Hibernating is an odd way to spend a summer. But for Andrew Salera, it’s the best way to describe what he’s been through.
“It’s a weird feeling, not knowing what’s going on. It’s hard to explain,” said Salera, a University of La Verne College of Law graduate who shut himself off from family, friends and most of the rest of the world for 12 weeks to prepare for the longest, most grueling three days of his life.
“How many people you know can say they studied for an 18-hour exam?”
From July 29 to 31, Salera spent six hours each day at the Ontario Convention Center taking the California State Bar Exam. That exam, recognized as one of the nation’s toughest, is permanently etched upon the psyche of everyone who attempts it.
“I’ve talked with attorneys who are practicing now, 10–15 years later, and they tell me they still dream that they didn’t pass the bar,” Salera said. “It stays with you.”
Salera came to La Verne Law after earning his bachelor’s degree in Finance from Cal Poly Pomona in 2009. The Moreno Valley native found few job opportunities in the midst of the national recession and decided to follow a lifelong passion for the law.
“It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” Salera said.
In May, Salera completed his studies and graduated with his Juris Doctor from La Verne Law. But his journey was far from finished.
“Graduating from law school is very anticlimactic,” Salera said. “With any other degree, it’s all about walking across the stage and getting your diploma. But for us, as law students, the goal is getting your license.”
In preparation for taking the California State Bar exam, Salera joined other recent La Verne Law graduates and began intensive study only a few days after commencement. All returned to the Ontario campus for customized post-graduation bar review — the Bar Exam Strategic Training (BEST) Program. Provided by La Verne Law’s Center for Academic & Bar Readiness (CABR), BEST utilizes the highly acclaimed BARBRI bar review course in conjunction with CABR staff and members of the law school’s faculty. Established in 1967, BARBRI has helped more than 1 million law school graduates prepare for the bar exam.
Recent results turned in by La Verne Law graduates have been impressive. For the February 2014 California bar exam, La Verne first-time exam takers recorded an 87.5 percent success rate, surpassing the 69 percent average of all California ABA schools pass rate by more than 18 percent. The figure also represented a 13 percent improvement on the July 2012 exam. Couple that with the July 2013 results in which La Verne Law graduates achieved a 68% first-time taker pass rate, and it is apparent that both CABR and the BEST Program are having a positive impact.
For 12 weeks, Salera spent 14 hours each weekday preparing for the bar exam. Lectures, practice tests, essays and review filled almost all of his waking hours, fueled by lots of coffee and offset by a scant few minutes of non-legal thought each day.
Even during his six hours of sleep each night, he found the law working its way into his mind.
“So far, I’ve only had one dream where I failed because I was late,” he added with a laugh. “I think that’s pretty good.”