Preparing for the Virginia Bar Examination

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

In 24 days I will be sitting down to take another bar, this time in Virginia.  The idea, which seemed like a pretty good idea when I came up with it last fall, is that I will be able to extend my criminal law practice from D.C. into Virginia, which is also where I live.

Strangely enough, I have only good memories about the last time I took the bar.  That was in Pennsylvania.  I paid the $2500 or so to take the BARBRI class, and for six and a half hours a day for ten weeks (including class time), I studied contracts and torts and constitutional law and criminal law and property.

Nobody bothered me.  My wife and kids didn’t disturb me in my study.  Shhhhh.  Daddy’s studying for the bar.  I had every excuse to bow out of social engagements.  I would love to but, well, I’m studying for the bar.

And when the bar exam itself came around I felt comfortable and confident.  It was almost an enjoyable experience.

It is completely different this time because, four weeks out, I am feeling woefully unprepared.  For this I blame a friend and colleague who took and passed the Virginia bar in July.  No problem, he said.  I bought myself the Barbri books and I did some outlines and that was it.

I forgot to ask him how many hours he devoted to this.

So I was complacent.  It took me a month or so to locate the Barbri materials on Craigslist and then a couple of more weeks to actually open the books.  Because, after all, there was this distraction of my legal practice going on.

Because my wife has the right answer to everything having to do with the law, I asked her how many hours she thought I should devote to my studying.  Three hundred, she says.  Three hundred HOURS?  Well, she says, only if you want to pass it.

I started with the Multi-State Bar Materials, the general subjects that are tested by every state in multiple-choice format.  And I was feeling good about this because it all came back pretty quickly:  the levels of scrutiny in constitutional law, future interests and Shelley’s Rule in property, the parol evidence rule and collateral estoppel in contracts.  Even the Rule Against Perpetuities came back to me.

So again I got complacent.  And I allowed days and then weeks to slip by.

Recently I opened the Virginia materials for the first time, and was shocked by the amount of material I will need to cover:  trusts and estates, civil and federal criminal procedure, domestic relations, corporations, professional responsibility, equity, commercial paper, agency, partnership, local government law, creditors’ rights, secured transactions, conflict of laws, taxation, surety.

Up until a day or so ago, I didn’t even know what secured transactions are.  They certainly weren’t covered on the Pennsylvania Bar, and I must have missed the day they covered it in law school.

Now I am beginning to panic.  There is no way I am going to be able to cover all this material in four weeks.  And this while I have clients with real-life problems that need to be tended to.  There is no more leave me in peace, Daddy is studying for the bar.

And then I went to the Solosez listserv luncheon yesterday and two women announced that they too are studying for the Virginia bar.  Great, I thought, because misery loves company.  Yes, they said.  The bar in July.

You can be sure that the VERY FIRST THING I will do if I fail the bar, the absolute first thing, will be to come back to this blog and delete this entry.  Because, after all, who needs the humiliation?

Now I’ve got to figure out what a secured transaction is.

More like this:

The Virginia Bar Exam:  How Much Studying is Enough?

Surviving the Virginia Bar Exam:  Reflections After Day One

Applying to Take the Maryland Out-of-State Lawyer’s Bar Exam