When my family moved to California, I was faced with taking the bar exam again after 24 years of practicing real estate law.  California is one of the few states in the country that does not offer bar license reciprocity to lawyers from other states, no matter how long they have been practicing.  So, with much trepidation, I undertook the daunting task of studying to take the California bar exam.  The last bar exam I took was in July 2000 in Colorado, right after law school when the information was fresh in my mind.  Back then I was single and had the summer off to do nothing but study.  I had no idea how lucky I was.

This time I started studying in September 2023 and took the February 2024 exam, all while maintaining a law practice and caring for my family.  It was incredibly challenging, but I learned a few things about myself and the law in the process.

Key takeaways:

  1. Recalling ancient information is possible, albeit painful.

It is amazing how much you can forget, and then recover from the recesses of your mind.  I never thought I would have to call upon my knowledge of the rules of evidence or civil procedure again – a thought which, frankly, brought me joy.  For this exam, I had to study not only the federal rules I learned as a first-year law student in 1997, but the rules unique to California.  What’s more, I had to be able to compare and contrast the California evidence and civil procedure rules with the federal rules in essay format.  My brain wanted to reject this information, but I was determined.  If you have any questions about legal minutiae, ask me now before I banish them to the depths of my mind again.

  1. Years of law practice provided greater understanding of subjects outside my practice area.

Having real-life perspective allowed me to better understand subjects that made little sense during law school.  For instance, learning about legal remedies in law school was incredibly tedious since I did not intend to become a litigator. I did not realize how much remedies would matter in the world of real estate deals.  Now, after having written, reviewed and negotiated thousands of documents with default and remedies provisions in them, it was all much clearer, and dare I say – useful.  I learned the true meanings and purposes of numerous types of remedies, beyond my prior knowledge.  This has already proven valuable, especially in lease and purchase agreement negotiations.

  1. Having the courage to ditch the commercial bar review course really paid off.

When I began studying last fall, I signed up for a review course, at great cost, and started listening to the lectures.  After three months, I realized it was not teaching me how to take the test.  I abandoned it and bought different study guides.  I read and practiced and taught myself what I needed to know (even California community property law, which was entirely new for me, yikes).  At this age, I have a better understanding of how I learn and work.  I was able to pivot away from the traditional study method and do something that worked better for me.  I am not sure I would have had the courage to do that twenty-four years ago.

  1. Maturity brought greater test focus and less anxiety.

I was able to focus and avoid being consumed by test anxiety before and during the exam.  I do not know if it was my yoga and meditation practice paying off, the fact that I cannot be fired from Sternfield Law, age, perspective, or all of these, but I was in the zone and I was able to just get it done.  For me, this was a major victory given my standardized test anxiety dating back to high school.

  1. I am not moving again.

There is a lot to be said for staying put.  I will avoid at all costs moving to a state that does not accept my Colorado or Utah law licenses on reciprocity.  Of course, no other state is reciprocal with California…


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