Stanford Law School resources
There is now quite a lot of information on the bar exams here as well as SLS outlines and the famous SLS CA evidence checklist.
To be admitted to any US state bar you have to take two exams, the MPRE (a professional conduct exam) and a State Bar Exam (which will be two or three days long). It is generally advisable to get your educational requirements pre-approved, especially for the NY Bar and that can take up to 12 months according to the NY Bar, although it is often much faster. But even so this is something you want to start working on around 9 months before the exam. For other states your Character & Fitness is often part of the exam application, but for NY and CA it is a separate application which for CA can be made at any time (and there are reasons for doing it at the same time as applying) and for NY can only be done once you have passed the exam and have your confirmation that you have.
You can find a lot of information about the detail of each state's bar exam requirements and grading at www.barbri.com by selecting your relevant state and then Exam Information.
Broadly speaking, each state will have two or three days of examination. These are broken down into three elements:
- MBE - Multistate Bar Examination, 200 multiple choice questions given on the Wednesday across the entire country in two 3-hour sessions of 100 questions. Created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and tested under "secure" conditions ie you won't have scratch paper. The fact patterns can be lengthy and you will be very tight on time.
- Essays, given on the state day, always the Tuesday, and also the Thursday in the case of CA and TX.
- Performance Test - given on the state day. Most states use a 90 minute Multistate Performance Test produced by the same people who do the MBE and the MPRE.
- California has it's own performance test that takes three hours and two are given in the afternoons, one on the first state day and one on the last. The second performance test is considered easier than the first so you have to work harder.
If you will need to rely on your LLM degree to be eligible to take the state bar you are applying to take, you will need to go to this page for SLS and otherwise find the same from your law school, down load the form, fill it in and hand it to the Registrar to get your transcript sent to the state bar.
SLS's term is now unusually long compared to most law schools because it is on a quarter system, and it is a very close thing with the certificates going out to state bars on the Monday after graduation with "Ls" for a lot of your grades (ie you've graduated but they haven't decided what grades yet). SLS and the state bars are both aware that the SLS graduation date is extremely close to the state bar transcript deadline (like one or two days). Tthe Registrar's office do their very best to get everything out in time and no one we know of has had a problem relating to their SLS transcripts.
This page contains a link at the bottom to the list of approved courses for LLMs to comply with NY and CA bar American Legal Education requirements.
MPRE is a multistate professional responsibility exam that you need to take if you want to become a member of a bar in the U.S. (there are exceptions in some states). It is a 60-question, two-hour-and-five-minute, multiple-choice examination and you're choosing the better answer out of several right answers, so most people come out feeling like they've failed (examples of questions here - and online practice here). More information is available at http://www.ncbex.org/multistate-tests/mpre.
You have to register for MPRE independently from the bar exam. There are three exam dates, in November, March and August. best exam date is November 7 and the regular registration deadline seems to be September 28. If you register by that date the fee is only $73; if you register later (by October 14), the fee is $146. If you wait for the later deadline, not only that you will pay more but you might end up not getting the location that you want (for instance, you might
have to go to Walnut Creek to take the exam instead of taking it in San Jose). The other dates are in March and August and aren't very practical (one during or close to the winter quarter exams, other too close to the bar exam).
As with the main bar exam, you will need help to prepare, and previous SLS LLMs have reckoned around 4 or 5 afternoons of reading the BarBri preparation book and doing practice questions is sufficient. BarBri include MPRE preparation in their price. Representatives from Barbri (one of the main bar preparation courses) attend campus usually in early October, to hand out MPRE review textbooks and answer questions about the bar review course. They are also usually have free enrollment for Barbri (no money down and no obligation). The textbooks are for those who have signed up to take Barbri in California or in a different state.
SLS usually also shows a free 3 1/2 video review of the MPRE exam by Prof. Chemerinsky during the last week of October.
MBE and MPT Released questions
Warning: NY is now possibly one of the most difficult bars to qualify to take - now requires foreign legally educated applicants to:
get their transcripts offically translated (that includes any Latin);
may require accreditation of your law school by a government agency if it is not already in their database;
take specific classes while you study for your LLM - you must take 24 credits, including (i) at least two semester hours of credit in professional responsibility, (ii) at least two credits in a legal research, writing and analysis course (which may NOT be satisfied by a research and writing requirement in a substantive course), (iii) at least two-credits in a course on American legal studies, the American legal system or a similar course designed to introduce students to U.S. law, and (iv) at least six credits in subjects tested on the New York bar examination (where a principal focus of the course includes material contained in the Content Outline published by the Board) - this is the SLS list of approved courses; and
complete 50 hours pro bono work before admission to the bar.
Note, if you need an LLM to cure a deficiency - it can only cure the durational or substantive deficiency (but not both). So if you have one of the 2 year law degrees from France, NY is currently not letting you take the bar, even if you have an LLM.
You must apply by OCTOBER 1 in the preceding year for the JULY bar exam if you need to “cure” a deficiency in your foreign legal education by completing an LL.M. degree at an approved law school in the United States. Otherwise as a foreign legally educated applicant your deadline is still April 30.
Information for foreign legally educated applicants is here.
You need to go through the following steps:
- Create a NY BOLE Account here https://www.nybarapply.org/.
- Apply to have your foreign legal education evaluated using the website here. A fee is not charged for this and you will receive an email requesting supporting documentation listed on the foreign legal education page http://www.nybarexam.org/Foreign/ForeignLegalEducation.htm which will include your transcripts and an official translation. Hopefully when you submit your evaluation request you'll get an email back line like the text below, if not you're going to have to get your university accredited by a government agency and submit that to the NY state bar (even if that's impossible or such an organization doesn't exisit):
- When you send the e mail requesting the analysis, they answer back with a list of documents and stating if you need to present the accreditation or not. The email answer if there's nothing more you need to do wil look like this:
Please note that the Board maintains a comprehensive list of law schools from which we have received proof of accreditation.
Your law school is currently on the list of accredited schools the Board has on file. Therefore, you will NOT need to provide proof of accreditation as part of the required supporting documentation you must submit.
**** DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS EMAIL AS IT IS AUTOGENERATED ****Theoretically once you have received this email confirming that your foreign legal education is sufficient plus your Stanford LLM, you should then apply to take the Bar Exam using your BOLE id. However it's likely if you apply once you're at Stanford that you'll be applying before you've received your determination.
Applications are made online once open though the BOLE website. The bar exam is held twice a year, on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February and July.
|Dates of Examination||Application Filing Period|
|February 25-26, 2014||May 1 if you need an LLM to "cure" your education - otherwise November 1 – November 30, 2012|
|July 29-30, 2014||
October 1 if you need an LLM to "cure" your education - otherwise April 1 – April 30, 2013
There is NO provision for late filing.
However there is a separate deadline for filing proofs of education if you haven't gone the pre-approved route. They must be received at the the Board office no later than June 15th for the July Exam.
Section 520.3 (ABA approved law schools).................................. $250
Section 520.6 (study of law in foreign country)............................ $750
There is also $100 non-refundable technology fee that applicants will be required to pay directly to Examsoft which will handle the registration.
NY Exam Past Papers
Past exam papers can be downloaded here.
Guide for LLM's applying for the NY Bar
This is a great guide to the NY Bar exam written by Yale specifically for LLM students and it is incredibly helpful.
Admission Ticket Delays and Logistics
Confirmation that you are taking the NY Bar Exam only comes two weeks before the bar exam. If you get online quick, you can still pick the Manhattan test site, otherwise you'll be picking between the delights of Buffalo and Albany in upstate NY. Buffalo has the narrow advantage of being near Niagara Falls. In terms of hotels to stay in the Hampton Inn & Suites has had a good record in the past - but see the Logistics section below. Aim to travel on the Saturday or Sunday - you don't want to be stressing over missed flights on the Monday.
There are several steps to applying, all online bar one.
- First you have to register to take the bar exam here. But see below and this form if you're not admitted as a lawyer anywhere.
- They you have to request an exemption from the Social Security Number requirement by filling in and filing this form.
- Once you get a reply to that form and your applicant number, then you can apply to take the. bar exam using this website.
- If you're not admitted anywhere in the world then you will have to comply with the foreign legal education requirements (see below), if you are admitted then you can just apply as an attorney not entitled to on-motion (you need to have been admitted in a US state and practicing for 5 years since admission to onmotion).
- The nearest laptop test center to Stanford is San Mateo, easiest route is up the I280 and then over route 92.
Additional requirements for foreign legally educated applicants not admitted in any jurisdiction worldwide.
If you are admitted as a lawyer anywhere in the world, then you don't have to supply any additional educational information in California, because "as such attorneys are able to qualify to take the California Bar Examination without having to complete any additional legal education".
If you're not admitted then you will need to comply with some additional requirements to get your foreign legal education evaluated. There are details here on the CalBar website, which you should read thoroughly, but in summary, foreign legal students with a first degree in law:
"must provide the following to the State Bar’s Office of Admissions in Los Angeles:
- A completed "Registration as a Foreign Educated General Applicant” form with the required registration fee of $102;
- An evaluated law degree equivalency report and a “Foreign Law Study Evaluation Summary” form, which must be completed by a credential evaluation agency approved by the Committee (see list of agencies here); and,
- A certified transcript of all legal studies completed, which must include the beginning and ending dates of enrollment, each class taken, the grade or mark received for each class and the date the degree was awarded."
There are additonal steps if you do not have a degree in law.
The bar exam is held twice a year, on the last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of February and July.
July Bar Exam Deadlines
Timely Filing Deadline April 1, 2013
$50 Late Filing Fee April 2, 2013 –April 30
$250 Late Filing Fee May 1, 2013 – June 1
Final Filing Deadline June 17, 2013
CA Bar Fees
Registration as a Law Student $108.00
Registration as an Attorney $194.00
General Bar Applicant Exam Fee $614.00
Attorney Applicant Exam Fee $892.00
Laptop Fee $139.00
Application for Determination of Moral Character $500.00
CA Bar Information sources and admission ticket issues
You usually do get a confirmation from the CA bar that you're taking the exam, as well as an admission ticket usually at least a month in advance, but some do slip through so if it's two weeks away from the exam check in and make sure it hasn't got lost in the mail.
Check your admission status
You can also track your application process here.
CA rules on food and drink
These people are not trying to make this easy for you. You cannot bring any food or drink into the CA bar exam (in contrast to NY). There will be water somewhere in the exam hall, but it's usually a 10 minute walk there and back so you need to weigh time against thirst!
CA Bar Exam past papers
California has it's own performance test and past papers and released answers can be found here.
Past essay exams and released answers can be found here.
It is strongly recommended that you print a lot of these out and read through to get a feel for the detailed fact patterns and required style and answers. Released answers are usually those graded at 80, which is hilarious given the passing grade is often around 62-63.
Breakdown of passing scores
This is a useful analysis of what combinations of MBE and State day scores get you through in CA: http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/BarPrepHandout04.23.08.pdf
You can be as smart as you like, and have even done a common law degree but you still are going to need to take some form of Bar Exam Preparation Course. There will be a lot of information available on campus and the two major suppliers, Kaplan and BarBri do a great deal to court SLS and other top school students. Most people end up preferring online or ipod lectures rather than going to classes. Kaplan fees for CA for 2013 were $2,140 and BarBri $4,135 with the early enrollment discount and minus the refundable bits. On the other hand Themis has been gaining traction, certainly has its supporters and comes in at a budget friendly price of $1,595. Note that much can be made by playing one off the other, and LLM students in the past have got discounts simply by phoning and complaining about the cost! Views from LLM Network members:
"Totally personal view - but I prefer BarBri for general preparation and Kaplan for a 3 day tune up on the MBE (see below). I've used BarBri for NY, CO and CA - and the lecturers are consistently weird, quirky and general. Some of the BarBri lecturers are completely legendary but its not clear if they're worth the premium. However, this is a pass/fail exam, you need general knowledge and BarBri caters very well to that. Kaplan on the other hand freaks me out because it is very exception focussed, and that is just like trying to fill a bucket with holes in it. But - the average MBE score on the actual exam of people who take Kaplan's three day review is 150 out of 200 - that's a good 15-20 points above passing and it'll knock you up and over the top of the bell curve. You can write an awful lot more gibberish on the essays in any state, including Cal, and pass with an MBE of 150. So take BarBri, or don't feel bad about taking Kaplan, but if you think about taking BarBri, think about doing the three day Kaplan couse as well."
"Themis provides students with a comprehensive, yet flexible way to study for the bar exam. Rather than sit in a classroom for hours on end, study where and when you want on-line. You will be provided with a detailed schedule to follow as well as a Personal Bar Exam Adviser who will provide feedback on your graded essays, answer substantive law questions or simply answer those nagging questions about the bar exam itself. All of this and more is only $1,595. You can try any one of the free review materials Themis has to offer and decide for yourself. Once again, I found Themis to have bar none the best MPRE prep materials and I passes that test by a large margin. Plus, Themis has actual top lecturers who give the video lectures including Stanford Law School's Pam Karlan (you may have heard of her - she is really smart and entertaining, for a constitutional law scholar). Check out our website atwww.themisbar.com and contact your local student rep when you are ready to enroll and they can make sure you get the best service available."
Bear in mind that Kaplan has years and years of experience preparing people for the MBE, and you can combine BarBri with a three day Kaplan Final Review course that costs about $400 which will get you a lot of the benefit of Kaplan including access to their online questions and analytics as well as hard copy http://www.kaptest.com/Bar-Exam/Bar-Review-Courses/Multistate-Bar-Exam/MBE-final-review-course.html
BarBri about half way through the paced program usually does a friday simulated MBE and then a weekend spent on review. You can switch out the this for the Kaplan 3 day course. If you do this I'd also recommend swapping out a portion of BarBri's MBE practice for Kaplans questions.
Some also find Kaplan PMBR's flash cards helpful :http://www.amazon.com/Kaplan-PMBR-MBE-Review-Flashcards/dp/1607141043/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363582788&sr=1-1&keywords=Kaplan+PMBR%3A+MBE+Review+Flashcards
So if you've come to this link directly - you ought to know that above there's a bunch of stuff on the NY and CA bars and picking between BarBri and Kaplan:
This section is focussed on a variety of strategies to get you through studying for the bar exam with the minimum of effort for the maximum gain and then there's a further section on the logistics of the actual two or three days themselves.
A high multistate score forgives a multitude of sins on the essays.
Particularly for NY but also for CA - so pay attention to the weightings when you're allocating your study time. For NY it's: The relative weights assigned are 50% to the written portion (40% essays and 10% MPT), 10% to the New York multiple choice, and 40% to the MBE portion. For CA - this is a great table: http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/BarPrepHandout04.23.08.pdf For CA is 2:1 essays/PT to MBE but even so that means a real difference.
The NY essays are not a huge drama, but there are a lot of subjects and only 5 essays and the NY bar examiners are capricious watsits who find it funny to test random areas of random subjects. The CA essays are the entire sum of the parts of the drama along with the CA performance tests - be afraid, be very afraid - and rock that MBE!
How to study MBE questions then?
Practice, practice, practice your chosen preference of type of question. Get wise to the tricks and games that the examiners play. Bear in mind that there are going to be a fair number of questions on the exam you won't know the answer to so practice right from the get go even when you "don't know the law" - educated guessing may well have a lot to do with a good passing score. Specifically I much prefer Kaplan's 3 day Final Review in place of BarBri's simulated MBE exam - see above.
Note that BarBri and Kaplan's guidance on how many questions you should be doing isn't necessarily going to be right for you. I'd trade flashcard/memorizaton time for time saved by doing about 1,500 questions but then that's because I learn by reading or hearing.
BarBri Paced Program
No one ever finishes this. Well some people retaking might, but personally, never. So try and approach the material with a thought about your learning style and the time you have allotted. Are you someone who learns by hearing, reading or doing? I have very good recall for the spoken and written word - but you get a much more tailored cover of the material you actually need to know in the lectures - so I always do all the lectures but have never read all the books bar those of the essays. Other people don't bother with all the lectures and practice essays (although this is dangerous for CA) but read all the books. The one thing I would say, if you're doing BarBri for CA definitely do all of the Honigsberg lectures on essay style even if you've done another bar, perhaps even twice through, whatever the man says- soon you too will be chanting "if you don't know it, nobody, nobody knows it" and "sheep, chomping through the meadow, into the corral, pass". No one ever said you came out of these exams sane!
Bit key - this whole exam is like trying to fill a bucket with holes in the bottom with sand. Everytime you think you're on top of one subject - five others are screaming at you, and by the time you return to the first subject, you've forgotten two thirds of what ever you knew.
Flash cards come in very useful at this point - in particular the software program Anki http://ankisrs.net/
I used to do hard copy cards on 3X6 inch record cards, but I totally got converted to Anki for the CA bar, plus Kaplan's flashcards, which are a huge MBE time saver and very good. I swear the basis of every question on the MBE turns up in those Kaplan flashcards somewhere.
Practise essays - and get a feel for what a standardized US essay looks like
Basically make sure you practice the essays, its a weird ass style that doesn't even bear a whole lot of relation to law school essays beyond IRAC. If you're doing CA you need to do a lot of these - like all the BarBri set ones, read through the entire BarBri essay book, and then once you're two weeks out, switch to the past papers and do one every two days for the last two weeks as a minimum, or outline 2 a day. Pay huge huge attention to the CA style, headlining and length of the released answers. The CA examiners have one marking schedule, they will spend maximum 5 minutes, probably more like 2 minutes per essay, if your essay is not in the order they're expecting, you won't get the marks, if they're distracted, you won't get the marks, if your paragraphs aren't headlined, you won't get the marks. There's a reason why you basically never get your results if you pass CA and its almost impossible to challenge the result and everyone gets at least one essay result (if you've failed) that makes no sense whatsoever.
If you're doing NY they're a lot less important. The BarBri essays are notoriously impossible to score well on - I used them as a practise exercise, working out an outline and then using the textbooks and their model answer to write it.
Also take time to analyze yourself what subjects come up regularly, rather than relying on BarBri, and for the last two weeks focus more on released essays and answers rather than BarBri/Kaplan models.
Awesome for CA, but you might also find it useful for NY - there's a great book called "What Not to Write" - links are to Amazon - it'll take you 2 hours to read tops, and takes you from a top scoring essay through about 8 different examples to a failing essay. Really great for getting a feel of the style of bar exam essays, and from an LLM point of view, US standardized essays which is basically an introduction, 6 paragraphs and a conclusion. I can't say this enough, but in particular for California, style is everything and its a beast in and of itself.
This is horrific in CA - in NY it's the 90 min multistate Muppet test (ie relatively easy). Have a go at a couple but mainly just do the lectures and have a read of a few - it's hard to prepare for other than at least for CA just go in scared, and write assuming you will massively run out of time. For NY - in the afternoon you can borrow time from the essays for your performance test and on the weighting that's totally worth it.
LLM Specific courses and dealing with Constitutional Law
Generally speaking everyone who has attempted any LLM specific course as part of either Kaplan or BarBri's review courses have found them totally useless and very dumbed down (surprise!). The one topic people do tend to struggle with is Constitutional Law because there is a lot of history and general knowledge that the review course will assume you have. However, lots of people found, wait for it, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the US Constitution a good starting point for all those things the bar review course assumes you know. Do also buy or print out a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and memorize the relevant Articles and Amendments.
Look after yourselves. Try not to get overtired with graduation - rest as much as you can when you can, and really try not to get more than two or three days behind the BarBri schedule because it will become an uphill battle (this particularly applies to Stanford or anyone else on a compressed timetable). Equally, if you can get ahead of schedule - do it. But also, if you can find a couple of days to be flat on your back relaxing then do that too. Bear in mind that basically a month of your life is going to be held hostage to the bar - expect to need to do a 10 hour work day, starting that day feeling reasonably positive and finishing it in utter panic probably not feel terribly social, have a glass of wine and dinner, go to bed and then get up and do it all over again.
Also pay attention to the BarBri suggestion that there's a danger zone between 60% of knowledge (passing) and 80% (rocking it) - inbetween you'll know enough to confuse the heck out of yourself and you'll stop making educated guesses, and its almost impossible to get through that 80% threshold, and therein is a truth that has caused many very smart people to repeatedly fail.
For the Stanford compressed program For NY you're on double lectures for the first two weeks, then you spend the next two scrambling to catch up with the reading and exercises, and then you're into the last two weeks ramp up to the exam. For CA it's not quite as bad but still tough.
Try to get into a habit in terms of what you do when during the day and stick to it. I've done all of my bar exams on less than the alotted time, and there's a lot to be said for not spending 2 months going nuts. Colorado was 2 weeks study (this only worked because I didn't know that that was physically impossible), NY state day maybe 3 weeks (pure disorganization and moving country), CA the first time probably 6 weeks (got knocked off my bike 2 weeks before the exam), retake of CA was 3 weeks with about 30 hours lectures done when I took the time off.
Finally, sounds random, but watch out for the people who are apparently hell bent on failing, because if they distract you for even a week they can drag you down too. There will be someone, or more than someone who just never knuckles down, even once you're a month out. They'll brag about test results, there will be some intense study sessions, and they'll flake off to the beach, shopping, stalling, spending hours and hours they don't have with their other half etc etc. The bar exam is a marathon not a sprint and it is tedious. There's a reason why for every bar exam I've passed, I was a little bar exam hermit for about a month before the exam. Its not to say you can't be sociable, but you need those 10 hours study and after that you probably won't have the energy to do much bar drink that proverbial glass of wine and go to bed.
Other general information
Above the Law always has interesting chatter on the bar exam. http://abovethelaw.com/bar-exams/
How much do you trust your Non-Apple laptop?
Not much is the answer to the question, but a bit more than Apple.
So, one of the problems with taking a state bar on a laptop is that you have to use a horrible piece of software called ExamSoft, which tries to close out the operating system and amend your registry. In short no one's laptop likes it, lots of people have crashes and registration problems.
Have a think about stripping your laptop down to just the Microsoft programs and turning off your antivirus while taking the exam. ExamSoft does interact badly with a lot of programs. Best advice if your laptop does crash or won't reboot is to take a deep breath, keep trying for 5 or 10 minutes and then start handwriting. I've had to try four or five times at one point to restart my laptop in ExamSoft mode. This was right at the start of the NY Bar Exam and not exactly fun.
ExamSoft does now come in a form for MACs but its less stable and has all of the problems listed above.
- If you're coming in from out of state, aim to travel on the Saturday or Sunday - you don't want to be stressing over missed flights on the Monday.
- You should arrange your travel and accomodation as far in advance as possible. Some of the NY and CA sites have over 5,000 people attending.
- In terms of hotels and flights, make a decision, with a group of friends if you like - and stick to it. It's easy to faff around and loose a valueable day or two of study sorting the logistics.
- You do want to opt for the top of your budget though, this is not the time to fail the bar exam because you were in a crummy hotel and couldn't sleep. DoubleTree, Hampton Inn & Suites and Marriott hotels are good mid budget options.
- Also look for some where that will be good at churning out food and has a fridge in the room (or ask for one long in advance). Having the thousands of exam takers in town strains most hotels room service quite severely and you HAVE to eat before these things, particularly CA, where you can't take food into the exam.
- Also be prepared to have to use the stairs not the elevator so if you get a choice opt for a lower floor.
- An old BarBri professor used to recommend splitting a bottle of wine with a good friend the night before the exam and all bar study be banned - there's a lot of wisdom in that.
- Think super carefully about travelling the day you finish the bar exam, as opposed to drinking, sleeping and then travelling the next day. Lots of people have places they want to be but you're going to be more tired than you've ever been before. So take plenty of care.
Confirmation that you are taking the NY Bar Exam only comes two weeks before the bar exam and an online portal opens up allowing you to select your test center. If you get online quick, you can still pick the Manhattan test siteotherwise you'll be picking between the delights of Buffalo and Albany in upstate NY.
Buffalo has the narrow advantage of being near Niagara Falls (and I do mean narrow advantage - upstate NY is an interesting experience). In terms of hotels to stay in the Hampton Inn & Suites has had a good record in the past. That said when I took NY I had a huge and cheap suite at the DoubleTree - which is a longish walk or a quick shuttle bus ride (the hotel puts these on) from the test center, but I travelled over on the Friday, stayed Niagara until the Monday and then the DoubleTree for the rest I'm really pleased I did. DoubleTree was quiet and spacious but full of people freaking out - Niagara 30 mins away had virtually no exam takers and was an absolute haven. Some LLMs have stayed Hyat Regency in Buffalo that's in the same building as the convention center where you take the exam, and there's certainly a lot to be said for minimizing the hassle factor.
For Cali takers the nearest test center to Stanford is San Mateo and provided you're taking the I280 it's pretty safe to drive to. Santa Clara and Oakland are also driveable from Stanford. However, you need to weigh the time and effort of driving against how tired you think you'll be. I've taken it in Oakland and stayed in the Marriott there and there's a lot to be said for said for the brainlessness of just having to ride the elevator - and total relief of being able to crash in your room between the morning and afternoon session. It was such a benefit that I paid $99 to have a late check out on the last day so I could take the break in my room.
Bear in mind that for NY and CA, after you take the bar exam you have to submit a whole bunch of information for determination of moral character. This requires compiling a lot of information, including driving licences and finger prints, as well as information about where you've lived and who you have worked for since the beginning of time and takes quite a while. You will also need to either get sworn affidavits for NY, or questionnaires will be sent out by the bar for CA for your character refereneces.
NY Bar Requirements
For NY you have to wait until you have your exam results showing you've passed to apply for your character and fitness but it's worth getting going on that now. You'll only have ten days to get it filed to be able to be sworn in at the first opportunity. If you don't have an NY address then you'll be allocated to the Third Department and their form is here: http://www.nycourts.gov/ad3/Forms.html#AdmissionsForms
For CA you should think about filing at the same time as applying to do the exam as it will minimize the number of copies of admission certificates, and also CA can take between three and six months to clear. NY you want to start preparing as soon as you've taken the exam but you can't file until you pass. The online form can be found here.
There are two notary publics at SLS listed here, and if you're in the UK or another jurisdiction where part of attorney's qualifications is to be able to be a commissioner for oaths, then they can do the swear and you just need to amend the signature block.
To get your MPRE result sent you write a letter as per the instructions here: