Waiting for Bar Exam Results

Time for an Attitude Adjustment

Studying for the bar exam was stressful but so is waiting for results. Ohio results post on Friday and this last week is the worst. You can only remember your perceived mistakes and friends and family who dare have faith in your abilities just get on your nerves. However, you don’t have to  completely miserable. You can make the choice to adjust your attitude and make the best of it. Try this 7-day positive attitude challenge:

Day One: Make a list of five things in your life that you are thankful for.

Day Two: Smile at everyone you meet. No exceptions.

Day Three: Reach out to one person in your life and express gratitude.

Day Four: Choose an activity that makes you truly happy and spend at least thirty minutes doing it.

Day Five: Spend at least fifteen minutes outside. At one time (not two minutes walking from your car to the office, five minutes running across the street for lunch).

Day Six: No complaining. Go the entire day without a single complaint.

Day Seven: Look in the mirror and give yourself an old school Daily Affirmation talk, Michael Jordan style.

You’re good enough. You’re smart enough. And gosh darn it, people like you.

-KSK

Setting Your Pace for Bar Prep

Set Your Pace.

To succeed at any challenge in life, you’ve got to tune out the noise around you- the footsteps of others (ahead and behind), distracting “advice,” doubters who tell you it can’t be done. Instead, focus on your inner voice. Setting your own goal, charting your course and trusting your instincts take courage, but they are the surest route to crossing your personal finish line a winner.

I saw this quote years ago in a fitness (maybe running) magazine. So many years ago that I had to rip the page out instead of taking a photo. I couldn’t Instagram it with clever hashtags.
set your own paceI old-school taped the page to my desk as a reminder to focus on my goals and to not worry about what everyone else is doing. Over the years it got torn and I had to keep cutting it down to the point that all that was left was the quote. A few weeks ago the paper reached the point of disintegration that it was time to let it go. At the time, I didn’t give it too much thought: It had been there so long I hardly noticed anymore. I was more concerned about scraping the tape off my desk surface. The next day when I got to my office and sat down at my desk, my hand automatically went to the spot where the quote had been. Maybe I noticed it more than I thought. Maybe there is a reason I kept it taped there for so many years. The Internet is a wonderful thing. I’ve downloaded a new version of my quote and taped it to my desk.

I hope this quote can serve as a reminder to all of you preparing to study for the bar exam. You all have the same goal of passing but “[t]o succeed at any challenge… you’ve got to tune out the noise around you… the distracting advice, the doubters…” With about a month until the official start of bar prep, this is the perfect time to think about how to do this: what you need to do to set your pace and run your own race. After all, it is “the surest route to crossing your personal finish line a winner.”

-KSK

Prepping for Bar Prep

Preparing for the bar exam is more than studying 50+ hours a week for ten weeks. You absolutely have to put in the study time and commercial bar prep companies do a great job providing you an in-depth and structured study schedule. However, the ten-week bar prep period is fairly intense and quite exhausting. You will experience periods of self-doubt, uncertainty, and sometimes feel overwhelmed. Although you cannot avoid this completely, you can be prepared to work through it push forward with your studying. One way to do this is to start bar prep having a strong relationship with yourself.

  • Have an open mind. Be receptive to new and different concepts on how to live your best life. Don’t think of it as massive change all at once. This is a process and there are lots of little things you can do.
  • Give yourself a break. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and accept that you did the best you could. Remind yourself that you don’t expect perfection in others so you shouldn’t expect it of yourself.117520730-tumblr_n1jxj4UG3Q1qlv1neo1_1280
  • Assess your lifestyle. Identify what is and isn’t working in your life. Break unhealthy habits and develop healthy ones. A little self-care goes a long way (Check out these TED Talks on the importance of self-care)
  • Build your tribe. We tend to be like the people we surround ourselves with. Bring people into your life that reflect your best self and will support who you want to be.
  • Make time for mindfulness. Introduce a few mindful living techniques into your daily routine. Develop strategies that stop negative thoughts from taking over and learn how to refocus your energies on positive thoughts that move you forward.
  • Take control. You are not a passive observer in your life. You may not be able to control every event and person in your life but you can control how you respond. It is this response, not the event or person, which determines the outcome.

Don’t kid yourself into believing that you can simply wake up on May 15th and magically have the ability to push through the next ten weeks. In order for your brain to function at its best, you’ve got to be mentally and emotionally strong. This requires planning and preparation. Professor Dumbledore is right: “It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Make the choice now to be your best self.

-KSK

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July 2017 New York Bar Exam: Registration Period Is Open

Time to Register for the New York Bar Exam

The New York State Board of Law Examiners ,Corporate Plaza, Building 3 – 254 Washington Avenue Extension Albany, NY 12203-5195

The registration period for the July 2017 New York Bar Exam (a UBE jurisdiction) is now open. You have until April 30 to register through the Applicant Services Portal and unlike other jurisdictions New York does not have a late registration deadline. Therefore, if you don’t register by April 30, you are not taking the July exam.

In order to register for the UBE in New York you will need the following:

  • BOLE  number
  • NCBE number
  • A copy of your law school transcript
  • visa or mastercard (no debit cards accepted)

Filling out the application doesn’t take long (10 minutes, tops) but if you think you can get by without any of the above information, think again. The way NY registration works is that the program does no allow you to move from one category to the next until every question is answered. You can’ leave something blank and come back to it. So unless you know exactly how many credits you’ve earned for a stand-alone Professional Responsibility course, clinics, externships, and non-law classes, you better have your transcript handy.

Laptop Registration

You also need to decide if you are going to use your laptop on the bar exam. This might seem like a no-brainer (and it probably is) but before you click “yes” for that non-refundable $100 laptop fee, make sure your particular laptop is supported by the ExamSoft system. Not every jurisdiction permits use of tablet-laptop hybrids, and on the Feb 2017 exam, almost every state banned the new MacBook Pro with Touchbar Function.

Additional Requirements

In addition to passing the UBE you must also meet New York’s other requirements: (1) fulfill your pro bono hours; (2) achieve a passing score on the MPRE; (3) take the NYLC ; (4) pass the NYLE. For those starting law school after August 1, 2016, you must also fulfill the Skills & Values requirement.

-KSK

Should You Work During Bar Prep

Some individuals HAVE to work during bar prep. If you are in this group, keep reading because you need to see that it is possible but will require top-notch scheduling and time management. However, if you do not have to work but are considering it, you definitely need to keep reading. This is for those of you who worked during law school and it was fine. In fact, it was great. You had no problem with the work-school-life balance. You can totally work part-time while studying for the bar exam.

There is one small problem with this mindset: The bar exam is not law school. Preparing for law school exams is easy. In law school you could choose classes based on the professor, get to know that professor and what he or she expects on the exam. Even if you created your own outlines, you probably relied on outlines from people who already took the class. At the most, you prepped for exams in 4-5 subjects, had an entire semester to take in information, are tested on one subject at a time, can prepare for each single-subject exam one at a time, and the exams are often open-note or take-home. The bar exam is nothing like this.

Preparing for the bar exam is a 10-week, full-time commitment.The bar exam is closed-universe and tests 12-14 subjects at once over a 2-3 day period; you only have 10 weeks to learn the material and the skills; you don’t know what, how, or when something will be tested.  In spite of the differences, you still think you can work while preparing for the bar exam. I hear this from students all the time. The conversation usually goes like this:

Student:  I can work part-time during bar prep because I’m better when I’m busy.

Me: That’s great. You need to devote 40-50 hours a week to bar prep.

Student: No problem. I’m working now and have four classes. 

Me: Super. But to be clear, that’s a minimum of 40 billable hours: on-task and studying.

Student: Yeah, yeah. Sure. I’m only going to work part-time, 20 hours a week.

Me: Awesome. Just to make sure, can we do the math?

Student: Math?

Me:  Yes, math. Let’s start with the limited resource of time. There are 168 hours in a week. This is what we have to work with so let’s break that down into chunks of time. To make it simple, we’ll have you work in the mornings and study in the afternoon. Again, we’ll keep it simple and do 6 hours a day, 7 days a week. That gets you to 42 billable hours a week, slightly above the minimum.  

Then we sketch out a typical daily schedule:

Typical Workweek: Monday-Friday

7am: get up, shower, dress, breakfast, get to work.

8-12: work

12-1: leave work, eat lunch, maybe change clothes, commute to study location, set up lecture materials.

1-4:30: watch bar prep lectures (3 ½ hours a day is standard).

4:30-5:30: exercise, break, give your eyes a rest from staring at a computer screen for 3 ½ hours.

5:30-8 do assigned bar prep work.

8-9: go home, prep/order, eat, clean-up dinner.

9-12: watch tv, hang out with friends, read for fun, talk/text, social media.

12: go to bed.


This doesn’t seem too bad, right? Assuming you are on-task 100% of the time, you will have no trouble doing things like eating, exercising, socializing, and getting plenty of sleep. It’s true this example schedule does not account for anything like doctor, dentist, counselor appointments, but that shouldn’t be a problem because you’ve got 3 hours of free time every day. Easy to find time for other things.

The weekends will be even better because you only have to study 6 hours a day. Since you are already putting in 10 hour work/study days during the week, 6 hours will be easy. You can sleep til noon! Of course you won’t do that but you can sleep in.

Typical Weekend:

9am: get up, shower, dress, eat, get set up to study or commute to study location.

10-1: do assigned bar prep work you didn’t get to during the week.

1-2: eat lunch, stretch, take a break, etc.

2-5: do regularly assigned bar prep work.

5-bedtime: free time! This is plenty of time to do things like work out, socialize, do laundry, basic cleaning, go to the grocery store, get gas in car, get a hair cut, etc.

Note: If you go to church, make sure to either get up earlier or add two hours to the day as you’ll need time to dress, commute to and from church, change into study clothes.


This weekend schedule also assumes that you will be 100% on task for those 3-hour blocks of time. But that shouldn’t be a problem because you will disengage from all distractors and not need to take any unplanned breaks. This schedule doesn’t sound too bad, right? You can do this every day for 10 weeks.

Again, assuming you are 100% on task for the 42 hours of study time, you have 25-35 hours of free time every week. You can do whatever you want. Go to the dentist, clean your apartment, binge-watch something on Netflix. What’s really great is that your time is flexible so if something comes up, all you have to do is adjust your schedule accordingly. For example, if you don’t want to study one weeknight, you can move those hours to Saturday or Sunday and just put in a full day then. If you have plans to go out of town for the weekend simply add 2 hours of studying to each day during the week. Or if you are attending a friend’s wedding, if it’s in the evening, you are good to go because you can get 6 hours of studying in easy, especially if you get up earlier. And if you’ll need to sleep off the celebrating, you can just study Sunday evening.


One and Done


The bar exam is the final step to becoming a licensed attorney. You want to pass the first time so you can actually practice law. If you don’t have to work, then don’t put this at risk. If you still think working during bar prep is a good idea, get a copy of the detailed bar study schedule from your commercial bar prep company. 40 hours a week will get you through 70-75% of the material. If, after seeing the sheer volume of material and assignments, you still think working and studying is a good idea, go talk to the bar support person at your law school. Let that person help you create a structured schedule that will keep you on track. Once you fall behind (and you will), it is extremely difficult to play catch-up.

This was a really long post because deciding to work during bar prep is a huge decision and it should be an informed one. Make the decision that will best help you achieve the goal of passing the bar exam.

-KSK

New York’s New Skills & Values Requirement

If you want to practice law in New York, then be prepared to do more than just pass the bar exam. Over the past few years New York has instituted several new requirements for becoming licensed to practice law. In addition to the passing the Uniform Bar Exam, applicants must also do the following:

The latest requirement is the Skills Competency and Professional Values Requirement. It applies to everyone who begins law school after August 1, 2016.

There is no specific list of skills and values. According to the State of New York Court of Appeals (the governing body for becoming licensed to practice law), “[skills and values] are ever-evolving and should further each law school’s educational mission for its students…” Therefore, each law school should determine the skills and values with which its students should be familiar. However the Court does recommend the MacCrate Report as a good starting point for a law school to determine the skills and values.

Although there no specific list, there are specific “pathways” by which an applicant can satisfy the Requirement:

  • Pathway 1: law school has a plan that identifies and incorporates into the curriculum the skills and professional values required for basic competence and ethical participation in the legal profession; this plan is publically available on the school website; and the law school can certify that the applicant has sufficient competency in the skills and familiarity with the values.
  • Pathway 2: applicant submits proof that he or she completed 15 credits of practice-based experiential coursework. 6/15 credits can be earned through non-credit summer employment that the law school certifies as equivalent.
  • Pathway 3: completes the NY Pro Bono Scholars Program.
  • Pathway 4: complete a post-grad 6-month fellowship.
  • Pathway 5: for applicants authorized to practice full-time for one year and part-time for two years.

Click here for more information on the Skills and Values Requirement.

-KSK

Changes to the MBE: Substance

A few months ago I wrote about changes to the MBE in the number of scored questions. Instead of 190 scored questions, there are now 175. In addition to this, the NCBE has changed how it tests Evidence and and what it tests in Real Property.

Evidence: There are five categories in Evidence: I. Presentation of Evidence (including impeachment); II, Relevancy (including character evidence and expert testimony); III. Privileges; IV. Writings, Recordings, and Photographs; and V. Hearsay. Up through 2016, the question breakdown was:

  • 33%- 8.3 questions- Presentation (including impeachment)
  • 33%- 8.3 questions- Hearsay
  • 33% – 8.3 questions-Relevancy, Privileges, Writings, Recordings, and Photographs

What has changed? The substance of each category has not changed but the number of questions per category has. Now the new subject breakdown is:

  • 25%-6.25 questions- Presentation, including impeachment
  • 33%-8.3 questions- Relevancy, including character evidence and expert testimony
  • 25%-6.25 questions- Hearsay
  • 17%-4.25 questions- Privileges and Writings, Recordings, and Photographs

Why should I care? There used to be two “big rocks,” Presentation and Hearsay, but now there are three: Presentation, Hearsay, and Relevancy. In addition to knowing Presentation and Hearsay really well, you also need to have a good understanding of basic relevancy and how character evidence and expert testimony work within the general relevancy rule(s). Relevancy used to be a “pebble” with 2-3 questions so you didn’t have to spend a ton of time on it. Now you cannot afford to skim. So, without sacrificing Presentation and Hearsay you have to figure out how to devote more time to Relevancy.

Real Property: There are five categories in Real Property: I. Ownership; II. Rights in Real Property; III. Real Estate Contracts; IV. Mortgages/Security Devices; and V. Titles.

What has changed? The weight given to each category is the same (20%, 5 questions) but the content has increased. The following six topics have been added to Real Property:

  1. Ownership: Conflicts of law related to disputes involving real property
  2. Rights in Real Property: Property owners’ associations and common interest ownership communities; Transfer of easements, profits, and licenses
  3. Titles: Requirements for transfer by deed; Drafting, review and negotiation of closing documents; Persons authorized to execute documents

Why should I care? You might be thinking, “No big deal. So there might be a question on property owners’ associations, I can do that.” Multiply that by 6. There are 6 topics so there is the very real possibility of getting at least one question from each. This is almost 25% of all the Real Property questions. You might be thinking, “No big deal. They won’t test all 6 new topics.” You could be right but do you know which topics won’t be tested? You might be comfortable taking a chance because, it’s only one topic. So where do you draw the line? 1? 2? 3? What about the other MBE subjects? Is it ok to blow off 1 topic from each? Now you are at 7. It’s a slippery slope and you have to be careful where you draw the line.

The purpose of this post is not to scare you. The purpose is to inform you of what to expect so you can plan and prepare.

-KSK