Bar Study Challenges for a Studier in a New Community

Study challenges; what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

I studied for and took the bar exam in a city other than where I went to law school. The local law school libraries were not all that convenient or close to my house and all three are private schools that I wasn’t familiar with. Therefore, I decided to study primarily in public libraries. This presented unique challenges, all of which are able to be overcome. I’ll share some of the pros and cons of studying in public libraries here in case any readers find themselves in a similar situation:


  • you won’t see any other bar studiers there
  • you won’t see any law school friends there so you’ll avoid the distractions that are friends
  • close to home
  • no distractions of home: refrigerator, tv, neighbors, laundry, etc


  • limited hours – public libraries usually close pretty early in the evening; this was actually a big challenge for me that entailed keeping track of all the random hours of the libraries near me so that I knew where I could go study depending on the day of the week and time
  • noise – my public libraries have a lot of events in the summer like public speakers, kids’ events, musical performances, etc
  • loitering, especially by homeless people in my area
  • intermittent internet connection
  • lack of privacy and having to share tables

I was able to make it work and spent most of my time studying in the public libraries in my area but had to balance the concerns listed above.

Another thing that I'd like to point out about studying for the bar in a different city than where you went to law school -- it is very lonely. I didn't know anyone in my BarBri class, I didn't have any fellow studiers to take breaks with or talk to about the program. Sure I had family and friends in the area, but I pretty much limited contact with them during my study time and even when I did take time with them, they couldn't begin to understand what I was going through. I did make shallow friendships with the people that I regularly sat near in BarBri but we never got too far past, "how are you" each day. My point is, be ready for solitude, its hard. I remember full days passing by without talking to anyone. This was tough and a little depressing for me.



I spent the summer in Ithaca studying for the bar - it was one of the best summers I've ever had.  At the time, it was really cheap (I paid $200 to continue to lease my room in my house for 8 weeks) and the place was so beautiful.  I'd often study outside by the lake.  We had one woman in our bar review class who came from another school to study in Ithaca.  I really liked her and my group of friends and I welcomed her in our activities in part because we knew that she didn't know anyone else.
Carolyn Elefant Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant, Washington DC My - Inspiring Solo and Small Firm Lawyers


I started Barbri about 2 weeks after I arrived in the US. I knew no one and not only was the city unfamiliar, so was the whole country! I actually found it a great experience because I made friends in my Barbri class and picked up a great deal of that intangible knowledge you get in your JD that I didn't have before.
The first month was really fun. The work wasn't that hard and I took the first 3 weekends off. I didn't work late at night either.
The second month was hard just because of tying all the stuff together but not unmanageable.
 The second last week was the toughest, the only time I worked late at night. The last week was kind of surreal, I was trying to keep calm and hold some stamina in reserve for the exam itself.
And yes, I passed first go, without ever setting foot in a US university.
The hardest thing for me was that I couldn't find decent (ie non-Starbucks) coffee near the Barbri offices! I formed study groups with my classmates, we circulated questions and encouragement by email and I studied entirely at home.
 The solitude of the bar review is nothing. Wait for the solitude of the law firm. They make it sound fun to summers and then when you arrive you find that you can spend a week in your office communicating ony by email and phone and never seeing a single live human being other than your secretary and the cleaners!
Good luck everyone, it isn't that bad. If a foreigner can pass it starting from scratch then so can you.

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