I have spent over 15 years in practice helping others pass the bar and over one year prior to that helping myself pass the Bar Exam. The question that always amazes me is, “Am I spending too much time studying?” I was far too insecure to feel I was doing enough. I felt guilty taking even an evening off. My mistake: not planning ahead. I only had a vague idea what I was doing day-to-day. Even with a commercial service available to me, I needed more structure. I have found this true among my students as well as among my clients.
Hmmm, too much time studying? Are you eating too many vegetables? Working out too much? It is pretty hard to over-study for the Bar. Rather, ask yourself, “Am I prepared for the challenge of the test, a test that will make a difference in my social, economic and professional status?” You know you need to work hard; that’s a given. How do you ensure that you take the test once? Hard work + Organization = True Preparation.
What other test has been that important to you? I would venture to say that there is no other test that can have so much impact on your life. It needs to be prioritized. Take it once and be done with it. Get your ticket and start lawyering. You’ll do it by being prepared.
To ensure you take it only once, here are some simple steps:
1. Plan Ahead: Start scheduling your studies as much as three months ahead. This doesn’t mean studying everyday all day. Rather, you want to anticipate everything you can (personal needs, bar prep class, graduation, etc.) and make sure you get the study time into your schedule. Balance elements in your life such as work, family and recreation when you set your plan.
2. Plan in Detail: Once you have allocated the time to study, know what it is you are going to study. Select individual subjects to study on each day. Write those in your planner. There are plenty of suggested courses of review you can follow. Whatever you choose to do, commit it to paper and follow the plan. Don’t be a slave to your schedule but let it provide the wise guidance you need. By the way, plans and schedules can be changed. Do so as circimstance dictates.
3. Use Your Time Wisely: All time spent on bar prep has value. However, any study technique that engages more than one sense is deemed ‘Active Studying’. Active Studying means taking notes at a lecture, re-writing those notes later, making your own outlines and not just reviewing commercial outlines, practicing essays and not just MBEs. Active studying has been repeatedly proven to increase retention of the matter studying. Don’t Mail it in: in other words, don’t avoid active studying. This is the work part of the job.
4. Keep Moving Forward: Remember you will have bad days studying. Your scores may go up and down. So what? Every day that you practice is a good day. If you are doing well, you’ll feel good about your work at the end of the day. If you did not do well that day, you have now discovered a weakness; it can corrected BEFORE the test. This type of day will save you on the test later on. No matter what, keep working through the materials. You will feel better after the exam. That feeling is priceless.
As you prepare to take the Bar, plan ahead. By planning, you will not only get ready for the test, but you find yourself feeling better in your day-to-day studies. You’ll see what has been done and what you still have to do. It is the difference between a boat with a rudder and one without one.
Take the Bar Exam once. You’ll never be happier putting it in your past.