1 Dec

So this post is long overdue — but I passed the California Bar Exam — so I thought I’d share some final thoughts about the whole (ridiculously long and arduous) process.

First, my biggest tip to anyone studying or about to study for the bar is to get on a schedule and stick to it.  Treat your study schedule like a job and take it day by day. Mine was a bit on the intense side and looked like this:

  • 5:00-5:15: Wake Up
  • 5:30- 7:00 (depending on the day) – work out – either running with BOMF or lifting at the gym
  • 8 AM head to school
  • 9-12: Barbri Lecture
  • 12-1 Lunch Break
  • 1-6ish: Review that day’s lecture notes, practice essays, practice MBE questions (aka whatever was on the Barbri schedule plus possibly some additional MBE questions if I was feeling particularly unconfident).
  • 6-on: Sometimes I would go home and call it a night (read: usually) and take the rest of the night off and either watch TV, occasionally see friends, or go to my running group or teach a spin class.  Sometimes I’d study for a couple of hours after (8:30-10:30 or so) but usually I called it quits around 6.

I was completely unwilling to let go of my weekend workouts, so for those I’d get up at 8, workout 9-11, come home and eat, shower, and be into the library to do whatever Barbri had me doing by 1. I’d be done by 6 or so.

My workouts SAVED me during this time — it was like beating the system getting to see non law people in the morning and having “me” time before an intense day of sitting and feeling like you knew nothing happened.  Also, all the days started to run together so it helped me to figure out what day it was by which workout I did in the morning (Sad, right?)

Other suggestions:

  • Follow Barbri (or whichever course’s program you select).  I opted to go with Barbri and I followed their instructions to a T.  Sure, I know people who deviated who passed. I also know people who deviated and didn’t pass.  I was not trying to take this exam twice so I did what they told me to do, when they told me to do it, how they told me to do it.  Sure, it was weird and annoying to take a practice essay in test conditions when you learned the subject 15 minutes ago and it’s not your favorite. But it’s also not Barbri’s first rodeo so I went with it.


  • Live lecture.  Not much more to say about this other than that NOTHING replicates being in a room with live person teaching you things. I’m sure there’s a study somewhere out there (feivel reference, y’all) that confirms this.


  • I sound like a broken record — but healthy eating and working out.  This thing is marathon and not a sprint.  don’t pull all-nighters or sabotage yourself before “race day.”


  • Support:  I had an amazing group of study buddies during this — you know who you are.  Huge shoutout to Aviva for getting me through every day (and often showing up in the morning with a Starbucks coffee for me). I also (randomly) made a lot of solid connections during the summer with people all over the country through twitter who were studying for various (read: non-three day) bar exams.  It was awesome being able to connect and commiserate with other social media freaks.


  • Minimize stressors/other things you normally have to think about:
    • My buddy Ross and I realized the smallest things started annoying us — traffic, people who can’t merge on the freeway, dumb people, etc.  So to the extent you can, get rid of it.
    • I did grocery shopping for the week and meal-prepped every Sunday (huge step for those who know me because I do not love grocery shopping).
    • At the same time, it’s okay to build in little breaks — I went and visited my friends Blake and Heather in Newport Beach one weekend before studying got too intense, did a couple of races, occasionally “went out,” and visited my parents a few times.


  • Test day(s) are weird.  People’s nerves manifest themselves in the weirdest ways.  I saw one girl (woman?)’s dad walk her literally into the exam room. Others were reading their outlines up until we had to go into the test. You’ll hear stories of the guy who passed out or the girl who was wheeled out on a stretcher during the exam. Heck, in the 1990s there was an Earthquake during the test.  You can’t control this stuff, but you can control how prepared you are walking in there.  I found the test itself to be straight-forward — there were not the insane curve-ball type-questions Barbri had warned us of and that we had practiced on. Some were even sort of fun to write (#glamping and undercooked chicken wings, anyone?) I also made the decision NOT to stay at the hotel (Century City) and to drive myself to and from the test each day. I am SO glad I did this — it was less stressful getting out of there then festering with a bunch of nervous people. Also, I brought my lunch each day (because lines) and sat with my friends by the hotel pool.

The time in between finishing the exam and getting results (approx. 4 months) is a little ridiculous.  I had no idea how stressed I was until I got my results and realized my body stopped physcially manifesting stress at that very moment.

Good luck to everyone taking Februrary and beyond — I’m happy to answer any questions (although I am by no means an expert).

6 Responses to “#esquired.”

  1. Aviva December 1, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    I could never have passed without you, Gillian!!!

  2. alsoranagain December 1, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Congratulations on passing the bar! The CA bar is notoriously tough, so you deserve extra props. (And I agree about BarBri–it’s totally worth it.)

  3. Susan Hodgson December 1, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    As always, your posts are informative, entertaining and always inspiring. Congratulations, Gillian, on passing a very tough bar. It will be fun to read about your associate career capers. I also have a question. James and I have a lovely young receptionist who is looking for good volunteer opportunities as she finishes her prereq classes for nursing school. I want to send her Homeboy way…perhaps in tattoo removal as it is somewhat related to medicine (however tangential). What do you think?

    • Gillian @ That's G December 1, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

      Thank you so much, Susie!

      I love the idea of her volunteering with Homeboy in tattoo removal — I know all of the doctors are volunteers – I am not positive how volunteer options work with them but I’m sure they’d be happy to have her! I know some of the guys who work in tattoo removal and they’re awesome.

  4. Kaley December 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    Congrats on passing the bar! I’m having trouble believing it’s been so long since my first year teaching English!

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