’s okay. Yeah and I agree because if you study the MBE topics first, let’s say you spend 3 days per topic at least getting that first overview, you’ll hit all the MBE topics and about half your essays within the first 3 weeks. So the first 3 weeks you’re almost quote&quote, I don’t want to say half way done or whatever because again you’ll review them over and over, but you have seen about half the materials in the first 3 weeks which is fantastic. So I agree completely with that advice. What’s your third thing that you did?

Brian: Let’s see, I decided to forego studying, well not forego, but I decided not focus or not to study my strong subjects – the subjects I consider my strong ones, so much. And focus on the ones that I feel like I can improve on, and for me that was Civ Pro, and Con Law, and Real Property, and 1 or 2 others. With the thought that I wasn’t going to prove a lot on my strong subjects. I mean, I knew them pretty well and I always score reasonably well, and then of course within the realm of scores that I got were not all that impressive. But I felt like there’s a little room for improvement there, but the subject that I kind of felt I was average in or I felt you know, middle and comfortable, I wanted to get comfortable with those.

So I studied those a lot and I pretty much gave up on the ones I was weak on, I figured you know, the heck with it. I’ve been studying this things for 5 years and I’ve never improved those. So I’m just going to wing it on the bar exam when I get there. So I studied primarily, the subjects that I felt like I could improve on and just consign to the dust bin, if you will, the subject that I knew I was going to do poorly on. And hoped that I could bring my other scores up sufficiently to cover for those.

Dustin: Oh, okay. So when you took the bar, did you find a lot of those topics, like what are the topics did you get? Did you find the ones that you were strong at or the ones that you really didn’t know?

Brian: Well you know, I always complain about Civ Pro and I always say that I really didn’t like Civ Pro; one of my least favorite subject and probably is still is, but I worked hard on that. And then, in this last exam, we had a situation where there was a Canadian corporation doing business in one state only, and these people got injured in a car accident and there was a subject manager takes in personal jurisdiction. And I knew the rules for alien corporations, and I thought when I saw that and I started writing, rules just bubbled out from my brain from what I had just studied over the last few weeks. I was actually happy, I was smiling on myself on that exam. And I was thinking that, “Wow, this is a Civ Pro exam and I’m liking it. And I actually think I’m doing well, this is bizarre.” So it really worked, it worked pretty well for me.

Dustin: Okay, cool! Alright, what’s your fourth thing that you did?

Brian: I outlined completely on my laptop before I started writing. In the past I had  – you know, everybody always says, outline in your laptop or somewhere but complete your outline and outline the essay from there. But in the past I started my outline, and then I had written the rules, and then kind of filled in a couple of facts so I wouldn’t forget. And then pretty soon, 24 and a half minutes later, I find that I’m still filling in some facts and I actually find myself writing a little bit of analysis and then almost half way through the essay, I really don’t have anything concrete on the paper, if you will. So this time, I force myself to complete my outline on my laptop and then go back there and check it.

The one thing that I did was, especially on that Crim Law that we had where the guy had killed that lady – or it was Evidence, yeah it was Evidence. And they were bringing in the married confidentiality privileged and the married communication privilege. The first time through I put both those in the first call. And then having gone through my outline again before I started writing, I realized that the confidentiality privilege was in the second call and the testimonial privilege was in the first call, so that enabled me to straighten up my outline before I started writing so I didn’t find myself halfway through struggling to figure out what I had to re-arrange and where I had to put something and such a way, loose my train of thought. That helped a lot. And on that one and on the Criminal Law one where the guy had the gun, that one as well, it helped a lot. Criminal Procedure that one was, Criminal Law or Crim Pro.

Dustin: Was the fact that you completed the outline that helped a lot or was it the fact that you wrote it in your laptop or a mix of both?

Brian: The fact that I completed it. I would first, try and write it on paper. In the years passed I would try to write it on paper and then copy that on my laptop. This time I just did it on my laptop right off the bat. I’ve never had a laptop failure in the bar exam but I was warned against that. What happens if your laptop fails, you don’t have your outline, and it’s not some place where you can use it. But I decided to roll the dice and you know, it wasn’t that big of a risk, because I’ve never had a failure. Knocking on wood it wouldn’t happen again.

And so I outlined completely on the laptop, and I finished my outline and made sure that I gotten through all the facts and all the fact pattern and gotten the issues I wanted to get and then after I completed it, then I started writing. That was something I hadn’t done before. Seems obvious but I hadn’t done it.

Dustin: Okay, awesome! And what’s your fifth thing?

Brian: I decided to – most of the thing that I was taught very recently, to start really strong on the first page because the grader is going to look at the first page. And they’re going to get an overall information of your essay based on that. And then that overall impression will carry on to the rest of the essays, so really I focused on being very comprehensive and complete in my analysis on the first page and the first issue and then, I kind of went in to automatic mode for the rest of it. And then when about 10 minutes to go, I slowed down and I went back and reviewed everything I had written. Made sure I completed every issue, completed every analysis, I come into a conclusion, did my spell check and everything else and basically closed up properly, make sure I could finish.

So that was a logical way to proceed through the fact pattern that I had employed before, it helped me organized and stay tracked of time. And I think it presented a better picture of what I was writing to the grader, at least I hope it did. I hope my writing improved on this thing and it wasn’t just an MBE score of a 180 that got me by, but that was it. And I also continued to focus throughout on my MBEs. I never let them slide, I kept upon those even though I have a historically high MBE score, relative to everyone who had their MBE score back. I made sure I kept up on those, maintained my skills at there.

Dustin: Okay. So you didn’t – sometimes people, when they fail the first time, the second time they’ll say, “Oh I passed the MBEs but I failed the essays, so I’m only going to do the essays.” or vice versa. So you’re saying to keep up to both of them. Don’t just let one hang and go for the other one.

Brian: Right. And I always thought that was a little risky, and that’s one reason I never skipped an exam. I didn’t want my skills on anything to diminish, I want to maintain the good performance that I have always had. And over the years my MBE scores gradually gone from a low of 123, the first time it was 128, then it was 123 and then it gradually went up and up and up. In February 2012 I got a 149 and a raw MBE score. And I wouldn’t be surprised, and I say this with all humility if that’s all possible, that I wouldn’t be surprised if my MBE scores is closer to 160 this time than it was 150 because I felt like they were very easy. I felt that way before and hadn’t gotten negative scores so, I could be wrong but, I feel like I improved on those so even if I didn’t improve dramatically on my essays and my PTs I felt like I maintained my MBE score. And if I improved that then that might have, well obviously, the combined scores were enough to pass. I don’t know if they were but I still wanted to maintain may MBE skill.

Dustin: I got you. Brian did you ever take a bar prep program at some point?

Brain: Yeah. You know, I’ve taken a number of them. Right in to law school, I was the bar re-lec in our school for my class so I sat through bar re-lectures and I’ve taken a number more over the years. I could recall a few of them but I never felt like I got that much out of them because the tutors or the people who run the programs, I find that typically they just stood in front of the class – in front of the class they were teaching. And most of them lectured from an outline, some of them didn’t take questions. It was basically a re-hash of what we had in law school, professor up there teaching the law. And we had a pretty good grasp of the law at that time, and I would go to the classes and sit there and wonder what I was doing there and what I was learning because I knew everything they were saying. You know, I can follow through on my outline and read, and it was like kind of “Duh, that’s kind of obvious.” Burglary is still a burglary, a murder is still a murder, and homicide is what it is, and manslaughter and whatnot. There wasn’t so much value added to most of them over the years until recently.

Dustin: Did the time that you pass the bar exam which was by the way, this past summer, so again congratulations. Did you do any bar prep or specifically for that time as well or no?

Brian: Yeah. You know, to name names, I used Jason Tolerico’s program. I used him primarily when I started for the February 2012 exam. And I studied a lot starting in December all the way through the exam on that one, and I felt like I rebuilt my foundation; that same foundation I had in law school, when I got in law school, of the material. And then after I failed in February 2012, I didn’t work so much in memorizing. I worked more on my writing, well in fact, I didn’t work nearly as hard as I had before. I try to get more work – work done, more paying more done. But yeah, I used a tutor for the whole last year and I think he was instrumental in my passing because of his philosophy and his attitude and the way he taught how to approach this things and to break them down and attack them and be comfortable with them.

Dustin: You mentioned something too, you’ve said you worked more in your writing not your memorizing, can you clarify more on that too?

Brian: Yeah you know, I’m sure everybody knows, you go through an outline for the hundredth time and it’s de javu all over again. And its’ an outline, it’s what we learn in law school, and you can only get so much out of it through repetition. I mean, yeah it helps to refresh the rules in your brain for each bar exam, but there’s only so much benefit you can get from that. I mean, after a while the rules just pop into your head. So after going through a few outlines, this time I realized that I was wasting my time or at least it wasn’t the best use of my time. So that’s when I started to look at the released answers and a properly constructed passing answer. I think that was where I was really trying to figure out what the heck it is that I was doing wrong. And why my really nice IRAC answers were not given good scores, and try to compare the two and figure out what a passing answer look like. So I was working on my writing, trying to modify my writing style to match the passing answers.

Dustin: Wonderful! That is a wonderful tip! So the 5 that I have here, again; kind of improving the writing, looking at some model answers was the first one. Starting at the MBE topics first was the second one. Focusing on where you can improve was the third one. Fourth one was completing your outline and if necessary doing that in your laptop. And then fifth was really giving a good impression to that grader on that first page so, I think you’re right, they do form a snap judgment based on what they see on that first page and how they’re going to grade it.

Brian: And I try to carry that over to the performance exams too because I always felt like I’ve done decently on those. I’ve never really gotten – well, I got the occasional 65, mostly it was 60s and 55s on those. And this time I kind of carried over my – the damn torpedo is full speed ahead, you know, kind of casual attitude on the PTs as well. And prior to this exam, I had a bad habit of copying a lot of material from the library into my answer which wasted a lot of time. This time I didn’t do that and I just work more on analysis. And I also attacked the library first instead of the file, and I think that might have helped me as well.

Dustin: Very good! Awesome, great tips! Do you have anything else, any other bonus that you want to mention to help law students pass the bar exam?

Brian: I would just say that everyone who graduates law school knows enough law to pass the bar exam and I think the stress of the situation causes people to kind of get out of their comfort zone. I don’t know if you remember those old football games, those little oy games where you put all of this men in the table. You turn them on and it vibrates and it kind of move around, and then one guy touches another and it’s like, “I gotcha!” I felt like my brain was kind of that way when I sat for the bar exam. I would stress a little, I would ramp-up, and I would loose focus and I would be unable to write like I feel like I can write or when I practiced. So you know, calming down, having the confidence level to know that you can pass this thing, and not worrying so much about what the grader is going to think of it but just writing comfortably. Writing like you know what you’re talking about. And I keep going back to that blur right in front of the essay packet that says, “They’re looking for a lawyer-like analysis.” And so talk like a lawyer and write like you’re comfortable with the material and I think that’s a big key.

Dustin: Awesome! Fantastic, I love it! Well, thank you so much Brian for coming on. Oh and I didn’t ask you this, your Grand Poobah. Where did Grand Poobah come from?

Brian: Oh well, when I was a kid, and I was a really little kid, we used to play with carton trucks in the backyard and dirt. And we would always have the names of the characters that died frequently and they would always have the last name of Poobah. And so that was Janie Poobah and Billy Poobah, and whatnot. And then when I was thinking for a name for the blog, I was thinking I had to incorporate some kind of casual name in there that I could use. And then back in the Fred Flintstones cartoons when he was the Grand Poobah and the leader of their lodge, it just seems like an easy pick, an easy name. Not pretentious and kind of self-deprecating, if you will. Even though it’s applied as Grand Poobah in us, but I was kind of a big fun of it myself and it works. It works.

Dustin: Well, it works for your own style I guess. Okay so, and if people want to get in touch with you, what’s your blog site? The name is kind of a funny url.

Brian: Yeah, it started back in 2007. It’s CaliforniaGBX0707@blogspot.com.

Dustin: Okay, I’ll have a link to that in the website as well.

Brian: Yeah, my email address is on there somewhere so anybody can send me an email.

Dustin: Okay. So yeah, if anybody has question or want some advice from you, I’ll find the email and I’ll put it on the website as well. Thank you so much Brian for coming on. I really appreciate it.

Brian: You’re quite welcome, Dustin. Thanks for having me.

Dustin: Sure, and we’ll talk to you again at some point.

Brian: Very good.

Dustin: Alright and there you have it, the Grand Poobah of the bar exam giving his more than 5 tips to go from repeater to passer on the bar exam. If you want to visit his blog, it’s got kind of a funny url, you heard him say it. Also, you can go to IPassedMyBarExam.com/GrandPoobah, and you can take a look at his blog. Also his email is bllypoobah@gmail.com so head on over to the site and see if he has some advice or send him an email if you want to ask questions about the bar.

Alright, and don’t forget to sign-up on my newsletter for the IPassedMYBarExam.com and get your 12 Keys to Bar Exam Success, go ahead and do that now and I will send you the 12 Keys to Bar Exam Success. And also, quick tips about the bar exam throughout your bar exam prep. So get out there and crush it this week. Go do a great job, and in time your name too, will appear on the pass list. Take Care.

How to Make the Bar Exam Easier with The Bar Exam is Easy author Kris Rivenburgh Podcast (Episode 015)

Today, we interview the Author of the #1 Amazon Best-Seller Kris Rivenburgh The Bar Exam is Easy.  He shares his tips, strategies, and advice for making the bar exam easier than you probably thought possible.

You can also Email him at Kris@TheBarIsEasy, on Facebook, or Twitter.

Here is a full transcript of this interview:

Intro: You’re listening to the IPassedMyBarExam.com podcast. Helping you pass your bar exam with ease and confidence, episode number 15: How To Make Your Bar Exam Easier.

Dustin: Greeting, future bar exam passer! My name is Dustin Saiidi, founder of IPassedMyBarExam.com, and creator of the Bar Exam Mental Edge. Today we have another special guest coming on to the show, his name is Kris Rivenburgh, and he took the Texas bar exam, he failed it the first 2 times and passed on the third time. Since he has passed his bar, he has decided to write a book on his journey through the bar exam. The book is called The Bar Exam Is Easy and you can get it on Amazon, it is a #1 bestseller with a bunch of five star reviews. So let’s go straight into the call today to find out how you can make your bar exam easier.

Alright, welcome! We are here today with Kris Rivenburgh from TheBarIsEasy.com, who’s going to come on the podcast today to tell us why the bar exam is easy and how you can make the bar exam easier than you think.

Hey Kris, how are you doing?

Kris: I’m fantastic, Dustin. It’s great to be here.

Dustin: It’s great to have you on. If you want to start today by telling the listeners a little bit about you and how you came to be helping people in the bar exam space, and how you came about to write your book and what your kind of journey with the bar exam was.

Kris: Well, the bar exam hit me like it does with a lot of law students, it just comes to you all at once when you’re about to finish. And I only heard the myths and the other legends about it and how hard it was, that’s all I knew about it. So having heard that, I was looking for the best answer and everybody seemed to be defaulting to taking a bar review course. And I questioned it for a second but seeing as how you’re just up against the wall and you just need to pass the bar exam, and that seems like the best thing to do.

So I end up taking the bar review course. I actually failed the bar exam twice, and I took a bar review course both of those times. And then the third time, I decided that I was just going to do it on my own. I didn’t need the bar review course anymore because I’ve actually taken the test and I’ve actually seen what the test look like. And once you have that experience you gel stuff together, you piece together, and it’s really not all that complicated. So when I saw that, I was just like, “Well you know, I got my study plan, this is all I really need to do. It’s not this all other stuff that they’re telling me.” and passed it easily. And so then I was just like, “This information should be out there.” and so I decided to write my book.

Dustin: That’s awesome! And just so the listeners are clear, you took the Texas bar. Is that correct?

Kris: I took the Texas bar exam, yes.

Dustin: What did you go through then, when you took the bar exam those first two times with the bar prep program and then you said you know, the third time you realized kind of what you can eliminate. What did you eliminate from your bar prep?

Kris: I eliminated, I think it’s just easier to say what I kept. You know, all I kept was the essay book, the MBE book, and the MPT book, and Texas actually has a Procedure in Evidence Section that most other states don’t have. So I kept those books and basically it was just keeping practiced questions and model answers, and that’s all it was. And all the other stuff, I didn’t use anything else like apps, video lectures, outlines, flash cards, all of the other stuff. And I understand some of that may help other people in the way that they learn, but for me none of that did any good.

Dustin: I see. And do you feel that way because you’d taken it already or do you feel like a first time taker, they don’t need the videos, and the outlines and those stuff as well? They can just kind of boil it down to a few specifics?

Kris: No. I definitely, I wish I could have done that the first time because it saves so much time and it’s so much easier because you’re not – when you have all these different media and different stuff to study from, it’s a distraction and it takes away from your focus. And the focus should just be on the questions and so I would definitely – and if I would have done that in the first time it would have been so much more time saved. So much more free time to just relax and go have fun which you need to do. Everything would have been so much more efficient, so I definitely would recommend that right off the bat.

Dustin: That’s awesome. So can you tell the listeners, I guess a little bit about what you’re doing before hand? And then, specifically day-to-day, what did you find was the best path to study? Like, day-to-day what were you doing, and about how many hours were you spending doing that?

Kris: Okay. Well before hand when I was doing the bar review course, I’d go to the bar review course and I would sit through the video lecture and there would be, typically you have whatever subject and it’s like 2-3-4 maybe even 5 hours, it might be spread over 2 days. You go through that. You sit through that and then they tell you “Go ahead and do the practice questions.” It’s basically what a bar review course boils down to.

What I did in the third time I took it, when i passed, all I did was I set-up a desk. I bought a desk at Cost Co., it was just a $20 desk and a chair. And I just plop them right in my apartment kitchen, and studied from there. And the reason it was on the kitchen is because it had the best lighting. And that’s all I needed to do. I didn’t even study but for a few hours a day. It wasn’t like, I had some torrid pace. And the Texas bar exam passing is 67.5, and I can’t remember the exact number now but I think a 70.7 or something like that.

Dustin: Okay. So you’re just literally doing the questions day-in and day-out, not studying anything else?

Kris: Not studying anything else. I was looking at the question, for example, let’s go MBE – I would take 8 questions from each subject. Go through say, 8 questions of torts, review each answer, mark how many I got right, and then I would move on to the next subject. And that’s how I was doing, and basically the same with the essays. And you know, for most bar exam that’s like 80% of what you’re going to need so that was the most important things. But other than that, the same concept applied. For example, in Texas Procedure and Evidence, same exact drill just go in to the past questions.

Dustin: Nice! And let me just say, on the record too, I completely agree with that approach as well. And I think that’s the key to not only doing better but also saving the time and the stress by just focusing on exactly what it is you’re going to be tested on, and not spend as much time on the memorizing rules and lectures and all that other stuff.

Kris: That seems to be the consensus especially when, I mean, I’ve looked around the internet just seeing what people are saying. A lot of people like yourself, who have passed, are saying that that is the best way to do it.

Dustin: Now, about how many hours a day where you studying using this new approach that helped you pass?

Kris: I’m going to say 3 to 5, and that’s what I recommend in my book. Actually it really varies. I think you got a lot of flexibility when you study for the bar exam and it does depend on what exam you’re taking. I think for someone like yourself who’s passed the California, or the New York, maybe you up it a little bit because we all know that some states are just more difficult than others. But it’s the same formula, and so you just might want to adjust on the variable of the state. But 2 to 5 hours it just – you know, I allowed myself a lot of flexibility, and I wasn’t going to worry about it. I was just going to do my best and not, you know, you don’t want to go the point where you’re going insane from studying 10 to 12 hours a day.

Dustin: How may hours were you studying before when you were using the bar prep programs and going through all the lectures?

Kris: By the time I got done through the lecture and then the practiced on top of that, it was probably in the area of 8 hours a day. But the caveat to that would be that, my hours weren’t as concentrated, they were broken up. You know, I was with other people – my friends, studying for the bar exam. Not directly engaged at all times, you know sometimes you’re going to go work out or going to the gym, and it’s not all study time. So I would say, I was at the desk probably at least 7 hours. But then again, there’s different things that are distracting you or taking up your time. So it wasn’t as concentrated as I would just sat down in my apartment and do it.

Dustin: Nice! So it’s kind of an oxymoron. You actually spent maybe 3-6 hours less per day, and you ended doing better on the bar.

Kris: Yeah. I mean, because that’s the whole thing once you get down to it. The thing about the bar review courses is that, they’re sending you after they get you done with the video, they’re like “Okay, go practice.” Like, you need to go practice. And they recommend it too. They don’t recommend against it, they just need to justify themselves and legitimize themselves, so they have to put in other things to show you, “Hey, here’s how we’re providing the value.”

Dustin: Yeah, yeah. I love it, that’s a great insight.

You talked a little bit about doing other things and having fun as well, so you spend some of those other hours, what did you do in terms of fun and relaxation?

Kris: Well, I think the main thing I did was I worked out a lot, and that was extremely helpful. I always, I mean, that’s always something you want to do. But you just can’t – a lot of people get so worked-out about the bar exam, and you really can’t. It doesn’t do you any good to psyche yourself out or make it the biggest thing ever. And it’s not, but a lot of people do that, and what I did was I just went out my own pace. I worked out, I went to the movies, I would hang out with friends, and I kept everything else, but I just made sure that I kept a workman-like approach to the bar exam. And now, I understand that everyone can’t do that. Some people have families, other jobs, and all that other stuff. But you still want to make sure you have a re-creation and exercise. I think exercise is very very important. You’re mentally thinking so much clearer when you have exercise.

Dustin: That’s awesome! I completely agree to both of those. Exercise, scientifically, has shown to not only provide more clarity in thinking but also to relive a lot of the stress. And then doing fun activities, I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but when you disconnect from the bar and get outside the world it gives you the energy to come back in and attack the bar exam prep as well.

Kris: Yeah, I think what you just described would be, what I call brain re-set. You have to allow yourself to re-set because if you don’t you’re not going to absorb the information as well and it’s inefficient studying anyway, so you’re wasting your time that way. So the people that try to go out and do the 10 hour days or even more, they’re just hurting themselves because it’s totally unnecessary.

Dustin: What are some other ways that you recommend for stress management and also brain re-set,what are some other suggestions?

Kris: Well, one important thing is I think you have to not talk to people about the bar exam. I noticed, especially the people who are studying on campus with the bar review courses, and then otherwise they’re talking to their friends a bout it. And that’s a huge problem because you’re directing your energy towards it but nothing is happening as far as getting your results. You’re just talking amongst yourselves about it, worrying about it, hearing how good people are doing on the MBE or how bad they’re doing, and I just saw people drive themselves up the wall with that and it was ridiculous.

I really don’t recommend you talk to anybody about the bar exam, even your fellow law student friends, or whatever. Just talk about something else because the time you spend on it needs to be reserved for just that, time you spend on it. Otherwise, I would leave it alone. And so that helps reset because you’re not constantly going over it. If you do have questions or you need some support, then you should contact an independent source for that. For example, I talked to a lot of people just through email or they can even call me and I’ll talk to them about the bar exam if they have any questions. So if you have questions like that then go to a source but otherwise, I would stick away from people.

I would also say eat very very healthy, that goes right along with exercise but it helps so much with your mental clarity and you can think clear. Obviously, you want to get a lot of sleep. I think you don’t want to deprive yourself at all. Basically you want to indulge yourself, make yourself as healthy as possible and it’s going to make things so much easier.

Dustin: Awesome! That’s absolutely a fantastic advice and not only for the bar exam but when people become attorneys as well. I think that’s a great advice.

Kris: Yeah, I think so. And I think a lot of people just loose sight of that, you know it’s like work, work, work, work, work. And that’s absolutely wrong. You have to take care of yourself first and work comes second.

Dustin: How about multi-tasking? I know of people like to do multi-tasking and there’s been a scientific research that shows it’s not effective at all. What are your thoughts on multi-taking?

Kris: Yeah, I would completely eliminate that. You know, people not only multi-task and they would try to do other things, like they’ve got a lot of projects going on besides the bar it could be any number of things. On multi-tasking, specifically during the bar exam, you have to eliminate it. It’s not going to help you. You need to concentrate on one thing and then keep at it until you finish. So for example, a lot of time when you might have an MBE book open and an essay book open, you’re kind of flipping of back and forth, you can’t do that. And you have to just – if you do it, if you start on MBE you have to do, I think I recommend that you do at least 15 minutes before you stop. And I did that sometimes too, just because I like to mix it up and I have my brain kind of jumps from place to place. But you want to stick with something for at least 15 minutes to make sure you’re not just wasting time or trying to create an air of studying when you are not actually studying.

And then as far as when, you know, I get a lot of questions about people asking “I have a kid.” or “I have a job.” or “I have a both.” or “I have a disability.” And I hear all these stories and these people have a lot going on, and what I always emphasize to them is that, you have to make the bar exam a priority and work around it. You can’t just allow a bunch of excuses to surround yourself and then get lost in them. You have to clear out space for the bar exam and then everything else will work itself out from there. But just a lot of people ask me about that and I wanted to cover it.

Dustin: What about, you said you went through failing the bar exam twice, right? How did you kind of deal with that mentally and emotionally because some people, they’ll go through that failure and question themselves, “Is this the right thing for me?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “Can I mentally go up and get the energy to do this again?” How did you deal with that, maybe the first time and the second time, and getting through it?

Kris: Well, I completely took another view of it than everyone else. I just saw it as an extra vacation. It’s not that I wanted to fail, I just was like, “Okay well, I failed. So that’s what it is, not a big deal. I’ll go out and pass.” You know, when people ask me “What are you going to do now?” “Well, I’m just going to take it again, and I’m going to pass it this time.” So it was never a big deal to me. I understand why people put a lot of weight on it. They need to move forward with their life. They need to go get a job, whatever. But I just never let it bother me too much because there’s really no point in doing that.

There’s people crying, and people are embarrassed. And there’s no reason to be embarrassed about it, it’s the bar exam. About 70% people will pass and 30% won’t, or whatever it is. Sometimes people don’t pass, it’s okay. There’s nothing embarrassing about failing a bar exam, and that’s what I sensed about a lot of people. A lot of people have a lot of shame about it, they wouldn’t want to show up on facebook or they wouldn’t want to congratulate they’re friends or they’re friends don’t know what to say to them. It’s not really a big deal, especially when you look at it in the grand scheme of things. You’re going to pass okay, if you really put your best foot forward and you give it a good faith effort. If you got through law school then can get through the bar exam. So if you failed 1 time or 2 times, you can pass. I just never saw it as a big deal and I think people get way too worked-up about it because they’re just looking for something to get worked-up about. And even if you do make it out to be the biggest things in the world, so what? I mean, it doesn’t do you any good to worry about it so worrying or feeling bad about yourself or creating a cloud of negativity that doesn’t help anything.

Dustin: That’s great! Great perspective. Failure is not a “No”, it’s a “Not right now” and just an opportunity to learn and grow from it, I think. That’s fantastic. What about, do you have anymore tactical steps that you recommend to make the bar exam easy? I know you obviously hit the big one which is, just focusing on the practices and also controlling your mindset and your energy through exercise. Do you have any more like, specific tactical steps, maybe how you handled the essays or the MBE or whatever else?

Kris: Well I think one thing that I wanted to cover was that I like the idea of approaching it. First, you develop a game plan tailored to you state’s bar exam, and so that’s very very important because you want to set the foundation to be strong. So I would go and look on the state bar exam official website and I would look at the past exams, and i would also look at any updates and make sure you have all the information. And I think that’s why a lot of people like the bar review courses because they provide security of like, “Okay, they’re going to tell me everything I need to know.” Well, if you go look for yourself you’re going to have everything you need to know, so I’d start right there build a solid foundation.

And then when I studied, I would study in an ascending time increments rather than descending. What I mean by that is, a lot of people like to say, “Okay, I’m going to go crazy. I’m going to start studying 3 months out. And the first month I’m going to study 10 hours a day, or whatever.” Well, the problem with that is you’re not sending yourself to peak during the bar exam, and I recommend that you set yourself up to peak at that, right about when you are about to take it. So, starting smaller and then just growing as your brain becomes accustomed to the number of questions you do. And it does take some adjusting so you can’t just go from not studying at all for the bar exam to hitting 150 MBE questions a day, or whatever it is. You have to just grow to it. So that’s one thing I would do.

On essays, I would reverse-engineer the model answers. And by that I mean, if you look at the model answers for your states questions, you will see how to answer in the format they want whether it be CRAC, IRAC, whatever it is. That’s all I did, is I just looked and I was like, “Okay, I can see exactly what they want. I don’t need anybody to tell me what they want. I can see, it’s right here in front of my face.” So that’s another tip for essays.

For MBE, I never looked once for any secrets or tricks, and I know they’re out there, and I’m sure some of them are okay but the MBE is really about repetition. The one thing that I want people to know about the MBE is that, if you look at the questions over and over again, there’s only so many ways they can test so many different things. So they can only – even if they want to be creative as they can, they still come back to the same testing, the same analysis, the same questions. It always comes back. If you do enough MBE questions, you’ll see them repeated basically almost word for word. And they’ll be threaded in the questions almost word for word, you’ll be like “Wow, I’ve already seen that!” Same thing happened to me with the essays. There was actually 1 or 2 when I was taking the different Texas bars, that were exactly the same, like not even re-worded.

So, and that’s another advantage of just going through the past questions, is you’ll actually get free points on the bar exam. Now you do have to look closely at the MBE because they’ll try to trip you up on that. You’re not going to get the exact same MBE question but it will be that same kind of concept, it will be just like a different twist.

Dustin: Nice, awesome! The bar exam graders love to rinse and repeat, is how I say it.

Kris: Yeah, they definitely do!

Dustin: That’s great! And other tips for making the bar exam easier?

Kris: I would say, “Know that it’s not that hard.” Know that it’s really actually easy if you just study the right way. You’ve got to get the right MBE study materials, that’s absolutely crucial. If you look on my blog, I have the MBE study materials I either study from or that I read extensively on and recommend. So you have to get the right study materials. I don’t know this to be a fact but I’ve heard repeatedly that BarBri is too easy of MBE questions, and by that I mean they’re not bar exam level difficulty questions. So you need to get exposure to bar exam level difficulty questions, that’s very very very important. Other than that, i think we’ve covered everything.

Dustin: Nice! So Kris is the author of The Bar Is Easy you can find them at TheBarIsEasy.com. Can they also email you at kris@thebariseasy.com?

Kris: Yes, they can.

Dustin: And he’s also authored his book, you’re book by the way, is a #1 bestseller. It’s pretty much got all 5 start reviews on Amazon as well, is that right?

Kris: Yes. I’m very happy that I’ve been able to help people and that I’m getting such a positive feedback. It’s really nice to see that it’s making a difference for people.

Dustin: That’s awesome! Yeah, it’s great to see people like you coming out there and helping others with their bar exam and with that journey that they’re going through.

Kris: And Dustin I just want to add one more thing, I just thought of something. I don’t want to, I think there are some bar review courses out there that can provide a good value, But it’s just – I think they need to skip out on a lot of the fluff, lower their price. And once they do that, the bar review materials that they provide are often excellent, so if they can just lower that price and getting it down to where they kind of streamline the information along with giving you the excellent study materials, all in one package then that would be something better than a lot of the bar review courses offered now.

Dustin: Yeah, it kind of sounds like what you are talking about now is BarMax.

Kris: Oh really?

Dustin: Maybe. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them.

Kris: I’m not. I’m not familiar with them.

Dustin: I don’t know actually if they’re in Texas but I know they’re in California and New York. They have a significantly lower price than like BarBri or Kaplan, and everything is very very streamlined with them.

Kris: See, that sounds like they’re actually getting to the point and being efficient which is what we’re all after.

Dustin: Right, that definitely helps in the end. Cool! Well, thanks Kris so much for coming on to the podcast today.

Kris: Well, Dustin thank you very much for the invite.

Dustin: And I’ll have some links to your blog and to your book as well on my website so the listeners can check that out.

Kris: Alright Dustin, thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Dustin: Alright! Thanks Kris, take care.

Alright and there you go, some practical tips from Kris Rivenburgh on how you can make your bar exam easier. So right now go ahead and head on over to IPassedMyBarExam.com/Easy and it will take you to Kris and his site where you can get his book. Also, if you’re listening to this on a podcast network, I would greatly appreciate you giving it a 5 star review and subscribing so you can be notified of future podcast episodes automatically.

Thanks so much and until next time! Go out there, go do well this week, and always remember that your name appears on the pass list.



The 10 Scientific Secrets to Productivity during the Bar Exam

Being productive during the bar exam is a tricky task.  There is a lot of information and a lot of time during the day.  Deciding how to prioritize that time and balance between studying and relaxing is an art that no one has been fully able to explain… until now.

SparringMind.com recently released a video explaining the science behind our productivity.  Let’s take what they said and apply it to your bar exam.

1) Don’t Use Willpower.

Don’t try to ‘will’ your way through studying for the bar.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Instead, follow a few sound principles on how your brain is designed and use that to your advantage.

2) Just Get Started.

Many times we delay doing an activity because our mind wanders towards all the long, difficult things we will have to encounter.  For example, we might not start doing a performance test because we have to read a bunch of cases, go through long fact patterns, and have to think too hard.

But, don’t focus on finishing and all the hard parts… yet.  Just focus on starting the task.  Once you start, the Zeigarnik effect will take place in your mind – the effect that makes you want to complete a task after you started it.

So, whether it’s taking a performance test, an MBE practice test, or doing an essay, just turn on the timer and at least start it.  Once you do that, you’ll be over the most challenging part from a productivity stand point.

3) Do a Power Packet Bar Prep Study Session.

Don’t practice longer hours. Practice Shorter Hours more deliberately.  Ten hours of studying in the library doesn’t mean you got a TRUE 10 hour workday in.

We both know you were not being fully productive during that time.  It’s actually impossible.

Instead, do power study sessions.  Go at your studying in short bursts and relax in between.  Periods of intense work, followed by breaks frequently throughout the day will get you better results and make your more productive!

4) Do 90 minutes of work and 15 minutes of break.

Neuroscience shows that we are most productive throughout the day if we work for only 90 minutes and then take a break.  If you push over the 90 minute mark, you are draining your energy and at the end of the day wonder why you feel so tired.

During your 15 minute breaks, make sure to relax.  Grab your copy of the Relaxation MP3 I designed or the Bar Exam Mental Edge Package, which has relaxation and visualization audios – most of which are about 15 to 20 minutes long you can listen to on your breaks.

5) Set deadlines for yourself.

I know it can be hard to plan exactly what you are studying and when during the bar exam.  If you can do it and your mind works that way, do it.  At a minimum, whenever you start studying, set the timer for 90 minutes and stop when it goes off.  Grab a drink of water, a good snack, and listen to the relaxation audios I mentioned above.

6) Create an Accountability Chart to Track Bar Exam Prep Activities.

Do you ever wonder how much you are ACTUALLY getting done during the day? Well, it’s quite simple. At your study table, have a blank sheet with two columns.

In the left column, write out the time period you were studying. In the right column, write down what you actually did.  Include specific times of study and specific amounts of what you studied, such as “9 to 10:30AM. Completed 1 practice tort exam. Reviewed 1 practice tort exam.”

This way, you can actually track what you are getting done, how your hours invested are being returned with accomplished work, and track if what you are doing is working or not.

7) Don’t Multi-Task.

In fact, I hope you are not reading this in the middle of a study session.  Multi-tasking has consistently demonstrated lower productivity amongst those who do it.

The reason is because of the mental energy that is required to ‘come back’ to the task you were initially working on.  When added up, there is a lot of time and energy lost by constantly switching gears and having to re-align your thoughts and focus, with what you were doing initially.

Do your short burst of studying 90 minutes, then check your facebook after.  It will feel a lot better as well!

8) Write what you want to accomplish the next day before sleeping at night.

You may not know what to study a week out from today, but you can probably have a good idea what you should be studying tomorrow.  Before you go to sleep, take a few moments, and write down the tasks you want to accomplish tomorrow.

This will not only allow your subconscious mind to go to work over night to get you ready, it will also help you be better focused the next day so you can spring out of bed and hit the ground running.

9) Split larger tasks into bite-sized ones.

When thinking of the bar exam, it can be an overwhelming thought indeed!  Instead of thinking… ‘ohhh, the Bar Exam…” and getting overwhelmed, break it down into parts.

You have about 12 essay topics.  You should take about 6 full practice essays per topic.  Take 2 per day for 3 or 4 days.  If you have class in the morning, schedule the essays for the afternoon or evening.

10) Get enough sleep.

Lack of Sleep can be the silent killer.  Cognitive scores drop quickly and significantly when you don’t sleep for long periods.  Get 7 to 8 hours per night.

The point is to take what you are doing and chunk it down.

Want more bar exam body tips from our Neuroscience friends? Check out the Bar Exam Body Podcast.

Top 10 Bar Exam tips with BarExamToolbox.com Lee Burgess Podcast Episode (014)

BarExamToolbox.com Co-Founder Lee Burgess comes on to the show to give her top 10 tips about the bar exam.  Be sure to sign up for her email list on her website and email her any questions you might have at Lee@BarExamToolbox.com.

Here is a full transcript of this interview:

Intro: You’re listening to the IPassedMyBarExam.com podcast. Helping you pass your bar exam with ease and confidence, episode number 14

Dustin: Greetings and welcome future bar exam passer! My name is Dustin Saiidi, founder of IPassedMyBarExam.com and author of the #1 Amazon bestseller The 7 Steps to Bar Exam Success. And today, we bring on another special guest to come and talk about the bar exam prep. She is the founder of BarExamToolBox, she is a California bar exam tutor, and she teaches as an adjunct professor helping students with the bar exam at a law school, she is everywhere in the bar exam space, and also puts on seminars and events for bar exam students, law students, and attorneys; her name is Lee Burgess and we’re honored to have her on the show here today to give her top 10 tips for the bar exam. So this one’s going to be a longer one, and there’s going to be a lot of great in-depth stuff that you’re going to hear from today so get ready to take some notes. And with that, we’ll go straight into the call.

Alright, hello and welcome! We are now here with Lee Burgess from BarExamToolBox.com. Lee is literally everywhere in the bar exam space ans she had been kind enough to come on in the podcast today to give her top 10 tips for bar exam.

How are you doing, Lee?

Lee: I’m doing great, Dustin! How are you?

Dustin: I’m doing very well. Thanks again for coming on.

Lee: Yeah, absolutely! I love to chat about the bar exam, one of the few people along with you, who wants to talk about it on a regular basis.

Dustin: I know. I think we are a little bit crazy, both of us.

Lee: I think we might be, yeah.

Dustin: I’m sure the bar students appreciate it in one way or another.

Lee: I’m sure they do, and you know, as long as we can all be crazy in this space together.

Dustin: Yes, this is true! So, tell the listeners a little bit about yourself? Currently you do tutoring, how was your bar exam experience? How did you go to become a bar exam tutor?

Lee: Yeah. So, my story is a little bit interesting. So, I went to the University of San Francisco, here in San Francisco where I still live. And I passed the California bar in the first try by taking Bar/Bri as pretty much everyone did at my school. And I went on and start practicing at a big law firm doing commercial litigation. And I was actually sitting in my office one day, trying to decide what I wanted to do when I left big law.

And I got some paper work from the California bar about possibly grading for the bar exam. And I’m sitting at my office reading this paper work that my secretary just dropped off and then I realized, I didn’t really want to grade for the bar exam. I actually want to teach people to take the bar exam because I had done a lot of teaching both tutoring during law school, I was a TA for a couple of classes and I had a bit of experience doing SAT prep which was my part-time job during law school. And I just – there is something about this test that made it really an interest of mine to help people get over the struggle because I had a number of friends who didn’t pass on their first try, and had to go back and work at it to try to pass this test. And in California the passage rate is not great, so a lot of people struggle with this test and it can create unique challenges for different people.

Dustin: Awesome, that’s great! So, really just the motivation to help others with the struggle of the bar exam.

Lee: Yeah, it really was. And so, I started really educating myself a lot about the bar. I started working a little bit with students. I started tutoring law students at the University of San Francisco and teaching a class there to increase my teaching experience. And since then I just continued to grow, my tutoring business, as well as teach at Golden Gate University School of Law where I teach a class in the bar exam. And then, just in the last year, launched the BarExamToolBox to really have a platform to share. A practical advice about the bar exam with a more national audience which I do with Allison Monahan of The Girls Guide to Law School.

Dustin: That’s great! It’s been quite amazing how I’ve seen BarExamToolBox just literally blow up all over the internet and see it everywhere, and all that great tips you give. I think that’s great.

Lee: Thanks! Well you know, I think one of the things that I really like about it and one of the things that I wanted to do with that website was create a place where we could have, perhaps, a different discussion about the bar exam than that’s going on in a lot of places. Different discussion about the tools that are out there. You know, it’s not just about there being one bar review provider anymore, there are now multiple quality options out there with different price points, with different level of accountability that are remote or in person. And I really wanted students to know what was out there.

And I also wanted to stop some of these negative dialogue that I think goes on around the bar exam that allows us to turn this test into something that – it’s become like, it’s this being. You know, it’s monster, that people are afraid of. And I didn’t really fully appreciate that until when I was working with my 1L or 2L law students. Frequently I’ll cheat and use bar exam questions as hypos because I didn’t want to have to write my own, and a first or second year student who doesn’t know it’s a bar exam question, will just work the question. It’s just a Torts questions. You give us 3L or a graduate or someone who’s failed the bar, a torts question and tell them it’s a bar question, and they have this visceral reaction about how challenging the question is – there’s not enough time, it’s too complicated, I don’t know what the facts are trying to tell. And I realized that, it’s this test itself that is part of the issue and part of what we all struggle with is overcoming the dialogue about this test and giving it power that maybe it doesn’t need to have.

Dustin: That’s really all about mindset and perspective, I think, and I tell students all the time, “Don’t over hype the bar exam.” Don’t make it like this big Mt. Everest thing that you’re going to climb. It’s just another exam, just figure out how to approach it, how to attack it, and go for it in that manner. Don’t make it so big that it has to be this huge, unconquerable beast that you have to face.

Lee: Exactly. I mean, when it all comes down to it, it is just a test. It may be the hardest you’ve ever taken, in California, it was definitely the longest test I’ve ever taken. When it all comes down to it, it is just a test. And we have been taking tests since we were little children, so this is just a combination of all test-taking skills that we have and you need to just prepare for this test. When you make it something more than that, I think that’s really when anxiety and feelings of doubts and emotions can really play in, sometimes to the students detriment.

Dustin: You’ve tutored students personally, you teach a class on the bar exam, and you’ve probably read and written everything about the bar exam. Let’s boil it down to the top 10 keys that students need to have in order to pass their bar exam, what would those be form your perspective?

Lee: Alright, I think the first one is something I already mentioned earlier in our discussion which is about finding the right bar review provider or tools for you because I don’t thinks there’s just one solution for everyone, and often times students want one magic solution and that just isn’t the way it works. You need to actively research what your options are, and decide what you need because we all are different students and have different needs. So students study on different time frames, they have different learning styles, some students want to sit in a room with other people and listen to lectures in a group, some people want to be able to work on their own timeline at home, some people will study for 8 weeks, some people will study for 12 weeks, some people will study for 3 weeks although I don’t recommend it. You need to kind of evaluate what are the things you have typically struggle with and what do you want out of a bar review provider, and then go and test them out. Learn about the different options, talk to students who’ve used them, read reviews online. Often they will give you free tools for studying for the MPRE which is a great way to kind of test drive a different tool. But when it all boils down to it, you need to find the right tools for you and they may be totally different than the person sitting next to you.

Dustin: I know there’s different bar prep programs, not to go through all of them. But do you think there are, even if you went through some of the main ones like, what students might like Bar/Bri or not like Bar/Bri, or you know there’s Themis bar prep, or BarMax. What students might like some of these ones versus not might like it?

Lee: Bar/Bri is the old standard, right? That’s what most everybody has taken. I think they right now have the 97% of the market share. I think Bar/Bri you know, dispose a lot of information really well and if you want formal classroom lectures, they do have some online work. I think Bar/Bri gets the job done, it was my prep company. I think they do a pretty good job. However, what I don’t think they maybe focused on is much that some students struggle with is really hands on, like exclusive work on some of the writing portions. Because everybody struggles differently with the writing portions. Both if you have an essay portion of your bar exam, and if you have a performance test portion.

The amount of feedback that Bar/Bri gets can change from year to year, so I recommend students look in to that amount of feedback. And sometimes they may just want to supplement Bar/Bri with some other program, either working on a tutor who will give them more feedback or getting exposure in California, there’s another website called BarEssays.com which will allow you to read past student answers so you can try and do some self evaluation. But you need to really look at the program and realize that they’re offering one package to thousands and thousand and thousands of people at once in your state, and you need to question whether or not their package is the right package for you.

Some of the online programs like, Themis and BarMax, BarMax is pretty much is ran off of ipads and iphones. I think that they can be great for students who wants more flexibility and control over what they’re doing. But then you better be ready to be accountable for your work because you don’t have to show up at a classroom everyday, it takes a lot more self discipline. A lot of students who are working while they’re studying like some of these online programs because they give them more flexibility, so they can you know, they don’t necessarily have to give in the same amount of work everyday. So I think that you really have to look at what your requirements are. Some states also have different programs that will allow you to do more boot camps on writing. So for instance, I’m friends with Mary Campbell Gallagher out in New York, and Mary runs the Bar Write programs which are really like writing boot camps for folks who are worried about the writing portions or she often times work with foreign attorneys who are moving here from out of the country and trying to study for the New York bar exam.

So there are lots of different options, and it’s really about what’s going to work for you. And if you’re studying and you feel like you’re not getting the right feedback or you’re not getting the right MBE practice or you’re not getting something out of your bar prep, you need to do something to get that support from somewhere else. It breaks my heart when students will tell me, “Well, I kind of knew it wasn’t going so well but I just kept doing what I was doing.” If you don’t think it’s going well, do something about it.

Dustin: Try to switch it up while you have time to do it.

Lee: Right, it’s time to get some advice, to talk to some people who are knowledgeable and figure out what needs to happen so you don’t get disappointing results and then go “Oh yeah, I knew that wasn’t working but now I have to wait 6 more months until I can be licensed, again.”

Dustin: Right, and for the listeners out there, if you email Lee I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to help you about it. Even if myself as well, I’ll answer your questions. Email any of the people in the bar exam space and they’ll be happy to answer your questions on that.

Lee: Yeah, it’s a really supportive space but you should definitely reach out. I have students from all over the country that send me, sometimes random question about the bar exam, but sometimes you just need someone to listen. So you should definitely reach out and try, and get some counsel if you aren’t sure what you’re doing is working for you.

Dustin: Totally. I agree with that, in terms of strategy and also mentally, kind of dealing with some of the pressure – the down moments. Reach out to us and ask for help, we’ll be more than happy to help out.

Lee: Absolutely!

Dustin: Cool! Let’s go on to the second tip.

Lee: Alright, so my second tip relates to some of those stuff that we’ve been talking about already which is spending time thinking about your past academic performance, both what you’ve been successful at and not so successful at, so you can be smart about your bar preparation. So if you have been in law school and you’ve been getting mediocre grades the entire time and you’ve never excelled in an essay exam, then you’re going to make sure you have a prep option that’s going to help you really overcome the issues you have with writing.

What if you have never done well on multiple choice ever, ever, ever? Well, maybe that means that you need to start working on building those skills for multiple choice even if that is before you start prepping for the bar. I get a lot of questions from 3L’s in to their last semester saying, “What can I do now? Should I start reviewing the law?” And I don’t necessarily know that’s the best use of your time, but if you struggle with multiple choice, if you struggle with writing, especially if your school has some sort of academic support program or something where they will provide you with some guidance on how to work on these issues; you can start working on that now and then worry about learning the law later.

Dustin: Right. So kind of developing the skills more so than necessarily, learning the law at that time.

Lee: Exactly. And you do know a lot about what you’re good at and what you’re good at, so you need to spend some time evaluating that so you can you know, maybe do some early prep to make you even more prepared or make the best decision for what kind of bar provider you would like. I work with 3L students who are worried about their bar exam now or doing their 3L year. Sometimes we’re working on their law school work, sometimes we’re working on parts of the bar exam. But they know, they have thought about it and said, “You know what, I’m scared because I’ve never been good at writing in law school essay, so let’s learn to write a law school essay. It turns out, it’s not all that different from the bar exam.

Dustin: Yeah, during law school my writing grades weren’t very good at all especially the legal writing classes, and I took Bar/Bri as well and I knew that they don’t really prepare people to write better so I was worried about that component. One thing I did, for me personally, to improve my writing is to look at a lot of sample answers and just repeat. Just re-write them and kind of figure out how the flow goes, how the structure goes, how to write concisely like you’re supposed to in the sample answer.

Lee: That’s great. And I think doing self evaluation of your own work and comparing it to sample answers, and then re-writing your work so at least it looks more like the sample answer is 100% a positive thing you should be doing throughout your prep, and really in law school as well. So if you’re not sure how to write some quality essay exams, try and get your hands on some sample answers from that professor and learn how you can write to those sample answers.

Dustin: Awesome, perfect tip! Let’s go to the third one.

Lee: Alright, so you must know how you study best and apply those techniques to bar studying. So I often tell the story about my own bar prep experience which was the lure of the flash cards. People in the bar world seem to love flash cards and everybody’s got stacks and stacks and stacks of flash cards. And my mom and dad are both lawyers, and my mom told me about her bar flash cards that she had stash all over the house.

Dustin: Does she have them saved still?

Lee: Oh I don’t think so, but that would have been really funny wouldn’t it, if she would like given them to me?

Dustin: Yeah, it would be a nice hand me down.

Lee: It would have been a nice hand me down! No, I think those got lost a number of moves ago. But I was a baby when she was studying for the bar so I’m sure I heard plenty of bar talk when I was a baby.

Dustin: So that’s how you got into all of these, you’re brainwashed from a young age!

Lee: Exactly, exactly! I came by it, honestly. So anyway, I personally hate flashcards. I’ve hated them my entire academic career but for some reason I thought I needed to make flash cards for the bar. And so for a while I would spend hours upon hours making Property flash. I think I made Property flashcards and contract flashcards, and then I’m try to study with them and it kind of, the light bulb goes off. And I’m thinking, “Wow, I’m not getting anything out of this experience. Why am I studying in this way? I know how I study well and did well in law school. Why aren’t I studying that way?”

And I’m glad I had that epiphany early on in the process so I can switch back to the techniques that I used that worked for me in law school, and all of a sudden studying seemed a bit easier. So I think there’s this idea that there’s like a magic answer to how to study for the bar exam, and there really isn’t a magic answer. The magic answer is you need to study in the way that you’ll learn the law well enough for the different portions of the exam, and then you have to practice those questions, be it multiple choice or writing. I mean, there’s no flash cards are going to magically make it so you can pass the bar. You have to study the way that you know how to study.

Dustin: Right. I completely agree and I tell students too, that basically how you were studying in law school, continue to do so in the bar exam. I had a student ask me, you know, should they do study groups for the bar exam? I’m like, “Well, did you do that in law school? If so, then continue, if not then don’t.”

Did you do flashcards in law school? If that was your thing in law school then I think maybe continue it for the bar. I also is not a flashcard person in law school and I certainly wasn’t on the bar exam. But i think for every reason, some people just like that and I think if that’s their strength, that’s how they like to do it, I guess go for it. More power to them.

Lee: Yeah, this is such a personal experience and I think this is one of the things about the dialogue around the bar exam that’s really unfair to a lot of students is, there’s kind of a lot of this understanding that there is one way that you should prepare, and a student from Harvard and a student form unaccredited law school are all preparing the exam same way. And they all have the same learning techniques and they should all do the same amount of practice and they all have the same writing skills and everybody is exactly the same, and we’re not.

We all come to the table with a different set of skills getting into it and different strengths and weaknesses, and your job is to figure out how you’ve studied and more successful in law school, or you weren’t that successful in law school you need to find out how you could have been more successful, and then you need to practice applying it so you’ll know whether or not things are working.

Dustin: How can someone go about that? I guess, if they knew what it took to be successful in law school they’ll probably know that for the bar. What if someone doesn’t know in law school, kind of what they did? Or they figured that, you know, “I didn’t do good in my writing and essays in law school, how can I get better for the bar?” But they don’t know exactly what to do. How can they figure that out?

Lee: So if you are currently in law school, you need to try and get help while you’re in law school. So most law schools have some sort of, like I’ve mentioned it, an academic support program that you can go to and try and get help.

If that doesn’t work for you, then you should probably try and find a tutor or someone that can walk you through some of these writing skills. I mean, they may even help your grades that semester which wouldn’t be so terrible, but you do want to have some feedback and some tips on how your performance can get better. You don’t want to wait until the bar to try and solve all of this issues. When you get to the bar, if you are doing questions and you can’t understand how those questions are supposed to look. If you’re writing them and your answers look one way and the sample answers look another, and you’re not sure how to get your answers to look like the sample answers, you need to ask for help. You need to find another resource for help, you need to do research online and read help for blog post, you may need to hire a tutor or do some sort of supplement program. But just saying, “Oh well, I’ve never been good at writing.” That’s not the way you want to go about it.

Dustin: Very good. So be proactive about your weaknesses and figure it out.

Lee: Yeah. This is one place – you know, not being honest with yourself is not going to help you. We all have things we are better at and that we struggle with, so you must do a bit of self reflection. You know, talk to professors, talk to mentors, talk to them, get feedback on your law school exams. Go to those professors if they say, “Well, you didn’t – you were too conclusory.” Ask them, “Could you tell me why? Could you tell how I could have done it differently?” Use the law school experience to gain these skills so you’re not trying to just do that during the bar exam.

Dustin: Okay, very good. Let’s go to tip number 4.

Lee: Alright. Tip number 4 is my favorite tip because it is what I have just been telling every single student I have been talking to this week which is, it is about practice, practice, practice. And I can just keep saying practice, practice, practice, over and over again.

Dustin: Those are the 3 laws of the bar exam.

Lee: Exactly, the 3 laws! So when I talk to students who failed the bar exam, many of them confessed that they just didn’t practice enough. So you must write and re-write in order to generate essays that make the requirements of a passing essay. If you struggle with writing essays, I recommend that you write everyday that you’re studying. It’s only going to help your preparation. So if you are you know, a few weeks away and you’re still feeling like there’s no way you’re going to be ready, the answer is typically not to just bury your head in outlines. You must practice applying the law that you know to the facts. I’ve so many students who, when I force them, it’s almost like I want to chain them to the desk and to get them to do more practice, and then they will say “Well, I didn’t know the law for this one issue but you know what, if I’d studied more I still wouldn’t have known it. It was a nuance that wasn’t even on my outline.”

Dustin: Exactly!

Lee: You know, but – so that’s great, from the practice you learn the law but secondly, it doesn’t matter if you just kept studying. You learn more by practicing than by if you just kept studying.

Dustin: Yeah, during when, I also took an academic bar exam prep class before the bar exam began, and they said the number 1 reason people don’t pass is because they fail to practice enough. And I’ll tell you from my own personal experience, taking practice essays under timed conditions was definitely the one thing that saved me on the bar exam.

I think there’s a certain skill that you learn when you take it. And even if you don’t know everything like you said, you’ll see a lot of those new nuances anyway, regardless of how much you study there’s still going to be stuff you don’t know. The key is to learn how to be, 1) is to be composed, and 2) is to get through that essay as best you can.

You know, use the facts that are there, make-up a rule if you have to, you’ll at least get partial points. But the key is to practice that ability to make it through, not necessarily to know everything but to practice that ability to make it through when you don’t know everything and I think that will be the key to success. I know for sure that is what was key for me.

Lee: Oh yeah. I mean, I made up law in my bar. There was a question on my bar exam that i couldn’t – I went back to my hotel room and I couldn’t find the answer for an essay question in any of my materials, at all. So I’m sure that the thousands of people who are all sitting on that room, we all, most of us made up the law. But I’d made the most of the questions that I could, and probably didn’t get a fantastic score but I also didn’t bomb it so poorly that it pulled down my over all score. So you have to, when it all comes down to it, you just have to deliver the best answer that you can under timed conditions. So Dustin, you have a very good point that you have to do this practice under timed conditions, it’s the single best thing you can do.

You also have to do this for the MBE portion which a lot of students also hate working on, but practicing MBE questions is the best way to learn, in my opinion, to learn the nuances that they test on the MBE but to also get your own process down. I mean, nothing should feel new to you when you walk in to the bar exam. It should all be stuff that you’ve done before.

Dustin: Yeah, especially because you only need a D to pass, you can totally mess it up and struggle through and you know, fight your way through. You don’t need to have an awesome and know everything to pass. Even if you struggle through but you just make it through, all you need is that D, that 65 to pass.

Lee: Well and I think a lot of students you know, law students typically consider themselves high performers, and I think that the mental aspect of that is very tough for a lot of people. You have to be okay with the fact that it is practically impossible for you to know all the law. You need to be okay with the fact that there’s going to be a law in that test that you don’t know. And you have to be okay with the fact that you’re going to feel pretty terrible at the end of the MBE day, but that can still be good enough to pass because kind of terrible for most of us is still passing.

Dustin: Yeah, exactly. I think because no lawyer out there knows all these laws, what the bar exam grader really want to test is can you A) hold your composure? Can you make it through, can you use logical deductive reasoning based on the fact pattern to kind of see what’s wrong here, what are the laws that are necessary? I think that’s the kind of basic structure that they’re testing. If you know the rules, like to a T, like all of them then that’s a plus but, they know in real life they’re going to look up the law anyway. They’re testing can you make it through. You know, most of those points are from that analysis, not just the law and memorizing the rules.

Lee: Exactly, and if you don’t believe us, I really encourage you to go – you can go to the national conference of bar examiners website, and look up the directions and read about how they write, about what the MBE is testing, and they will tell you they are testing legal analysis. And if you go, I know for the California essays, if you go read the instruction manuals for those, you’re also going to see that they mentioned almost the first sentence is about the analysis of facts and how they apply. The facts apply to the law and the law apply to those facts, that’s what they’re most concerned about. So why, as bar studiers, do we spend most of our time and some students almost exclusively all of our time, trying to memorize massive amounts of law? When they even tell us in the materials that, that’s not what they’re the most worried about. This is minimum competency, this isn’t about being an expert in these areas in the law.

Dustin: Right, I agree. And I think also, a lot of students sometimes with the essays, they’ll just outline the essays. I think that’s good if you want to practice your issue spotting ability but you really got to go on there and do that 1 hour timed essay.

Lee: Well yeah, because the thing is the analysis is something that has to be practiced, and different jurisdictions want different levels and depths of analysis. But in California, specifically they want, I call it the highschool-math-show-your-work method. You know, back in highschool when they wouldn’t give you full credit if you didn’t show all the steps of your proof. And on the California bar exam they’re not going to give you full credit if you don’t show them your entire thought process. You can’t assume that they think you know something. And you have to go through, if you think there’s a counter argument you better write it down, even if it might be a looser. If it’s a legitimate counter argument you better write it down. They want to see this stuff, and the only way you can get good at this activity of showing your work is by writing out the full answers.

Dustin: Perfect tip. Alright, let’s do number 5.

Lee: Alright, number 5 is it’s not the hours, it’s what you do with those hours. So, so many students worry about how many hours that they study and I hate, hate, hate listening or reading about the mythology around the bar exam that you need to study 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. I mean, Dustin I’m sure you’ve read this stuff, right?

Dustin: Uh-huh.

Lee: It just makes me cringe because in my opinion it’s not the hours that you study, but what you do during the hours that are really really important. So, it goes back to how much studying is enough. Well, I think that you basically need to treat the bar exam like a job especially if you’re studying fulltime. And not like a regular job but a lawyer job. So, you work 8-10 hours during the week and then maybe 6-8 hours on a Saturday, and then hopefully you get to take Sunday off. But you want to set some realistic parameters for yourself. You shouldn’t be burning the midnight oil night after night, they’re quickly become diminishing returns on the quality of the work that you’re doing, in these late night study sessions. Typically, it actually works against you because you’re not learning very quickly or you’re accuracy and your work goes down, and then you start to get more anxious, and then you don’t sleep well which only makes you more tired, which makes you more anxious, etc., etc., etc.

Dustin: Right. That’s funny, the title of this tip you gave because I’ve actually have a new book coming out, it might actually be out by the time this podcast airs, The Seven Steps To Bar Exam Success. And one of the issues I talked about on the book is that exact one. People say, “Well, how many hours a day should I spend studying?” and I say, “Well, it’s not really about the hours.”

What I say is, it’s about two things, 1) What are you doing during those hours? For example, if you’re spending 10 hours of rote memorization of Torts rules, that’s not nearly as good as taking 10 hours of practice essays. So the hours aren’t created equal, it’s really about the content of the hours that you’re working on.

And then second is the energy management during the time you’re studying. I actually think in my opinion that 8-10 hours a day might be high. If you have a bar prep class in there, and again of course it totally depends on the person. I don’t think I personally spent that much time but I think it’s really about the energy too. Like, are you exercising, are you managing your body, are you eating good food? Or are you just kind of trying to cram through this, because in the end it’s really all about retention. What information are you retaining that you’re going to take into your bar exam. And if you’re kind of forcing your way through, pushing your head against the brick wall, it’s really going to be tough for you to retain this information and not burn out.

Lee: Exactly! And I think my 8, I mean most people I would say 8, but my 8-10 hours a day does include if you’re attending a bar prep course. So that’s like a half a day of listening to lectures, and then the rest of the day being able to synthesize and practice the law. But if, you know, if you’re studying after a failure you don’t need – please, please, please do not go back to those same lectures. You’ve already done it once, you don’t need to do it again. So then, you’re just reviewing and refreshing your recollection. You shouldn’t be doing 10 hours study days, they’re not practical.

Dustin: Right.

Lee: And it depends on the jurisdiction. What if your jurisdiction doesn’t have a performance test portion so you don’t have to study as much. I mean, all of these stuff is like general across the board, but you have to think about what works for you. But I can tell you, there are a lot of people that wore this idea that they were in the library until it closed every night, like a badge of honor. You know, “I’m studying until midnight and Lee, you’re leaving at 6:30, so I’m going to pass and you’re not.”

Dustin: Right!

Lee: Come on! I didn’t study until midnight in law school either and I still did pretty well. So you have to be practical about this and listening to yourself and you know, if you’re not being productive and if you’re burned out, you must stop.

Dustin: Totally, totally! That’s an awesome tip. Alright, number 6.

Lee: Which directly leads to number 6 which is, I’m very very passionate about, taking breaks.

Dustin: Yes!

Lee: Yes! My students always love it in our first meeting when I tell them all the time they shouldn’t be studying. So I believe, and Dustin I know you’ll agree, that the bar exam is a marathon not a sprint. So since you’re studying over such a long period of time, you have to give yourself an opportunity to recover from all the work that you’re doing during the week. If you don’t take this breaks you risk anxiety, burn out, or unproductive study time which I think is almost the worst. If I’m going to be sitting there painfully studying, I better get something out of it.

So I say this from quality personal experience. When I was studying for the bar exam, I took the July bar exam, and my family came to visit over for the July 4th weekend. And I complained to my Mom that I didn’t want to study one afternoon that they were there, because I really wanted to go outside because it was finally sunny and warm in San Francisco in the summer which doesn’t happen at all often. And I wanted to drink a glass of wine, and eat some food, and sit in the sunshine. And she said, “Well, why not? Taking 4 hours away from your study schedule is not why you won’t pass the bar exam.” And I looked at her like she was crazy but then we did go out, and drink wine in the sunshine, and it was a good mental-health break. But the more I work with students in the bar exam, this is such an important thing to remember because that time away from studying is feeding your productive study time when you are studying. So, not studying on a Sunday is not going to make or break how well you’re going to do. I actually think that studying 7 days a week is likely to cause you to fail.

Dustin: I agree completely. So obviously it depends on the person, but do you, what kind of breaks do you recommend? So do you kind of recommend a day off during the week, and then what breaks throughout the day do you recommend they take?

Lee: So I do at least require pretty much all of my students to take one full day, guilt-free full day. Where they should do something other than sit at a desk and look at a computer. And then during the day, the study day, I think it really depends on the person but we have to be really practical about how we are productive as people. So I’ll tell you from personal experience, I retain information best in the morning. So I always want to do my memorization review work like right off the bat. I can have a really productive morning. And then I need to take lunch, and I need to kind of get away from my desk and do something else, and then I could come back. With the afternoon was really for me, personally, more about active studying. Doing practice, making my own study materials, I needed to really be doing something to be productive. And that, I could do kind of into the evening. But at various points through those blocks of study time, most of us, do need to get up and even take short breaks whether that be a walk outside, go walk around the building, move your body. I think, lately I’ve been reading some messages that most of us can’t really focus and do quality work for more that 60-90 minutes at a time, and so you should test that theory with yourself.

Dustin: Yeah, I think we may have read the same study. There’s a neuroscience study that said, about 60-90 minutes you should take about a 5 minute break and during that break don’t just sit at the computer and check your facebook. Get up, move your body, walk around, go have a drink of water or something. Engage the body and disengage the mind from what it is that you’re doing at that moment and do it for 5 minutes then come back. And it found that people were actually 25% more productive when they did that throughout the day.

Lee: Absolutely. And this also leads into a lot of the discussion recently, especially in the legal community, around mindfulness and meditation, and this may also play into our productivity. A lot of folks say that some sort of meditation or mindfulness practice to start your day, or at various points of the day, can help quite the mind, refocus, and you’re actually – you make up any time in productivity because of the time that you took off. So, it’s very important that you start trying to listen to yourself and learn these skills now. If you’re in law school and you’re not yet studying, this is the stuff you should be incorporating into your study day now.

Dustin: Exactly. I actually wish I knew a lot of these stuff in law school, it would have definitely helped me out.

Lee: Yes. I must confess, no one that I’ve had access to was talking about this stuff when I was in law school.

Dustin: Right! Where was Lee Burgess and Dustin Saiidi when we were in law school? What’s up with that?

Lee: Exactly! I know, if I only had me to turn to.

Dustin: Okay, great tip. So just manage the mind, body, and the emotions, and take breaks. Let’s go to tip number 7.

Lee: Alright. Tip number 7 is something that we’ve talked about a few times but, it’s ask the help if you need it. And so you know, Dustin and I already said, like we both talked to students who are studying for the bar but don’t wait until the disappointing bar results experience to ask for help.

There are many many people in your law school and around you in your community who want to help you. And so, you know, this goes for lots of different things in your life, not just the bar exam piece. If you’re struggling with the test, if you don’t feel like your prep is working for you, if you’re struggling with anxiety, if all of these stuff is building up, you need to ask for help in the bar community. But if you have others in your life that are building and causing stress, you should also ask for help. Because this is a period of time when your friends and family who love you want to help you.

Dustin: Right. And I can’t tell you how nice it is, sometimes during the bar exam prep, just to have someone to say “I belive in you.” or “Everything’s going to be alright.” Just a few simple words that someone can say can mean the world of difference. I know it did for me when I was preparing, and I would get a text message from a friend telling me that “Hey, you got this. No one messes with your success.” And I remember that it’s just a silly little text message but it goes a long way in helping during a very challenging time, I think.

Lee: It does, as do, connecting with people who aren’t studying. So it is important to also talk to people who are not in your bar exam bubble because they’re still connected to the real world and can help you keep some perspective which I think is also important and that can help. Just realizing that there is a world going on outside of what you’re doing. And that can also keep you in check but also, you know, help your confidence and will.

Say, I’ve wonderfully supportive husband who is not my husband at the time when I was taking the exam, he was just my boyfriend and he still married me which was always good. But I will say, I would come home and have a really bad day because this is – the bar can be an emotional rollercoaster for most of us. And he just looked at me, and he’s not a lawyer, he just kind of like look at me and say, “So what happened between this morning and right now? Because this morning you felt like you were doing okay, and you’re smart enough and you can do this so, something has happened. What has happened, between then and now?”

And having someone outside of your bubble who can just, kind of be a mirror for you and help you kind of keep your own emotions in check but also tell you, “Yeah, you’re fine. You’re doing what you need to be doing. Let’s go have dinner and relax because you’re done with your study day.” can be really important.

Dustin: Yeah, I totally agree. I actually took a couple of Community College classes during my bar prep. I took on acting and a singing class just to get away, just to be outside of the bar exam environment. So I was doing something that was creative, that was fun. I was interacting with different people who actually had smiles on their face, kind of bring up my energy a little bit. So yeah, I totally think connecting with the outside world and making sure that’s a positive connection with the outside world too. Going to the bars, you know, it might be good but it is also not the most positive or supportive environment. So finding people that are going to support you and that are positive, outside the bar, I think helps a lot.

Lee: Yeah. And those are the people who you get to celebrate with you when you pass. I mean, in my celebration dinner, it was my family, but it was also the friends that had gone hiking with me on my days off so I can get some Vitamin D, and would bring me cookies or would leave me those text messages like you were talking about. I mean, those people want you to succeed and they’re going to be there to celebrate with you after facts because this is one of those situation where it kind of takes a village to get yourself through it.

Dustin: Right, so yeah. Definitely to the listeners, reach out to family and friends, have a support group, reach out to Lee, myself or any of the other people in the bar exam space. They’ll be more than happy to help you out.

I did this, you probably did too, I have an email list where I send a lot of tips and advice and kind of motivational stuff. Like throughout the week, once a week, or something like that. Just to kind of help people in different area, people generally, tend to like that a lot.

Lee: Yeah, we also have a newsletter in the BarExamToolbox that I send weekly post throughout the bar, and then maybe every couple of weeks between bar seasons. Just happy little reminds of thing you should still be thinking about.

Dustin: Right. So sign-up for Lee’s and sign-up for my email list as well.

Lee: It’s a good positive break in your studying.

Dustin: It is, exactly.

Lee: Okay so, what are we on, number 8?

Dustin: We’re on number 8.

Lee: Number 8, alright. So, this is something that I don’t think is talked about enough in the bar community, but you need to keep in mind who grades your exam and how it’s going to be graded. So this is specifically going to the written portions of the test and not so much to the MBE because, here’s a big shocker, that’s graded by a scan drawing machine.

So I believe that the bar exam should be thought of as a big interview. So, bar graders in many jurisdiction are practicing lawyers who grade bar essays either in the evenings or on weekends, or they may do this as one of their jobs, they may serve in a community of bar graders, but they’re going to essays quickly and making determinations about whether or not you’re ready to join their club and practice law. So this means that you need to think about the person who’s going to be reading it. And you know, it’s interesting when all of us interviewed for jobs, everybody does research in to try and find out who’s going to come talk to you. Who are you meeting with? You go look up their profile online, you try and think of things that you would be able to say that would be of interest to them. We do all of these background research, but not a lot of people think about who’s reading their essays. So in California, bar graders are practicing lawyers. They cannot be associated with a law school or any sort of bar prep company, and they grade incredibly quickly. They grade in 2-3 minute blocks per essay. So in California the essays are an hour long, so probably average essay length is 5-6 pages, double spaced.

If no one’s ever tried to read 5-6 page essay in 2 minutes, go ahead and give it a try. Because you can really find out that they can’t read every word. So you have to write for a person who is skimming your essay. And I think a lot of jurisdictions, and a lot of people I’ve talked to that have expertise in grading another jurisdictions, this is something that is fairly common that the grading process is done very quickly. And that means that you have to write knowing that the grading is happening very quickly

I think this also really plays to another thing that law students seem to be moving away from and maybe this is because of email and texting and all these many things that we all do all the time, but you have to present yourself with professionalism. I mentioned that the bar exam is an interview, your essays needs to be dressed up in a suit. If it is a mess, if it doesn’t have headers, if it is riddled with typos – typos are fine but riddled, so you can’t read it. And I’ve seen stuff like these, I’ve seen them riddled with typos. I’ve had a student turn in practice essays to me without capital letters starting all of the sentences. You know, you can’t do stuff like this. These are professionals, these are lawyers who are judging you of whether or not you’re ready to join their club. And you need to be writing to them just like you will be writing to a boss or to the court.

Dustin: Right. And I think it’s, one keyword you mentioned in there is headers. I really think people coming into the bar don’t realize the importance of this, of exactly what you just said. That when that bar grader opens that book or opens your essay, they’re going to – and read this online at a blog once, from a former bar grader who said this happens to bar graders. They will automatically glance at your essay and they’ll ge a, from Malcom Gladwell’s book called Blink, they’ll get a first impression right away from your essay based on how it looks. So, are there clean cut headers? Is there a lot of white space or is it just one long googly gap of rules and essay, and stuff like that? And I think because people are so honed in and focused on, “Oh, I got to memorize these rules or I got to do this.” they forget sometimes, “Hey, I need to have clean clear headings. I need to make sure I’m putting paragraph spaces between each of my issues. I need to make sure this thing looks clean, like I’m walking into that job interview, I have a suit on not dressed up in sweats.”

Lee: Exactly!

Dustin: It might be the most brilliant essay but if you’re walking in there “dressed up in sweats”, you’re not going to get the job.

Lee: 100% and one of the things that I think students can do to really bring this home, is get your hands on some student answers for your jurisdiction and time yourself. Learn how fast the graders read, if they publish that information. Or if they don’t, just assume they read them really quickly. And try and see what you can read in that amount of time because you have to write for the graders. I mean, these are the rules of the game. You got 2 to 3 minutes to convince that person, that licensed attorney in California who may actually be quite a bit senior to you, that you’re ready to work for him, basically.

And so if your work is disorganized and sloppy, and not easy to scam and not easy to read, you’re going to make his job as a grader harder. And if you make their job harder, your grade immediately goes down.

Dustin: Alright, because they’re not going to go around and see where’s this rule, where’s this issue. Even on the podcast, I actually interviewed BarEssays, the founder Gil. And he said that same thing. He would see essays that had everything correct in there but because it was one long paragraph, they did not pass. So that’s a very key point, I hope the listeners take that to heart.

Lee: And one thing, if you don’t know how your jurisdiction grades, you should ask. Like, ask your bar review provider, ask your law school, do some online research. Often times, the state bar publish information about that but you can educate yourself on this stuff. There are a lot of resources out there. You’re paying your bar provider a lot of money, you should ask them a question and they should get back to you on the answer.

Dustin: Yeah totally. So homework on that one. Go read a sample essay, either model essay or just the sample essay in 3 minutes. Set the timer, 3 minutes, see how long it takes you to read it and you’ll an idea what the graders are going through when they’re grading your essay.

Lee: Except they’re doing a whole stack.

Dustin: That’s true. At 10:00 at night after a long day in the office.

Lee: Exactly!

Dustin: Alright, let’s do tip number 9.

Lee: Alright! Tip number 9 is really about what you can do right before your bar prep period, so this isn’t so much for the folks that are studying right now. But you need to get your life in order and remove distractions, so nothing can sabotage your bar studying, like life getting in the way. Sometimes life is going to get in the way. In fact, I just post a blog post about this last week, you can do what you can to prevent life getting in the way. So this means, you need to have your living situation figured out, so you have a good stable living situation. You need to figure out your finances, I know finances are a really big stressor for a lot of folks while they’re studying for the bar exam, but you need to figure that stuff out early if you can because you don’t want to be worrying about money. You need to set expectations with your loved ones and your family about what you can and can’t do during the bar prep time. But you just need to think through the whole process, so you don’t have life sneaking up on you unless it’s an emergency, and if it’s an emergency you’ll deal with it.

Dustin: Right. Because you want to get all the outside clutter that could come in, get that all handled and situated so you can just focus, make bar exam your primary focus.

Lee: Yeah. So although you may, situations vary between different people, but if a student ask me, “Should I job hunt while I’m studying for the bar exam?” My answer’s typically, “No.”

“Should I move?” – “No.”

“Should I take a vacation with my family?” – “Maybe for a day or so but probably not.” I mean you have to think through this period and realize you’re investing in a good prep period so you can get pass this test and never have to deal with it again.

Dustin: I agree. And actually, one thing that I think people should do too is actually set a post bar trip, if they can at that time, as well. So if you’re going to Hawaii or somewhere more fun after your bar exam, that’s going to give you that kind of extra boost, that extra energy during the bar exam because you have that to look forward too as well.

Lee: So true. And you know I’ve actually, we’ve talked about it on the blog a bit, how to help significant others survive living or being with a bar studier. And one of my tips is encourage them to plan that bar trip, so that your significant others,or your friends or your family, who may feel slightly neglected during this time they can say “In the end, we’ll be okay because we’ll be on a beach in Hawaii.”

Dustin: I like that! What’s better motivation than that for getting through bar exam?

Lee: Exactly! So Dustin, where did you go on your bar trip?

Dustin: I actually went to South Beach in Florida.

Lee: Nice!

Dustin: Yeah! How about you?

Lee: I actually went abroad on a family trip, and we went to Asia for the first time which was pretty incredible.

Dustin: That is awesome! So I hope the listeners take that advice and really plan that trip because that’s more motivating, at least immediately, than passing, I think in some ways.

Lee: Sometimes. And you can just, I can honestly say, I don’t really remember packing for my bar trip but I enjoyed it once I got there.

Dustin: Alright. You just kind of end up showing up there after your bar exam, you just showed up and you’re not really sure what went on.

Lee: Yeah, I think I just threw a bunch of stuff in a suitcase and figured it’ll all workout in some point.

Dustin: Yes, exactly. Alright, tip number 10, the final tip.

Lee: Alright. The final tip is something we’ve kind of touched on throughout this whole process but, you know, you need to check in with yourself on a regular basis. And I think most attorneys will tell you that the bar exam was one of the most challenging academic experiences that they have been through, and it was for me. It’s stressful and we put an incredible amount of pressure on ourselves to pass, but we need to come up with coping mechanisms. So you need to continue and check in with yourself on a regular basis to see how you’re doing. So, if you are struggling with anxiety, the point that you can’t sleep at night, you need to go talk to someone and get some help. If you have given up all the things that you enjoy that are good for you, like doing yoga or going for walks or eating healthy food or cooking with your family, that’s not good for you.

I think Dustin, you were talking about, you need to get out and talk to people who are smiling and outside of the bar world. And you also need to be very conscious about whether or not you’re doing things to self-sabotage your studying. Folks, you can have self-defeating prophecies. You know, if you start saying, “I can’t do this. I can’t do that. I have to study the law. I can’t spend all my time practicing. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” This is really self-sabotaging behavior that’s going to lead you down a negative road. So you need to check-in with yourself and come up with a plan to do this.

So some of my students actually enjoy doing some sort of journaling throughout the process to kind of check-in with themselves that way. Or if you are into meditation, you can kind of meditate on this question, check-in with yourself on a daily basis but you don’t want to succumb to this idea that you’re just supposed to be horribly miserable for the bar prep period. You’ll make it through and you’re just dragging yourself across the finish line. That’s not the goal.

You actually have to be in good mental and physical shape to live through the test, especially in California with its 3-day test. It is very physically exhausting. And if you are not in good shape, like if you are not used to studying day after day, if you’re not used to coping with exhaustion and anxiety at night, if you’re not used to eating good food to fuel your body, if you’re not exercising on a regular basis; that’s going to catch up with you during the testing period.

Dustin: Right. I completely agree. A couple of things on that, 1) I like to tell people to don’t focus on just passing the bar exam, focus on doing a great job. Doing as great of a job as you can. And I think if you take away that attachment to the outcome of, “Oh I’m going to pass or I’m not going to pass.” You’re not indirect control of whether you’re going to pass, but you’re in full control of your own greatness when you approach the bar exam.

So when you kind of let go of that attachment of, “Will I pass or not pass?” I think you can focus on your greatness and you can actually do a better job because you won’t have that negative anxiety as much, creeping up in your mind. I think what you’re getting at to is the self talk that’s very important for the students.

And I love that journaling idea. I had to recommend that. They can spend 5-10 minutes a day at a minimum and just write down their thoughts, write down what’s going through their minds. Just clear that negative energy out of their mind as well. And I think the meditation is also a very good practice.

I actually have an affirmation mp3 and a guided visualization mp3 that I have on the website, that helps students deal with those negative emotions and also visualize themselves going to the bar exam prep in a calm and collected manner and doing very well during the bar exam test week and passing the results. So, getting that kind of cemented on their mind so they’re more getting in flow with the bar exam process, rather than to force themselves through and tire themselves out throughout the end.

Lee: And this is another area where, true, if you’re struggling you need to ask for help. I mean, one of the things I spend a lot of time with my 1-on-1 students, just talking about what’s going on with them in relation to this test. And I talk to my students, most of them, on a weekly basis. Some of them in person, I have students all over the country, as well. But you start to get to know somebody, and I can tell if something is going on. I can stop the dialogue and be like, “So something – there is something else. Let’s try to pull this a part.”

And sometimes we’ll discover that something is causing a block in their work that may be related to the test, it may not be. But having someone who’s just worrying about you, other than yourself, can be helpful. So if you’re struggling, find someone that you can have a dialogue with about what’s going on because I love using self-reflection as a way of checking-in, but sometimes you have to check-in with another person because we do lie to ourselves sometimes.

Dustin: Yeah, very true. And just having someone there to listen to you, you can get off your chest whatever you need to get off your chest or just to provide some positive words of motivation or encouragement, again, I think can mean the world during a challenging time like the bar exam.

Lee: So I think those are my 10 tips!

Dustin: Good job! Thank you so much! I think that was fantastic. So you also, you’ve mentioned your tutoring services, if someone would want to get in touch with you in terms of you being a tutor, how can they get a hold of you?

Lee: Email’s always the best way to reach me, and you can email me lee@barexamtoolbox.com, pretty easy. And I’m happy to talk to you about my tutoring services or if you have other questions about different providers or experiences or my thoughts on different providers, I’m always happy to chat with students about that. For students who are outside of California, we do have advice across the country on our blog TheBarExamToolbox. And if you’re still in law school, you should our LawSchoolToolbox website where we have a lot of free content, we have a membership website that can help you work on your writing skills, of how to be a better law student. And then we also, Allison Moneham and I, also tutor 1-on-1 for law students to help them work on these skills. I just have to say, these are not new skills that you need to pass the bar exam, this are the skills that would have served you well throughout law school. So if you are struggling and you are a law student, and you are listening to this podcast because you are worried about the upcoming bar exam, get help now and it’s only going to make your life easier and it’s going to make you a better lawyer as well, in my opinion.

Dustin: Awesome! And we do have the bar exam week coming up, any kind of final word for the bar exam week?

Lee: You definitely want to plan ahead. So if you haven’t set-up where you’re going stay, where you’re going to eat. I’m very passionate about food, and I think it’s important to make very smart decisions about what to eat. Oh my gosh, don’t eat french fries for lunch, someone told me they did that once, and then they had this huge sugar crash in the afternoon and they couldn’t figure out why. You need to plan your food and you also need  to figure out where you’re going to go to get out of the madness. You know, you need to be very smart about not getting stuck in to the energy of the space. You shouldn’t talk to people about the questions, you shouldn’t listen to everyone debrief all of the questions and answers, it’s just not productive. It’s over, it’s time to move on. And at night, you should not be cramming, you should be resting and getting your energy together for the next day. Nothing you’re going to learn the night between the exam day and the exam days is going to make any difference in how you’re going to pass.

Dustin: Awesome, very good tip! So go ahead and get over to BarExamToolbox, sign-up for Lee’s list serve, and then also email her any questions you have. That’s lee@barexamtoolbox.com, correct?

Lee: Yes.

Dustin: Okay, perfect! Well thank you very much for coming on to the podcast and we’d like to have you again in the future at some point.

Lee: Yes! I will come up with another list of tips!

Dustin: That would be great!

Lee: Alright, thanks Dustin! And to everybody out there, I wish you the best of luck, you can do this! It’s about being smart, about how you study, but I believe that if you successfully made it through law school, you can successfully pass the bar exam.

Dustin: Absolutely! Thanks again, take care!

Lee: Take care!

The 7 Steps to Bar Exam Success Review

The 7 Steps to Bar Exam Success book has finally arrived to an Amazon account near you.  I have spent the last six months working on creating something all-encompassing, awesome, and centralized for bar exam students to have at their side throughout their bar prep.  Here is what the book entails:

Step 1 – The 12 Key Concepts

What are the key concepts you should know for your bar exam?  What are the core things you should know about the grader, yourself, the study materials, and the mindset about the bar exam?

In this chapter, I review these key concepts, give you the Number one rule to pass your bar exam, some quick tips on how to reduce stress, overwhelm, and time you spend by focusing on the needle-moving activities and best practices for keeping your mind and body in tune with your success.  These 12 Keys will help you tremendously on your bar exam prep.

Step 2 – The Bar Exam Passer’s Mind and Body

What does the mind and body of a bar exam passer look like?  How do they handle fear and stress in the moment?  What is their source of motivation to climb the hurdles of the bar exam?

In this chapter, I teach you the must-use tools of the mind that are used by the professionals all over the world to help fight through fear, doubt, and obstacles.  I give you a power list of affirmations to use and the 1-page bar exam script that will reprogram your mind to ensure your success.

For the body, I provide the latest in neuroscience studies to help you increase your motivation, productivity, and understand the real causes of your stress and anxiety at a scientific level.  I also give you ten practical tips on how to use and treat your body throughout bar prep to ensure your greatest success.

Step 3 – The 8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Begin Bar Exam Prep

Don’t just dive right on into the bar exam.  What do you need to have situated in your life before you begin your bar exam prep?

I analyze different bar prep options based on the most relevant criteria, and give you the truth about bar prep pass rates.  I provide some of the most top-notch resources you can use to help you knock out the essays and MBE.  I give you in-depth criteria and questions to focus on if you are debating on working during your bar prep.  I will also help you situated your ‘life-outside-of-bar-prep’ and how best to handle the mental, emotional, and physical setup around your bar prep based on my own experience.

Step 4 – The 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions

I will answer your most deep-seated questions and give you the insight scoop on when to start studying for the bar exam, the number of hours to spend daily, how many essays, PT’s, and MBE questions you should do, and the best method for approaching the bar exam – the same one that saved me hours in time, stress, and headache.

Step 5 – The Bar Exam Essays

I will give you the 11 Golden rules to passing the essays, many of which you didn’t learn in law school.  Then, I will give you my Golden approach to the essays.  It’s the technique people have told me they have come to grow and love.  It’s the #1 strategy which helped me pass my bar exam and deal with roller-coaster I went through during bar week.

Step 6 – The Bar Exam MBE

Get the 8 Keys to passing the MBE on your first attempt.  Learn how to increase your MBE scores and how to handle the emotions when you don’t see your scores increasing anymore.

Step 7 – Bar Exam Week

Learn the Four Preparations you MUST have to ensure a successful bar exam week.  I will also give you 12 additional tips on psychology, mindset, and strategy to have a great bar exam week based on the struggles I did not anticipate, but went through during my bar exam.

Get Your Copy of The 7 Steps to Bar Exam Success Here

The book will be given Complimentary during the launch sequence. Free access to the book expires Friday, February 15th at midnight PST.


By grabbing your copy of the book right now, you also get access to additional bonuses for Free.

  • Print outs of the bar exam affirmation list and script to put on your wall.
  • Bar/Bri MBE Insider Tips Bonus Chapter – Learn all the MBE secrets Bar/Bri has discovered.
  • Access to the Bar Exam sleep mp3
  • Additional unannounced bonus to help with your mindset, relaxation, and beliefs!

The book is also loaded with quick tips and myth-busters.  Be sure to get your hands on your copy today on Amazon.

Get Your Copy of The 7 Steps to Bar Exam Success Here


“This name appears on the Pass list”



Self Study or Traditional Bar Review Interview with Be a Goat Author Jessica Klein Podcast (Episode 009)

In this episode, I have the privilege of interviewing the author of the Be a Goat book Jessica Klein.

Jessica decided to self study for the bar exam and she will share the three things you must know BEFORE you make the decision to study for the bar exam on your own.

Jessica is also a bar repeater and will share how to handle the emotions that come with studying for the bar exam a second time around.

Finally, Jessica also raised a young child while studying for the bar exam.  She will discuss how to balance bar exam study and family obligations.

You can get Jessica’s book here.  Use discount code: 94ZVXNQJ to save $15!

You can also read her blog or join her on facebook.

Enjoy the interview! Link is located at the top of this post, underneath the picture.

Self Study vs Traditional Bar Exam Prep Program

Today I have a very special guest on the show she is a former bar exam taker, she passed the bar exam and she is come on to give her feel give her side of and perspective on how she passed the bar exam. She has a very unique perspective which is why I want to bring her on here today.

Not only did she self study for the bar exam, so she is going to talk today about how to self study for the bar exam and give you guys some tips on that, but she was also raising a newborn child while studying for the bar exam, so for those of you out there with family obligations or kids and trying to balance that between that and the bar exam this will be a great episode for you to listen as well and thirdly she  is also a bar exam repeater so she will talk a little bit about what she did the first time and how she handled the news of not passing and then things that she changed and went about doing during her second round.

So if you fall into any of those categories or of course you are just studying for the bar exam in general I think this will be a very good interview and podcast for you to listen to today. Some of you may read her work at beagoat.com she is also the author of Be A Goat book helping students pass their bar exam. Her name is Jessica Kline and I am very thrilled to have her on the show today. Without further ado let us go straight into the interview.

Hey and welcome we are here with Jessica Kline from be a goat blog she is very kind to come on and talk to everyone today about her experience with the bar exam and things that she did to helped her pass and what she is recommending for others to help them pass.

Dustin: Hi Jessica how are you doing?

Jessica: Good, how are you Dustin?

Dustin: I am well. Thanks again for coming on.

Jessica: I am very happy to be here

Dustin: You currently run the blog beagoat.com, what kind of inspired you to help other with bar exam through your blog? What’s kind of your story with the bar exam and how it came across to you to start that blog?

Dustin: Okay, well to make a short story long I guess you want to know about the blog and book and everything it kind of comes out of my experience. ahm I first took the bar exam right out of law school in July of 2008 and ahm early on in my study prep, I found out that my husband and I were expecting our first child so ahm that was a big surprise for us, it kind of got me ahm thinking about that life change, it kind of get the bar exam off being my main focus and ahm I was about two weeks before I could wrap my head around it and get back to the bar exam and by then I started ahm feeling really sick with first trimester nausea, so I felt pretty terrible most of the bar prep period, but I still plugged along.

I was hopeful that I would be able to get all my studying done even though I was delayed and I got probably half to two thirds of the studying done, there were some subjects that I did not get to so if I got the perfect type of question on the bar exam there was a good chance I could pass, but lo and behold I got one or two that I had not studied at all, so I went into ahm November result pretty much expecting to fail but , I think like everyone else we kind of have roller coaster emotions and think maybe I did pass and maybe I did good enough, so I was hopeful that I did pass but I didn’t. It was really difficult during the process even though I saw it coming it was just you know hard to tell family and friends and the whole disappointment thing, so, so I ahm didn’t pass in July and February wasn’t an option for me because I had my son that month and ahm the following July I mean I  still had a very young baby so I knew it was going to be a while before I could take the bar exam again and I had told myself if I do take the exam I’m going to make sure that I carve out enough time and I give it the proper attention it requires so that I don’t fail again and don’t go through that humiliation again.

So I ended up not taking again until July 2010 so that was a 2 year gap, but ahm I prepared for it, I ahm you know studied on my own both times and by the second time I had become a pro at studying on my own. I passed the exam and then I felt like all that hard work kind of ahm would be wasted, I knew that ahm there are other people who were trying to study on their own I even have some friends that had failed ahm and they were kind of trying to figure it on their own and I just wanted to put my resources out there, all my hard work I wanted it to be useful to somebody. So I decided to start the blog and just share knowledge.

Dustin: Okay that’s awesome wow! What a great story. So basically the difference between the first time and the second time was …really the second time you gave it your full energy, full attention, full focus.

Jessica: Yea definitely I ahm you know having gone through the process I knew exactly what to be expected, how intense it was and ahm I wanted to be on the side of over-prepared and not under-prepared you know the first time I thought might be able to eat through it but the second time I wanted to feel confident and not shaky at all going in, because you do need a little bit of extra confidence the second time or third time, like you are a repeater you know how ahm, how much of a head game it is not even just the regular bar exam stress, but the emotional stress of feeling like you know I failed it before what to say I am not going to fail it again that type of thing. So I really wanted to do as much as I could to combat that so ahm I definitely wanted to over-prepare.

Dustin: I got you. Did you do anything specifically to kind of combat the mental game behind it or did you just say okay well I am just going prepare as much as I possibly can or did you do other stuff specifically for the mindset?

Jessica: Yea there were actually couple of things that I did differently the second time around that weren’t necessarily study things but just for my emotional and mental health ahm one of them was…I didn’t tell people I was doing the bar exam again ahm I for whatever reason ahm sometimes do a little better when I keep things to myself and keep it personal, I kind of get this quiet resolve and it is a little bit of type of fuel that keeps me motivated, keeps me working on things. I know usually a lot of people do better if they put it out there and have people hold them accountable, but actually it just made me feel more stressed, so I kept it to myself so that I wouldn’t feel like social pressure ahm and then ahm (I’m sorry I totally just banked) .

Dustin: No that’s okay you were talking about just kind of avoiding the social pressure and kind of keeping things to yourself.

Jessica: Oh other things I wanted to share with you ahm one of them was you know we have those days where for whatever reason we just don’t get the studying done that we wanted to do or we’re just you know it’s an emotional roller coaster the bar exam and so some days just ahm hit you and you have a hard day and then you feel guilty day and because you feel so guilty you sit and sulk instead of getting back on the wagon.

So I promised myself that even if I had a bad day or an half day or didn’t studied one day that every day is a fresh day and it doesn’t matter what I didn’t do yesterday I’m going to get up and do it over again tomorrow. So I kind of took that approach which helped me just ..it’s like I let myself forgive myself if I messed up one day and I would just try again the next day. So in that way I felt like ahm I just kept going at it with a little bit more resolve than I did the first time, so that helped me as well.

Dustin: That’s great. That’s a fantastic attitude to have and ahm yea I feel like as long as people can keep pushing through and going, going at it just doing the work one thing I’d like to say wax on wax off, just keep doing it, you might not see the light at the end of the tunnel but just keep moving forward and I think that’s great, create each day anew. Each day is a new opportunity for them to step into ahm who they can be with this bar exam and studying and being able to pass. That’s a fantastic attitude it’s great.

Jessica: Great

Dustin: Ahm you mentioned a little bit about when kind of emotions that happen when you didn’t pass ahm did you do anything kind of specifically to like…we just had a lot of bar results come out in California and some other jurisdictions, did you do anything kind of specifically kind of that week or that day ahm or the weeks coming up to kind of get yourself geared up to go for it the second time?

Jessica: Ahm so since I took such a large break and because I had my son and then I became a stayed home mom ahm you know my life had changed a lot and it was such a large gap, I don’t know how I would have handled it if I failed and then was going to sit for February right off the bat ahm you know it’s a little bit different of a situation I think I was so wrapped up in other life events that it kind of helped me get the bar exam out of my brain ahm but yea I don’t, I don’t really know if I can give any advice on that one, it really was a bit of a different situation for me just because I turned my focus to having the baby right after the bar exam results came out so I don’t know if it’s good if you should say (chuckle) you find something to take your mind off of it for a little while, it’s always something that comes up in your mind even if you’re trying to you know thinking about other things all of a sudden the thought would come up and as a repeater you know, repeater would know what I am talking about you think you are doing fine and then all of a sudden you remember you failed the bar exam and you feel depressed again.

So I guess keep on choosing to start think about other things or thing instead of ahm how great you’re going to do next time around, just turn it into something positive and try to get away from the negativity I guess.

Dustin: Okay. Wonderful that’s awesome. And I imagine there was another challenge when you just had a child and you’re also studying for the bar, do you…for people out there who have kids or children that they have to take care of and study for the bar exam, any kind of specific tip on how to handle that?

Jessica: Yea I mean what I did was ahm I gave myself a lot more time to study the second time around because I needed it ahm you know I was cold on the law because it had been two years so that’s extra work right there if you go straight into February after July then you don’t really have to spend as much time in the law because it already pretty much fresh in your mind so I needed to do that. I would had to ahm wait until my husband would get home from work to start studying in the evenings because ahm you know I had a child to care for and he kept me very busy and so I would do in the evenings, I would study on the weekends and ahm I just started pretty early in the year, I don’t remember exactly when I started I wish I did because people asked me so I don’t know exactly how many weeks I studied, but ahm I just took advantage of any free time we had.

My husband is amazing and he was so, so supportive so you know he gave up a lot too you know to be home and watch our son while I studied so he didn’t have any free time either and he took ahm care of a lot of things around the house that just need to be done because I wasn’t getting to it, so it made a big difference to have someone supportive that I know that’s something a lot of people have no control over but to the degree that you can control your ahm support system or you can just let them know you need their extra support and you know ask for specific things, maybe you don’t have kids or husband but you have friends or you have family nearby if you could say hey you know can you drop of my laundry, could you help me out, you know things like that eat up time so ahm getting help with it makes a difference in just putting those hours in studying.

Dustin: Right, right definitely support system is huge ahm for the bar exam I can’t say that enough and family and friends, spouse, children, loved ones, parents whoever you have just being able to lean on them ahm during certain times of the bar you know just kind of put you back up, because the bar exam is a longer journey, it’s not like a week (inaudible) can take a couple months to make it through, so yea.

Jessica: Yea

Dustin: Ahm by the way so since you started studying earlier where you able to kind of retain the information you studied in the beginning?

Jessica: Ahm well, yes and no I mean I didn’t try to do any type of rope memorization early on, I really didn’t do that at all actually in my ahm study system that I set up for myself I kind of leave that to the very end which most I think most programs recommend you do anyway so in the beginning when I was trying to refresh myself on the law I was pretty much just reading for comprehension, making sure I remember ahm the legal concepts I learned in law school or if it was a class I didn’t take I have to you know learn it from scratch and just making sure I understood that so once I felt like I had ahm reviewed the law I would go ahead and put that to use by doing practice essay and …well PT’s aren’t based on you know the law we learn, but ahm MBE stuff like that.

So I would start using the law once I read it so that kind of keeps it fresh in your mind the whole time. So if you are practicing you’re going to keep seeing the legal principles throughout the whole study period so it really doesn’t have much of a chance to go cold on you, but if you just study one subject and you don’t practice and you moved on to another one, I suppose it could be weeks before you see those concepts again which might make it harder to retain.

Dustin: Right ahm okay so that brings me to my next question since you did self study for the bar exam ahm there are a lot of people who self study they don’t take the bar prep route, what are maybe like three things that someone who self study for the bar exam ahm needs to know or needs to do on a maybe continual basis that you know they don’t have kind of like bar exam prep coach so the go on it alone, what are the three things they got to know?

Jessica: Well if you’re…three things you want to know ahead of time before you choose the route if you are considering whether you want to do a self study or take some other option like a prep course or tutor ahm you got to know that self studying is going to be a lot more of a lonely road so you’re going to have to be confident in what you are doing and you are going to have to be okay with having very little social interaction during that time period because you know you’re going to be in a library studying or wherever you decide to study, you are not going to be able to ahm spent time with your friends, hang out with your friends a lot and ahm you’re not going to be studying with anybody else like in a big prep class, so ahm you know you kind of have to see it within yourself if you are and you thrive on being around with other people and you really need that to keep balance in your life then it’s probably not going to be the thing you want to do.

It’s going to take a lot of discipline because there isn’t anyone over your shoulders you are not going to class and handing in an essay, you’re not having a tutor call you every day, so you really need to think will I be able to do this, you know and if you went to law school you can pretty much gage based on how you handled that as to whether or not you’ll be able to study on your own. I mean that is a really good example some people do great on their own, some people wants study groups and you don’t want to be able to bounce ideas off people.

So you can kind of base your experience in law school ahm use that as a basis I mean and ahm I think the last thing you need to know about self studying is you’re going to have to be able to get your  hands on direct material so it going to have to be the right amount of material because you don’t want too little and not be able to get the information you need, you don’t want to have too much and end up being confused and not really sure where you should go because there is a overload of information and you also need to be able to get your hands on the right kinds of materials you know they have to be materials that are good quality and are going to be effective in getting you from point A to point B. So if you have that all set up and you think you would be a person that would do fine on your own then self study might be an option for you.

Dustin: Okay, great. Ahm I think that’s why I take the bar prep class because I mean it’s kind of be around people and have someone tell show up to class at this time, study this, do this, do this so that was easier for me.

Jessica: Yea there is definitely something reassuring about knowing that you and all these other people are miserable together (laughing)

Dustin: Exactly. Ahm let’s talk and I think ….I guess in your book as well you kind of tell people what materials you use for the bar?

Jessica: Yea in my book ahm because I took the exam twice I got a lot more..I had lot more materials the first time around when I was kind of thinking you know you go on Amazon and see people reviewing and say this is awesome, (laughing) so you buys tons of stuff so I had a lot of materials that I thought oh I need to have this for I’m not going to pass type of thing, so I had them all around and once I start you know looking at the books and working with materials I kind of got a feel for ..ok that’s really not that useful or it’s really just the same information and it’s just in different format or all these essays are way better than other book essays.

So the first time around I had an overload of book and the second time around I knew exactly which I should have been spending my time with from the start and I just went with those and in my book I list all of those materials that I thought were wonderful and helped me a lot and were good quality and ahm that covers materials to ahm do your subsinative of review to review the law, the materials for the MBE’s, for the essays and the PTE’s so ahm I just list them out so if you want a great list of materials, but you don’t want to look for them all on your own you can just use that list.

Dustin: That’s so awesome. I think that’s very helpful especially people ahm who are self studying they don’t have no bar prep program to tell them what materials to use. That great.

Jessica: Yea exactly.

Dustin: What else is in ahm ..You kind of why you wrote the book and why you wrote the blog, what kind of in the book that if people are interested in ahm what will they find inside the book?

Jessica: What’s in the book? well, ahm I think the best way to describe the book is it helps you to study the bar exam it’s not subsinative stuff you’re not going to I didn’t write out what torts is in contracts and all that stuff, that’s going to be in the materials that I recommend you buy and you’re going to subsinative information there. what my book is basically how to like once you get the materials how do you go from you know the stack of book to be ready for bar exam so I have schedules and ahm like study schedule, daily study schedule, I have calendars for you know where to take your practice exams and what days and how to space them out ahm I have trackers that show you how to track your MBE practice and know if you are improving or how to ahm you know best spent your PT or your MBE practice time ahm all those types of things.

So I break it up into four steps being subsinative review, which everyone’s going to have to do unless you remember so much from law school you don’t think you need to do that I guess ahm and then the second step is how to practice the essays so what books to buy, how to practice somewhat schedule to be on that type of thing. Same thing with the MBE, what books to buy ahm how do you use the MBE materials cause it is really important to rotate your materials and have a few different sources  ahm how to track your practice and go back and go over the questions that you didn’t get correct and then for the performance test I talked about things that you can do to prepare for the performance test by practicing like things you should look out for trick to try to improve your score ahm I talked about other things too such as like what type of style and routine to maintain while you are studying so that you will be most successful because I feel like that’s not talked about as much in bar prep or amongst bar student, I think everyone tries to have this front like I have it all together and I’m doing just fine and ahm you know this is not difficult at all when really we all know it is difficult, it’s you know a sub sequential marathon and it’s hard to kind of keep the study space for that long and not be able to spend time with your friends and family like you were , it’s exhausting.

So if you are overworking yourself and you’re not getting any relaxation time you are going to burn out or you’re going to have some really bad days and might throw you off course or you might start to freak out thinking you’re going to fail and so you just give up studying all that type of stuff I think it’s initiative for everybody whether we want to so I just talk about kind of how to keep the balance and ahm what you can do to be successful mentally and emotionally because that’s the big part of taking a bar exam.

Dustin: That’s great it so sounds like ahm someone who is taking the bar prep program or someone who is not taking the bar prep program could benefit from this?

Jessica: Yea I think so, I definitely hope so I wrote it to help people and just give all the information that I found ahm helpful when I was taking it and ahm that I thought would be important to someone who wanted a guide to how to do it, so.

Dustin: Okay, awesome. And then also the materials are that mostly for kind a California based anybody do you recommend the resource material for everybody?

Jessica: The ahm the study materials I tell people they can buy?

Dustin: Right.

Jessica: Yea, those are all (let me think) so the MBE is an obviously California specific but the essay materials and the performance test are California specific that being said the system that I put together you could kind of ahm plug in your own states materials so if ..you know you’d have to source themselves to see what quality materials you can get, but you could you know just take out the ones I recommended and and put in your state and the system will still work, I have had a lot of people buy my book that are from different jurisdictions ahm so you could definitely do that, it possible.

Dustin: Okay awesome. and yea I will …..five stars review on Amazon as of today.

Jessica: (laugh) Yeah (laughing) I’m glad people have found it useful, it’s always good to get those emails to saying you know especially just coming out it’s great to get email saying that ahm my book was helpful or my blog was helpful ahm that makes me feel like it all worth it so I loved that so people are liking it then, I feel like I am doing the right thing.

Dustin: That’s awesome. yea well thanks so much for sharing your insight I think ahm the stuff you share will be very helpful to people.

Jessica: Oh good, I’m so glad. Thank you so much for having me I really appreciate the opportunity to share.

Dustin: Yea sure, maybe we’ll talk to you again in a future episode for future bar takers.

Jessica: Sounds fun.

Dustin: Alright well thanks Jessica so much.

Jessica: Thanks. Bye

Alright then there you have it straight from the source Jessica Kline. I hope you got some good value out of that interview. If you like to go ahead and get Jessica’s book head on over to ipassedmybarexam.com/beagoat and you can get her book there.

So go out there and crush it this week on your bar exam you’re going to do great and until next time we’ll see you later and always remember that your name appears on the pass list. Take care and have a great day.

“This name appears on the pass list”