Bar Exams, Law Schools

Bar Review Diaries: Of Sunshine and Studying

June is just around the corner, the sun is shining, and many of our readers are hopefully enjoying their shiny new law degrees. Mazel tov! Unfortunately, the thousands of dollars you spent on three years of law school didn’t quite cover everything you need to pass that pesky bar exam.

The ink on your JD is still drying, but it’s already time to crack open the books again and sign up for bar review classes.

For the next two-odd months, three recent law school alumni will share their experiences with law school graduation, studying for the bar exam, and life in general. Welcome to Above the Law’s newest feature: The Bar Review Diaries.

Our illustrious contributors were chosen by Themis Bar Review. For their efforts, Themis has given them free tuition.

Let’s meet the trio of bar review diarists….

First, we have Christopher Curran, from UC Hastings Law:

Studying for the bar is meant to be more-or-less the topic of this blog, but there’s so much more to life than that, isn’t there?

By the time I start my job as an advocate for immigrants’ rights in September, I want to be in top mental, emotional and physical form to meet the challenges ahead. Studying for the bar is a boot camp that will force me to kick myself into gear on all levels.

I plan to practice everything I believe about living in a balanced way. I know how lawyers struggle to enjoy a personal life alongside the demands of their jobs; I plan to stake out my priorities now so I can integrate my work into my life and not the other way around.

Ahh, spoken like a true San Franciscan. It can be hard to work at all out here, with the ocean, the mountains, Napa wine country… but I digress.

In addition to all the studying, Curran plans to make time for “physical arts classes, bike rides to the ocean, trips around town to see friends, and for myself.” He spent the first semester of his 3L year in Argentina, and the trip primed his mind for his uniquely holistic approach to legal life:

Taking international law classes in Spanish was a challenge I enjoyed. It was at a pace that allowed me to explore activities I’d never found the time for. I lived with a yoga teacher and took classes with her in our living room, where I also learned aerial silk acrobatics. I threw myself into trapeze classes at a circus cooperative and took tango lessons. I made food with friends and watched the sun come up after epic parties.

All that helped me find a center in myself that I will need to guide people through immigration applications and deportation defense cases. When there’s a lot at stake, I’m going to need established habits to maintain my own well-being and let me do the best work I can for my clients.

Next we have Mariah Ford, from Columbia Law, who is still contemplating the most effective way to study. At this point, she knows more about what kind of studying does not work for her:

Like many other law students, I watched The Paper Chase the summer before I started law school. There is a scene where two main characters lock themselves in a hotel room. They order room service and yell at the poor hotel staff on the phone while frantically studying.

This scene really struck a chord with me: I would be those movie characters! I would lock myself in a room and learn the bejeezus out of that material. Then I would ace the exam. 

It was a good plan, in theory. My friend and I even turned “paperchase” into a verb.

Paperchasing usually went something like this: Thursday evening was the established start time. But because of scheduling conflicts, we wouldn’t begin paperchasing until around noon on Saturday. Then we had to decide what food to order. We chatted for a bit (you know, so we wouldn’t have the urge to chat later). Studying began in earnest around 8 p.m., but it was fine because we intended to work through the night.

Around midnight, I announced that I needed a catnap. The catnap would turn into a full night’s sleep (my friend, to her credit, would usually work all night long). Then it was Sunday.

If I have learned one thing from law school, it is this: Paperchasing does not work for me. This is a good realization to come to after three years of study.

And last but not least, we have Michael Dulong, from UCLA Law. Until recently, Dulong was still recovering from graduation shenanigans and a graduation gown oversight:

I planned on skipping graduation. I spent spring semester interning full-time in New York City, so dropping $400 on a ticket to Los Angeles only to shake my Dean’s hand seemed extravagant when I could stay in Brooklyn wasting that money in other pursuits. My friends ultimately convinced me to come, and I arrived just in time for the ceremony. Unfortunately, I never rented a gown. Oops.

Now, I’m glad I went! I walked in a suit while my classmates wore purple Harry Potter costumes. I basically photobombed my own graduation: Sorry to all the parents whose graduates were seated near me.

Most importantly, I forgot how much law students like to party at the end of finals. It was the first time someone dragged me by my feet across a dance floor begging me to dance again.

I woke up to see my friend’s BARBRI materials, which looked miserably heavy. Are they serious? I prayed the people at Themis knew better than to send me that many books. They did.  I returned to Brooklyn to a small stack, which I figured was a license to keep procrastinating. I mean, I did just spend all last semester not studying…

After a week of late nights, I had to escape to my Jersey Shore house for a reprieve and to form a Bar attack plan. I finally started my prep on Monday by reading Contracts and watching Professor Guzman, who is as dry as the martini you will need to get through his introduction. Nonetheless, he’s really clear and easy to follow. I’m sure we will all use his “Guzers” (pronounced goo-zers) on exam day. Thanks, Guz. If you had been Maverick’s wing man, you would have survived.

For more from Christopher, Mariah and Michael, tune in next Tuesday for the next installment of Bar Review Diaries.

Disclosure: This series is sponsored by Themis, which is an ATL advertiser.

Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He previously covered legal technology for InsideCounsel magazine. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at You can read more of his work at

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