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When you commit to the CBTR Process you help ensure that your test taking skills - including a confident, positive attitude - meet the bar preparation and performance standards necessary to pass the bar on your next attempt. We will work together to meet that challenge.
*Essay Questions from the July 2017 California Bar Exam and First Year Law Students Exam from October 2017 are reprinted from the State Bar of California website.
SUCCESS ON THE BAR
Effective time management skills are at the heart of both preparing to take the bar exam and performing on it. Remember: From the start of your preparation through your performance on the test itself there is an ever-shrinking supply of time. How you use it means everything in ultimately optimizing your chance to succeed.
Using Your Time
We begin with the proposition there are 24 hours in every Earth day. To prepare for your goal to pass the bar, I recommend dividing your time into four categories in working to “get the max” out of both your bar preparation and performance. Each of these categories supports the other in integrated fashion – they are positively interrelated – as you commit to a practical study regimen that can lead to successful results.
These are “Must-To-Do-List” priorities, including sleeping, eating, family, school, work, church, transportation – you name it – the sorts of things in this life that figuratively “keeps the lights on”, the “trains running”, and “wolves at bay” as you scramble to hold things together. Here, identify the hourly windows of time during each 7-day weekly interval – there are 168 hours in each week – in itemizing how much time you need for each chore and when to spend it.
Identify the myriad of ways in which you can streamline your use of this time; for example, prevailing on your Significant Other or babysitter to help out with the kids, minimizing trips to the grocery store, using public transportation to get an hour or two of study, in effect compressing everyday tasks into specific to-do-periods during the week to enable you to knock off as many priorities as reasonably possible. The theme here is the more efficient conservation and management of your “necessary priorities” time.
Memoralizing your to-do-list tasks on a weekly calendar can be an effective tool in disciplining yourself to follow your schedule.
Rest & Relaxation
Like a meticulously trained but sometimes overworked Olympic athlete, a little “R&R” time can be a powerfully restorative piece of your total time management equation to pass the bar exam. Everyone’s facility for pain and suffering is different in working to sustain consistently focused bar prep study habits, but it is altogether counterproductive if you don’t build at least a few “Units of Pleasure” into your weekly bar study regimen. Give yourself permission to do this – with the understanding you are doing so to climb your figurative (bar) mountain more productively. The extra bump to your Central Nervous System caused by bar preparation should be acknowledged and accommodated by building some form of “R&R” into your otherwise crazy schedule. Here, be prudent in taking control over the use of your time – no parties till dawn – in committing to pre-planned (& maybe some spontaneous) windows of time that will promote both physical and mental health. Like your “necessary priorities,” enhance your accountability to use your “R&R” time by memorializing it on your weekly schedule.
Get away from the tedium that can blunt concentration and, in doing so, serve as an antidote to the effect of negative energy that is complicit in the growth of physical and mental fatigue. This can take the form of enforced idleness – sleep – or any number of pro-active endeavors, such as a movie, light exercise, a walk-in-the woods, time out with family or friends – the sorts of things that will liberate your spirit and keep your needed focus knife-edge sharp.
Here, the art of time management is a subject unto itself and one you will spend quality time with in creating a meticulously orchestrated daily study schedule – based on your “net available study hours” (there is a formula for figuring this out) – and that will take you from your starting point through the finish line. Literally every hour of your individual study time will be programmed into a daily calendar to assure balance and discipline in the use of your total study hours. This will allow you to avoid overinvesting it in areas less important while also emphasizing areas of individual need.
The proportionate use of your study time for each of the three sections of the bar should generally be allocated given their proportionate value toward your total scaled score (essay 40%, performance exam 26%, MBE 34%). In contrast, your more generically prepared competition will usually not do this – with less efficient life and study habits overwhelming their bar study process. These candidates work hard, but with less effective focus in preparing for the test as a timed “problem-solving speed examination.” In other words, more effective time management is always a function of preparing for the bar as a 3-day, 2,000 point test administered under strictly timed conditions. Put another way, train for the kind of mountain you will be asked to climb: Getting up Mount Everest is a very different goal than training to climb a lesser mountain.
There is a tried and true equation for putting your individual study plan together and in learning how to execute it. This exacting strategy to prepare for the bar will be the subject of our first class. Another article on the Cal Bar website addresses the bar study process in more detail.
For most, unless you are granted additional time, you will have 18 hours in which to perform the exam. You must do so at a bar-passing standard. Learning how to use each minute of each of these hours should be your goal in order to achieve the necessary passing minimum of at least 1,440 points. This is a function of executing the efficient and effective use of all of your time: In managing your necessary priorities, achieving enhanced study power through relaxation, and through the study process of your bar preparation.
There is a reason the Examiners give you a timed, 3-day test – and like any adversary – learning how to improve your focus to produce the points necessary to pass the bar is always a function of applying your test-taking study methods through practice to improve your test-taking skills which, in turn, will lead you to bar-passing standards. Challenging your test-taking comfort zones, building onto the foundation you have already successfully achieved through law school and perhaps other bar exams (if you are repeating) – will combine to enable you to close the circle in putting the test behind you. This is our ultimate goal at Cal Bar in working with you so that you perform at your highest standard.
Have faith – you will do it!
By Liz Valsamis
Daily Journal Staff Writer
Since accessing his Bar Exam results Friday evening, 35-year old paralegal and ex-Marine Michael Ehline has been in a state of euphoria that has bordered on shock.
Ehline is one of 1,180 of the 4,520 State Bar applicants to pass the notoriously difficult three-day test given in February.
But the odds against him were stacked even higher because Ehline hasn't completed law school and never graduated from college.
"It shows that, with perseverance, even if you're not the smartest guy or have had other setbacks, you can pass this thing," he said.
Although he plans to complete law school in December, Ehline said passing the bar without a college degree was a personal goal that he wanted to complete to prove it wasn't impossible.
"Going to school at night, working sometimes 60 hours a week and studying for the Bar Exam is a major butt kicker," he said.
After graduating Anaheim Hill's Canyon High School in 1986, Ehline enlisted in the Marine Corps. His dream of a military career was cut short when he suffered a knee injury during a training exercise the following year.
He tried a variety of professions after leaving the military. He worked construction and ran a limousine business. He also took a job as a paralegal.
Ehline didn't set his sights on becoming a lawyer until 1999, when he took a job as an apprentice law clerk with Brentwood sole practitioner Jeff Dominic Price, who handles habeas corpus petitions.
Price said he was "not surprised" that Ehline passed the Bar Exam.
"I am anxious to see how he uses this opportunity in practicing as an attorney," he said.
Price was the person who told Ehline about a program that would put him on a fast track to becoming an attorney.
Under a State Bar program, people can study law as an apprentice to a lawyer or a judge.
To participate in the four-year program, a person must first pass the First Year Law Students Exam. Usually called the "baby bar," the exam has an 18 percent pass rate.
Ehline passed the baby bar in 2000.
During his four years in the program, Ehline worked as a paralegal for several lawyers, including his current job with a Santa Monica personal injury firm, the Law Offices of Otto L. Haselhoff.
"I wasn't surprised that he passed," Haselhoff said. "But it shocking to think that anyone could pass without finishing law school or even going to college, for that matter.
"He's an extremely bright, dedicated, hard-working guy. His thirst for knowledge is something I've never seen in anybody else."
After passing the baby bar, Ehline enrolled at the University of West Los Angeles, where he is a fourth-year student.
He credits his success to retired Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Paul Pfau, who runs a program called Cal Bar Tutorial Review.
Pfau was like a Marine Corps drill sergeant, who would call him day and night to make sure he was studying, Ehline said.
"It's all about dedication and staying motivated and believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, " Ehline said.
Last summer, Ehline worked as an intern for 2nd District Court of Appeals Justice J. Gary Hastings, who plans to swear him in to the bar on Thursday.
"He's a very tenacious individual." Hastings said. "He's really been working toward this for a good period of time, and I know he had the desire to get passed."
Even though he's passed the bar, Ehline plans to graduate from law school in December.
He plans to write a book about passing the bar without a completing college or law school and will open a law practice handling real estate and personal-injury matters, he said.
"Why climb Mt. Everest?" he said of his experience. "Because it's there and that's what I did."
To learn more about Los Angeles Trial Attorney, Michael P. Ehline click here.
For those of you who recognize the value of mixing into the hard work of study what I would call (the occasional) “unit of pleasure”, here are a few of the best movies that address both of these needs. You won’t have to justify taking a couple of hours off – especially when you may even learn a few things to help you pass your next exam.
Submit your Top 10 movies that reasonably relate to the fine art of lawyering – or – that relate to the pursuit of great goals. If they are published on this website, earn an additional 5% discount off the cost of any customized course you may choose.
To Kill a Mockingbird. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Harper Lee’s masterpiece is flawlessly brought to the Big Screen. You won’t witness a better closing argument by Jem and Scout’s sainted father, Atticus, in this classic black and white film set in America’s Depression era South.
Anatomy of a Murder. Another black and white gem – with James Stewart, Lee Remick, George C. Scott – and a host of character actors you’ll be sure to recognize. And, a great film to learn trial tactics, with defense attorney Stewart running circles around prosecutor Scott.
My Cousin Vinny. In a word, hilarious. Passing – or not passing – the bar exam is only incidental to winning the case, as you’ll see through Joe Pesci’s sterling performance. And for those Significant Others who support you in your Legal Studies Life, they’ll be sure to find something in common with Marissa Tomei’s Academy Award winning role. Also, ‘some great lessons in evidence – the subject of Impeachment comes to mind – will be good for your review.
The Verdict. The perfect movie for those of you looking for Redemption. Or, David versus Goliath. And, another good teaching moment in Evidence – this time, about the admissibility of a Writing. With Paul Newman, James Mason, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden.
Seabiscuit. Not a lawyer to be found anywhere in this one – but a must-see for those of you wondering if “persistence” and teaching methods pay off in the pursuit of Life’s Great Goals. Honoring the process of getting up the mountain, in its own way, can be as important as standing on top.
The Devil’s Advocate. Al Pacino’s Satan versus lawyer Keanu Reeve’s Conflicted Good Guy will be a good review before you take the MPRE. The subject of Professional Responsibility is much-tested on the General Bar Exam – and I think you’ll identify many of the same issues in this one.
Inherit the Wind. Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, Gene Kelly – who’s not to like – as you spend most of your time in another Depression era Southern courtroom. This time, fighting over the Establishment of Religion in the Then-Crime-of-the-Century “Scopes Monkey Trial.”
A Few Good Men. Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson battle it out in a riveting scene of Cross Examination set in a military courtroom. With Kevin Bacon, the Able Prosecutor, getting an “Assist.”
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Set in the Wild West Days of Judge Roy Bean, when becoming a lawyer didn’t mean you had to sit for an examination. Putting new meaning to the phrase: “Them was the good ‘ol days.” Another great performance from Jimmy Stewart – and with Lee Marvin and a gritty John Wayne.
Judgment at Nuremberg. It’s post World War II and the Nazi’s are brought to justice. A true account of the Death Camp evidence – with the Third Reich the eminent loser.
In the meantime, happy viewing!
Achieving life's great goals have in common the idea that the process of "how you get up the mountain" has everything to do with whether you will stand on top. Following, is an article by Cal Bar's Paul Pfau about his team's 1995 expedition to Mt. Everest in commemoration of the great British mountaineer George Mallory - who coined the expression "Because it is there" when asked why he sought to climb the mountain - and whom may have been the first to do so in 1924. Like Mallory and those who followed him to Everest, be committed to closing your own circle in putting the bar behind you. Unlike Mallory, you won't have to die getting there, and the view from reaching your "summit" will be worth your journey. Have faith - you can do it!
As the rain drummed on century-old windowpanes, Captain John Noel spoke of his role in the 1924 British expedition on Mt. Everest, the trip on which George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared not far from the mountain's summit. A wood fire cast deep shadows across the otherwise darkened cottage in England's Romney Marsh as the 95-year-old British officer told me of his lost friends. His clear blue eyes glimmered in the dim light, belying his age.
"When last seen, they were four hours behind schedule - nobody knows why," Noel said, his words almost inaudible because of the pattering rain. "They were seen to be going forward, toward the top. Did they ever get there? That's what people ask. They never got back, and they were never found. What happened to them is an everlasting mystery."
This mystery, and the pair's position on the mountain when they were last spotted, vaulted Mallory and Irvine to legendary status. Even today, historians and mountaineers speculate that they were the first to climb to the top of the world, almost 30 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. In 1953, the feat was monumental - had it taken place in 1924, it would have been little short of miraculous.
To be sure, if anyone was capable of the accomplishment, it was Mallory, who was no stranger to Everest when he set out on the 1924 expedition. He had been instrumental on the 1921 Reconnaissance Expedition - the team pioneered the North Ridge route, used by subsequent expeditions until the 1953 British success on the Southeast Ridge in Nepal. The following year, he and three others achieved a record altitude of 26,800 feet before turning back. Unfortunately, Mallory's party was caught in an avalanche two weeks later while making another summit bid, an accident that killed seven porters. In characteristic fashion, Mallory bore the brunt of the responsibility for the tragedy, later writing, "The consequences of my mistake are so terrible. It seems almost impossible to believe it has happened forever and that I can do nothing to make good."
Over the years, Everest had become a decidedly British mountain, and the national clamor to succeed was undoubtedly a factor in the Mt. Everest Committee's selection of Mallory for a third attempt in 1924. In spite of his three small children, his wife and a new teaching job, Mallory accepted the invitation, compelled both by a sense of duty and by the hard-won experience that fueled his private ambition to stand on the planet's summit.
The weather was unsettled for much of the 1924 expedition, and the team didn't establish the North Col camp, at 23,000 feet, until late in the season. A desperate summit bid without supplemental oxygen saw Mallory and Geoffrey Bruce turn back after establishing a camp at 25,300 feet. Team Leader Edward Norton and physician Howard Somervell made the next attempt, managing to place a tent at 26,800 feet, where they spent an uncomfortable night. The effort testified to the team's incredible resilience. By today's Gore-Tex and titanium standards, the group's equipment was primitive - yet Norton managed to climb to 28,100 feet without supplemental oxygen, an oxygenless record that stood until 1978. But Everest's summit still beckoned.
After the group retreated to the Rongbuk Monastery, the weather settled slightly before the oncoming monsoon, and Mallory began plotting a final summit attempt. With Norton's blessing, Mallory decided to use oxygen to maximize his chances of success. He selected Andrew Irvine as his partner, who, at 22, was one of the stronger members of the team and was adept at working the cumbersome oxygen apparatus.
(Andrew Irvine, top left, and George Leigh Mallory, next to him with his knee up.
Part of the 1924 British expedition on Everest)
The two climbed to Camp 5 on June 6 and proceeded to Camp 6, at nearly 26,800 feet, the following day. They hoped to leave early on June 8, climb to to the summit and return to high camp the same day. At Camp 6, Mallory left a note for teammate Noel Odell, who was ascending the next day to support the summit bid. "To here on 90 atmospheres for the two days, so we'll probably go on two cylinders. But it's a bloody load for climbing. Perfect weather for the job. Yours ever, G. Mallory."
Although the precise time isn't known, the two are assumed to have left by 7 a.m., a late departure by today's standards. As Odell was climbing to high camp at 1 p.m., he caught sight of them through a brief clearing in the higher clouds. At a distance of around 3,500 feet, Odell witnessed two climbers moving adroitly up a "rock step" before the mist clamped back down and the vision was lost. His description of the apparition has become both a key piece in the debate about whether the two ever reached the summit and some of the most classic prose in mountaineering lore: "There was but one explanation: It was Mallory and his companion moving, as I could see even at the great distance, with considerable alacrity, realizing doubtless they they had none too many hours of daylight to reach the summit from their present position and return to Camp VI by nightfall."
Mallory and Irvine were never seen again. And though Odell continued to high camp, in hopes that his friends might have returned, he found nothing. He signaled the simple message "DEATH" to Norton, who was anxiously waiting at Camp 3. The tragic news would soon reach England, where a nation was left crestfallen and mourning.
The mystery of Mallory and Irvine - whether one or both reached the summit of the world - remains an enigma. At the heart of the question lies Odell's observation of the two "as they struggled strong for the top" at nearly 1 p.m. Odell first reported that they were at the Second Step, but later said that he had most likely seen the two climbers surmounting the First Step. If they were at the Second Step, it's likely that the pair reached the summit. If, however, they were on the lower First Step, time and distance were against them.
Before his death, Odell met me at Cambridge's Blue Boar Inn, a tavern that the Everest teammates had frequented, where he carefully recounted his last sighting of Mallory and Irvine. "I can give very little that is convincing to anybody, having seen them as I did, definitely on their way up the snow slope and not at the Second Step, as I made a mistake, but below the First Step.
Other mountaineers' experiences have buoyed Odell's premise. Frank Smythe, a member of the 1933 British expedition, was unable to surmount the formidable technical difficulties of the Second Step, which he referred to as the "steep bow of a battle cruiser." On the same expedition, Smythe's teammate, Wyn Harris, discovered an ice axe on the summit ridge below the First Step. Believing the Second Step impossible to climb, let alone descend, logic suggested that the famous climbers had likely retreated from above the First Step, the ice axe thus marking the location of an accident.
A 1960 Chinese expedition - whose claim to have reached the summit is now generally accepted - acknowledged that they spent five hours climbing the Second Step. By inference, it is unlikely that Mallory would have been skilled enough to make the ascent in 1924. Others, however, have suggested that Mallory's considerable rock climbing talents, honed on the crags of Wales' Snowdonia, were superior to those of the Chinese, who were relatively inexperienced. Adding to the intrigue was an obscure report that reached the West in 1980. A member of the 1975 Chinese Everest expedition, killed in 1979, was reported to have discovered the body of an "English dead" on the North Ridge, at about 27,000 feet. The clothes of the fallen climber were said to have crumbled when touched.
With this circumstantial evidence in mind, a team including George Leigh Mallory's Australian grandson, 35-year-old George Mallory, mounted an expedition to Everest's North Ridge in 1995, hoping to put the questions to rest. Searching for clarity, the team stopped at approximately the same location where Odell had watched the two climbers overcome the rocky spur. The young Mallory was struck by the distinctiveness of the two rock steps. "The First Step is a rounded bulge, like a helmet, which, due to the angle at which the observer looks up, seems to go down on the far side," he noted. "By contrast, the Second Step appears as a distinctive, sharp cliff against the skyline, and the ground on the far side angles up to the base of the summit pyramid. Could Odell have mistaken the helmet for the 'sharp bow of a battle cruiser'"? To me, it's inconceivable."
Based on these observations, the younger Mallory and teammate Jeff Hall presumed that Mallory and Irvine must have reached and surmounted the Second Step. Though not substantive proof, the premise is more than unfound conjecture. The 1995 team had approached the peak with a thorough knowledge of the issues that defined the decades-old controversy and studied the problem with these insights in mind. From the high camp of the 1924 expedition, the younger Mallory, Hall and the teammate Chirring Sherpa spent just four hours reaching Everest's summit. Although they were aided by a 15-foot ladder placed on the upper section of the Second Step by the 1975 Chinese expedition, they agreed that the technical difficulties were only moderate, and their quick ascent lent credibility to the argument that Mallory and Irvine had scaled the obstacle.
If Mallory and Irvine climbed this crucial section, as the 1995 team came to believe, his grandson thinks that one or both of the climbers must have summited. Only 1,000 feet remain after the Second Step, a distance the 1995 team covered in only 90 minutes, and with the expectations and hopes surrounding the expedition, it seems unlikely that the two wouldn't have carried on. Geoffrey Winthrop Young, friend and mentor to the elder Mallory, convincingly summed it up, "...after nearly twenty years knowledge of Mallory, as a mountaineer, I can say... that difficult as it would have been for any mountaineer to turn back with the only difficulty past, to Mallory, it would have seemed an impossibility. My own opinion (is) that an accident occurred on the way down (as most do) and that if that is so, the peak was first climbed because Mallory was Mallory."
In spite of the continuing controversy, Sir Edmund Hillary's reflections are perhaps the best conclusion to the mystery. In a letter he wrote several years ago, he selflessly commented that, although it was unknown if Mallory or Irvine actually stood first on Everest's summit, all climbers on the mountain nonetheless "stood on the shoulders" of those British pioneers. At the very least, when young Mallory finally triumphed on the peak of his grandfather's dreams, thus closing the family circle that was tragically begun nearly 71 years earlier, perhaps he and his grandfather finally stood shoulder-to-shoulder.
Suggested Reading: Col. Edward Norton, Leader of the 1924 expedition, detailed the team's efforts in The Fight for Everest: The Story of the 1924 Expedition. The second edition of Everest: A Mountaineering History by Walt Unsworth, published in 1994, is a definitive historical guide to every attempt made on the mountain through that date.
Published originally in the August 1998 edition of "Rock & Ice" magazine. Leader of four expeditions to the Everst Massif, Paul Pfau of Shadow Hills, California, says that 15 years of researching the Mallory and Irvine mystery have proved to be just a great an adventure.
It is NOT ENOUGH to DECIDE TO TAKE the bar. You must DECIDE TO PASSS it, too. COMMIT to the CBTR PROCESS TO ENSURE that your test-taking skills - including a confident, positive attitude - meet the bar preparation and performance standards necessary to pass the bar on your next attempt. We will work together to meet that challenge.
UNTIL ONE IS COMMITTED THERE IS HESITANCY, THE CHANCE TO DRAW BACK, ALWAYS INEFFECTIVENESS.
CONCERNING ALL ACTS OF INITIATIVE (AND CREATION), THERE IS ONE ELEMENTARY TRUTH, THE IGNORANCE OF WHICH KILLS COUNTLESS IDEAS AND SPLENDID PLANS:
THAT THE MOMENT ONE DEFINITELY COMMITS TO ONESELF, THEN PROVIDENCE MOVES TOO. ALL SORTS OF THINGS OCCUR TO HELP ONE THAT WOULD NEVER OTHERWISE HAVE OCCURRED. A WHOLE STREAM OF EVENTS ISSUE FROM THE DECISION, RAISING IN ONE'S FAVOUR ALL MANNER OF UNFORSEEN INCIDENTS AND MEETINGS AND MATERIAL ASSISTANCE, WHICH NO MAN COULD HAVE DREAMT WOULD HAVE COME THIS WAY.
I HAVE LEARNED A DEEP RESPECT FOR ONE OF GOETHE'S COUPLETS:
"WHATEVER YOU CAN DO, OR DREAM YOU CAN, BEGIN IT. BOLDNESS HAS GENIUS, POWER, AND MAGIC IN IT." AUTHOR UNKOWN.
Cal Bar Tutorial Review and Paul Pfau can be contacted at 800-348-2401.
Whether you are a first-time or repeat examinee, the prospect of preparing and then performing on the California bar exam at a passing standard may seem for many to be one of life’s more challenging endeavors. As a three-day pressure-packed ritual – following the rigors of law school and the usual compressed period for bar review – the certainty of passing may still seem entirely too arbitrary. With this in mind, there are ten core factors regardless of your course of action in preparing for the exam that I hope you will find useful. They are distilled from having “worked in the trenches” with bar applicants for nearly 40 years.
UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF THE BAR AS A “PROBLEM-SOLVING SPEED EXAM”
This is fundamentally important because it has everything to do with understanding how to more precisely prepare for it. As a three-day, 18-hour exam, your key for passing will be to develop both the stamina and skill sufficient to solve written and multiple-choice questions under exacting, timed conditions. Beyond just learning the law (for the 14 – but really – now 17 subjects) this demands a practical emphasis in learning how to more competitively improve your essay, performance exam and MBE skills in order to upgrade your passing standards. If the Examiners wanted more candidates to pass the exam they would send you home with it – where “time” wasn’t a factor.
AVOID GROUP-THINK IN CHOOSING HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE BAR
Given the nature of the bar as a strictly timed text, choose a course of preparation suitable to your specific test-taking needs (key word “your”). Many applicants do not – in generically selecting a “one-size fits all” approach where the review course (if one is taken), for example, dictates when you both start and finish your formal preparation. Everyone learns differently – and common-sensically – the percentage of passing applicants would be higher if more gave greater consideration to the time they needed to prepare and to the development of their more specific timed writing and objective test-taking needs. Put another way, if 90% of applicants engage in the usual generic approach, the statewide passing rate for the Spring Exam should be higher than ±40% or for ±60% who pass the Summer Exam. Until the champion racehorse Seabisquit learned how to run, he didn’t win many races.
FIND THE REVIEW PROGRAM SUITABLE TO YOUR SPECIFIC NEEDS
Although there are many fine review programs to choose from, begin the investigative process early enough in making an informed decision suitable to your specific testing needs. Here are some basic questions: Will you benefit from an ultra-structured program, where literally every hour is programmed to assure its efficient and effective use? On an hour-to-hour basis, how will I manage my limited time and build the kind of necessary balance into my individual study program to both learn the law and practically prepare for each of the three sections of the test? Given my study time – and the volume of information for each subject – how will I ultimately memorize the law without under-investing my time in learning how to develop my writing and MBE skills? How will my written work be evaluated – If I get a simple grade and some descriptive comments on each practice essay or performance exam, how will I specifically learn those methodologies that will work (for me) to fix my difficulties? Are all “personal trainers” – tutorial programs – the same? Is a standard generic approach sufficient? What kind of personal access will I have to resolve my personal testing needs?
TAKE SUFFICIENT TIME TO PREPARE FOR YOUR EXAM
In many ways, this is near the top of the core list of factors most critical to pass the bar. And many applicants, in my opinion, do not. The “culture” of the bar review industry is well-ingrained and generally promotes an 8-10 week preparation approach. While sufficient for some, it isn’t for others – where the “time-management playing field” is seriously impacted by work, family, and other commitments – in addition to a host of substantive and other test-taking needs affecting different strengths and weaknesses with individual applicants. Taking more time to prepare can be the great equalizer.
PLAY THE ODDS – BRING A BALANCED STRATEGY TO YOUR PREPARATION
Given the “total available net study hours” you have to prepare for the exam, work to apportion it in a balanced way given the proportionate value of each of the three sections of the bar toward your final scaled score. Overall, this means that you proportionately spend about 40% of your time for the essay, 26% of your time for the performance exam, and about 34% of your time for the M BE. There is always some variation, of course, given the emphasis you need to individually bring to each of the three sections of the exam. As noted earlier, avoid just working hard in spending an inordinate amount of time on substantive review – and not enough in the development of your other writing and multi-state skills given the nature of the bar as a timed test. Remember that your goal is to achieve a total of 1,440 points – optimally accomplished by doing well on all three sections of the bar. In contrast, “maxing out” on any one area more rarely makes up for a poor showing on another.
KEY INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESSFUL BAR PREPARATON
Although substantive review is one of the cornerstones for successful results, remember that the bar as a problem-solving speed exam requires competent but comprehensive analysis – and not just the regurgitation of information. You will not want to take the exam with the law committed to memory – but without the necessary techniques or practical experience that will work to outpoint your competition. Here, passing is definitely in the details. And common test-taking difficulties such as running out of time, conclusory analysis, the failure to identify more nuanced layers of issues – are symptomatic of the failure to integrate other ingredients into a balanced study mix. With this in mind, add these ingredients – beyond substantive review – to your bar review: (1) Technique: Whether through a formal program or not, learn those precise techniques for each of the three sections of the exam that will competitively challenge and elevate your test-taking skills. (2) The Application of Technique to Practice: Apply the techniques that you learn through increased practice to progressively “build” your testing skills and which will ultimately produce consistent passing standards. (3) Qualitative Review: This requires developing your perspective regarding the passing standards needed for your written and multi-state practice. As well, this means every exercise is a two-step process: Do it, but also qualitatively review it. When you see, for example, a professional golfer sink a 30 foot putt – you probably didn’t see the 1,000 practice strokes he made in perfecting his stroke – or in benefitting from a review of each attempt. Again: Do it, review it.
DEVELOP FAITH IN YOURSELF AS YOU ENGAGE IN THE REVIEW PROCESS
Preparing to pass the bar is not a team sport – and so as important as your individual preparation to develop your skills and standards – are matters of the “heart and mind” in developing faith in yourself to succeed. These “intangible” factors are crucial in steadily building the self-assurance you will want to think and feel in actually performing on the exam. The pursuit of all great goals requires at least a little common sense: You must be sure to work hard, be disciplined, a good listener, and be willing to challenge old comfort zones that fail to adequately challenge your necessary passing standards in order to adopt new ones that will.Above all, however, be committed to pass the bar – and to do what it takes to do so – not just to take it.
LEARN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE CLIMBED THE MOUNTAIN BEFORE YOU
All applicants, to some extent, will have a bad day – but the key is to learn to adapt to your difficulties, fine-tune your skills, and do the little things that over time will yield positive results. The bar is really a test of competence – not perfection – so learn to objectively work at developing the test-taking standards that will lead you to success and avoid the excesses that will compromise your effort to do so. Consult with others – those who have been there before you – in helping to shape your healthy perspective about what it takes to put the bar behind you. And by the way, this includes those who may have passed with their first effort – and d3efinitely from those who did not.
I have probably stated this in a number of ways before – but just to put the exclamation point on the idea – study smart. Yes, this means bringing balance to your preparation given the three sections of the exam, but work at translating this into a practical strategy based on your specific “net available study hours.” There is actually a formula for doing this – but in a nutshell this will afford you a better understanding of the “Real Concentration Time” (RCS) you will have to pass the test. This is crucial in knowing how many practice problems you will have time to do – in addition to configuring them in a strategy that will interdiscipline both your substantive and practical writing and MBE skills. It will also help you to reduce your anxiety – which is often the result of arbitrarily creating unreasonable goals not directly tied to your RCS.
Gotta be. If your goal is to, figuratively, climb Mt. Everest – take no half-measures in understanding and committing to a day-to-day review regimen that will get you up the mountain. Understand your adversary, train appropriately, and be gently relentless as you work to reach the summit. In choosing to become a lawyer, you have chosen a road less traveled, but one well worth the investment in your time. Again, great goals require great effort.
I hope that your consideration of these ten factors adds to your informed perspective of what it takes to put the bar behind you. In another part of my life – having led four expeditions to Mt. Everest – I know that climbing to the summit of the planet requires knowing the mountain at all of its levels and then identifying and through experience perfecting all of the skills necessary to get the job done. Whatever your course of action, all the very best in “closing the circle” to put your bar behind you.
Have faith – you will do it!
Paul Pfau © 2011 All Rights Reserved
Paul Pfau is a retired Los Angeles County deputy district attorney and the owner of Cal Bar Tutorial Review, which has been customizing bar review programs for 40 years. For more information about Cal Bar Tutorial Review, call (800) 348-2401 or (800) 783-6168. Web site: www.cbtronline.com
Paul Pfau, having tutored both repeat and first-time bar examines over the past 40 years, knows that passing the California Bar Exam is a herculean task. In fact, Pfau likens the pursuit of passing the exam to climbing Mt. Everest.
Who better to make that analogy than a man who has led numerous mountain-climbing expeditions all over the world, including the famous Mt. Everest?
"It's all in the planning," says Pfau. "it takes several months of planning before you even hike your first step. It's normally a two-year process. Long-range planning is the key."
Michael Ehline joined the U.S. Marine Cops out of high school and has no college degree.
After his military service, he started a construction business and ran a health club until he heard of the Law Office Study Program.
Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, Michael P. Ehline, was able to become a lawyer without college, or a law school degree.
He passed the California Baby Bar Exam with no college and passed the California General Bar Exam with no J.D.
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More Success For Ali
Cal Bar is pleased to announce that Ali Hinsche continued her remarkable run of success in having just passed the Florida bar exam.
This was her 4th (count 'em: 1, 2, 3, 4) successful bar - on her 1st attempt-following California, New York and Illinois.
While Ali worked with Cal Bar for each state, she also owes her success to persistence, hard work, and in learning how to adapt and apply the Cal Bar test-taking systems to the requirements of each bar exam.