Stories from the Bar

Everyone who's taken the Bar has his or her own story to tell—from preparing for the big day, to tales from inside the exam room, to sweating out the results. Here are a few of Suffolk Law's stories.

Teaching, Feedback, Support Specific to You

Jim Janda runs two full marathons a year. He trains at least an hour daily. 

That kind of long-haul commitment is also what he tries to instill in the Suffolk students preparing for the bar exam. It’s a marathon preparing for the bar, and practice is key. Daily, steady, mindful practice. 

“My philosophy is no one should have to go through this alone,” says Janda, who teaches legal writing and directs Suffolk’s bar prep programs. 

Janda is best known for individual attention to graduates, helping them figure out what support they need. This includes highlighting problem subjects, writing practice, and helping with self-confidence and study habits. 

Janda regularly meets with graduates one-on-one, preparing individualized mock tests that highlight a graduate's weak areas. Janda then provides personalized same-day feedback so students can learn from mistakes quickly. 

Janda's approach is holistic. He emphasizes that nutrition, exercise, sleep – and dealing with fear – are as important to passing the bar as learning the nitty-gritty of law and how to think legally. 

“You can’t stay up to 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. every day, pushing," Janda says. "You have to pace yourself to sustain over long period of time. You have to eat right and take care of yourself. You bring the whole product to the table.”

Bar Prep Courses are Crucial

Samantha Anderson, JD ’12, studied for eight to 13 hours a day, six days a week to prepare for the bar exam. She began this schedule the week after she graduated and continued for the seven weeks before the exam. 

“I believe in balance, so every Sunday I went to the beach," she said.

Now a judicial clerk in a Boston land court, Anderson also took an online commercial bar preparation course and took advantage of Suffolk Law's free post-graduation bar preparation programs. 

Anderson says the bar preparation courses were crucial. Every day in those last three weeks, Anderson took at least one and sometimes two three-hour mock essay exams.

“The information is there, in your head. You’ve slept on top of it, sat on top of it, made your note cards," Anderson said. "So it really becomes just strategizing how do I write it down in a way the bar examiner will take the least amount of time and say, ‘OK, pass.’”

Preparation is Unique to Each Person

John Dawley, JD ‘12, knew he needed “the regiment” of being in a classroom, so he chose a commercial bar prep course that required he show up daily, in person. After class, he spent the rest of the day – and usually the evening – studying at Suffolk before catching the train home.

Dawley started studying for the February 2012 bar exam within days after receiving his law degree in December 2011. His regime became 11 hours a day, seven days a week after the Patriots won the Super Bowl in February.

Dawley, now a Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney, also took advantage of Suffolk Law's bar preparation programs, which include mock exams personalized by Director Jim Janda to highlight graduates' weak subject areas.

“It’s the hardest thing schoolwise I ever did,” he recalls, but considers the bar a necessary right of passage for all lawyers. “Maybe I’d feel differently if I didn’t pass. It’s kind of ‘Like Pearl Harbor, never again!’”