Hit the High Bar: Tips to Personalize the Bar Prep Process
by Alisa Geller
When I decided to pursue a career in law, my primary objective was to help others in a positive manner through my work. I was able to achieve this in a unique way by blending my aptitude for teaching with my knowledge of the law. While working as an Associate and then as a Litigation Project Manager, I started pursuing this combination slowly. I was grading practice essays, and tutoring for the bar exam on nights, weekends, and free moments where time permitted. Eventually, I found myself fittingly working at a national bar prep company where I was grading essays, drafting curriculum and writing model answers, thinking about best teaching practices and pedagogy, and of course, tutoring. Launching The High Bar™ which focuses on providing individualized tutoring services those taking the bar exam was a natural next step.
My former student, S.C., was juggling bar prep, a hectic work schedule and family responsibilities which made his journey with taking and retaking the bar difficult. That is, until he recently found success with my teaching methods in preparation for the February 2018 NY (UBE) bar exam. Previously, he enrolled in a traditional bar review course, but due to the sheer volume of material had a tough time keeping pace. It was not until we created a personalized and adjustable schedule, focused on how he learned best, and worked on targeted practice that S.C. fortunately found success. A success made extra sweet as a re-taker 15 years out of law school!
Each one of my students, including S.C., has a unique story with the exam. However, a common thread is how receiving personalized guidance helped yield results. It is precisely stories like this that ignite the passion for what I do.
As a tutor, not only do I personalize the process, explain difficult legal concepts, provide skills and strategies for the MBE, positively transform student’s writing, but most importantly, I am able to build a student’s confidence. I cherish the network of over 100 students that I have had the opportunity to work with during one-on-one lessons. What motivates me and fuels my passion is that my student’s become licensed attorneys and are able to pursue their dreams, and effectuate positive change by having an Esq. after their name.
Now that you know a little bit about my story, qualifications and company The High Bar™, let’s get to the important part, YOU!
BAR PREP: TIPS TO PERSONALIZE THE PROCESS
Whether you are a first-time taker or a re-taker, these tips are for you! For many preparing for the bar exam is an overwhelming and daunting experience, but it does not have to be that way. Let's discuss how you can make preparing for the bar a manageable experience by personalizing the process.
1. YOUR PREPARATION BEGAN DAY ONE OF LAW SCHOOL
Your final hurdle to get that Esq. after your name is a rigorous and challenging test. This is as it should be. It is a great distinction. However, it is important to remember that since Day One of law school you have garnered important skills preparing you for this challenge.
You have spent countless hours as a student: reading and interpreting case law to sharpen your analytical mind; memorizing black letter law; synthesizing case briefs and lectures to carefully crafted outlines or flashcards. You have used the IRAC or CIRAC format to organize your written exams, and you are now a pro at legal research and writing.
Most importantly, in law school you learned how you study and retain information best. Let this knowledge about yourself be of service to you as you begin to prepare.
2. PERSONALIZE YOUR BAR PREP PROCESS
Since you know what works best for you in terms of studying and retention, employ those same strategies in your bar preparation.
Often students enrolled in a traditional bar review course try to follow the program to a "T." Definitely use the course as a guide, but empower yourself to tailor the learning process to you. For example, if you are told to outline, but outlining is not how you synthesize and retain material best, then do what works for you. Maybe you prefer using flashcards, making mind maps, re-writing concepts? You get the gist. Whatever it is, do not be afraid to do what helps you learn most effectively and efficiently.
To that point, in addition to knowing how you learn best, you also know your test-taking history. Do you ace multiple choice exams or are they a struggle? Do you feel most comfortable writing or not so much? Take this into consideration as you begin to apply the law to practice problems. Practice skills to improve your weaknesses, but do not discount the power of building upon your strengths . Remember, the results are most often a combined and scaled score so that you can pass by striking a balance between the various parts of the test.
3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
The first phase of your bar prep will largely consist of learning the law. You might read outlines, watch videos, and synthesize the material. Of course, legal rules and theories are important for success on the exam.
However, application and practice are also vital components for success. In fact, there are many great resources that the National Conference of Bar Examiners have made available such as actual past bar exam questions including ones given on the MBE, MEE and MPT. When you practice, be sure to thoroughly review the provided answer explanation. This will deepen your understanding of the law as it is applied to the questions, and also help you learn and even become a master of the test.
Lastly, should you need guidance on the exam, do not hesitate to ask. You are not the first person and will not be the last to take the bar exam. Seek out a friend, mentor, professor or a tutor -- remember, you don't need to go it alone. I wish you much success as your bar prep journey begins!
Alisa Geller, Attorney and Founder of The HIgh Bar, offers highly personalized lessons for the bar examination. By utilizing specific study and test taking strategies, she focuses on reinforcement of an individual’s strengths and a targeted plan to address areas of difficulty. These techniques allow Alisa to ensure that each student studies smarter, more effectively, and feels confident when they Hit The High Bar.
On June 5th, Alisa led Bar Prep Boot Camp workshop. Click here for video highlights and bar study tips.