Law Students

Law Students

A Valedictorian’s Approach to Bar Exam Preparations
By:  Belashia Wallace

Olivia Haigler is a third-year student and the current valedictorian at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, where she boasts nearly a 4.0 grade point average. Rather than taking the typical route of most May law school graduates across Texas who take the bar exam in July, Olivia chose the rare option of taking the Texas Bar Exam in the February prior to her graduation. Upon entering law school, she had her heart set on being an Army JAG, an opportunity that she knew would make her more marketable for selection if she was licensed prior to graduating law school. Thus, she planned ahead by taking full loads of classes each semester and throughout the summer, all while balancing internships and leadership positions.

As a current first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Olivia credits her academic success to the skills she gained through her military service. Strong discipline and time-management are among her top tools of success. Along with maintaining excellent grades, Olivia is also one of her school’s student ambassadors, a representative for LexisNexis, a senior editor for Law Review, and a faculty-selected tutor to first- and second-year students. Nonetheless, she knew that mastering the bar exam would be like no other mission she’d ever done before.

Olivia began studying for the bar more than four months prior to the exam with what is known around her school as Walker’s Boot Camp. This two-month study method that was created by Olivia’s law professor, April Walker, gives students a structured plan of studying in preparation for the bar. In addition, Olivia utilized her spare time at school by sitting in on first- and second-year classes to gain extra understanding of key legal concepts.

Olivia’s first three weeks of bar study consisted of studying two to three subjects for up to 12 hours each day. She maintained consistency by always studying the same subjects on the same days of the week, which allowed her to study all 22 subjects consistently. She also strategically grouped her subjects together to enhance her comprehension. For example, she studied wills, trusts, and estates together since they covered the same principles. Similarly, she studied contracts, commercial paper, and secured transactions together since they all originated from the Uniform Commercial Code.

By her second month, Olivia grew accustomed to her obligations in Walker’s Boot Camp, which required submitting a progress report every two weeks. Each progress report detailed her study time and methods, for which she also maintained a high level of consistency in her self-testing strategies. The order of her normal study routine was to review her outline, listen to subject lectures, quiz herself, study the answers for each question, and record her scores on her progress reports. For MBE questions, she would give herself 25- to 30-question quizzes each day, and for essay topics, she would test herself in the same structure as the bar. She would then submit her essays to her law professors who were eager to grade them and provide her with detailed feedback.

By December, Olivia already completed hundreds of practice questions and excelled in all subject areas of her bar study. As a result, she was able to use her official bar prep course merely as a form of review in the weeks leading up to the bar exam. She appreciated the ways in which her course helped her focus on the subject matters that the bar would most heavily test. She also valued its simulated MBE, which was a 200-question exam that compared her score with the scores of everyone else across the country. She knew that her study methods were successful when she received her score on the simulated MBE, which showed that she ranked in the 98th percentile.

After finally completing her bar exam, numerous professors asked her to speak to their classes about what she did to prepare. When asked what her one piece of advice would be for any bar-taker, she said, “The bar is not hard. It’s the quantity of information that’s difficult. The numerous subject matters make the bar intimidating. The key to mastering the bar is giving yourself enough time to prepare for the subjects and making sure that you have a good grasp of the information. Once you realize this one the fact, you’ll find that the bar is not hard. ”

Although the road was long, she did not travel it alone. “I am just blessed because I had a very strong support base between my administrators, family, and colleagues,” she says. She credits her bar prep success to the administrators and faculty who spent countless hours reviewing her essays and who always welcomed her questions: Dean Marsha Griggs, Ana Otero, Stephanie Ledesma, Okezie Chukwumerije, Emeka Duruigbo, Sally Green, and April Walker. Beyond administrative support, Olivia also had the ongoing support of her family, along with close friends, Reginald Wilson, Alexia McWhinney, and Vanessa Ramirez.

Olivia now looks forward to her career as a judge advocate in the U.S. Army. When encouraging others to accomplish their dreams, Olivia shares her personal trials that she overcame, showing others that success is possible. “No one incident defines you in life,” she says. “I scored a 141 on my LSAT. Based on my statistics, I should have curved out of law school, yet I am now the valedictorian. That one number and that one incident in my life did not define me,” she says. “Your one incident and one obstacle in your life also does not define you. Always remember that everything is impossible until somebody does it.”

BELASHIA WALLACE is the chair of the State Bar of Texas Law Student Division and serves as law student liaison of the Texas Young Lawyers Association.

Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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