The culmination of hundreds of hours spent memorizing statutes, writing practice exams and reading old Supreme Court cases is less than two weeks away for graduates of Santa Barbara’s two law schools.
“We can only go with what we’re told by students, but we’re hearing that 100% of our students completing their (juris doctor) this year will be taking the Bar (Exam) either in February or July for the first time,” said Jackie Gardina, the Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law Dean and Chief Academic Officer.
Ms. Gardina said 26 students graduated from the Santa Barbara campus, at 20 E. Victoria St., this year and 15 graduated from the Ventura campus.
A spokeswoman from the Southern California Institute of Law, at 1525 State St. Suite No. 202, said the school could not provide how many graduates will take the exam.
The California Bar Exam is the licensing exam for attorneys. They administer the exam over two days and it consists of five one-hour essay questions, one 90-minute performance test and 200 multiple-choice questions.
Ms. Gardina said the Colleges of Law curriculum prepares students to pass the Bar Exam as soon as they walk through the door.
“When students are taking their exams, they’re experiencing what it’s like on the Bar Exam. They’re closed books, taken on the same Examsoft software the Bar uses. And they’re mixed subjects so the student doesn’t necessarily know what subject they’re gonna be tested on the first night of the exam,” said Ms. Gardina.
Professors include multiple-choice questions on exams on subjects that will be on the Bar Exam.
Colleges of Law also includes Barbri Bar prep services in student tuition. Barbri provides even more multiple-choice practice questions, instructional videos on bar-tested subjects and diagnostic exams that provide data on student progress.
Fourth-year students also take a dedicated bar studies course to help build efficient study and exam-taking strategies.
Colleges of Law graduate Kieran Schwoerke passed the Bar Exam in February 2019. He is a defense attorney at The Law Office of Robert F. Landheer.
“I finished school in December 2018 and stopped working so I could study full time. Money got tight so I started coming back to work for a couple of hours in the morning in January,” said Mr. Schwoerke, who thanked his wife, Alyssa, for keeping their home life together as he studied and guiding him through times when he felt he might not pass.
“She would make dinner and she would take care of all the things that needed to be done. So those moments . . . she got me through. You get this sense of ‘Oh, my God, I cannot fail this, I have too much riding on this.’ But then you realize that it’s just work and if you do (the work) it’s going to get done.”
Mr. Schwoerke said failure wasn’t an option.
“I did a paralegal program, I did the law school, I need to do this, there is no failure option. The other thing is, I can’t afford to take this test again. It was like $1,200 total and then the hotel was not cheap either and being in Pasadena, there was no way to drive there and back, it’s just insane. All things considered it’s a $2,000 to $2,500 excursion and that money isn’t growing on trees,” recalled Mr. Schwoerke.
He said that the Colleges of Law’s essay exams prepared him for the Bar Exam because they had a similar number of major issues in each question.
“They were not necessarily as hard, but I felt there were a similar number of twists and turns that the professors here sort of got us ready for. I don’t think there were any exams that I took (at Colleges of law) that I thought were easy with the exception of (one),” said Mr. Schwoerke.
He encouraged test takers to make a daily schedule that works for them and stick to it faithfully until the examination date.
“I was spending eight to 10 hours per day most days. Make sure you always eat a good dinner, always go to bed early. I’d wake up when my body woke up which was around 7 to 8 a.m. and start studying by 8:30 to 9 a.m. And then go the full day pretty much not too much after the evenings, not too much after 7 p.m.. I got to watch some soccer games and I took a few lunches off and that was pretty much it,” said Mr. Schworke.
He found that going through old exams was helpful because the topics can be overwhelming to study from an outline or pages of notes.
He added that students shouldn’t get too discouraged if they’re not quite matching the benchmarks set in study programs like Barbri because not every student will respond to that study method or pick up the material at the same rate.
“Come February, I was really several percentages, 10 to 15 progress points behind what Barbri suggested I should be, so that at that point, I started slimming down on Barbri. I didn’t go through everything that they wanted, they had multiple choice, fill in the blanks and I sort of abandoned those.” said Mr. Schwoerke, who ultimately relied on the study methods he developed during law school.
“I thought that looking at past exams, like I had done throughout law school, was the tried and true method for me. That was definitely not a part of Barbri and I definitely think that one thing I would recommend is to not to be super stressed out by where the Barbri says you should be and where you are if you are not there.”
Gonzaga Law School graduate Mollyanne Wincek, a family law attorney at Morales Law, also passed the February 2019 bar exam.
Gonzaga is located in Washington, and Ms. Wincek said she had to catch up on California’s evidence and civil procedure rules which took up valuable study time.
She continued that the exam room is a stressful environment because hundreds of students are packed into an auditorium.
“You can feel the pressure. It’s kind of a terrifying experience. But when you actually start taking the exam you see a question that you know and that makes you feel a little better. You realize ‘Wow I know a lot more than I think I do,’” said Ms. Wincek.
She noted that once you pass the bar you face another daunting test — finding a job.
“It’s important to be gentle on yourself — you just passed the California Bar. If you’re sending out resumes and not finding the job that’s the right fit, remember that.”