Practice, Make Mistakes, Learn

The end of commercial bar prep lectures means the start of focused review and practice. It does not mean the start of memorizing your outlines, nor does it mean you spend 90% of your time reading outlines, making flashcards, etc. You need to spend at least 50% of your study time doing practice questions. Off note. No outline. Using only your brain.

For MBE questions, this isn’t too tough because you’ve already taken a practice exam without your notes/outline. Essay questions are another story. This is because, for multiple choice questions, your brain only needs to recognize the material, but for essays your brain has to produce it. This is a slightly different skill that you need to develop. The way to develop the skill is to… practice. The first couple of essays might be awful but that’s ok. We learn from mistakes, oftentimes better than from our successes.

Go into this stage of bar prep with a growth mindset. Expect to make mistakes so you can use them to improve. Don’t wait to practice when you think you can do it *right.* Practice with the goal of learning how to do it right. mistakes


The Right Mindset for Bar Prep

You’re still focused on law school exams and graduation so the bar exam is the last thing on your mind. But it’s there. Looming in front of you. Waiting…

You don’t have to start bar prep but you do have to get into the right mindset for it. Ten weeks is a long time to do only one thing so to go into it without some sort of mental preparation is a bad idea. You will get tired, overwhelmed, discouraged. It’s going to happen and you will have to push through and keep going.  Ignoring it makes things worse because then you are in denial and you’ll have to spend time accepting you’re a bit of a mess. Then you have to figure how to get yourself back on track and in control.

 Lawyers plan for the worst and hope for the best.

You want to be a lawyer and lawyers plan for the worst and hope for the best. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of material you have to learn and feel like there is no way you can learn it all? Regain control of your thoughts by making a list (but not of things you need to do):

  • things that inspire you
  • things you are grateful for
  • things you love about yourself
  • your happiest memories
  • your favorite people and why
  • a meal plan, a shopping list

Feeling discouraged because you can’t seem to make any progress? Identify and address the roadblocks in your way:

  • Perfectionism: stop waiting until something is perfect and just do it. You have to learn from your mistakes so go ahead and make them and then move forward.
  • Comparing yourself to what everyone else is doing: this is unproductive because it leaves you bitter, jealous, and insecure. Focus on yourself and what you can do.
  • Complaining about the amount of work: this rarely changes anything. You still have to do the work and the more you complain, the longer you have to work.

Feeling stressed because you aren’t getting anything done? Identify the time sucks and what you can to do boost productivity:

  • Focus: silence your phone (and hide it from yourself); black out background browser tabs/notifications; write distractions down for later; go for a short walk.
  • Increase efficiency: use a productivity tool like the Pomodoro Technique; quit multitasking (it doesn’t work); step away from social media during study hours.
  • Prioritize: don’t check email first thing in the morning (or every five minutes); make a to-do list each evening; sort your to-dos by “musts,” “shoulds,” and “wants.”
  • Get motivated: bribe yourself with a reward; keep a “done” list; strike a power pose; make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

The bottom line is that you are going to do this. You are going to study, prepare, and pass the bar exam. Pretending that it won’t be hard is unrealistic and frankly, it’s immature. It’s time to develop the right mindset and start acting like the lawyer you want to be.