Bar Exam University

Working While Studying For The Bar Exam . . . If You Must

In this video, I will tell you what to do if you find that you cannot take time off from your job to study full time for the bar exam.

Working while studying for the bar exam is NOT recommended. Unfortunately, some people may not have the luxury of studying full time for the bar exam. Here are some tips on how to balance working and studying for the bar exam to give you the best chance for success.

Here’s to your bar exam success!

Marc Rossen

Video Transcript

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This is Marc Rossen from Supreme Bar Review and today I want to talk to you about “Working while studying for the bar exam…If you must”

If you are planning to work while studying for the bar exam, here is my #1 rule to follow: DON’T

That’s right. I do NOT recommend working while you study for the bar exam. You should treat studying for the bar exam as your full time job during the two months leading up to the exam. To do otherwise, is to put yourself in what I call the “at-risk” category for failing the bar exam. That means, you might still pass, but you are increasing your odds of failing.

However, if you must (and I realize that not everyone has the option to not work due to economic realities), I will give you some guidelines to ensure your best chance at success.

First, you must start studying earlier than everyone else.

The typical law school graduate begins studying for the bar exam at least two months before the actual exam and studies intensely all day every day during that bar review period.

Therefore, in order for you to put in at least as many hours as your peers, you will need to extend your study over a longer time horizon.

The reason for this is that you still need to put in the same number of hours as everyone else to ensure that you will be fully prepared.

So, how much earlier do you need to start this process? I recommend that you plan on starting at least 4 to 6 months BEFORE the start of bar review season.

Also it is essential that you commit to a formal study plan from the outset. With the bar exam still many months away, it is easy to think that you can casually breeze through the material without any kind of formal plan. However without a formal study plan, the weeks and months will slip by quickly and you will find yourself falling further and further behind.

To avoid this, I suggest that you pull out your calendar and determine how many hours you can realistically commit to studying each week. You must commit to a minimum number of hours per week. It is OK to exceed this amount but you cannot fall short.

Next, you must commit to an actual plan or syllabus for what you need to accomplish. In this way, you will be breaking up the material into smaller, more manageable pieces that you can complete in the few precious hours you have set aside for study each week.

You will want to include in your plan time to learn the substantive law as well as time to do practice testing in each area. This includes practice testing for multiple choice as well as essay. And don’t forget to practice the MPT (Multistate Performance Test) as well. Be sure to watch my other videos for more information about HOW to study and prepare for each section of the bar exam.

If you cannot stop working altogether, perhaps you can arrange to scale back your work commitments to free up enough time for studying each week. Since this will not be an ideal situation for your employer, you will need to talk to your supervisor early on to ensure that they understand and can accommodate your situation.

If you are fortunate enough to be working in a place that has a stake in your bar exam success, it should not be difficult to enlist their support. However, if your current employer does not care whether you pass the bar exam or not, this may prove more difficult.

So let’s start with the easy stuff. If you are eligible to use vacation time, you will of course need to ask for the week of the bar exam. If you have additional vacation time or personal days that you can use, I recommend working backwards from the actual bar exam and requesting as many days off as you can get in the weeks just before the bar exam. This is crunch time and you will want to be able to focus on your studying as much as possible during this time. Plus if you are out of the office and unavailable, this will ensure that no last minute projects are dropped on your desk just before the bar exam.

Next, see if it is at all possible to scale back your actual hours during the weeks or months preceding the bar exam. If you assure your boss that you can come in to the office fewer hours each week and still get your essential work done, they may agree to a reduction in your hours that lets you keep your job and still have sufficient time to study.

If your boss won’t agree to this because he or she is worried that something could come up during the workday that requires your presence and/or immediate attention, you might suggest an arrangement whereby for a few hours each workday you could remain in the office but be given a quiet place to study where you would only be disturbed for such emergencies. This may give your boss that peace of mind to allow you carve out more study time in your workday. Just make sure that everyone in the office knows not to interrupt you while you are studying. Otherwise, this arrangement could prove counter-productive. If it works, you may find that over time people who were overly dependent on you are able to solve their own problems.

If your boss turns out be supportive of your efforts to free up more study time in your workday, inquire whether there are others in your organization who can take on some of your usual tasks and projects and try to delegate some of your workload to these people during the months leading up to the bar exam.

If possible, avoid accepting any new projects during your bar review study months.

While you are hoping your boss will empathize with your situation and be supportive, remember that you must also try to see the situation from your boss’ perspective. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the work gets done. Therefore, if you talk to your boss early, this gives them more time to re-distribute the workload and ensure that everything still gets done. If you wait until you are way behind in your studies to approach your boss about your situation, it makes it more difficult even for a sympathetic boss to manage your request for more study time.

It is very important that you talk to your friends and family at the outset and prepare them for the sacrifices that must be made to ensure your bar exam success.

Explain to them how you have worked so hard to get through law school and be able to take the bar exam and how this is the final step to launch your new career as a licensed attorney. I am sure that your family members will understand that this is for their benefit as well as yours. They will want you to succeed.

Nonetheless you will need to prepare them to understand what is ahead. First, remind them that passing the bar exam is never a sure thing. A certain percentage of test takers will NOT pass on their first try. Therefore, it is essential that you study as hard as you can to give yourself the best chance of passing it this time. After all, if you do not pass, your loved ones will have to endure the whole experience with you again. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest that you pass the exam now.

Next, you will want to explain how difficult it is going to be for you to work and study at the same time and how few hours you will have each week to study. Ask for their support and understanding and I am sure you will find them to be very supportive.

For those of you who have young kids at home, it is always a good idea to explain that while mommy or daddy is going to be studying a lot and may not be around as much in the next few months, it is only temporary, and once you have completed the bar exam things will return to normal. Perhaps you can plan a family vacation or just a special day together after the bar exam to give everyone something to look forward to.

Finally, you will want to negotiate a way for others to pick up some of your duties around the house in order to free up as much time as possible for you to study. Assure them that you are not shirking your responsibilities but rather freeing up necessary time to study and most importantly promise that you will make it up to them after the exam.

Other than family and friends, do you have any other time commitments that you can negotiate?

Ask yourself who else might be depending on you during this time period. Do you volunteer in your community? Do you usually coach little league in the summer? It is easy to stretch yourself too thin and fail to put in the hours necessary for bar exam success.

Just this once, you will need to find others who can fill in for you in these areas. It is OK to be a little bit selfish in order to ensure your bar exam success. That way, you will have more time AFTER the bar exam to do all of the things you love to do, instead of having to worry about re-taking the bar exam which would take even more time away from these other areas of your life.

Once you have freed up all this extra time for studying, it is essential that you have all of your study materials available to begin reviewing for the exam. This can only happen if you choose a bar review provider that offers the flexibility to allow you full access to their materials when you need them. Therefore, BEFORE you commit to a particular bar review course, make sure that you inquire as to when you can expect to receive access to their printed materials as well as their home study audio or video lectures.

Remember, you are beginning your bar review months before everyone else and not during the regular bar review season. Therefore, you cannot be at the mercy of someone else’s timetable. You will NOT be attending classroom lectures. Instead you will be watching or listening to pre-recorded lectures. You need those lectures to be available to you on demand. That means having access to these lectures online, or on your mobile device as mobile apps for your iPhone or iPad. Our Supreme Bar Review courses are offered this way. But there are many excellent bar review providers that can give you this flexibility, but be sure to ask. The last thing you want to do is waste precious study time because you couldn’t get the materials you needed when you needed them.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful as you think about your own situation. While juggling work and other outside commitments will make the bar review process more challenging for you, if you follow my advice, you can overcome the challenges and make the bar exam a one-time experience.