Reducing the Pain of Taking the Bar Exam:

Thanks to Amber Taylor, I learn that Eric Chaikin has made a documentary about taking the California Bar Exam. Despite the extremely unpromising subject matter, Amber's description makes it sound potentially interesting. I yield to no one in my distaste for bar exams, which in my view function mainly as cartels that restrict entry into the legal profession in order to protect current lawyers from potential competitors. That is particularly true in states like California and New York, which have created unusually difficult bar exams in order to reduce the number of lawyers entering their particularly large and lucrative markets.

That said, I think many law school graduates get overly stressed out and obsessed about taking the bar, and spend too much time studying. Most bar exams are primarily just tests of memorization. They're not much of an intellectual challenge, and require far less thinking than most law school exams.

Most important, all you have to do is pass. Unlike on the SAT or the LSAT, there is no need to maximize your score. As one of my law school classmates put it, every point you score above the minimum needed to pass is evidence that you spent too much time studying. I took this excellent advice to heart, and saved a lot of time and aggravation as a result (primarily by not attending any Bar/Bri lectures, and confining my preparation efforts to reading the books and taking some practice tests). If you're reasonably good at managing your time and memorizing legal rules, you can probably do the same thing.

It's not often that a professor tells students to spend less time studying. But when it comes to the bar exam, for many students it's the best pedagogical advice I can give.

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