The New York Bar Exam: An LL.M. Perspective

Olivett Ihama (LLM, '11) in Washington DC

By: Olivett Ihama (LLM, ’11)

It has been nearly two weeks since I found out that I passed the NYS Bar Exam, however it feels like I sat for the exam years ago. Unlike many JD students who sat for the Bar in July, the five month wait between sitting for the exam and finding out results was not an anxious wait for me. I decided once I walked out of the exam hall that I was not going to give the Bar exam any more thought until I received the email confirming whether I had passed or not. I stuck with this mind-set.

I remember making the decision to sit for the NYS Bar Exam very late into the application stage. In fact, I think I applied to sit for the Bar on the last day when applications could be filed in April. Despite the many trips I made to the Bar-Bri and Kaplan stalls that were set up in the halls of Worrell throughout the academic year (although I must admit many of those visits were due to free Krispy Kremes and IPad 2 prize draws), I did not decide to sit for the Bar until March (I think). This was largely due to the fact that I had heard so many JDs and American lawyers talk about how hard the Bar was, and how your brain feels like “mush” after sitting for it. I was not sure that I wanted to end a wonderful year at Wake Forest by sitting for the NYS Bar Exam. Instead I wanted to travel around America before I returned to England.  However, after consulting with some of my Professors both at Wake Forest and from my undergraduate university in England I realised that if I was ever going to sit for the NYS Bar, the summer before I returned to England would be the best time to do it. This was primarily because I had many resources available to me at Wake Forest (and Kaplan and Bar-Bri had offers for LL.Ms who wanted to sit for the Bar) and apart from my desire to travel across America (which I could do any time) I had nothing stopping me from taking this opportunity.

The application process to sit for the NYS Bar Exam was extremely long-winded and tedious and I did not receive confirmation that I was approved to sit for the Bar until mid-June (obviously by that time I had decided to start studying just in case I had been approved). I chose to take the Bar exam in Buffalo, NY and to sit for the MPRE (ten days after the Bar Exam) in Houston, TX because I had family in Houston.

Studying for the NYS Bar Exam was probably one of the hardest experiences I have ever gone through. I remember telling myself before I started the process that I would only do this once. I decided to do the Bar review course with Kaplan and I chose to do the online studying course as opposed to attending lectures. This was because I wanted to study for the Bar at home in England. I had heard that it was best to have homely comforts whilst studying, as the “Bar experience” is so intense that simple things like eating, you can forget to do because of stress. I was sent all the books and materials I needed to study and Kaplan planned out a daily schedule for me to follow everyday up until the day of the Bar exam. This consisted of personal study, watching online lectures, filling in blanks in a workbook, doing practise multiple choice and essay questions. Most of my friends who sat for the Bar started their Bar review course at the beginning of May. I was unable to start studying until late May because I had graduation and all the other difficulties that come with packing up my life and moving back to England to deal with. This meant that I had to use every weekend to catch up with my study schedule, which definitely made studying for the Bar a more intense experience than it should have been.

On the actual day of the exam, I remember feeling very calm, partly because I knew that I had tried my best and could not do, review my notes, stress myself any more. I just wanted the next two days to be done with; after all I still had to sit for the MPRE ten days later. The time went very quickly during the two days and before I knew it I was done with Bar. I finally understood that “mushy” feeling in your brain that people who had sat for the Bar were talking about. I literally forgot everything I had learned (or at least I feel like I did) and could not even remember what the questions were about or what I wrote as my answers (so no chance of me discussing answers with anybody).

Ten days later I sat for the MPRE in Houston. Motivating myself to study for this after the Bar exam was PAINFUL, but I was determined to only put myself through this experience once.  Time also went very quickly during the MPRE and before I knew it I was completely finished with all Bar related exams. The feeling of finishing was nothing like I’d ever experienced. It had been a long, hard and intense summer of studying and I was ready to start enjoying food, seeing friends, shopping and browsing aimlessly on Facebook again.

Olivett Ihama studied at Wake Forest University School of Law and graduated with her Masters of American Law (LLM) in 2011. She is from Lincolnshire, England. She is currently studying the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at the College of Law in Bristol, England.