Low Grades in Law School

Students who have low grades in law school has a significantly increased chance of failing the bar exam the first time. The lower your GPA, the greater the danger.

If you are in this situation, it is possible for you to pass. But you have to realize that you are in a situation that requires action and preparation. Many law schools stink at providing much support for weaker students since they tend to cater to the top students. Therefore you have to take a lot of initiative in your final year of law school. You can't just wait until two months before the bar exam to address this danger. You have to act as quickly and methodically as possible.

If you do not, you might have to repeat the exam, and for some students, the cycle of repeating the exam could take a toll of years, money and opportunity costs. Even if you don't want to practice law, you don't want to ever take this test again. Failing the bar is an extremely demoralizing, painful and embarrassing process. Thousands of students go through it every year, but it is still a very lonely experience because no one cares to talk about it.

Don't let it happen to you.

You have to do this for yourself.

If you are beginning your final year or semester of law school, and your overall GPA is still mostly C's - you need to start preparing for the bar exam now. Before bar review starts. Most likely, you won't have a good grip on the core subjects you will hear about in bar review.

Bar review is meant to be a review of the subjects you have studied, but for too many students, it is their first cohesive experience with the black-letter law. You have to know that law well to pass the bar exam. This is a lot of information to know. Even law review students sometimes have trouble with doing this. If you don't have a good foundation in the core subjects, you may not be able to make it up during only two months. The process will be overwhelming.

I suggest starting at least six to eight months before you are due to take the test.

Know what will be on the test

Find out the structure of your state's bar examination. Ignore anyone who tells you it is too early to do this. You must know what is going to be on that exam. And don't just rely on your law school to give you information on this: Go to the bar examiner's website for the jurisdiction where you plan to take the bar exam. Will the exam contain multiple choice questions? Essays? What subjects will be tested and how? How much time will you have to complete the exam? You have to know these things so that you can begin a strategy.

Sign up with Barbri and make full use of it

If you have not already done so (and you should have done so by your first year to get that price locked in), sign up with Barbri. The benefit to signing up early with Barbri is that you often get supplemental materials to review for your first year and upper level classes. Take these materials seriously. Use them to study and prepare for law school exams.

Barbri also hosts essay writing courses and black-letter law lectures for law school subjects (they call them "Final Exam Review Lectures"). Take advantage of these and move quickly because sometimes they close early due to demand. Pay attention to the information they give you. They are often the same lectures (or the same topics) covered again in bar review.

Be sure to do B.E.A.T. or any law school bar preparation courses during your 3rd year

Many law schools, in conjunction with Barbri, host a Bar Exam Accelerated Training (BEAT) program, where selected bar review lectures are presented for students. Attendance is usually optional, although some schools make it mandatory for students with low grades. Other schools have a voluntary bar exam preparatory course taught by their own professors, not through Barbri.

If your school does not make it mandatory to go, and your grades are low, treat these sessions as mandatory. You must go to them. Review the materials and take the practice quizzes they give you. You will see it again on the regular bar review session, but this will be your opportunity to get yourself acquainted with the material ahead of time.

If your school is like mine, these B.E.A.T sessions might be on the weekend. You won't feel like going. Force yourself to go. You will thank yourself for it.

Take law school courses on bar exam subjects

Be sure to take courses that will show up on the bar exam. You already took your basic first year courses which will absolutely be on the bar exam: contracts, torts, criminal law. But in some schools, some subjects show up as optional upper level classes which some choose not to take: evidence, criminal procedure, corporations - these are all basic bar exam subjects. Take these courses. Some people say it's not necessary to take courses for subjects on the bar exam. But I found that having taken the course, and made a reasonable effort at learning the black letter law, makes a difference. Attend the Barbri law school lecture courses for the course while you are taking it.

Get a tutor, take Barbri's legal writing class, get a book on writing bar exam essays, or practice on released bar essays

There is a strategy for writing a good bar exam essay. It is different and more straightforward than writing a good law school essay. You need to practice how to do this, somehow. If you can afford it, get a tutor. If not, get a book or go to your bar examiners site and read those essay questions and answers. Get to know the format for a passing essay.

Get "Strategies and Tactics for the MBE" or go to NCBE website

It's a (relatively) cheap book. At this stage, it will look intimidating to you. But either get your hands on this book or go to the NCBE website and read about the structure of the Multistate Bar Exam. Check out the sample questions they give out as part of their free booklet. Purchase their online exam if you don't want to get the Strategies book. Review the multiple choice questions Barbri gives you in the BEAT classes. Just get the questions and read them carefully. Get to know them. You have to know the six subjects on the multiple choice portion of the bar exam like you know yourself. This is the portion of the exam which gives students the most trouble. So don't skip a good preview of this section.

Experiment with memorization and study methods

People say, when studying for the bar exam, use the methods that worked for you. The problem is, if you are in this boat, your study methods aren't working for you. You will try things in bar review you may not have tried before. There won't be enough time to continually alter your methods and also prepare for the exam.

So while you are attending your preliminary prep classes or your bar-subject law school class and reviewing your Barbri or supplemental study materials, play with those materials. Experiment with study methods: see if you know more rules of law than when you started. Does reading things over and over work for you? Making flashcards and using them to quiz yourself? Making notes in margins? Making outlines? Making charts and mind maps? What is the best way to reduce the information so that you know it better after you've studied? Practice on your school tests or on released bar questions and see. Don't kill yourself doing the full job yet. Just play with it and have fun with it. Or see what different methods work for your regular law school finals. But do it. And make sure that you figure out your preferred study methods by the time bar review officially starts.

Also practice reducing things to their most important elements. Search the internet for examples of very short outlines and most important basic principles of law. I mean really short - maybe 5 or 7 pages. Check out Travis Wise's site (especially if you are in CA) for examples of very shortened outlines. A blogger by the name of Measuring Life also has examples of shortened outlines. Since you have a bit of time, practice creating these documents. Do it for your class or for the Barbri law school lectures. This is a vitally important skill for the bar exam. It helps you recognize what is most important to know so that you can create something short enough to memorize.

Where do you study best? In the library, at home, in a cafe? Know this before bar review starts.

Get your house in order

You will not be working, you will not be doing much for about two months. Get your bills paid, get your family ready, find yourself a place to study and stick with it. Get yourself and your friends and family ready for the process.

Get yourself ready for a stressful experience by getting any meditation CD's, study music, prayers, TV dvds, Zen gardens, etc. in order. Whatever helps you relax, make an inventory of those things and have them ready. You'll need them to chill you out.

Determine your hours when you are most alert. Is it morning, afternoon, or evening? Know it so that you can schedule your bar review classes around these times. If you are a morning kind of person, sign up for an afternoon or evening bar review class so that you can have the morning to practice or study. Etc. Are you an independent studier? Sign up for Bar review on Ipod or online, and do it as early as possible.

Start getting into an exercise routine. Join a gym, get on the treadmill, wake up and watch that Pilates show on cable, get a DVD to exercise to, sign up for yoga. Just get into the habit now. Exercising during bar review will really help blow off steam and keep your mind sharp.

If you are really struggling with certain substantive or personal discipline issues, you might find you need a tutor. Ask Barbri (or whatever bar review you will be taking) about this before you begin your class so that they can help you ASAP and you can hit the ground running.

If you can't afford a tutor (because they charge crazy fees) then speak to your law professors. All of them. Seek advice and direction. Push until you get it. They won't come to you, this is part of doing things for yourself.

Get your mindset calm and ready

Don't freak out doing these things. All these activities will be spread out over the course of your final year in law school; you'll have plenty of time to do them. Complete these things in a methodical and leisurely fashion, but make sure to complete them. By the time you get to bar review, you will have a decent preparation for the process and you can make the final sprint toward the exam.

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