Bar None, and Then Some

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If you’ve passed the New York bar exam, you can probably pass any other state bar, says John G. Pieper. And he should know. As founder of New York’s Pieper Bar Review, he has spent the past 33 years analyzing various state bar exams and preparing students to take them. Pieper has taken bar exams in 31 states and passed each one.

New York, Pieper says, relies heavily on local law questions, as does Florida. That makes those states more difficult than others, which largely test on multistate principles.

Still, he says taking a second–or third–bar exam is easier than you may think, particularly if you have recent exam-taking experience.

His advice is to prepare with the help of materials from your most recent bar-review course. Go through your old notes, focusing on the multistate portion, and then try a couple multistate practice tests, he advises. “So you’re on the same wavelength you were months or years earlier.”

And some states don’t test on local law at all.

“In most states I go to, just the basic multistate principle will result in passage,” Pieper says. He mentions that his son Troy, the company’s president and director, recently took the Connecticut state bar. He was told that applicants could answer questions based on local or general law.

“The states I’ve gone to with that, it’s a pure delight,” says Pieper, who seems to relish taking tests. Unless the tests include local law he doesn’t study for them, and he usually ties bar exams in with a vacation.

Study Strategies

Pieper also says that, despite its difficult reputation, the California state bar exam seemed fairly easy. Cecilia Y. Chan, a member of the New York bar who was recently admitted in California, agrees. “The California bar is three days long, so it was a little bit more taxing than New York in that way,” she says. “But in substance, it was easier than New York.”

A new job for Chan’s husband brought her to Califor­nia; she practices with a large law firm in San Francisco. She worked with the same firm in New York and took a few months off to study for the California bar. Chan took a bar review course offered by BAR/BRI rather than studying off her New York notes.

“I don’t know if I really needed it, but I didn’t want to find out that I did,” Chan says. “It wasn’t something that I wanted to take a chance on.”

Others have had success with audio- or videotapes offered by bar review providers such as Pieper. Heather J. Rose took the Florida state bar exam shortly after passing the bar in Minnesota. She was working full time, so her studying was limited to listening to bar review tapes in the car, studying evenings and taking practice exams.

“I think most of the fear with the first one is that you’ve never taken [a bar exam] before, so you don’t know what to expect,” Rose says.

Florida appealed to Rose because she does estate planning work. “I did it in order to not lose my clients when they become snowbirds,” she says. An Illinois native, a few years lat­er she decided to move back home and take the state bar there. By this time she had a son and worked part time. Her general schedule was to work until 3 p.m., study for two hours and then pick up her child from day care. She also spent weekends studying.

For now, Rose says she has no intention of taking another bar exam. But for others thinking about it, she advises that they study and try to do it sooner rather than later.

“Don’t be cocky,” says Rose, who practices in Northbrook, Ill., near Chicago. “Just because you passed one doesn’t mean you’re going to pass the other.”

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