In early October, Nashville School of Law graduates who sat for the July 2023 bar exam received their results.
One month later, seven of those graduates from the NSL Class of 2023 – who passed the exam – returned to campus to talk with 4L students about the two-day, bar exam experience.
“The biggest benefit to having this panel discussion is that, hopefully, the students will look at this panel and see a reflection of themselves, and in doing so, they can begin to map their own paths to success,” said Bar Exam Workshop Professor Emily Harvey.
This is the second year Harvey has invited graduates to take part in this panel discussion.
Wanting to extend the discussion beyond the classroom, we interviewed three of the seven panelists for a detailed account of their bar exam preparation and experience.
Jenna Huff ’23 is married and was able to leave her job in May to focus on studying for the exam. She is now an Assistant District Attorney for the 13th Judicial District.
Ben Owen ’23 continues to work in data engineering at a healthcare company and did so leading up to the bar exam. He is married and has a daughter and infant son. The month before the bar exam, his family left to spend time with other family members so Owen could work and study alone at home. His goal is to become a civil litigation attorney.
Leanne Bender ’23 is married and has three children. During law school she worked alongside her dad, NSL alumnus, Jon S. Jablonski ‘82 in his law office, and took off in June and July to study for the bar exam. Bender continues to work with her dad, now as a licensed family law and probate law attorney.
“I would like to say I started studying (for the bar exam) my very first year of law school,” said Jenna Huff.
“Any time we had something to learn I took it very seriously and thought I could either learn this now, or learn this later when it is a time crunch, so I took everything seriously. In our fourth year I remember in Bar Exam Workshop and in Chuck’s (Shonholtz) class every topic that we covered, I rewrote the outline from Barbri, I did 400 multiple choice questions every month. I studied. I watched videos, I did everything I possibly could,” she said.
Huff also took the practice bar exams again, which are mandatory for 1Ls and 2Ls, during her final year of law school.
Ben Owen, who worked remotely throughout his bar prep, said he started studying for the bar exam in February, while he finished his fourth year of law school.
“I used the Barbri plan. I did the entire course – all 400 hours. I finished three days before the bar exam with that program. A month before the bar exam, I started using AdaptiBar for additional multiple-choice questions,” said Owen.
“Our fourth year, I utilized Barbri Matrix. I didn’t use any other resource our fourth year. I used Quimbee for Conflicts of Law and watched all the videos. On my commute, I would listen to them,” said Huff.
Leanne Bender also used Barbri, added AdaptiBar multiple choice and writing, and then used BarNow.
“I studied too much. You cannot know until after you passed the exam, but there was no need for me to wake up, study all day until I went to bed. They (my family) went on vacation, and they went to church camp, and I would just sit there and study,” said Bender.
Even though she did very well, Bender admits she felt the bar exam was hard. Huff said she had an easy time with it.
“When you sit down and you are about to take it, it might feel a little overwhelming. You’ve been dreading it for so long. But then once you get through one section, on that first morning – at least for me – it was like – ‘I can do this.’ It’s a long test, but I got through that first section and thought – I could handle this,” said Owen.
Hoping to see more NSL alumni on the bar exam success list, our graduates shared these final thoughts.
“My advice to current students is that studying for the bar exams begins on your first day of law school. Take each class seriously and realize that if you put in the effort all four years, the eight weeks before the exam is just a review,” said Huff.
“Find a trusted graduate to be a sounding board for you as you start this ‘adventure.’ I had a past graduate on speed dial and would touch base over the summer. It was a lifeline that I would love to offer to current 4Ls and I know others in my class would like to do the same,” said Bender.
NSL had a 78% success rate of our first-time takers on the July 2023 bar exam, which is the highest it has been in recent years.
The NSL Bar Exam Workshop panel included: Amber Schlatter ’23, Jenna Huff ’23, Ben Owen ’23, Kati Coats ’23, Heather Asbell ’23, Leanne Bender ’23, and Adam Tune ’23.