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Studying for the Bar While Working Full-Time: 3 Tips

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 01, 2014 9:50 AM

Here's a tip for first-timers who are planning on working full-time while studying for the bar: Don't do it. Failing doesn't guarantee that you'll have a crappy career, but it certainly doesn't help your short-term and long-term earning potential. Do anything and everything in your power to, at minimum, work just part-time, with a week off before the actual test.

But, if you wish to proceed, or if you're a retaker, a second state/Uniform Bar Exam taker, or a candlestick maker, we've got a few ideas on how to balance your full-time with your bar study time. Here are three tips that can pay off:

1. Start Super Early.

Most bar study classes are two months long if you're studying full-time. You won't be.

We'd advise you to start three or four months in advance, spending a few hours per weeknight and at least one full day on the weekend on bar study.

2. Make a Flexible, Realistic Plan.

Much like law school, the Internet is full of heroes -- folks who claim to work full-time and then go home and study until 2 a.m. before heading back to work at 6 a.m., then studying some more on the weekends.

These people are either (a) full of fecal matter, or (b) on a whole lot of cocaine.

What you need is a realistic and flexible plan. Life and work will get in the way on occasion, so your plan should account for that. This means rigid plans in which you shower at exactly 5:45 a.m. after a 30-minute jog, before a 13-minute meal, should be tossed.

Plan to spend a few hours per night on weeknights reviewing substantive outlines and taking a handful of MBE questions. On weekends, you'll want to tackle a few performance tests (if applicable) and essay questions.

3. Address Your Weaknesses.

Once you've finished the outlines, set a weekend day for a benchmark practice test. This test will help you to identify your weaknesses, which you can prioritize over the next few weeks. And if you're really bombing, this will remind you to amp up your weekends, start snorting caffeine pills on weekdays (kidding ... seriously, don't), or better yet, push your exam back to the next test date.

One more thing: It's common for people to waste a whole lot of time doing dozens or hundreds of practice essays. If you are already a decent writer, it would behoove you to just issue-spot and outline your answers, rather than writing full essays. Ditto for the performance test -- if you've been practicing law, and turning cases and codes into memos and briefs, this'll be second nature. Do a few of them to see how they're formatted, but don't stress over them.

Any more tips for bar study while working full-time? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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