Updated: Oct 4, 2019
No doubt passing the Florida Bar exam was the most daunting undertaking I have experienced. What my uncle told me when I went to law school turned out to be dead accurate. You don’t learn anything in law school; you learn everything studying for the Bar.
I initially planned to take the exam in July after graduating in May. However, a few weeks before the exam was scheduled I withdrew my application. Fortunately, I made the decision early so I did not have to forfeit the $1,200 fee (yes you read that number correctly). Instead I was able to reapply the application fee to the February exam.
I had spent about a month and half studying for the exam following graduation in May. I went to the live courses offered by Kaplan at the University of Miami. I tried to follow the online curriculum which asked for 8 hours of study a day. However; I was also dealing with some personal issues including my health, my finances, and my relationship at the time. I was beyond stressed. In fact, I can pinpoint this moment in time as when I officially started losing my hair.
I wrestled with the decision internally to postpone my exam and I ultimately came to this personal conclusion: I would rather take the test and be confident I was going to pass than risk failing and having to pay a new application fee and go through the entire process again.
In hindsight, I clearly made the right decision. I have learned that there is somewhat of a stigma (although I wholeheartedly do not agree with it) against people who did not pass the bar on the first attempt. In fact, an employer at a job interview asked me this question point blank. Also, there are many associated costs with taking the Bar besides just the application fee. There are hotel, food, and driving costs. Not to mention the mental toll of sitting for a 12 hour exam.
My decision was to postpone my test and work full time. Instead of trying to study for 8 hours a day for 2-3 months I would study for a couple hours after work and a few on the weekends. I found this study schedule much more palatable—giving myself six months to study and earning a paycheck throughout. I worked as a compliance coordinator for an alcohol distributer.
One thing that happened to me while studying for the bar exam was I became a workout junkie. I joined my local gym and was working out every single day. One reason was because I had a lot of steam to blow off; the other was because I had no social life. Going out and drinking and getting hungover while studying for a major exam is a recipe for disaster and I had too much invested to fail. I’ve seen pictures of me during this time and I am the most fit I’ve ever been. I probably did 500 push-ups and 500 sit-ups in my hotel room during the two days of the Bar.
While I used the Kaplan materials to study, I stopped going to live courses. I watched all the videos and did endless amounts of practice questions. One thing I found very helpful was attending a free Florida Bar crash course at UM led by Professor Alex Schimel.
By far the most productive thing I did was create two notebooks: one for the multiple choice and one for the essays. The Florida Bar is split into two days. Day one is the MBE which is uniform amongst the states and is entirely multiple choice. Day two is Florida specific and is divided into multiple choice and three essays. Most people, including myself, fear the essay portion the most.
I split my multiple-choice notebook between the MBE and the Florida section. My strategy was to go over the multiple-choice answers and write every single correct answer, by bullet point, word for word. By test day I had compiled a notebook entirely filled with correct answers on Kaplan practice tests. It is certain that many of these correct answers appeared word for word on the actual test. Even more appeared just slightly reworded. This was a major reason I passed the test and I would highly recommend it. I still have my red multiple -choice book today.
However, my green essay notebook was my holy grail. After every exam the Florida Board of Bar examiners publishes the three essay questions accompanied by a selected model answer from one of the exam takers. I took all the model answers from the last 12 years and outlined them in my green books. Specifically, I wrote by bullet point every stated rule of law and application. I will always remember how I felt when I encountered the essay question on a Living Trust. I had memorized the outline of a very similar essay prompt and just regurgitated that as my answer. I was so confident that I had answered the question so thoroughly it made me more comfortable answering the other two questions.
In the end, I passed with flying colors, scoring well above the necessary scores in all sections. Unlike most people who walk out of the auditorium on day 2, I knew I passed. I drove home, boarded a flight to New Orleans with some friends, and spent the next fews days at Mardi Gras. What a feeling it was to have sat for the Bar exam and to have been eagerly anticipating the results.
The most important lesson I’ve drawn from my experience is that what works for someone else may not work for you. What’s easy for you to understand may be extremely difficult for others and vice versa. You need to make your own plan and not just be another lemming. Bar passage rates continue to plummet in Florida and I believe it can be mostly attributed to the cookie cutter prep programs. I’ve made it my mission to help as many people pass the bar exam as possible; at Ibis Prep we treat each student with white gloves and open arms.
Passing the bar exam is akin to scaling Mount Everest. We are here as your Sherpas. Your personal guide to one of the biggest accomplishments of your life. Contact us today for a free Bar Prep Consultation!