I wrote two bar exams in 2012. I first attempted the New York bar in late-July and then the Ontario bar in November. Fortunately for me, I cleared both exams on my first attempt. In the next couple of blog posts I want to talk about my personal experience studying and writing the Ontario bar exams.
My Journey before the Ontario Bar (The New York Bar)
Around May 2012, I received my materials for the New York bar exam. They arrived in two giant boxes and when I took out the books and placed them on my desk, I felt both excitement and fear. I was definitely pumped to start learning again, but I was so overwhelmed with the amount of content. I've heard horror stories about the New York bar and the pass rates for foreigners attempting the exam was terrible. Nevertheless, I hunkered down about two months before the exam and started studying. I made a two-month plan and I made sure I would stick to it. The horror stories turned out to be true. Preparing for the New York bar was both physically and mentally exhausting. I would go entire days without eating because I simply forgot or lost track of time. I had days where I felt like crying because I couldn't possibly imagine memorizing over 20 subjects. Why the heck do I need to learn two sets of criminal law?(Federal and State criminal laws may differ). By the time July rolled around, I had lost 12 kg and was burnt out. I drove to Buffalo the day before the exams and was just anxious to get it over with. I never wanted to touch those books ever again. It would be a few months before I would learn of my results. In the meantime, I had to submit my application and get registered for the Ontario bar exams. If any of you ever wrote the New York bar, you would know that the last thing you'd want to do after that exam is start studying again for another bar exam. I was not mentally prepared to immediately take on another bar and after all that work, I really deserved and needed a break. And so I took one. I decided that I'm going to take the next couple of months to lay low.
Ontario Bar Experience
I received my materials for the Ontario exams well before the November date, but they sat in the box I received them in and I didn't even bother opening the shrink-wrap on them. The materials just sat in my room collecting dust and about 3 weeks before the Barrister exam, I thought it's time to start reading and make an effort for this exam. I still felt burnt out and I'd lost my motivation to study, but I thought I'd give the exam a shot anyway. I began reading materials for the Barrister's exam, but I wasn't quite sure how I was supposed to prepare. This exam was not the same as the New York bar. In Ontario you get to bring in all your materials with you. How hard could it possibly be? After reading through the first chapter of the materials, I felt like the information was going in one ear and out the other. I had no idea how was I going to tackle this exam if I can't even remember what I read in the previous paragraph. I continued to plow through the material and annotate them with my own notes in the margins. About a week before the exam I got my hands on an index from friends that prepared them. I didn't bother looking at the index as I was busy trying to finish my first reading of the Barrister materials.
Just a few days before the barristers exam, my results for the New York bar came in. I passed! I felt.... numb. Don't get me wrong, I was happy to learn that I passed. I just wasn't as happy as I thought I would be, which told me that my head is not on right yet and I'm about to write another bar exam in just a few days. Oh goodness.
Many of my friends and classmates writing the Ontario bar already finished their first reading of both the barrister and solicitor materials and were already on their second reading of barristers. This made me a little nervous cause I hadn't yet finished the barrister readings, let alone open the shrink wrap on the solicitor materials which was coming up two weeks after the barrister exam.
Needless to say, I was walking into a mine field incredibly unprepared. This really isn't like me. I typically over-prepare for important exams. With the New York bar behind my belt, I felt like trying my luck with the Ontario bar. What's the worst that can happen?
Stay tuned for my next post where I'll talk about what happened with my solicitor exam and how I managed to get by without actually completing my readings. - Liran