A Personal Goodbye to Bar Exams

by Jamison Koehler on May 2, 2013

I passed the Maryland Out-of-State Lawyers’ Bar Exam.  It was not a slam dunk.

I probably over-prepared the last time I sat for a bar – that was the full, two-day Virginia bar exam I took in 2010.  So confident was I of passing that exam that I walked out an hour early on the second day for both the morning and afternoon sessions.  I was confident I had already accumulated enough points to pass.

This exam was different.  I had the same feeling after taking this one as I did walking out of the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) a couple of years ago.  With all of the multiple choice questions on the MPRE, you could usually narrow your choice down to two or three of the answers but, although you might have an inkling as to which you thought was the best answer, you could never be 100% sure you were right. As a result, you walked out of that exam unsure of whether or not you had passed.  That is the way I felt after finishing the Maryland out-of-state bar.

To be fair, I felt like I got a lucky break with this exam.

Looking back at exams from previous years, it was clear that there were certain topics they always tested:  professional ethics, evidence (particularly privilege), civil and criminal procedure, and so on. To make sure you don’t just prepare those topics, however, they also seem to test in one new area for each exam.

The new topic tested for this exam was juvenile delinquency. Having done a lot of juvenile work in my career, I felt like Cliff the Mailman on the old T.V. show Cheers. Cliff makes it onto Jeopardy only to find that every question on the board has to do with the U.S. postal service.

My disappointment was that this year’s exam was light on Evidence. Usually there is at least one meaty question on prior inconsistent statements or character evidence or something like that in which you are asked to rule on an objection.  I figured I could score some serious points on that type of question. This year, if I recall correctly, the only evidentiary questions had to do with privilege.

Having taken three bar exams over the last seven years, I am thinking this will be my last one.  Or at least that is what I tell myself. Filling out the application for the character evaluation alone was difficult enough to discourage me from ever wanting to do it again.

Update:  Although my wife got her notice a day after I, she also passed.  And she hardly studied at all — just a couple of hours leafing through the code books on flights to and from California.

More like this:

Applying for the Maryland Out-of-State Lawyers’ Bar Exam

Preparing for the Virginia Bar Exam

The Virginia Bar Exam:  How Much Studying Is Enough?

Surviving the Virginia Bar Exam:  Reflections After Day One

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Norm Pattis May 2, 2013 at 5:13 am


Noah Clements May 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm


Randon Draper June 3, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Interested in selling your books for the Maryland attonrney’s bar? If you passed, they must be “lucky” books.

Jamison Koehler June 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Thank you but I will need them for my practice.

Kathi Cover October 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Did you take a bar review class? I am having trouble finding one.

Jamison Koehler October 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I don’t think you need to take a bar review course.

Someone did tell me she hired a tutor. But, again, I don’t think that is necessary.

The key thing, I think, is to completely familiarize yourself with the 5-volumes of the Maryland Code that you are allowed to bring into the exam with you. And the best way to do that is to go through the old exam questions and sample answers that are posted on the Maryland Bar website.

It is tough-going with the first couple of exams. But after a while, you begin to figure out where things are. You also begin to see patterns. I found, for example, that they tend to test on the same things, with a new topic thrown in for each exam.

Justin January 6, 2014 at 8:30 pm


So, did your prep exclusively consist of reviewing old exams and familiarizing yourself with the code? I just got all of my books in today and plan on studying now until 2/25/13.

You are Google favored on searches for Maryland Bar Exam.

Jamison Koehler January 6, 2014 at 9:09 pm


Yes. Although at least one other person told me she hired a private tutor, that is the only preparation I did. It is also what was recommended to me by friends who have taken (and passed) the Maryland bar.

The first one or two practice exams are pretty tough-going. But it gets much easier from there as you begin to become more familiar with the Code.

justin January 9, 2014 at 9:08 am


I just printed and bound the previous bar exams to use and start preparing.

Thanks for the tips. I’ll let you know.

justin February 15, 2014 at 4:38 pm

I see in the model answers that they some times refer to common law or actual case cites. did you try to quote case law or stick to the code sections? did you get any advice on quoting case law or expectations of knowing it?

Jamison Koehler February 15, 2014 at 8:55 pm

I noticed that, in the model answers, some people cited case law. I myself never did, and I passed.

Carlos Morales March 24, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I’m an attorney from Puerto Rico. I been practicing law for 6 years now and I’m a collage professor. Do I have to take the full bar examination or do I qualified for the out of state Lawyers Bar Exam of 3 hours.

Jamison Koehler March 24, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Sorry, sir, but you will have to check the rules yourself.

Robert Render June 2, 2014 at 7:32 am

Did you or anyone you know make an outline or anything?

I’d really love to have a little more than the model answers.


Jamison Koehler June 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm

The outline, I think, would be the table of contents for the 5-volume set. And you already have that.

SR November 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Hell0 –

I found out last week that I passed July 2014′s MD Attorneys’ exam. I know quite a few people on this blog have stated that you you don’t need a prep course or a tutor. I hired a tutor and we met for about 4 hours. He gave me an outline of the most tested areas on the exam, reviewed the popular Court rules and laws and showed me how to write the essays. He also tabbed the books.

Meeting with the tutor doesn’t sound like a big deal and some would say over the top. Honestly, you can tab the books yourself and study for this on your own, but I wanted to pass this test the first time around. I took a bar exam nearly 20 years ago and was admitted to another jurisdiction by motion a few years later. I did not attend law school in MD and definitely needed some guidance. Also, I have met a few lawyers who failed the the first time and I was not about to me one of them. I was in it to win it.

Meeting with the tutor definitely put me in the right direction. After the meeting, however, I completed 1 to 2 exams per week and memorized the most frequently tested rules and statutes.

I felt well prepared for the test, but I have to tell you, there were some tricky questions on it. I walked out of there not knowing if I had passed the test. I failed a bar exam when I first graduated and so I don’t think any of these tests are a slam dunk.

My advice to anyone who wants to take the test: If you have the money, work with a tutor. Take many practice tests and know the rules inside and out. Tab your book well. Do not over tab and make sure you cite the laws and rules correctly during the exam. You will lose points if you do not. The truth is that this is a very manageable test to prep for. I was working 5o hours per week and still managed to study for it and pass it the first time around.

Thank you and Good luck.

Barbara November 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm

To SR: Could you pass on the name and number of the tutor that you used? Thanks.

SR November 6, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Barbara – I used Shemer Bar Review. Here is the link:


Get in touch with Shemer and they will put you in touch with the tutor. It’s expensive, but I passed the test.

aisha November 19, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Hello there,

Barbara, not sure if you live in the area or not but Im also going to take the out-of state bar and now live in MD, let me know if you already have a study group on which to rely for support or if not and yould like to meet up a few times before the exam once weve started studying for moral and study support, let me know, Just trying to reach out!.

Also SR I looked into that link, did they charge you $900 for 4hrs? Just want to confirm before trying to give them a call, once I decide that it might be worth a grand :-0

Warm Regards!

Richard December 13, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I’m going to be taking the Out of State Attorney’s Exam in February. Does anyone know if you’re allowed to write cross-references in the Code books themselves or just on the tabs you put in the books? In other words, can you write in the Code books as long as what you write is just a cross-reference and not a substantive annotation?

SR January 13, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Aisha – Sorry for the late response. Yes, I did pay that much. It’s big bucks for sure. But, I passed. So……

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