Bar Exams

Bar Review Diaries: Confidently Rounding the Home Stretch

We’re closing in on the main event. The holiday weekend may have been your last excuse to slack until the bar exam is over. But here at the Bar Review Diaries, our columnists are at peace. They know they need to buckle down, but they are confident.

After the jump, we learn that Mike has decided to lock himself inside for the next three weeks, the countryside is becoming unnerving to Mariah, and Christopher is coming to terms with all he still wants to learn…

Let’s hear from Mike:

I spent my weekend with friends in Ocean City, Maryland, doing what beachgoers do there: crab cakes and football. Studying on a beach holiday is tough. If paddleball and swimming don’t take up enough time, there’s also the 7 a.m. wake-up call to beat the morning rush at the Fractured Prune Doughnut Shop and the yearly trip to the emergency room, this year to pick up my friend who got clipped by a car while biking. (He’s okay!)

In between those distractions I studied as much as possible. Without Internet, I read through my materials in short intervals on the beach, interrupted every few minutes by my friends’ creative deviousness.

“Hey, Mike, is this illegal?”


“Cool, will you represent me if I get arrested?

“Umm, let me check my Themis Professional Responsibility outline.”

Seriously, what are friends for if not distracting us from “important” tasks?

It was all fun and games until those fireworks last night, punctuating the end of my summer’s procrastination and the commencement of three weeks’ incarceration in my bedroom studying. I thought I would be upset at the end of the finale because of the work ahead, but I’m happy that the test is near so I can pass it and get on with my life.

Many of you are probably thinking the same thing. We’re in the home stretch, so it’s time to get to work, finish our courses, memorize those MBE/state law distinctions, and write as many practice MPTs as we can. If we got through law school, we’re smart enough to become a lawyer, so take a deep breath and focus for the next few weeks.

You’re right, Mike. As several commenters have pointed out, you’ve gotten through law school. You’ve put in hours upon hours of studying. You put in the work, and most likely, you’ll be just fine. You just gotta power through these last few weeks.

In Vermont, Mariah is gardening — check out the slideshow on the subsequent pages for pictures of her beautiful surroundings — and studying with rural memorization aids:

The weather is getting hotter, there are even more mosquitoes, the wood pile is dwindling and the exam is fast approaching. The recent sunshine means my little rows of lettuces are finally starting to look less pathetic. I might actually harvest a salad before the exam!

Our final Themis review materials were shipped, and it is time to really buckle down and commit all of this stuff to memory. I am trying to use tricks, like Joshua Foer, to memorize different elements. I rely a lot on the stuff around me. For example, a cow represents “preponderance of the evidence.” The terrier-who-barks-at-air represents unreasonableness.

A friend of mine said that she has reached the point where she has trouble falling asleep because she keeps thinking, “Oh man, what if I fail the bar exam.”

Thankfully, Mariah’s not that stressed about the test. Unfortunately, she is worried about something that’s probably more important. Namely, not dying.

I’m having trouble falling asleep, too, but that’s because I have an overactive imagination with things that go bump in the night. The other day my friend made a run to the store “for supplies.” A glance at the receipt did not bring me comfort:

Two 10’X25′ Polyester Clear Sheets
Two ¼” Galvanized Shackles
One ¼”x50’ Cord
50 lb. Coarse Cracked Corn
20 lb. Cowboy Charcoal

Maybe he lives on a farm, or maybe he’s Dexter? It’s unclear.

In the meantime, I hope all the bar-studiers out there took off the Fourth of July and enjoyed some fireworks and beer and baked beans. If not, you are making me look bad.

Indeed, you all deserved a little dynamite break. And if you live in an area like I do, you had no choice. Oakland sounded like Baghdad last night, there were so many illegal fireworks going off.

Meanwhile, Christopher took time this weekend to honor an important mentor:

We lawyer types are not known for our humility. People look to us to solve their problems, and we like to project the image that we always know what we’re doing. But, as bar review makes abundantly clear, the human mind can make things very complicated.

No one person could develop expert knowledge of our whole legal system. So what do we do? We specialize. Some of our friends and acquaintances might think that getting through law school, passing the bar, and entering into a practice area will make us qualified to answer whatever legal questions they bring to us, but we would be dangerously arrogant to think we’re ready to tackle problems completely on our own.

This is where advice from a mentor comes in.

Last weekend I went to an event to honor the late Luke Cole, who founded the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment with Ralph Abascal. Several of CRPE’s attorneys spoke about the lessons of community lawyering that Luke learned from Ralph and passed on to a generation of environmental justice advocates.

There’s no such thing as a truly “self-made man.” Everyone needs help along the way. Even once the bar exam has come and gone, most folks could still use a good mentor… or three.

The idea was for lawyers to take the lead from community members in confronting threats. During the organization’s campaigns, the lawyers were always “on tap” but never on top. The goal was to develop the power and capacity of residents, who generally know more about their own issues and circumstances than outside lawyers do.

The history of law and social change may glamorize individual crusaders, but a closer look shows that seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be overcome only when people collaborate to build collective strength.

A beginning step in this process is for each person to recognize his strengths and weaknesses. For those of us starting out, one of our many weaknesses is lack of experience. Fortunately, mentors are all around me — if I seek them out — and they are glad to help me navigate new situations.

Keep fighting the good fight, bar-studiers. You’re almost there. If you ever have doubts, just remember the words of the great Stuart Smalley: “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

(Photographs of Mariah Ford’s bucolic environs appear on subsequent pages. Don’t you wish you were studying for the bar in a country paradise like hers?)

Disclosure: This series is sponsored by Themis Bar Review, 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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