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ORIGINS: BAR-BAR-ISM There are two parts to most state bar examinations. The first part, also known as “part A,” usually happens on the first day. The second part, “part B,” is given on the second day and is the nationwide multistate bar examination. The multistate examination (part B) is a six-hour multiple-choice experience that one would prefer to defer, but that is, of course, not possible. Six subjects are tested: contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, torts, and U.S. constitutional law. This same exam is given in every jurisdiction on the same Wednesday. The other half of the exam is given in some states on the day before the multistate. Some states give their respective parts on the day after. The state portion is usually a combination of essays and multiple-choice questions. In addition to the subjects listed for the multistate bar examination, states will test a number of other subjects: business entities, family law, wills, trusts, and more. The subjects tested in each jurisdiction vary. Anyone who graduates from law school can, with proper preparation, be successful in passing the ear exam. Conversely, any graduate has the possibility of failing the bar exam if it is taken lightly. Commitment, diligence, serious attention to the bar exam will guarantee the immediate launching of your career in the practice of law. PREPARATION This delightful period of your life is characterized by diligent and concentrated preparation, more often perceived as intrusive and unwanted at a time when the celebration after graduation from law school has not waned. For February test-takers, the festivities of graduation and of December 31 may resume at happy hour on the last day of the exam. For summer test-takers, graduation celebrations intervene. What to do? First, clear your calendar! Celebrate, recuperate, and set your alarm for early a week after graduation. That’s the date you begin your new full-time job: studying for the bar exam. Plan to get up and start the reading by 8:00 a.m. on that day. The exam takes place in just over seven weeks! Before that, check your registration for the bar exam. If you’re late for the filing deadline, you will pay a penalty. Make sure that you have amended your original application for admission to the bar, so that the background investigation may be complete by the time your scores are released. You must be enrolled for a bar review course. There is too much material to pull together to even think of studying on one’s own. Professional bar review companies like BarBri and PMBR have a wealth of experience in reviewing the substance and giving pointers for the test-taking techniques which succeed. These are expensive undertakings, but you need to obtain this license to practice on the first try. All eggs should be placed into the basket of bar preparation. Financially insecure? If you have need for a bar loan, see your financial aid counselor. Make the commitment financially so that you will be sworn into the practice of law on your first try. The exam is not a desired repeated experience! Once again, anyone who graduates from law school can, with proper preparation, pass the bar examination. Those who take this lightly will fail. Don’t be in the latter category! Set your alarm for that first day of study! LAST MINUTE STRATEGY Now, it’s time for the last minute strategy. There must be a strategy. This exam is not to be taken likely. You must give it your full attention, whether you number in the top five of your class, or in the bottom five. Those who take a cavalier attitude will likely fail this exam. Don James, Esq., JD �98., now a member of the Florida Bar, notes that this is not an intelligence exam: “It’s not about being smart; it’s about preparation, about discipline.” Never were truer words spoken on this subject! With that morsel of advice in hand, what steps should be taken? For those taking the July 2,000 bar exam, your minimum commitment begins on Monday, June 5. This is your job for the next seven or eight weeks — studying for the bar exam. Put aside the work, your life, and open the books! The outlines received in your bar review course must be read, for each of the areas covered on your state bar exam. If you have taken courses in law school on all the subjects tested, then this will be, as it should be, a review process. If you didn’t take evidence — or business associations — or family law — or trusts and estates — or U.S. constitutional law II, etc., then that material should have been read and studied before June. Having read the materials, emphasis should be placed on the multistate topics — contracts, property, torts, evidence, criminal law and procedure, U.S. constitutional law, since these are tested for sure on the multistate, and possibly also on the state part of your exam. Study your material alone. Get familiar with the contents of your outlines. Begin doing questions on your own, but don’t panic at the results. Everyone begins with a failing score, since few, if any, can remember every nuance of the 13 subjects, even if you made an “A” in the course while in law school. Check the answers and explanations for the questions, maybe after doing 5 or 10 at a time. Begin timing yourself. Get comfortable with an eventual pace of one minute per question, with an acceptable pass rate. Don’t stop at the minimum: if you achieve 65% correct, you may be close to success, but you need a greater cushion. Strive for a higher percentage of correct answers under strictly timed conditions. By the end of June and throughout July, you want to continue doing questions, questions, and questions — by yourself, but also with a study partner or two. Make note of the legal concepts you miss along the way. Commit them to memory. Do essays. Usually at least one half of the state part of the bar exam will consist of essay questions. If you did well in your exams in law school, these will appear to be easier to handle. You must, however, be prepared for an hour’s question on any one of 13 subjects. Prepare to handle that too. Perhaps the strategy of group study will work easier when preparing for the essay format. Don’t waste time. Use your time effectively. Study your eight or ten hours each day, but take a break when you need it — the beach, the theatre, a caf� — but it’s only a break, not a life style. Save the rest for the exam. You can’t afford to be sick, so get the R&R that you require. Don’t forget to make your transportation and hotel arrangements if you have to travel to the exam. Do that now. If you have troubles financially, see your financial aid counselor. Take the proper steps now to clear these early weeks in the summer for concentrated effort in preparing for the bar exam. Other troubles or concerns that get in your way? See your dean of students. Hopefully, your school can offer some assistance. Remember — this is a one-shot deal, this “bar-bar-ism.” You don’t want to do this again. You don’t want to be forced into making those phone calls to Mom, friends, classmates, “I didn’t quite make it. I goofed off too long. I started too late.” Do it right the first time! Be serious! Just do it! DISCLOSURE Confess your sins; the board of bar examiners is making a list and checking it thrice! Tell the bar everything about your life. This is serious business. It is not uncommon for a law school graduate to experience delay in the process of admission to the bar. For some, it’s a matter of course; they were sinful in their past lives, and now it is time to atone and explain themselves before a tribunal specially constituted for their case. For other applicants, the delay is caused by inadvertent omissions on the application that must be completed before a file can be recommended for admission. For the worst situation, there are perceived deliberate omissions, misrepresentations, misstatements and other lies to ferret out. These are the applicants who are in trouble with the bar. Most aspiring young lawyers do not have a problem with admission to the bar. The key word is DISCLOSE. Tell all. Explain all. Do not attempt to distort, misrepresent, understate, misstate, lie. Every question must be answered truthfully on the application for admission to the bar. One of our 1998 graduates who was called for a hearing on his application says it best when he analogizes the mindset of the board of bar examiners to the absolution available to the penitent in the confessional. The board is forgiving — disclose your shortcomings, answer their inquiries truthfully, and you will be forgiven (admitted). As in the case for the unrepentant sinner, there is always the alternative! Choose which path you will take. The result in taking the low road is predictable: omit events or misrepresent the outcomes, lie on your application, or worse yet, lie at an informal hearing, and chances of immediate admission are poor. If an applicant is lucky, he or she may be admitted on probation, but for more egregious cases, there is a denial of admission to the bar. Is this why you studied three years and spent your children’s inheritance? I doubt it. Here are some of the common pitfalls: an incomplete list of all colleges and universities attended; failure to disclose information about academic or disciplinary matters at those schools; omission of traffic offenses; failure to disclose encounters with the law, including pleas of nolo contendere and cases which were dismissed or records that were sealed and/or expunged; alcohol or drug dependency; credit problems which are recurring or are unresolved. If there is any question about full and proper disclosure, see a trusted professor. A confidential conference about the secrets of your past life will be handled discreetly. You will be given the appropriate advice and assistance in order to rectify the omissions or commissions before it is too late. Some of the issues enumerated above must be included on the application for admission to law school; others must be fully disclosed on the application for admission to the bar; some need to be disclosed in both places. The trouble occurs when the two applications are inconsistent. Those who are truthful and forthright about their own situations are likely to handle the affairs of others competently. He or she will be admired as the “good lawyer.” We need more of those. Properly disclose the events of your life in order that you may be eligible for admission to the bar when those positive results from the bar exam are announced after your name! William P. VanderWyden is the Associate Dean of Students at the University of Miami School of Law.

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