No bar exam is a fun experience, at least not the two I’ve taken. I took and passed the Utah Bar Exam in July 2015 and the Nevada Bar Exam in February 2017. I thought it would be helpful to describe my experience with the Nevada Bar Exam, whether you plan to take the exam yourself in the near future, or whether you’re a non-lawyer who is interested in the process.
Last September, I spent many hours over a period of two weeks filling out the bar application, obtaining documents related to my personal history (academic record, driving record, letters of reference, finger prints, etc.), and more. To accomplish this, I had to drive to several places. I also had to pay a lot of money. The application fee is $1,055 for attorneys (who file early) and $755 for law students, plus $150 if you use a laptop during the exam (which almost everyone does).
I spent about two months studying for the Nevada exam. The first month, I spent only about 5-10 hours a week. The second month, I spent about 15-20 hours a week for the first two weeks, and then 30-40 hours a week for the final two weeks. Of course, I had already taken the Utah exam, so I already had outlines done for nearly every area of law; I just had to supplement those with the topics that weren’t on the Utah exam and with Nevada-specific law.
One great thing about the Nevada Bar is that they post every essay question from past exams and a “model” answer for each question. Going through those really helped me understand what to focus on in my study and how much Nevada-specific law I needed to know. I quickly noticed that the model answers contained very little Nevada-specific law, so I didn’t spend a lot of time learning Nevada law. In fact, I didn’t purchase any study materials for the Nevada-law portion of the material; I simply borrowed some outlines from a friend who took the exam in 2013, updated them a little, and I was fine.
I used Barmax to mostly self-study for the exam, and it was plenty. I did the same for Utah. the best part was that I only had to pay $500 for Barmax (government discount from $1,000), as opposed to $1,500-$3,500 for the other study providers.
Before taking the Nevada Bar Exam, I had to pass the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which is a much shorter, and easier, exam about ethics. I studied for that exam for about two weeks and passed it easily, but it still took two weeks of study time and three hours on a Saturday morning, and, of course, a fee ($95).
The Nevada Bar Exam is a test of 16 hours over a period of three days. The first day is three hours of essay questions (3 questions) and three hours of MPT questions (lawyering skills). The second day is six hours of multiple choice questions, and the third day is four hours of essay questions (4 questions). The day before any of the actual testing, you have to show up to register–something that probably could have been done the morning of the first testing day to save many test-takers from missing an extra day of work and spending less on hotels.
The night before the first test day, I did everything I could to get enough sleep. For my Utah exam, I slept for only 4-5 hours before the first day and had a much harder time concentrating and understanding the questions. This time I was prepared. I took half a dose of sleep medicine, used a fan to block out noise, and went to bed a little earlier than normal. It helped a lot.
In the morning, I arrived at UNLV early to make sure I could find good free parking (ask if you want to know the secret place I found), and to make sure I was ready to go. You have to wait outside the exam room until they open the doors, then, like cattle, you get into lines to check in for the day, and then you can enter the room after showing you have nothing on you, except your clothing (but no hoodies) and what you’ve placed in a plastic bag (wallet, keys, etc.).
Once the exam period begins, the test administrators go through about 10-15 minutes of instructions about the exam and the software you use to take it. These instructions are repeated before every single session. You sit at a small table next to another test-taker who is sitting on the opposite side so you can’t see their computer screen. All test takers were in the same room.
Finally, the actual exam time starts (they have large timers around the room, which is convenient), and the race begins. I had sufficient time on each test session to answer all the questions. I didn’t feel rushed, but I did feel like I had to push myself to keep going at a consistent pace, especially on the multiple choice tests. The MPT exam is a little bit of a break because you don’t have to remember anything to take it; you just have to have some lawyer skills, which you should have learned during law school and any work experience.
I was a little concerned about the third day of testing because Utah’s exam was only two full days, and I was exhausted by the end of it. During the third day (4 essays), I started to get pretty tired during the second and third hour. It was starting to wear on me, and I felt myself getting slower with my typing, so I had to try to wake up and finish strong.
As for the exam topics, they can test you on any of 16 different areas of law. I wasn’t surprised at all when I saw the essay topics because I had analyzed past topics and knew what they would likely be. As for the multiple choice exams, you have no idea really how you’re doing, especially because as many as 30 (I think) of the questions are experimental questions. You just keep going one question at a time. If there was a really difficult question, I gave it my best guess and circled it so I could return to it if I had time, but I only had time to return to one or two questions for each exam.
At one point during the instructions, I looked around the room and thought, “wow, I can’t believe that based on past results as many as half of us could fail this exam, after all this they’ve put us through.” That made me want to pass even more, but it also made me sad that so many people (including possibly me) would fail after everything I’m describing in this post.
At the end of the exam, I felt relieved and also confident. Based on how I felt after the Utah exam and how I felt after the Nevada exam, I was confident that I would probably pass. I was very optimistic, even if cautiously. I knew I had nailed several of the essay questions and done okay on the others. The multiple choice was the great unknown, but I figured I’d do at least as well as I did on the Utah exam, and on the Nevada exam the multiple choice accounts for only 33% of the final score.
At the end of the exam, they told us the results would be issued on May 17th at 3:00 pm, which is strange because in 2016 they were released two weeks earlier. So I waited for almost three months to find out if I passed. If I hadn’t been confident that I did well, that waiting period would have been a lot more difficult. The good thing is that because I was already licensed in Utah I was able to get my law firm mostly up and running while waiting to see if I could also serve clients in Nevada.
In Utah, the Bar sent us an e-mail telling us whether we had passed, and then later they published results online. In Nevada, they publish the names of everyone who passes online first, and then a day or two later I received a letter. I think it should happen the other way around.
On May 17th, I went hiking with my family in Red Rock Canyon. I only had Internet access on my phone for part of the time, so I didn’t check the results until about 3:20 pm. I was pretty nervous that day, even though I knew my chances were good. But, of course, after three months of waiting you start to think of reasons why you might have messed up and won’t pass. Fortunately, the list had my name on it, so I passed. I didn’t really celebrate, partly because I thought I would pass, and partly because the long wait wears on you and you just want to know. I was still happy though.
I’m glad I can finally practice law in Nevada. I’m happy I can now focus on doing actual legal work for real people who need help. I’m glad I made it through nine months of applying, preparing, testing, and waiting. It’s an extremely long, difficult process. I just hope I never have to do it again.