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Bar Exam Success Strategies Bar Prep Courses Don’t Teach You with Brandi D. Pikes, Esq.

Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Ms. JD Corporation.

Lack of confidence is one of the three most common Bar exam preparation pitfalls according to a recent Above the Law article. So when I heard the story of an attorney who intentionally and strategically incorporated her faith into her Bar study routine to increase her confidence in herself and her abilities, I knew I had to reach out to her! I am happy to share this conversational interview I had with Brandi D. Pikes, Esq. about her Bar exam study strategy, which includes tips Bar prep courses don’t teach you, and the importance of mindset and vision for Bar exam success and beyond.

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Brandi, thank you so much for taking time to answer questions for me as the June member spotlight for Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind! Let’s start off with an introductory question; where did you go to law school and what type of law do you practice?

I graduated from Washington University School of Law.  Before attending law school, I attended University of Mississippi where I received my M.A. in Political Science, and I am also a proud HBCU graduate — I attended Alcorn State University (B.A. in Mass Communications). 

Currently, I am an associate attorney at Bricker & Eckler LLP.  My practice consists mostly of education and employment law matters.

 

That sounds very interesting!  What do you do on a day to day in your practice? 

Right now, no two days are the same. I love the versatility of my current position. Some days I am drafting contracts, revising school board policies, researching employment law issues, analyzing labor employees wages and benefits, and attending labor negotiations. 

 

Awesome!  Sounds like you do a variety of substantive work.  I know you overcame a lot to get to the point where you are licensed to practice law.  Could you tell us your story and how your faith helped you with studying for and taking the Bar exam? 

My faith in God gives me hope and peace in every situation.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  I have witnessed God show up for me by protecting and prospering me in the face of adversity.  I have overcome the trauma of witnessing gun violence, experiencing several anemic blood episodes, and having a benign tumor removed during law school.  Before I started preparing for the July 2018 Bar exam, I knew God as a protector, a healer, and a provider.  However, I did not fully understand who I am in Christ.  It took me failing the July Bar exam to begin to dig deeper and study the Bible to learn what does God’s Word say about me. His Word became the foundation of my identity. 

 

 

 

That is so beautiful, Brandi. One of the study strategies you shared with me included writing affirmations. What made you create written affirmations for your Bar study? 

When I was a child, I saw my mother writing and posting affirmations and scriptures on yellow Post-its in her bedroom, bathroom, and car.  Early on, she stressed the importance of speaking God’s word and speaking things into existence.  I had failed the July Bar Exam by three points. As I prepared to take the February Bar exam, I worked with a professor who helped me see that I knew the law, but I doubted myself the first time around.  My strategy for passing the February bar exam was to affirm my identity, increase my confidence, and complete a ton of practice questions. Here are some ways I affirmed my identity and increased my confidence:

  • I prayed twice a day and thanked God for allowing me to pass the February Bar exam. I also asked God to not only allow me to pass, but to allow several others I knew taking this exam to pass. Some weeks my friend prayed for me on the telephone, which was really awesome.
  • Three to five times a week I wrote a meditation on a scripture. 
  • I wrote lists of scriptures and affirmations on three pieces of large chart paper and hung them in my living room where I studied most of the time. For example, I wrote, “It doesn’t matter what Adaptibar, Barbri, or my co-workers say, I will succeed, because God has plans for me.”
  • I placed Post-it notes on my desk. One of them said, “Stop pressing replay. God causes all things to triumph.”
  • I listened to my Bar exam playlist, which consisted of gospel songs that strengthened and empowered me.
  • I practiced yoga to Zii’s Crowned Affirmations, an album of spoken affirmations for purpose-driven women set to music that you can bounce to.
  • I reached out to people who genuinely cared about me when I was feeling down who encouraged me. I also intentionally stayed away from negative-thinking people and those who questioned everything. 
  • I bought the suit that I planned to wear at the swearing-in ceremony.

This is powerful stuff! I noticed that you also posted a list of reasons of why you would pass the Bar exam. What led to the creation of that list? 

One week before the February Bar exam, I reached out to Professor Kelly of the Moritz College of Law, because I was feeling anxious. I was ready to take the exam but I was not 100% sure if I was ready. Professor Kelly told me to write two to three reasons why I will pass this exam and email it to her. I started thinking of all of the reasons I would pass this exam. It boiled down to two main concepts. I was going to pass because 1) God was with me and 2) I was prepared. By the time I finished the list, I had written 14 reasons why I knew I was going to pass and I felt more confident.

 

Yes!!!  Having confidence and a positive mindset is so important for the Bar exam (and life!). What are some other tips you have to share for those studying for the Bar? 

  • Believe that God wants you to be an attorney. Believe in your capabilities. 
  • Do not talk yourself into defeat. Be careful what you say about yourself and this exam as you prepare for it.
  • Complete at least 50 real MBE questions / day and at least 4 essays / a week.
  • Complete 1-2 MPT / week. 
  • Check out Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (Emanuel Bar Review) 6th Edition.
  • Review essay responses to prior Bar exam questions. Understand which concepts are tested together on the essay portion and memorize them. For example, on the Ohio Bar, an essay testing vicarious liability will usually contain respondeat superior, frolic, and detour issues. So if you spot a vicarious liability issue, you need to look for the other three issues.
  • Write out your own list on why you will pass the Bar exam.

As the member spotlight for Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind, you will be hosting a live Q&A event called “Vision Planning: Strategies for Seeing Yourself Passing the Bar Exam and Beyond” on June 25 at 8 pm EST.  What topics will be covered during the live Q&A with you?

Habakkuk 2:2 says “Write the vision and make it plain upon tablets,” so I will discuss the importance of vision planning as well as how to create and implement a vision for yourself as you prepare to take the Bar exam and once you complete the Bar exam. I also will discuss the specific strategies that helped me pass the Bar exam. I really believe it is important for me to share with others what worked and what did not work. 

I am so excited for you to share this with our members and with the world! What is the importance of being part of a community like Grace for the Grind Career Mastermind, a free private online community for Christian women lawyers and law students? 

Communities like Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind encourage and empower. They provide a way for individuals to connect with other like-minded individuals who share a common faith. It is also a great source for accountability partners. 

 

 

How can readers get in contact with you?  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandipikes/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brandidashell/

Feel free to email me at bdpikes@gmail.com for booking information and questions about preparing for the bar exam. 

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Thank you for sharing this wisdom, Brandi!  I look forward to attending your live Q&A hosted by Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind on June 25 at 8 pm EST and hearing you share how to plan a vision for Bar exam success and beyond!  This event is open to everyone, so register here to attend.

Women lawyers and law students can join Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind for FREE to participate in other activities in the mastermind such as discussion forums, group devotionals, and monthly leadership Bible studies. Join for free here!

 

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