Stephen Burbank, a Baylor Law School graduate who posted the top score on the July 2018 Texas Bar Examination, mostly studied alone. When he had a question, he consulted with law school friends—Kyle Steingreaber and Rachel Koehn—who tied in posting the second-highest score on the high-stakes test.
July’s results may mark the first time the top three scorers on the bar exam attended the same Texas law school. Baylor Law School Dean Brad Toben, who has led the Waco school since 1991, said he can’t recall it ever happening before.
“When I look at the students and their abilities and their hard work and focus, in that sense I’m not surprised. They were each high performers in school and are going to make outstanding Baylor lawyers,” Toben said.
Among the 10 Texas law schools, Baylor Law grads had the highest pass rate—92.71 percent—on the July exam. Toben said that overall success, as well as the unique success of the trio of May 2018 graduates, is good for Baylor Law’s profile and makes students, faculty, staff and alumni happy.
Burbank, who scored an 871 out of 1,000 points on the exam, said he has an unusual study style. He took a bar study course but isn’t great at sitting down to study. He printed out copies of study material and then recited the material out loud while walking on trails near the Baylor University football stadium.
“I’d walk between 10 and 15 miles a day, just walking and talking out loud,” he said, noting that his outdoor study style also helped keep him in shape during that stressful time.
“People probably thought I was a little weird, but it worked,” he said.
Burbank is currently clerking in Waco for U.S. District Judge Alan Albright of the Western District of Texas and plans to go into private practice once he finishes his clerkship. He celebrated with his wife, Shelby, a graduate student at Baylor who cooked a “really good meal” to mark the occasion of passing the bar exam.
Steingreaber said he worked for about a month at a firm in Waco after graduation, studying during lunch and in the evenings. By late June, he was studying full time, with lots of support from his wife, Danielle. He celebrated his bar results with her and their parents.
Steingreaber, who scored an 855 on the exam, is now working at Serpe Jones Andrews Callender & Bell, a civil litigation firm in Houston.
Koehn, who also scored 855, is clerking with U.S. Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit Judge Jennifer Elrod in Houston. She said she studied at home in Houston, where she took a bar review course and studied with another Baylor graduate in addition to her calls with Burbank and Steingreaber.
Koehn said she celebrated passing the bar with some co-workers who also got good news on Oct. 29. She went out to a nice dinner with her parents after she found out a few days later she had tied for second on the exam.
Burbank and Steingreaber both said Baylor Law prepared them for the exam, but neither one felt confident about their performance on day two of the three-day test—the Multistate Bar Examination.
“After the second day, the MBE day, honestly I was scared I failed. I was real freaked out, so [I] spent the rest of the day studying,” Burbank recalls.
“The MBE was pretty tough,” Steingreaber said.
Koehn said it is difficult to walk out of the bar exam and feel like you nailed every question. “There’s such a wide range of material on it,” she said. “I walked out hoping.”