1. There are two things I did during law school that I found to be helpful in preparing for the bar. First, I took classes that were likely to show up on the exam. I empathize with the students who come to law school to pursue a passion in a particular legal field rather than take bar courses like Wills & Trusts. My view was that while law school was a place for me to discover and develop professional passions, it was also an institution meant to prepare me for passing the bar so that I could practice law. So, in addition to taking advantage of Hastings’ experiential offerings, I took as many courses as possible to help me succeed on the bar.
Second, I practiced good study habits. As law school became increasingly busy, it became increasingly necessary for me to approach work with a “quality over quantity” mentality. When I approached any long-term project (for example, outlining half a semester of material or editing an issue of the Journal), I would give myself, say one hour, to see how much I could accomplish before moving on to my next project. By breaking massive projects into mini tasks, I maintained a sense of urgency, avoided subject fatigue, and worked efficiently. This tactic translated well to bar study: I had exactly two months to take in more material than I would ever be able to absorb. How could I maintain urgency and efficiency for six to nine hours each day and be as prepared as possible on exam day? I set mini goals for myself, held myself accountable to stay on top of work, and the pieces eventually added to the whole (or at least something close to that).
As a final note on study habits, I found that simply showing up to the library (or wherever one might study) was not enough. Of course I would take breaks, but once each study segment began, my phone was away, my browser was closed, and my ear plugs were in. It was helpful to approach studying with the same intensity I planned to bring to exam day.
2. Generally, I like structure and embraced the schedule that my bar prep company provided. I knew that if I meaningfully completed the day’s assignments, I was doing “what I was supposed to be doing,” and that was reassuring even when I otherwise felt completely lost.
Early on, I handwrote rules over and over (and over and over). This helped with memorization and made me stay engaged with what I was reading. Later on for memorization, I spent a lot of time talking to myself in study rooms with flash cards.
3. In the last two weeks leading up to the bar, I felt deep self-doubt in my abilities unlike any I had ever felt before. I disclosed these feelings to a few close friends who had taken the bar the year before. They told me that they had the very same experience, that I would be fine, and that the bar, regardless of the result, does not define who I am. While knowing this did not make those feelings go away, it at least assured me that these psychological struggles were another aspect of this challenge and not a result of something I was doing wrong or some personal inadequacy.
I told myself to focus on what I could control and to let go of what was beyond me. For example, I could control the focus I brought to studying each day, but I could not control whether the examiners would test my weakest subjects. By focusing on what I could control, I kept pushing forward rather than getting tangled in doubts and what-if’s.
I do not disclose any of the above to be dramatic or to intimidate a student embarking on bar prep. Rather, I share my experiences so you know that you are not alone in your experience and there are resources to support you. I hope you consider me one of those resources. I am sincerely happy to talk with anyone regarding the above or about preparing for the bar.
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