Passing the Bar and Starting to Practice

The following tips were contributed by the panelists for Monday’s PDO program, Transitioning to the Practice of Law:  Tracy Gruber (Administrator for the New Lawyer Training Program at the Utah State Bar), Cheylynn Hayman (Parr Brown Gee & Loveless), Wendy Petersen (Jones Waldo), Stephanie Pugsley (Kirton & McConkie), and Stacia Sidlow (career judicial clerk for Magistrate Judge Paul Warner at the U.S. District Court).

Tips for Passing the Bar

1.  Take review courses, set up a study schedule, and stick to it!  All of our panelists did BARBRI and three also did PMBR.   Warning:  those who do not take studying for the bar exam seriously may fail!  Most of our panelists “cleared the decks” after July 4 and studied full time until the bar exam.   They recommended that you learn as much as you can while you attend the courses and pace yourself; there is a lot of material to cover!

2.  The PMBR is very close to the multi-state exam.  This study course really “gelled” everything for one panelist.

3.  The spiral bound workbooks are the best study aid.  Otherwise, study according to how you personally find success, whether it is with the help of a small study group or by making your own outlines.  Practice writing essays and remember to include the important elements that answer the essay question.  Many (not all) of the panelists found it helpful to tackle the material by subject areas; they would study a topic, then complete the practice multiple choice questions on the topic followed by writing practice essays.  Keep your outlines because they can be useful when you’re practicing.

4.  Use a computer rather than writing the essays in long hand.

5.  Don’t try to second guess what’s going to be on the bar exam or not.  Do try to know at least a little about all areas.

6.  Listen to the CD study aids.  Do this while multi-tasking if your time is limited (while mowing the lawn, driving carpool, etc.).

7.  Walk away from the exam and don’t talk to anyone else about how they may have answered the questions until after you have received your bar results.

Tips for Transitioning to Practice

1.  Take a break after taking the bar exam, at least for a couple of weeks.  Law is a demanding career, so take the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate before diving into practice.

2.  If you don’t have a job or don’t have your dream job at graduation, network and be flexible.  There are many paths to getting your foot in the door, whether it is staring as a librarian or paralegal at a firm or beginning in a location that is not your first choice.  Bar events are great opportunities for networking.

3.  Take advantage of mentoring, because mentoring is really important.  In Utah, you will participate in the New Lawyers Training Program (NLTP) that the Bar sponsors.   For questions about the NLTP, contact the administrator, Tracy Gruber, at  PDO has some of her cards if you weren’t at the panel.  You and your mentor will both receive 12 CLE credits for participating.  If you already have clinical experience, you may be able to use it to satisfy some of the requirements of the NLTP.   Document it!  The panelists suggested that you ask the director and staff of the Clinical Program to help with this if applicable.

4.  Don’t panic at not knowing everything when you start your first post-graduation job.  Expect a steep learning curve, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Insider tip:  call a judicial clerk to ask a question.  Stacia Sidlow, a career judicial clerk, agreed that it was OK to do this!  Second insider tip:  the rules of Civ Pro really are important.

5.  Nothing should be delivered faster than bad news.  When you make a mistake, fess up to it quickly and take the necessary steps to remedy your mistake.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn.

6.  Be professional, kind and courteous.  Your reputation rides on your name and your services, and once those are tarnished, they are hard to re-establish.  Play nicely with your classmates, co-workers, and opposing counsel!