In a previous article, Lola discussed the challenges and potential benefits of intercontinental relocation on developing a legal career. In this she reflects on her experience of undertaking the New York Bar exam and shares some tips to enable prospective candidates succeed.
“In an increasingly globalized legal marketplace, and with increasing numbers of United States practices – particularly New York based – opening in Britain, it makes sense for UK-based lawyers to be dual qualified.” – BPP
Studying for any bar exam can be intimidating for most candidates, especially for foreign trained lawyers who are unfamiliar with the basic legal concepts. A healthy level of anxiety is better than an unhealthy level of confidence. The key is to channel your anxiety towards diligent preparation and these tips for success will go a long way to help you prepare.
The foundational and most basic thing to do is to set aside enough time to prepare for the Bar. Typically, the schedule for full-time study extends between 2 to 3 months before the exam, during which time, it is advisable to make studying a full-time objective using a fixed schedule. The schedule should see you through the syllabus with sufficient time to do timed and untimed practice questions.
Most Bar review preparatory courses providers offer very useful study schedules that you can use and supplement with other sources if you choose.
My exam preparation advice can be split into two groups – ‘General preparatory‘ and ‘Game day.’ Your general preparation should be applied from the first day of developing your reading schedule, while the game day tips will see you through the last week leading up to the exam.
Stay positive: Once you make up your mind to write the exam, don’t doubt your abilities. Rather adopt the “I am a New York Law expert” mindset, which makes you look forward to eagerly learning new things and becoming an expert in the New York State legal system. Veteran Bar exam tutors have observed that candidates with this mindset often excel compared to doubtful takers. So prepare to talk yourself out of the occasional anxiety and remember that you have written tough exams and excelled in the past. Every law student has faced tough exams at some point in their educational journey and all of that has prepared you for this challenge, so remember you are ready!
A word of caution on this note; do not be over confident, rather be open to learn. It is important to learn the basics as thoroughly as you can.
Become familiar with the limited objective of the exam and the examination format: Knowing what to expect in the exam and familiarising yourself with what the exam looks like will help to alleviate your fears. Practice, practice, practice! The exam is designed to test your basic knowledge of the law, your analytical skills and problem solving ability. Stick to the advice given in most bar review course guides – you are only expected to apply the law cold and simple. Any analysis outside the law you have learned is a waste of time, and every minute counts on exam day!
The exam consists of four components with each component testing a specific skill. These are;
- The Multi state Bar Exam (MBE) consists of 200 multiple-choice questions and is worth 40% of the total.
- Multi state Performance Test (MPT) is worth 10%.
- The New York law Multiple-choice part is worth 10%.
- New York Law 5 essay questions are worth 40%.
Invest in a professional Bar Review course Prep: Bar review course providers offer a wealth of materials and support that is worth the cost, so I recommend that you enroll with one but not just anyone. Be sure to choose one that offers sufficient resources to prepare you for all four components of the exam and one that provides ample past examination questions.
Once you have these two things covered, you can base your final decision on cost, course structure and method of delivery. Most bar review courses provide a flexible structure that you can adapt to so you don’t have to make major changes to your study pattern.
If cost is an issue for you, the good news is you also do not have to break the bank to afford a bar review course because statistics shows that the price of the course doesn’t guarantee success, rather your commitment to preparation does.
I personally enrolled with Themis, a bar review course that was unknown to a lot of people, but I was thoroughly satisfied with the course structure, cost and support I had. So feel free to compare the pass rates published. Some bar review courses do not publish the pass rates of their candidates but Themis does and this was key in helping me make a decision.
Practice, practice, practice: Do a great deal of practice questions both under exam conditions and as you study. Review the answers to the practice questions along with your notes to ensure you grasped the principles thoroughly. This is very important as it helps you test your understanding of the concepts. Learn and practice format for presenting essay answers in the order to gain the maximum points. Taking exam under test conditions will prepare you for what to expect.
How much memorization do you need? Since you are being tested for basic legal knowledge, memorization is key, so use techniques that you are familiar with such as acronyms, songs, and other methods in remembering key concepts. Making outlines in your own words may also help your understanding of concepts. Pay attention to any areas of weakness and make out time from your schedule to understand them thoroughly. It is likely that you won’t complete all the tasks (practice questions) on the schedule but do you best to complete the syllabus.
Game Day tips:
Sleep the night before : Don’t be tempted to read/review materials all night because you have 2 long days ahead and you need the mental strength.
Whatever happens, DO NOT PANIC : By the week of the exam, you should already have studied and practiced a lot right? If that’s the case, you have all you need. You are not expected to know everything, so you will be fine with how much you know.
Watch that clock! : Be strict with your time keeping. This is why practicing is so important as you will now have a very good idea how much time you need for each component of the exam. Move on to the next question if you are delayed on any one part. On a side note, don’t spend too much time on the NY MCQ part of the exam, it carries much less marks and usually requires a lot of time.
Best of Luck!
About our writer – Lola Adekanye obtained her Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University. She operates as a Legal Counsel as well as a Business Risk and Compliance Consultant. Lola enjoys writing as well as sharing her experience of international education as well as developing a career in law and business strategy.
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