Archive for Bar Exam

Diary of a Public Interest Law Job Seeker, Entry #3: How do I find the time to look for a job?

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

This is the third blog post in a series about my job-hunting adventures (and misadventures). You all may know me as the 2012-2014 PSJD Fellow, in which position I manage PSJD’s website and social media accounts. I love this job, but unfortunately my Fellowship is almost halfway over. Aside from the regular stress of looking for a job, I – like many other public interest law grads who scour PSJD for job vacancies – have to combat a dearth of available positions, an abundance of unpaid postgraduate opportunities, student loans, the bar exam, and a majorly competitive job market.

I’m writing this public diary so other recent law graduates know they are not alone. Looking for a job, facing rejection, and dealing with stress and anxiety can be disconcerting and isolating. So if I touch on something that has happened to you or someone you know, feel free to leave a comment! We’ll get through this together. So, without further ado…  

Entry #3: How do I find the time to look for a job?

This past Monday, I officially started prepping for the bar exam. It’s been everything I thought it would be: time-consuming, a tad bit stressful, and, at times, more than a little boring.

Since I’m working full-time while studying for the bar exam, I chose to take an online bar prep course to meet the needs of my lifestyle. Between viewing my classes online and flash-carding like nobody’s business, I usually spend roughly 4-6 hours a day on bar prep alone. The hours of 9am and 5pm belong almost exclusively to PSJD (no complaints here!). By the time my day is over, I am mentally exhausted.

And then, right before I shut my eyes, I remember that I still need to find a job. As I drift off to sleep, I know it’s too late to pop open my laptop and go job hunting. The mere thought gives me a headache.

This first week of working full-time, studying for the bar and job searching has opened my eyes once again to the importance of time-management. I haven’t felt pulled in this many directions since law school.

I’ve quickly realized that if getting the right job is a high priority for me, then I have to treat it like one.

Under this new time-crunch, I’ve created a weekly schedule that I try to stick to as much as possible. Now, sandwiched in between work, bar prep and necessary hobbies that help maintain my sanity, there’s about 30 minutes to an hour of job-searching a day.

I debated on looking for jobs only a couple of times a week, but I have learned the hard way that deadlines come and go very quickly. I use PSJD to add Employer Favorites or set up daily email alerts that send filtered jobs straight to my inbox every morning. (If you want to learn how to set up your own email alerts or add Favorites, email me at or check out this old blog post.) I also have a few go-to websites that I mentioned last week.

In terms of maximizing my job hunt, it also helps to have friends in high places. I’ve contacted a few old internship supervisors to let them know I’m looking for work. Previous connections may have internal leads on jobs that may not be circulating online. By the time most of us graduate, we have formed a pretty solid network of mentors, supervisors, colleagues and peers. These people may be our best bet to finding a job that is just right.

Be sure to check back next week for the next entry in the Diary of a Public Interest Law Job Seeker!

Ashley Matthews is the 2012-2014 PSJD Fellow. She is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and has a background in multimedia journalism, political science, and digital media management. She is very passionate about access to justice issues, global social entrepreneurship, and legally empowering low-income and marginalized communities.



OMG – I Failed the Bar! Now What?

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

I failed the first Bar I took.

There I said it.  I admit, I still feel the sting of shame when saying it.  I shouldn’t – I went on to pass two other bars, had a great career practicing civil rights defense, and am now doing what I absolutely love.  But, it’s there – shame, embarrassment, fear of failure, the thought that I am a failure despite my other successes.  So, I understand that right now you want to crawl under a rock and never come out.  That’s ok. And you should do the 2013 equivalent: Don’t check Facebook for a while, stay off Twitter, ignore the Instagram pics of your friends celebrating, [insert whatever other social media is relevant].  Give yourself time to grieve because you worked really hard and have suffered a huge disappointment.  Then, after a suitable mourning period, put down the tub of Ben & Jerry’s and make a recovery plan.  Why?  Because you’ve worked too hard not to.  Failing the Bar isn’t a reflection on how smart you are or how worthy you are to practice law.  It’s a setback to be sure, but one you can recover from with a good game plan.  I suggest examining the following in order to determine what you might need to change for the next time around.


I know, that sounds like a stupid question, but hear me out.  This may not apply to you, but there are a number of folks out there who are pressured into taking a certain Bar because deadlines are coming up, and you have to pick something.  If that was the case for you, take some time to evaluate where you want to practice, what states might have reciprocity with other places you might like to practice, and where there are good bar passage rates for second-time test takers.  Has something come up that makes you want to be in another state?  You may find this wasn’t the right one in the first place, and you’ll be glad you didn’t pass.


That was my problem.  I took an in-person class and didn’t work during my first bar, so I had “all the time in the world” to study.  Turns out I drastically misused my time, and didn’t retain nearly enough.  My advice on this point has always been (to a lot of success) to think about how you managed exams in law school.  If you were the type to have a lot going on so that you had to really focus in the precious time you had to study for exams (me), then you probably shouldn’t have an entire day every day to study for the Bar.  I also should not have attended in person classes, and remedied that mistake in the next two Bar exams I took (and passed).  Back in the day, there was an option to have the classes on cassette tape (I know, right?).  That’s how I did it for the next two Bars, and it made me really focus on what the instructor was saying.  I could study when I was the most focused (and not when the class was scheduled), and I could go back to places where I needed to listen again.  Now there are much better and varied tools, so think about what works best for you and make it happen.


I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but I’m also sure you heard this a lot in law school.  It’s even more important now.  You know from the first time that you’re in the “Bar Study Bubble.”  You need to take care of yourself and make sure you get enough breaks so that you can sleep well, eat right and get some exercise.  Nothing will be retained if you can’t focus.  And, another important safety tip – have regular contact with people not taking the Bar (or about to practice law for that matter).  You need to talk about/think about things that are not law or Bar-related.  My boyfriend (now husband) and I were frankly poor when I was taking the Bar the second time.  But, he did make sure we regularly went to the movies or some other (even free) activity to get my mind off studying for the Bar for a while.  Don’t worry – it will still be there to obsess over when you’re done.


If it was by more than 12-15 points, then you need to seriously reevaluate how you studied and what bar review materials/mechanisms you used.  If you need some guidance in this area, go back to your law school’s student affairs office.  They are usually the ones with their pulse on all the Bar exams and their requirements, and are savvy about what tools work.


Yes, you failed the Bar.  Yes, it sucks!  But, yes, you will get past it and go on to have a glorious career.  Just make sure you do what you need to do to get ready.  And good luck!  I will be doing the happy dance for you when you pass in February.