Setting Your Pace for Bar Prep

Set Your Pace.

To succeed at any challenge in life, you’ve got to tune out the noise around you- the footsteps of others (ahead and behind), distracting “advice,” doubters who tell you it can’t be done. Instead, focus on your inner voice. Setting your own goal, charting your course and trusting your instincts take courage, but they are the surest route to crossing your personal finish line a winner.

I saw this quote years ago in a fitness (maybe running) magazine. So many years ago that I had to rip the page out instead of taking a photo. I couldn’t Instagram it with clever hashtags.
set your own paceI old-school taped the page to my desk as a reminder to focus on my goals and to not worry about what everyone else is doing. Over the years it got torn and I had to keep cutting it down to the point that all that was left was the quote. A few weeks ago the paper reached the point of disintegration that it was time to let it go. At the time, I didn’t give it too much thought: It had been there so long I hardly noticed anymore. I was more concerned about scraping the tape off my desk surface. The next day when I got to my office and sat down at my desk, my hand automatically went to the spot where the quote had been. Maybe I noticed it more than I thought. Maybe there is a reason I kept it taped there for so many years. The Internet is a wonderful thing. I’ve downloaded a new version of my quote and taped it to my desk.

I hope this quote can serve as a reminder to all of you preparing to study for the bar exam. You all have the same goal of passing but “[t]o succeed at any challenge… you’ve got to tune out the noise around you… the distracting advice, the doubters…” With about a month until the official start of bar prep, this is the perfect time to think about how to do this: what you need to do to set your pace and run your own race. After all, it is “the surest route to crossing your personal finish line a winner.”

-KSK

Prepping for Bar Prep

Preparing for the bar exam is more than studying 50+ hours a week for ten weeks. You absolutely have to put in the study time and commercial bar prep companies do a great job providing you an in-depth and structured study schedule. However, the ten-week bar prep period is fairly intense and quite exhausting. You will experience periods of self-doubt, uncertainty, and sometimes feel overwhelmed. Although you cannot avoid this completely, you can be prepared to work through it push forward with your studying. One way to do this is to start bar prep having a strong relationship with yourself.

  • Have an open mind. Be receptive to new and different concepts on how to live your best life. Don’t think of it as massive change all at once. This is a process and there are lots of little things you can do.
  • Give yourself a break. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and accept that you did the best you could. Remind yourself that you don’t expect perfection in others so you shouldn’t expect it of yourself.117520730-tumblr_n1jxj4UG3Q1qlv1neo1_1280
  • Assess your lifestyle. Identify what is and isn’t working in your life. Break unhealthy habits and develop healthy ones. A little self-care goes a long way (Check out these TED Talks on the importance of self-care)
  • Build your tribe. We tend to be like the people we surround ourselves with. Bring people into your life that reflect your best self and will support who you want to be.
  • Make time for mindfulness. Introduce a few mindful living techniques into your daily routine. Develop strategies that stop negative thoughts from taking over and learn how to refocus your energies on positive thoughts that move you forward.
  • Take control. You are not a passive observer in your life. You may not be able to control every event and person in your life but you can control how you respond. It is this response, not the event or person, which determines the outcome.

Don’t kid yourself into believing that you can simply wake up on May 15th and magically have the ability to push through the next ten weeks. In order for your brain to function at its best, you’ve got to be mentally and emotionally strong. This requires planning and preparation. Professor Dumbledore is right: “It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Make the choice now to be your best self.

-KSK

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Passing the Bar Exam: 4 Easy Steps

Four Steps to Achieving Your Goal

You’ve survived law school and graduation is right around the corner. Soon you’ll be a juris doctor. There is one more hurdle before you can achieve the ultimate goal of putting “esquire” after your name. You must prepare for and pass the bar exam.

The bar exam is a bit intimidating. You’ve heard the myths, legends, and horror stories. You’ve seen your friends morph from confident law students into unkempt, irrational, unsure bar studiers. The bar exam does not seem like fun at all. You may not be sure you are up for it. Trust me, you are. The bar exam will not defeat you. You will take it one step at a time and you will achieve your goal of becoming a lawyer.

Step One: Break it into steps. When you first set the goal of becoming a lawyer you knew there were smaller goals you had to achieve: First you had to graduate high school and be accepted into college. Next you had to earn good grades in college and get a strong LSAT score in order to be accepted into law school. Now you are facing the final goal of passing the bar exam. The distance between where you are now and where you want to be probably seems very far. This is why you need to take steps towards the goal. Studying for the bar exam has been analogized to running a marathon. Just as you wouldn’t attempt to run 26.2 miles on day one, you don’t tackle the bar exam all at once. Identify the steps you need to take in order to pass the exam. Sometimes the steps will be too big but that doesn’t mean you quit. It means that you break it down a bit more. Some days you might not feel like you’ve moved forward at all but looking back over a week or month you’ll see how far you’ve progressed.

Step Two: Make a plan. Once you’ve identified the steps, you have to plan how you will do it. Identify the tools you need from the very basic “signing up for a commercial bar prep course,” to creating a detailed daily and weekly study plan. Create a plan that is comprehensive and flexible. Write it in pencil, not permanent marker. So many students have these grand plans of 12-hour study days, 7 days a week, for 10 weeks. They will complete 100% of the commercial bar prep course and be on-task all of the time. I tend to see these students about a week or two into bar prep and they are a bit of a mess because, surprise, their plan isn’t working. On paper it looked great but they forgot to account for this thing called life. Don’t be discouraged if your initial plan doesn’t work. Instead, adjust the plan and keep going.

Step Three: Do it. This seems obvious  but oftentimes people are so afraid of a mis-step path-to-successthat they take no action at all. However, inaction is a sure way to fail. Taking action is imperfect but it is movement and it will get you to your goal.Having a goal, steps, and a plan takes away a lot of the scary unknown. You will not be perfect but you will have a sense of where to go and how to get there.  Imperfection is not failure. Quitting is failure.

Step Four: Repeat steps 1-3 as needed.  If you look back at the journey that got you to this point, you will see that you did not travel a perfectly paved straight, flat road. You will see a foot path with twists and turns, mud puddles, a few uphills and downhills. But you traveled this path and you will continue to do so. The goal is close and you can and will achieve it.

-KSK, juris doctor, esquire.

 

The Bar Exam: It’s Finally Over

It’s finally over. All those years of school, the weeks of studying, the stress, the uncertainty. The bar exam is now behind you. Yes, you’ve got to wait a few months for results but it’s out of your hands. You did all you could to prepare, you did your very best during the exam. Worrying won’t help anything and it won’t change the results. Thinking about all your perceived mistakes accomplishes nothing. It’s time to move forward and get back to real life.

dontlookback

– KSK

The Day Before the Bar Exam

Bar Exam Etiquette 

It’s been all about you for the past two months. There is no denying that you’ve been *slightly*selfish or that your friends and family waived the rules of etiquette so you could focus on bar exam prep.  Lucky for all of us, this is about to end. The bar exam starts tomorrow and you are not the only person taking it. There will be hundreds of other people in the testing center including examinees, proctors, computer techs, and bar examiners. If you are in a multi-use facility, there might even be other events going on at the same time. Let this sink in…

goofus

If your first reaction was to be ticked off, think again. It’s not about you anymore. You can be focused but you may not be self-centered or rude. There is a difference between the two and it involves social norms or expectations about how people should act. Since you’ve been out of the loop for a few months, here is a short refresher on the unwritten rules of appropriate social behavior:

  • Be patient. On your way to the test center, don’t honk or yell at other people who aren’t driving exactly how you think they should. Don’t get angry at the person reading the instructions. Listen and use the time to center yourself.
  • Be kind. This isn’t a social gathering but it isn’t a gang fight. I’m not saying you actually have to interact with anyone but at the very least you can make eye contact and smile at your table mate.
  • Be practical. Don’t over-react when something doesn’t go exactly as you think it should. No one is perfect so expect a few minor glitches and take them in stride.

When you find yourself getting irritated by the slightest perceived inconvenience (i.e., your table mate’s presence) and when you are tempted to act like rules don’t apply to you,consider doing some meditation. For example, if you just rolled your eyes at the very thought of meditating, you need to meditate.

Quick and Easy Meditation: Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold it for 7 seconds. Exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat 2-3x as needed.

Yes, the bar exam is a high stakes test but that doesn’t give you license ignore the rules governing socially acceptable behavior.

-KSK

The Bar Exam Taper

Time to Taper

In law school you studied right up until it was time to take the exam. Those were the good old days of mere 3 hour tests, unlimited use of highlighters, pens, and pencils; you could wear a hat, drink coffee, eat snacks.

The bar exam is not a law school exam. Endurance is important. You’ve been studying for 10 weeks and you are tired. You’ve probably had trouble focusing this week, each day getting worse than the one before. This is totally normal. Your body and brain sending you a signal so listen and get some rest between now and Tuesday so you can be focused and energized. It’s time to taper.


Do:check-marks-in-sticker-style_23-2147514126

  • Study in moderation
  • Sleep, relax, watch tv, go out to dinner, interact with other people
  • Go easy on the alcohol, soda, coffee, and energy drinks. Eat a vegetable. Drink some water.

Don’t:

  • Cram. You can’t learn all the law and you don’t need to.
  • Obsess over your MBE scores. It won’t help and you’ll be fine.
  • Expect to get a perfect score on every essay. It won’t happen and it’s not necessary.
  • Doubt yourself and your abilities. You are ready for this.

It’s time to start listening to the people who’ve been saying you can do this. They are not saying it to be nice. They know how hard you’ve worked and how capable you are. Don’t insult them by not believing in yourself.

-KSK

 

Bar Exam: 2 Week Action Plan

Bar Exam Action Plan

  • Make sure you know where the exam site is, how you’ll get there and commute time.
  • Assemble what you need to take with you to the exam:
    • Laptop and cord
    • Ziploc bag with: photo id, admission ticket, pens, approved water bottle
    • Lunch money (if you choose to purchase)
  • Double-check list of permitted and prohibited items and make sure you adhere to it.
  • Plan what you’ll wear:
    • Pro tip: dress in comfortable layers so you can adjust for warm/cool.
  • Continue to review subjects:
    • Read through outlines or flashcards and identify confusing areas of law.
    • Paraphrase rules from memory, write an example and a non-example.
    • Create a one page outlines and test to see if you can write it from memory.
  • Practice for performance (test conditions):
    • no outlines
    • mixed MBE, randomized essays
    • follow time limits
    • stay within character limits
  • Get your body and brain on bar exam time:
    • Go to bed at a reasonable hour (before midnight) and get up at 7 or 8am.
    • Be at your study place by 9am and work for a solid 3-4 hours, take a 1 hour lunch break, then get back to studying for another 3-4 hours.
    • Take 30 minutes each evening to review your daily progress and plan what you’ll do the next day.
  • Develop a “panic plan” for how you will manage stress during the exam (e.g., take deep breaths, count to 10, recite your confidence mantra, get a drink of water, etc.).
  • Plan how you will celebrate the end of all your hard work after the exam is over.
  • Write down at least three reasons why you believe you’ll pass the bar exam. Hang it up on the fridge and look at it every day- remind yourself you can do this.

-KSK