I’m writing an ebook. What would you like to know?

Even though it’s been years since the travesty of failing the bar exam twice, I still get hundreds of e-mails a year from people.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to respond to many of the e-mails, and for that I am truly sorry.  Life has gotten in the way and I just haven’t been able to keep up with the blog as much as I’d like to.  I’ve been encouraged multiple times to write a book about failing the bar exam.  I don’t think a book is realistic for various reasons, but an ebook would be much more doable.  So, after having been on the fence or the last year and half, I decided to go for it.  I’m writing an ebook about failing the bar exam.

Now I’m reaching out to all of you, my readers, to ask you:

What would you like to know?  What would you want to read about in an ebook about failing the bar exam?

If you aren’t comfortable posting here, please feel free to e-mail me at frustratedbarexaminee@gmail.com.

Thank you in advance for responding!  I’m looking forward to hearing from as many of you as possible!

Uniform Bar Examination

I just logged into the FBE e-mail account for the first time in a very long time to discover hundreds of e-mails.  I used to have the FBE account set up to forward e-mails to my personal e-mail account but somehow the forwarding function stopped a long time ago and I never got around to fixing the issue.  I’m really sorry for not responding to e-mails in the last couple of years.  A lot of the e-mails asked for the materials that I used to pass the Colorado Bar Exam in 2007.  I had long ago posted the materials under the “Materials” tab above, and have not e-mailed them out in years.  You can still find them there.  HOWEVER, these materials are now OUTDATED because Colorado has switched to the Uniform Bar Examination, which consists of the MBE, MPT, and MEE.  A coworker and I just had a conversation today about her upcoming attempt to pass the Colorado Bar Exam in July 2013.  She’s licensed in another state and we work for the federal government, so that’s how she is able to practice here without her Colorado bar license.  I’ll post the same advice here that I just gave to her.  If I had to take the Uniform Bar Examination in July, this is what I would do:

MEE:

  • Buy all the released MEE exams and practice, practice, PRACTICE! Type out the model essay answers too after you finish writing your practice essays – don’t just read the model answers, go “oh okay” and then move on to the next question.  That consitutes passive learning instead of actively studying and learning the material by practicing the exams and typing out the model answers.
  • Try to buy an used copy of BarBri’s Conviser outlines such as this one.  I really liked the Conviser outlines because they were short enough that I could type them out as my own outlines and it wouldn’t take forever.  Plus, I could organize the outlines in the best format that worked for me.  You could also buy the full version of Barbri’s multistate outlines such as this one.  Try Craigslist, Amazon, et cetera.  I wouldn’t buy outlines older than a couple of years.  For example, since it’s 2013, I wouldn’t buy outlines older than the 2012 version.  The 2011 version might work as well.  Maybe.  Also, If I were taking the bar exam again today, I would buy both versions – the Conviser and the full outline – and rely primarily on the Conviser while using the full outlines as a backup in case I had a hard time with a particular subject.  However, if money and time were an issue, I would buy only the Conviser outlines.

MBE:

  • Buy the three-pack of online practice exams from NCBE.  Type out the answer explanations behind each answer choice for each practice question so that you’ll understand why certain answers are wrong while others are correct.  Type them out, write them out, say them out loud, whatever.  Don’t just read and then move on because then it won’t really sink into your brain and you won’t remember them the next time you come across a similar question.
  • Buy the Strategies and Tactics for the MBE books – this one and this one.  Practice the exams, type or write out the answer explanations, same as the above paragraph.
  • I would study and use the Conviser outlines (or the outlines you made using the Conviser outlines) for this one as well.

MPT:

  • Buy one or two MPT exams and take them.  If you don’t feel good about your performance on these, buy one more exam at a time until you feel comfortable with it.

These are merely just suggestions of what I would do if I were taking the Uniform Bar Examination in July.  This is not a guarantee that you will pass the bar exam if you follow my suggestions, so don’t hold me to it.  I am an active learner and don’t do well with sitting in a classroom being spoon-fed information.  That is why I typed out outlines and answer explanations, and also practiced exam questions over and over again.  I hope this helps.

11th hour MBE

Someone asked me if it was too late to order the Strategies & Tactics for the MBE book with only 9 days left until the MBE. Instead of wasting precious time searching for the book at a local bookstore or library, I’d suggest using the two MBE online practice exams offered by NCBE. You can order them online and start practicing questions right away. They use actual released MBE questions and my past experience was that they also explain answer choices – why they’re correct or incorrect. I took the first MBE online exam when I took the MBE over two years ago, and it was extremely helpful. They’ve since then released the second practice exam. So if you’re scrambling at the last minute, order those exams, practice the questions, and THOROUGHLY review the answer explanations. Here’s the link: http://www.ncbex2.org/catalog/index.php?cPath=23

1.5 years later

I apologize for not having updated this blog in a year and half.  I’ve been a public defender attorney for the last two years, a job that has kept me incredibly busy with many long hours.  I love it anyway!

I just checked my FBE e-mail account (which I hadn’t checked in many moons) and I’m embarrassed to say that there are quite a few e-mails that have gone unanswered for too long.  I’ll do my best to clean up my inbox and respond to e-mails but because there are 195 unread e-mails, it might take me a while.  Not to mention that some e-mails might already be “moot”.  Sorry about that.

I had previously attempted to post my MBE outlines to this blog but when I tried to convert them for uploading, the formatting got messed up so I put aside that effort with the intention to fix the problem later.  Obviously I’ve procrastinated on that.  But I’ve converted everything to PDF format and posted them on the Materials page, so they’re available for downloading and you don’t have to e-mail me to get them anymore. My essay boilerplates and MBE outlines have not been updated since 2007 or early 2008 so be warned that they might be out of date and you should verify them yourself.

My February 2008 bar prep strategy

For the February 2008 bar exam, I used most of the same strategies I used for the July 2007 CO bar exam that I ended up passing. I posted my study strategies last fall after CO bar results came out – the links are below:

How I studied for the MBE

How I studied for the MPT

How I studied for the Colorado bar essays

This time around, I kept my MBE strategy more simple. I religiously used my Strategies and Tactics for the MBE book by Kimm Walton and Steve Emanuel (as in the Emanuel outlines from law school). I CANNOT say enough about how wonderful and invaluable this book is. I ordered it before the July 2007 CO bar exam and I honestly and sincerely believe this book played a large part on my ability to pass that bar exam as well as the February 2008 bar exam. If you only buy one bar prep book, buy this one. I’m not kidding. Screw the BarBri, MicroMash, and PMBR books. I had all those books, but I ignored them and exclusively used the S&T book. I stuck Post-It notes in the practice question sections with the question numbers written on the Post-its so I could just write my answers on them without having to drag out a notebook (and going back and forth between the S&T book and a notebook). I need to take a picture of my S&T book sometime to illustrate my point.

I also used my Study Group MBE software and BarBri StudySmart MBE software. I also have MicroMash, but I did maybe a total of five questions on that software before abandoning it in favor of BarBri and Study Group. My favorite MBE software is Study Group, hands down. It’s much easier to use, and even better it does not require any installation so you can put the software on a flash USB drive and plug it into your work computer, then run the software off there. There are also internet-based MBE software such as AdaptiBar but I can’t vouch for how effective they are. AdaptiBar uses actual, released MBE questions but so does the S&T book, so if you’re buying that book I probably wouldn’t get AdaptiBar. I used NCBE’s MBE Annotated Preview 2006 and I would recommend it – it’s only $26.00.

I also used Google Documents (through my gmail.com account) to type out the answer explanations to each MBE questions as I discussed in my “How I studied for the MBE” post above. This has proved to be VERY helpful and I strongly recommend that you either write or type out the answer explanations to your practice MBE questions. I saw a huge difference the next time I took the MBE after doing this. I would not even have finished reading the MBE question before law points and elements and such were already popping into my head, and I already knew the answer before I even read the answer choices. The first two times I took the MBE I was absolutely lost and clueless. I did not feel that way on the last two MBEs. Yes, they were still hard and difficult, but I think the difficulty for me was trying to remember exactly what the law was, or what the elements were.

I aimed for at least 25 practice MBE questions a day but didn’t always succeed. However I always focused on the answer explanations. I found that those were the most important part of each practice MBE question. You definitely have to understand WHY a specific answer is the correct (or wrong) answer. Don’t make the same mistake I did before my second bar exam failure of focusing on quantity over quality – I had aimed for 100 questions per day or around that, mindlessly answering questions thinking that practice made perfect, even though I was not focusing on the law or the answer explanations behind the question. BIG mistake. My MBE went down TEN points from my first attempt. If I hadn’t made that mistake, I believe I could have passed on my second attempt.

I focused on my MBE outlines as well. I ignored the Convisers this time around because I’d already incorporated most of the Convisers into my MBE outlines. They are not overly long or complicated. To me, they were short, to the point, and easy to understand and follow. I would refer to those outlines if I was stumped on a practice MBE question. I received these outlines from a friend, and I liked the format and layout of the outlines so much I made my own, using those outlines and verifying them with Convisers, as well as plugging in new stuff. I was going to post them on here, but Google Documents kept screwing up the format, so you can e-mail me at frustratedbarexaminee@gmail.com to get the outlines. You can use the same format of these outlines to make your own state-specific outlines like I did for the essay portion of the last bar exam.

As for the MPT, despite my vowing to pay more attention to the MPT this time around, I still didn’t spend much time on it. I didn’t review past MPTs and scoresheets like I’d planned. I like to think that I’m a pretty good writer, and it doesn’t hurt that I write memos and draft orders in my job almost every single day, so I felt I had a good handle on the MPT. I re-read my favorite MPT link, How to Format Legal Memos on the MPT by Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher of BarWrite Blog. I also read BarBri’s MPT Workbook but it didn’t really seem all that helpful to me. Too many complicated formats such as wills, et cetera. It seems that most of my MPTs except one were in memo format, and I think that the one non-memo MPT was a brief? My personal MPT motto was when in doubt, IRAC.

As for the essays – if you’re taking CO, refer to my “How I studied for the Colorado bar essays” post above. I don’t think my study strategy for the essay portion of the February bar exam here was that great. I just obtained released bar essays from the bar association and practiced over and over. It was hard to put together boilerplates or cheat sheets because the essays here are analytical rather than checklist-style like Colorado. I also made my own state-specific outlines using the same format as the MBE outlines, and that helped me learn the state material. I guess I didn’t exactly bomb the essays if I passed, but I also don’t feel that I should offer advice on this front. I truly got lucky on this part. I can only tell you what I did.

In short, here is my MBE strategy:
1) Use the ENTIRE S&T book. Use Post-It notes throughout the practice question and simulated MBE sections of the S&T book.

2) Use MBE software.

3) Use NCBE’s MBE Annotated Preview 2006.

4) Use Google Documents to type out answer explanations to practice MBE questions.

5) Shoot for 25 practice MBE questions a day. Focus on QUALITY over quantity (i.e. don’t just mindlessly answer 100 MBE questions a day). Do a couple of full-length (or even half-length) practice MBEs in the last couple of weeks before the bar exam.

6) Use my own MBE outlines. You can either just use them or type them out yourself. I found that typing out my outlines again really helped me to remember the material better than if I’d just skimmed them.

MBE score

Thank you to my readers who posted comments to congratulate me on passing the bar!! Hopefully I can return the favor when the remaining states release their results!! Especially California.

I finally received my scaled MBE score. I scored a 144 in February 2008 – 5 points above my last (and previous best) score of 139. Not bad! At least I know my MBE strategy wasn’t a one-time fluke; it really does work.

I know I mentioned taking the Texas bar exam, but I think I’m going to retire from taking any bar exams ever again. I would rather just take a federal attorney job in Texas and then waive into the Texas bar when I become eligible for reciprocity. I used to live in Texas and I have family still living there, so that was my reason for considering the Texas bar. However, after the stress and agony of taking four bar exams in a row and waiting several months at a time for results to be released, fully convinced I’d failed, I’ve definitely had enough.

There are lots of things I want to do with my life now. I want to travel and I want to snowboard (almost) every weekend this coming winter. I want to go fishing, hiking, backpacking, and camping in the summers. I want to swim in long-distance open-water races again. I want to participate in my favorite activities and hobbies, pursue new interests, and try new things. I feel like I’ve given up so much and put so many things on hold the last two years as I took bar exam after bar exam, and I’m tired of that. It’s not worth taking yet another bar exam. It was SUCH a relief to find out that I passed this bar exam, because if I hadn’t, I’d probably have to take it again next February if I couldn’t find a federal attorney job or move back to Colorado. Plus, my sister and I are planning a backpacking trip to Europe next year and that would have been completely wrecked if I hadn’t passed. I feel like I haven’t seen as much of my family and close friends in the last two years because I was always busy studying for the bar. I miss them and I plan to see them much more often now. In fact I am planning to take at least one week off between my jobs to go visit my family. It’s things like that which I don’t want to give up for the bar exam. There is more to life than the stupid bar exam, and I feel that I lost sight of that along the way.

For those of you who must continue this cruel dance, you have my complete sympathy. I have been in your same exact shoes, but there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. You will be on the “other side” someday. Just don’t give up. Change your strategy, even change states. All you need is your license in ONE state. Then you can become a federal attorney and practice in your home state. There are tons of federal attorney jobs out there. Check out http://www.usajobs.opm.gov. Sign up for the e-mail job alerts to learn about federal attorney opportunities. Consider becoming a Paralegal Specialist for the federal government – I understand it is just like being an attorney, but without the license.

As for this blog, I’m still going to leave it up, and I’m sure I’ll post on here every now and then. My next step for now is to go through my entire blog and clean it up, reorganizing some parts. Then I will try to post most if not all of my bar prep materials on here. Some materials will be MBE-related, but others will be CO-specific. I don’t think I have much to offer for this state’s essay portion because I totally winged that. I don’t really know how I passed that portion, so I’m definitely not in a position to offer advice.

I’ll try to do all the above within the next couple of weeks, just in time for the next round. In the meanwhile, please always feel free to e-mail me at frustratedbarexaminee@gmail.com!