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Writing the Bar

What Third Years Need to Know About Taking the Bar Exams


In a word, nothing.


There isn’t a lot of talk about the bar exam during law school, which seems strange, because isn’t that what it’s all about? To be a lawyer, you have to pass the bar, and you go to law school in order to become a lawyer, so you’d think there’d be some overlap, but that’s not the case. The processes are completely separate.

Why am I writing this article now? Because the fact that nobody talks about the bar in law school means that people start worrying about it way, way sooner than they should.

Happily, there is almost nothing you can do to prepare for the bar until the end of April 2018.

The dearth of communication from both the law society and the law schools means that in early spring next year, rumours and myths will begin to fill the void. A-type personalities will start researching strategies and you’ll begin to hear certain people insist that x approach or y approach is the only way to avoid failing. The rush to find an indexing group will happen before most people know what an indexing group even is, and it will feel like a high school popularity contest all over again.

But far and away the worst lacuna is that the fail rate isn’t published, so even the strongest law students will doubt that they’ve prepared *enough* for the biggest test of their legal careers. So much of the anxiety you feel over the summer is caused by the lack of information you’re given. That’s the worst thing about the bar – worse even than being locked in an aircraft hangar for 7 hours. And that’s what I want to prepare you for.

But not yet.

It’s November 2017, and this is your official mandate to chill.

At this stage, all you need to know about the bar is this: the bar consists of two seven-hour exams, two weeks apart in June. (You can defer these exams if you choose to write them in fall 2018 or spring 2019, with no consequences to your call date. Nobody tells you this, but you can. But don’t worry about that yet.)

The barrister’s exam will test you on civil litigation, criminal law, public law, and family. The solicitor’s exam will test you on real estate, estates, and business. Both will test you on professional responsibility. The law society will give you the materials you need to study.

I repeat: the law society will give you the materials you need to study.

While taking certain core courses throughout law school may help you to better understand the bar materials when the time comes, it’s not necessary to organize your law school classes around what will be useful for the bar. I don’t know that taking real estate helped me at all on the real estate portions of the bar exam, because law school exams and the bar exam are structured completely differently, and differ wildly even when it comes to content. You might find knowledge from certain courses useful when you’re studying for the bar because you might find it comforting to have familiarity with some of the material, but again, I repeat: the law society will give you the materials you need to study.

There are only two things you’ll need to prepare for the bar: your bar materials, which you will read through once (… maybe) and your index. Your index is your guide to sorting your material on exam day, and it is no less important than your materials. You can either get together with an indexing group to create an index, or you can buy your index from the Law Society. The Law Society index is available about a month after you receive your materials. There are arguments for and against either approach. Neither is wrong.

There – that’s more than enough. You now know more than I did when I began the process, and honestly, you now probably know too much. Some of you wouldn’t have even started worrying about it but for the fact that I brought it up (such is the danger of giving unsolicited advice). There’s literally nothing you can do about the bar today. In the spring, I’ll break it all down for you, but for now: chill.shannon piperbar com