Working While Studying for the Bar:
Is It Even Possible?
By Ammon Jeffery
Updated: December 15, 2020
If there is one thing that is painfully obvious about law school, it’s how expensive it is to attend. Most students have to rely on loans to get through their studying years. The bad news is that the expenses don’t stop after you have gained your diploma.
If you find yourself considering taking a job to help pay for all of your expenses after graduation, you’re not alone. Some law grads have a big law job that pays them while they study for the bar, but many law grads do not start their full-time jobs until after they pass the bar. Others are unsure about when they will get their first job as an attorney, which adds extra uncertainty to an already stressful study period. It is especially enticing to get a job if you have a family to take care of.
But before you go out and start applying, take a step back and think hard about this decision as it can seriously affect your studies for the bar.
Reasons to get a job while studying
Despite what some may say, there are valid reasons for wanting a job while you are preparing for the bar. We’ve listed a few below.
This seems like an incredibly obvious reason, but it’s worth noting. Expenses won’t magically disappear when you begin studying for the bar. There are still thousands of dollars worth of expenses that you will have to worry about, from bar prep courses, the bar exam itself, and all of the bills and living expenses that you’ll accrue during your studies.
During your weeks of studying, you’ll need to have funds to pay your bills and put food on the table. If you have a family to take care of, getting a job while studying can seem even more enticing, as you have additional responsibilities that you need to provide for. Working while you are studying for the bar can allow you to contribute to your family’s well being by helping with any financial struggles you may be experiencing.
Also, depending upon what your job is and how much you are paid, you may even end up with a little extra cash that you can use to treat yourself during particularly stressful days.
Little financial savings or support
While this could be included in the previous point, this is a separate problem that should be talked about.
Many law grads have some amount of savings stored away that they can draw upon during their studies to forego the need for employment. Others may also have family members that are both willing and able to help financially. Some can be lucky enough to find a sponsor outside of their family.
However, it goes without saying that not everyone is so lucky. If you have little to no savings and no family or friends that can support you, you might have to get a job to help make ends meet.
Worked during law school
Some law students had to find a full-time job while going through law school. A tough situation, but many have made it work, even excelling in their school performance. Others work not out of financial necessity; they simply feel that they “work better” when there are a lot of responsibilities on their plate.
Regardless of the reason, if you have made working through law school manageable, this could serve as a reason to consider getting a job while studying for the bar. Keep in mind though that the bar is a whole different beast than law school. Some even refer to studying for the bar as a full-time job, a notion we’ll touch on later.
Need to delay taking the bar
While delaying for the bar is not advisable, sometimes life happens. Whether it be family health, severe financial issues, emotional health, or some other reason, you may not be in the right headspace to tackle a rigorous study schedule.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, taking a full-time job may be the best course of action until you can fully commit to your studies.
Reasons not to get a job
The prevailing advice is that you shouldn’t work while studying for the bar unless you have to. Here are just a few of the major reasons.
Studying for the bar should be full-time
There is a common notion that studying for the bar should be treated as a full-time job and there is ample reason for this.
The bar exam is likely the largest and most difficult test you’ll likely ever take. Depending on the state, it can quiz you on 12-14 subjects over an intense two to three-day period. Once you graduate, you generally have a limited amount of time to adequately prepare yourself and learn the material and skills you need to pass. On top of this, you won’t know which subjects will be covered, how they will be covered, or even when they will come up during the testing period.
You’ll want to spend at least 40 hours per week of on-task and fully committed studying. While working at the same time can be done, that’s an incredible amount of responsibility.
Loans are available
No one likes piling on more financial debt. You’ll likely already have outstanding loans from your time in law school, some of which could have quite a large balance. That said, if loans are used wisely, they can be greatly beneficial and take a load off of your shoulders.
Loans come with several advantages. The first of which is that you can get all of the funds you need upfront, allowing you to not have to worry about paying your bills as you are studying for the bar. This in turn also frees up your time. Without a job, you are more flexible when it comes to how and when you study, which can improve the quality of studying.
Once you pass the bar, you will likely be able to take a well-paying job that will allow you to pay off your debt in a reasonable timeframe. However, before you take out a loan, make sure and do a thorough calculation of your expenses and what you will need to pay for in the coming weeks so that you only take out as much as you need.
Working could set you up for failure
Being able to balance a job with an intense study schedule requires plenty of discipline and time-management skills. Remember, the minimum recommendation of studying is 40 hours a week which, in all likelihood, will not get you all the way through the material that may be tested. Adding a job, especially a full-time position, is not only a difficult feat to pull off—it may set you up for disaster.
Getting a job adds complications that don’t need to be there, and can make it easy to fall behind. Any study schedule you get from a typical commercial bar prep company is going to be quite strict, not to mention time-consuming. Whether it’s getting off work late, leaving you less time to study, or a particularly hard workday, leaving you with little energy to contribute to your studies, there are plenty of ways that a job could cause you to fall behind. Once you do, it’s extremely hard to catch back up.
The bar exam only needs to be passed once on your path to becoming a lawyer (hopefully). It may be better to simply focus all of your time and effort on the exam and worry about employment later.
Tips for working while studying
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to work, here are several tips on how to manage while studying for the bar.
First, find the right kind of job. Unless absolutely necessary, you should limit yourself to a part-time position that doesn’t require much mental power and offers a flexible schedule. Some examples would be driving for Uber, becoming a delivery driver, or working in a library.
Second, you may also want to start studying for the bar a week or two earlier. You don’t want to burnout, but getting a head start might help.
Last, you can opt to pay for a bar-prep company’s services, as that can grant you access to resources that can help you learn the material you need to cover more efficiently.
Crushendo can help
If you are looking to crush the bar exam, look no further than Crushendo. Our tutoring services and study materials all use proven techniques to help you learn the materials and skills you need to know as well as apply them.
If you want to learn more tips on studying for the bar, or just need a break from studying, be sure to follow our blog.
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About the author
Ammon Jeffery loves writing. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English. His hobbies include reading, and playing video games and board games. He lives in Utah with his cute wife and daughter. His dream vacation is to explore WWI sites in Europe.