Thinking About Working While Studying For The Bar? You Must Read This!

Practical, insightful post by guest blogger Lee Faller Burgess of Amicus Tutoring. Thanks Lee!

Almost everyone understands that the best way to study for the bar is to take time off and study full time. Why? Well, studying for the bar is its own job. In California, for example, you need to study 13 subjects and practice countless multiple-choice questions and performance exams, which is more than enough work to go around.

However, for many people, studying without working is not an option, especially if you are taking the bar for the second time. Frequently, you are already working when you get your results. How do you balance working and studying to make sure you find exam success? Here are some tips to surviving the process:

1. Prepare for a longer period of time: One option is to increase the length of time you are studying in order to get in more study hours. This works well especially if you are working with a private tutor (like myself) or studying on your own. If you are not attending classes (with a provider such as Barbri), you can really spread out the studying to make sure you are prepared.

Also, you can front-load your preparation with items that don´t require memorization. For example, the California bar exam includes two performance test sections, counting for less than one-third of your score. Each is a three-hour closed universe test where you don´t need to have any law memorized to pass. Isn´t that great? It is my favorite part of the bar. Since there is no memorization involved, this is a piece of the bar exam you can prepare for ahead of time without much risk of losing what you have learned. So, if you are front-loading your studying, I recommend starting with the performance test sections.

However, it is critical to make sure that you don´t burn out throughout the study period. Burn-out can be very dangerous to the bar preparer and you want to make sure you are ready for exam day.

2. Set weekly goals: Many students who work with me while they are balancing a job and studying like to set weekly goals for themselves. For example, they set their goal to study 25 to 30 hours a week. If they work a non-typical office job, that may mean some days they study for eight hours and some days they study for two. Or, if they have a typical office job, perhaps they study each night for a few hours and do their longer study days on the weekend. Setting weekly goals can allow your studying to be flexible. However, you do still want to have realistic goals for yourself. Without clear goals and adhering to a schedule you can find yourself falling behind and not being as ready as you need to be.

3. Try to take some time off before the bar: As bar time approaches, it is wise to speak to your supervisor at work and try to get some time off before the exam. It is likely you will need some dedicated weeks of bar preparation.

4. Work with a tutor to make sure you are preparing in the smartest possible way: In my previous life I was a consultant and our partners always used to say, “Don´t work harder, work smarter!” Although this always made me gag when they would say it in meetings, turns out it was decent advice. If you have limited time to study for the bar, it is valuable to work with someone who can help you target your test preparation by identifying your weaknesses and helping you develop solutions that will be the most likely to help you get good results-especially if you are taking the bar for the second or more times. It is heartbreaking to me when a student sits down to prepare to take the bar for a second time and studies the exact same way. That usually will not get the results you desire. You want to target your test preparation to your needs and make sure you are ready. This approach also prevents you from wasting time listening to lectures if that isn´t (in the end) going to help you pass.

Preparing for the bar is not an easy task and when possible it should be done as its own full-time job. However, if you are in the situation where you need to work, these tips can help you find work/study balance and exam success.

Guest blogger Lee Faller Burgess, Esq. is the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC. Amicus Tutoring was founded to help students in law school and those studying for the California Bar Examination find exam success. Ms. Burgess is also adjunct faculty at the University of San Francisco School of Law and Golden Gate University School of Law. Contact Ms. Burgess at or find her on twitter at @amicustutoring.

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