I’m a 1L/2L, Why Should I Care About the Bar Exam?

I'm a 1L/2L, Why should I care about the Bar?Please welcome back Shirlene Armstrong, guest writer and future bar exam taker, to discuss why it’s never too early to think about your bar exam preparation!

The bar exam is usually considered the most dreaded exam a law student must eventually face, but you also must pass in order to become a licensed attorney. This exam is usually taken after your 3L year following graduation. So, if I’m a 1L or 2L, why should I care about the bar exam until my 3L year? I have PLENTY to worry about law school-wise, worrying about the bar exam is just not on the top of my priority list. I have PLENTY of time to prepare, so it shouldn’t matter if I wait. Well, actually you don’t. Despite popular belief, law school does not last forever. Eventually you will finish and have to take the bar exam. Law school goes much faster than people think, which is increased by the craziness of all the projects and activities in between. Thus, the sooner you can accept the inevitable (i.e. the bar exam), the better.

Bar Exam 101

In order to practice law in a certain state (or states, depending on your location and specific test), you must take the bar exam. After you pass this intensive test, turn in all of your bar admission materials, and pass your state’s character and fitness requirements, you become a licensed attorney. There are two sections to the exam: multiple choice and essay. The exam varies between states and jurisdictions. Some states have their own individual bar exams exclusive to their state. Thus, to practice there you must pass this specific exam. Other states have elected to utilize the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which provides students with a portable score that can help them secure admission to other UBE states. Also, most states only administer the bar exam twice a year (only once for Delaware!) so it is important to know when the exam is and prepare accordingly.

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

Do you remember the oath of professionalism you took at the beginning of law school? Well that is synonymous to the one you’ll take when you become an actual lawyer. Being ethical is very important in the legal profession. Although many people focus on the bar exam itself, there is another test law students must take in most states in order to become lawyers: the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). This tests your ability and understanding of ethics and how to be a responsible, professional lawyer. However, you don’t have to graduate law school to take this exam. Most law students actually take the MPRE in their 2L year or at the beginning of their 3L year. Also, most universities require students to take some sort of professional responsibility course. Thus, as a 1L or 2L, use some of the free MPRE resources to study for this exam. Then in your late 2L/early 3L year, you’ll be able to take the MPRE so you can focus on the bar exam post graduation.

Bar Prep Courses/Resources

Okay, so after that information bomb, you’re probably thinking: “So what should I do as a 1L or 2L?” Well that’s easy – find (and actually use) resources! Here is some good news for you, my reader: you are already taking the first step in bar exam preparation! You have stumbled upon this and are trying to familiarize yourself with the bar exam. You actually need to know what it is about before you can prepare. There are numerous resources and bar prep courses that you can use in order to begin preparing for the exam. Also, you have probably noticed several bar prep companies who table/pass out flyers at your law school. You can actually sign up early and begin to access the resources/classes that they provide in order to familiarize yourself with the structure and rigor of their courses. However, note that you don’t have to use a bar prep course to pass the exam, there are several other resources to assist you in being successful.

1L Classes = Major Part of Bar Exam

So, what exactly is on the bar exam? Although the specifics of the exam vary by state, there is a common theme: 1L courses are almost always included on the bar exam. This makes sense because law schools want their students to pass the bar. Typically, law schools only choose the 1L schedules, thus, they will put “core classes” into the 1L curriculum. These topics include (but are not limited to): Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Contracts, Torts, Constitutional Law, and Property. Thus, as a 1L, you can learn about the heart of bar exam topics and practice with your final exams. Then, in your 2L year, you can review these classes with the knowledge of the law you learn in other classes. Of course there are other courses important to the bar exam as well and, as a 2L, you can elect to take these courses and prepare for the bar exam.

So Yes, You Should Care

So even if you are just starting your law school career, or stuck in the middle of it, you should care about the bar exam. This will be the most important exam of your career. Think of it as the final exam of law school in general. In your other classes, you think about and prepare for the final exam way before the semester ends and exam period begins. So, you should think about your bar exam preparation the same way. It is a lot easier to casually check your understanding of these topics throughout the year(s) rather than the couple of months between graduation and the bar exam. So, embrace the bar exam for what it is: your final final.


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About Shirlene Armstrong

Shirlene Armstrong is a first-generation student in her last year at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. At Wayne, Shirlene has been involved with numerous organizations and clubs, including mock trial, LexisNexis, the Women's Law Caucus, and the Journal of Law and Society. Shirlene enjoys mentoring others and sharing what she has learned on her legal journey and continues to work hard in accomplishing her dreams.

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