Are you a law student? Do you want to know how to study for the bar with a baby? I realize that this post will not be relevant to many of you. Plenty of you are not law students. But, this topic was important enough to me that I felt compelled to share what I did to study for the bar while also enjoying my son. Also, frugally related, I’m sharing what I did to pass the bar without spending an arm and a leg.
One of the most common questions I received when I found out I was pregnant in law school, was “how are you going to study for the bar with a baby?” Actually, I studied for the bar with a toddler. Our son was born my last semester of law school. I did a judicial clerkship the fall after law school and took the bar after it was over, when we moved to another state for my husband’s job. I believe the same principles will apply whether you have a new baby, toddler, or simply just don’t want to put in 40-70 hours a week studying for the bar like some of your classmates. Whatever your reason, you really don’t need to study like a maniac to pass the bar, contrary to popular belief. You also don’t need to pay a million dollars to pass the bar.
A couple of preliminary matters: first, I took about 8 weeks to study for the bar. Second, I studied between 20-30 hours each week. And third, I am not a genius. If I can pass the bar this way, anyone who tried hard at a decent law school can do this. Consider the fact that the bar is not like any other law school test you have studied for. You aren’t competing for the BEST score, just a passing score. Of course you want to do your best and blah blah blah but you will have to weigh what is most important to you. If spending time with your baby is more important, you probably aren’t going to be putting in the hours you need to get the BEST score. If the bar is more important, you will. But take time to think about what kind of score you need/want. For example, if you are taking the MBE and you want a score that will easily transfer between states (i.e. you think you might be moving a few years after taking the bar) getting a good solid score is important. Or maybe its not. That is up to you.
By the way, maybe you don’t have a baby, but you still only want to study 20-30 hours per week. Maybe you are working full time. Or maybe you are dating someone or trying to hold on to the last summer of your life and would rather spend it outside. Whatever the reason, these principles will still apply. Here is everything I did to study for the bar in 30 hours a week or less:
TEN THINGS I DID TO STUDY FOR THE BAR IN 30 HOURS A WEEK OR LESS:
- Sign up for a bar study program.
- I personally used BarMax but I have similarly situated friends who have passed the bar with AdaptiBar, Themis, and of course BarBri. BarBri is the most pricey and frankly, is not necessary. You can pay way less money and still pass the bar. I really like using BarMax because I could access everything in the app. That meant that when I was with my son, I could be doing flash cards or taking practice MBE questions while also playing with him and his micro machines. Win-win.
- Set the right expectations.
- You are going to have to study for the bar. And it is not going to be particularly pleasant or easy. So, while you are not going to be studying 80 hours a week, you are still going to be studying and you are going to have to make the hours that you are actually studying count. You are also going to have to sit down and carve out the hours each week that you will be able to study. I got the bulk of my hours in on weekdays. As the bar got closer, I used Saturdays. I only studied on one Sunday, right before the bar.
- Study smart.
- Don’t waste your time listening to lectures. Seriously. Not even in fast forward mode. The only times that I listened to lectures was in the car or while I was working out as more of a supplement to my studying. Sitting and listening to a lecture is a big time waster. You need to only study the basics. You don’t need to know every nuance of every law to pass the bar. So, spend your time reading through the outlines, making sure you understand the rules, and start memorizing them essentially right away.
- Study the core courses the hardest. I focused on the topics that appeared on both sections of the Oklahoma bar. There was the MBE portion and an essay portion. Topics like Civ Pro, Crim law, Contracts, Property, Evidence, etc that were on both portions is where I spent the bulk of my time because it helps you get the most bang for your buck.
- Do practice exams and study past exams answers more than anything else. I used this same principle when I was studying for the LSAT. I focused on taking as many practice exams as I possibly could. I compared my answers with sample answers (when I could find them). I memorized the rule of law based on sample exam answers when I could. I truly believe this is the smartest way to study, because it teaches you how the rule of law applies. Same goes for the MBE (or whatever multiple choice part of the bar you will take). You have to learn how to flush out the wrong answers in multiple choice questions and the best way to learn how to master those questions is to take as many of them as you can get your hands on. BarMax offers more practice questions than you can probably get through and I’d wager that most of the bigger bar courses offer the same.
- Use nap times wisely.
- At the time I was studying, my son was taking one nap per day for about two hours. That gave me a solid study session in the middle of the day, every day. If you don’t have a baby, same principle applies (and ignore step 5 below). Make sure you are getting in 2-6 hours in each day. Start the day with a couple of practice questions and then start making sure you understand the rules and memorize away.
- Use bed time wisely.
- If you can make your babe go to bed early, by all means take advantage of that. My son is a night owl, so it was hard to get him to go down before 8:30. But, after he was down I would try to get in 3-4 hours of hard studying. This is no small feat when you consider how much energy it takes to spend the day with a toddler. So know that this won’t be easy. It will require dedication and a lot of caffeine and candy on your part.
- If you are married, use your partner wisely.
- It’s important to spend time with your partner and your family, no matter what phase of life you are in, including studying for the bar. That being said, make sure you coordinate your schedules so that when your partner is home and your babe is awake, they can spend some one on one time together while you go study. Be mindful that your partner likely has a life too so you might need to sit down and carefully coordinate with each other.
- Know yourself.
- Some people can memorize elements while a toddler crawls all over them. I am not one of those people. You know under what conditions you study the best. You might have to hire help a couple of times a week so that you can get some good quality studying in, besides what you will be doing late at night or during nap times. But the good news is, you probably won’t need too much help since you are only studying 20-30 hours per week.
- Use your time wisely.
- Every minute of your study time counts when you are not studying full time (40+ hours per week). Stay off of social media, turn off the TV, and focus up. You can do those things later. I found that flash cards were useful when I was hanging out with my baby. I am not the type of person that can focus very well when my babe is around, but I could study really lightly. I did not use a single flash card while I was in law school, but I found that they were quite handy while hanging out with my man cub to just keep those things fresh in my mind while I was in between study sessions.
- Start early.
- Most bar courses are around 6 weeks long. I started studying 8-9 weeks before the bar. Since you will be studying less hours per week, you should maximize your time by starting a little bit early. Not too early though, because you don’t want to burn yourself out or peak too soon. I’d say 8-9 weeks before the bar should be about perfect.
- Be good to yourself.
- Its hard to take care of yourself sometimes when you are a parent. It is hard to take care of yourself when you are a law student. It is hard to take care of yourself when you are a lawyer. Don’t forget to be good to yourself. Get sleep. Take showers. Occasionally, eat some vegetables. Squeeze in work outs a few times a week, even if you can only get 20 minutes in at a time. These things make you feel good about yourself. People who feel good about themselves do better at things.
I found it helpful to peak at other people’s schedules when I was starting out for the bar, except sometimes they were way too complicated and honestly freaked me out. Here is generally what I did each week. In addition, I worked out almost every day, and spent lots of quality time with my son and hubby.
A sneak peak at my study schedule:
Monday: nap time: warm up with 2-5 MBE questions, review wrong answers. Study Civ Pro. bed time: Study more Civ Pro.
Tuesday: nap time: warm up with a practice Civ Pro essay, untimed. Start reviewing a sample answer. Bed time: review sample answer, memorize rules that I missed
Wednesday: nap time: warm up 2-5 MBE questions, review wrong answers. Bed time: study Criminal Law
Thursday: nap time: Take 25 MBE criminal law questions. Review answers. bed time: study Property
Friday: nap time: Full, timed practice essay. bed time: review exam
Saturday: nap time: full, timed practice essay. Bed time: review exam
Sunday: Hang with your family/friends
What did you do/are you doing to study for the bar? I’d love to hear from you!