Third time’s a charm

Yes, you read that right in my previous post. I have taken the bar exam in three different states. Thankfully I passed, but I was convinced every time that this was going to be the time I failed. Each state has covered a different part of my life. Here is a brief synopsis, and a few things I’ve learned along the way.


I’m from Iowa and took the bar initially right out of law school. I was unmarried, living with a friend, and had scored my first full-time job that didn’t have an end date. I had to pass the bar within my first year, but the passage rate in Iowa was high enough they expected you to pass the first time. Since most of my classmates spent the majority of the summer in our sleepy college town, this bar study was heavily populated with summer parties and trips to the bar. Many study sessions at Starbucks or in my former carrel. At the time, Iowa was considered an MBE state and had not switched to the UBE (which they currently use).

What I learned: you have to treat the bar exam like a job and focus for 8 hours a day. But you do need to have some fun and relax. Plus flashcards are fantastic.


After we got married, I moved to the state of Washington to join my new husband. I moved shortly before New Year’s Eve and thought I could apply for jobs while studying for the bar exam. Turns out if you aren’t in law school, most firms want you to pass their state’s bar before they will hire you. Usually. This was probably the easiest bar for me, as I just moved to a new state and barely knew anyone. It was probably the hardest for my introvert husband as I talked a mile-a-minute as soon as he got back from work because I hadn’t spoken to anyone but the barista that morning. I think he’d say that was the hardest part of our first year of marriage.

What I learned: The second time is easier, as a lot of what you’ve memorized comes back. But it is hard realizing you don’t know as much as you thought you did. Also, take the UBE (which is what Washington used) if you think you might change states.

North Carolina

My current employer had us move to Charlotte. I also needed to pass the North Carolina bar exam. When we moved our daughter was 10 months old, still nursing and not sleeping through the night. I was pumping 2-3 times in the conference room during the day and waking up every 3-4 hours at night with C. Sleep deprived is an understatement. I had to put off unpacking our house and doing the other things you normally do when you move, as I had to spend any extra time studying. See the photo with this post: it was also easy to be distracted by my little one. It had been a couple years since taking the Washington bar, and I was nervous. I did take the month of July off, as the low passage rate also terrified me. All I could do is think about how little I could remember from my former memorization. Also, the North Carolina specific law for the essays was downright cruel.

What I learned: It’s not that you got all 5 parts of a test correct in your essay. It’s that you can show you can think like a lawyer. One essay was about a hypothetical issue on ethics and social media that was not in our test materials, and one I thought there was an issue in the question logic. I argued as such. Granted I also gave them some of what they wanted (I think), but I’m positive I received credit for showing my skills. They are moving to the UBE next year.

Have you had to take the bar exam? Multiple times? What tips did you take away from it?

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