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You are here:   Ultimate Law Guide > Articles > Pass the New York Bar

Pass the New York Bar

I took a six month course studying for the NY bar exam. It was a long and hard road with a lot of different emotions at different points along the way. Through prayer, hard work, perseverance and support from family and friends, I managed to pass The Bar and get qualified as an attorney at law in the state of New York. This article is sort of like a diary, if you like, of my experiences. You can, by all means, contact me personally to speak further about any options you have and I will be willing to discuss it and give my opinion based upon my experience.


NY bar and MPRE: eligibility and significance


The New York bar exam (The Bar) is the exam necessary for qualification as an attorney in the state of New York. The Bar is administered twice a year in February and July; while the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is administered 3 times a year in March, August and November. There are a bunch of technical requirements en route to qualification and some of them are general while others are specific to some individuals. Therefore, there is no way I can possibly cover all the requirements and the exceptions to the requirements. I will leave that to each individual person to do some research to find out where s/he stands in relation to the qualification process.


The main part of The Bar is covered over 2 consecutive days of testing: the NY day and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) day. The NY day strictly examines NY law. The exam is covered over a period of 6 hours and 15 minutes (with a lunch break in between) and the format is: 5 essay questions that all have to be answered, 50 multiple-choice questions, and an independently-factual legal task.


The MBE examines multi-state law. The material is assessed over 200 multiple-choice questions in a period of 6 hours (with a lunch break in between). Under the MBE, there is both majority law and minority law. This is quite tricky because you are examined on both the minority position and the majority position, depending on the question content; also, NY law may be a minority in some instances and a majority in other instances in relation to the MBE. All this makes for the Multistate part of the exam to be a very confusing exercise because you have to keep in mind at all times the various distinctions.

There is, subsequently, a more minor part of The Bar exam process called the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). This is a 2 hour exam with 60 multiple-choice questions that test you on the appropriate conduct of an attorney. This part of the exam can be taken at any time up to 3 years before or after passing The Bar.


As a starting point, check the New York State Board of Law Examiners website (http://www.nybarexam.org/) and the National Conference of Bar Examiners (http://www.ncbex.org/multistate-tests/mpre/)


Factors and my decision to take The Bar


Before my decision to study and take The Bar, I had to convince myself I was going in the right direction, I was not taking too much too soon, and what the likely consequences for taking The Bar would be.


I did my own research into what exactly The Bar is, the format of the exam, the success rate, the bar review providers, the benefits of qualifying as a lawyer in another jurisdiction, and the possibility of failure. I spoke to lawyers in the US, people that had just passed The Bar and people that had just failed The Bar. Essentially, my decision boiled down to one question: was I prepared to accept failure of The Bar exam?! I had to think of the worst-case scenario, i.e. if I failed The Bar repeatedly and never managed to pass, would I be able to accept that? That way, no matter what the outcome was, I will take away the experience and the gained knowledge.


That was the main question I struggled with and once I could affirmatively answer it, I knew I was prepared to study and take The Bar. Along with that, I also had to consider a few factors:

  1. What is the legal environment like in NY?

  2. Would I be able to find a job and work in NY?

  3. What is the weight given to qualification as an NY attorney in UK law firms?

  4. Would it improve my chances of getting a training contract?

  5. Would it improve my marketability and employability as an international student?

  6. Is it doable?

  7. What are the costs?

  8. What are the advantages and disadvantages?


Now, there’s no way I can answer all these questions for you; and in fact, that’s not what this article is about. At some point, you will have to do your own research and enquiries and soul searching in order to be personally convinced that taking The Bar is for you. These are simply factors that I considered and may prove to be influential in your decision to take The Bar.


Choosing the right bar review provider


I had to do my own independent research into the various bar review providers, their student pass rates, their history in the provision of bar review services and their popularity. I also spoke to lawyers in the US as to what bar review provider was the most popular and the most successful. The answers I received from all this research led me to decide Bar/Bri was my best option.

I chose to use Barbri as my bar review provider. It is not necessary for me to give stats and figures and advantages of taking one bar review provider over another. Simply ensure you do your due diligence and you are personally convinced about your eventual choice.


Studying for the bar: on the course and independently


Studying for The Bar is no easy task. The hours are long, the material is a lot, the practice is the most essential part, and your discipline must be high.

Studying on a course is great because of the structure it gives you. It allows you to model your study schedule based on previous successfully tested schedules. The course provider gives you just enough information every so often, enough to occupy you but not too much that it will overwhelm you. That balance is key to passing the exam. The reason being, if you leave it all until the end to try to cram it all, you probably won’t be successful.


Having said all that, you also have to do a lot of independent studying. It is not enough to go to classes every so often and follow along while the material is being explained. Passing The Bar exam requires a lot more than that: you need to prepare beforehand for the classes, read over the material after class and do loads of the different types of practice questions. In my experience, understanding the material is essential but practice questions are paramount. If you don’t know how to answer the different types of questions, no matter how much you know, you’ll have a tough time passing the exam. However, if you know how to answer the various question types, then even if you don’t know the content thoroughly, there are ways you may be able to phrase the little that you know and get the points necessary to pass the exam. As a caveat though: there is no substitute for knowing the material, so you definitely have to learn it all.


To be honest, I’ll be the first person to admit that I didn’t do enough practice questions as I would have liked. Granted I did about 1,500 practice multiple-choice questions, but there was room to do more and be more comfortable with the different topics and ways the questions are phrased. I definitely didn’t do that many practice essay questions (maybe about 30) but again, I definitely should have done more.


Writing The Bar


The last few days in the run up to the exam were hectic. Having studied for The Bar from London, I had to fly out to New York to write the exam. The exam is only administered in NY and nowhere else. So you have to sort out accommodation where you will be writing the exam, you will also have to plan your trip there and back as well keeping in mind the jet lag factor. Personally, I was fortunate to know a few people in NY so I got there about a week before the exam, which gave me time to adjust my body clock to the NY time zone and, most importantly, it was an affordable option as I did not pay any accommodation during that period. However, I had to go out to Albany, NY to write the exam so I had a hotel room booked. The other people that were on the bar review course with me were also in the same hotel so it made it a little easier to study in the hotel with all the familiarity around me.


That did not detract from the fact that revision for The Bar was my main focus. Late nights, early mornings; not having time to eat but also trying to ensure I ate right so I would remain feeling healthy; long revision hours but also knowing when to take breaks to rest my brain. It was definitely a gruelling period but a necessary sacrifice for what was at stake.




After the exam: feelings and the wait


Most people come out of the exam kicking themselves and feeling they have performed way below their expectations and standard. It’s normal for this to happen because with the enormity of the content you had to understand and commit to memory alongside the time constraints during the exam, not to mention the sleepless nights and intense pressure, you are bound to have forgotten to include points you otherwise obviously knew. The first thing I’ll say then, is that this feeling is normal. It is no indication as to how well you did on the exam.


The main thing for you to do at this point is try to remain calm because nothing can be changed at this point. You have carried this burden on your back for months, revising and sacrificing other aspects of your life for this one exam, you have finally left it all at the door of the law examiners. All you can do is pray and patiently await the results.

The results take a while to be released. There is no specific time that they will be released but traditionally, the results of the February exam are released in May and the results for the July exam are released in November. So that’s an indication of the wait period.


However, when the results do come out, that long and patient wait transpires into other various emotions, depending on the outcome for you.


This article is written by Andi Daze, a qualified NY Attorney, UK Solicitor and ULG team member.