Balancing Bar Study with a New Baby

The bar examination pushes graduates to their limits and absorbs all their time. Grace Colato (J.D. ’18) had to juggle caring for a new baby and preparing for her future. This is the third and final article in our series of stories of graduates overcoming challenges to reach their dream of passing the bar and becoming licensed attorneys.

Grace Colato (J.D. ’18) with her husband and son

“Balancing bar study with a little baby was no easy task,” says Grace Colato (J.D. ’18). “I was not able to study as much as I would have liked or as much as some of my peers were able to.”

In the midst of her 3L year, Grace Colato gave birth to a son, Dominic, who quickly changed her life. With a baby boy who wasn’t even a year old, Grace charged into bar preparation over the summer, enrolling in BARBRI and Professor Wanda Temm’s course.

“The key for me was to focus on the material that I knew was likely to be tested and try not to stress about the rest,” Colato says. “I had to take advantage of the time I did have. Similarly, when I had nobody to watch my son, I took advantage of that and enjoyed a break from the books.”

Colato completed all of her studying online for both of the bar prep courses, except for the in-person practice exams.

There were several things she felt best prepared her for the exam: the practice MPTs graded by professors, Temm’s 75 percent recommendations (75 percent of each subject that test-takers should memorize), BARBRI practice essays and multiple choice questions and the outlines she created from the BARBRI lecture handouts.

Even though she was well-prepared, Colato say that didn’t put her at complete ease.

“The weekend before the exam, I still felt like I knew nothing,” she says. “It’s normal!”

Advice from fellow peers helped her along the way.

“I kept hearing things like: if you are getting at least 60 percent of the multiple choice practice questions right, then you will do fine on the exam,” she says. “When I didn’t get 60 percent, I would become very nervous! Someone who passed the bar the year prior told me that she was often scoring lower than 60 percent on the practice questions and passed the bar with flying colors. That stuck with me and helped me stay confident.”

Grace Colato (J.D. ’18) receives her law degree

Another friend also recommended Colato try rote memorization of her outlines, and Colato created her own strategy of doing just that, focusing on the information on the lecture handouts and from the BARBRI mini-outline. For Colato, it worked, but she knows that everyone has their own path.

If she were to offer any advice to future bar-takers, Colato, says, “Just keep going.”

Grace Colato at graduation“There were several essay questions that stumped me on the exam and I wanted to start crying and give up, but I had to take a deep breath, write something, and keep moving,” she says. “There were also times when I felt like I was guessing on every multiple choice question and again, I wanted to just get up and leave, thinking I was going to fail. Just keep going.”

Grace is currently clerking for the Honorable Stephen R. Bough, U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Missouri, and her son just turned one.

Published: Nov 29, 2018