Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Longest Month of Your Life

Hello faithful reader, who should not be reading this blog because you should be studying for your bar exam(s). No, wait! Don't go yet--I didn't mean to lay a guilt trip on you. You've probably inflicted enough of that on yourself already every time you watch a rerun of the Golden Girls instead of study. It's ok. You're not a machine, and you're completely allowed to take breaks and browse the interwebs once in a while. Just, not too much.

By this point you are about 4-5 weeks into your bar studying, and you are STILL wondering how in the h**l you are going to remember all of this stuff especially on a timed exam. Stop wondering because I'm about to tell you how. There is no trick to it--the key is to study and focus. ("Great. Thanks, Christine. So glad I stopped by for THAT little pearl of wisdom!"). Hang on, there's more.

I hate when people say that law school doesn't do enough to prepare you for the bar exam, although I have muttered that myself from time to time. But, it isn't really true. The law school experience teaches you everything you need to know to prepare for the bar exam. I know law school seems like a 4 year blur to you right now, but if stop and think about it, you'll get where I'm going. By the end of your first semester, you figured out what worked for you. You hated or loved highlighting. You thrived or failed in study groups. You depended on or laughed at flash cards. Mnemonic devises were friend or foe. Whatever technique you can think of, you already know what works. Great. Amplify that by 100 and you have a sure-fire personalized learning device for tackling all that messy law.

I deliberately haven't posted a blog about this yet because the first month you should be focusing on your prep-course study guides and completing their outlines (hint: avoid the temptation to turn those into mad-libs). By now you should have the outlines for the major topics completed, so start using those to study from and advance your special technique. Mnemonics worked for me. So did alphabetizing elements of certain crimes (New York can drive you insane with their degrees).  And now, since you really should be getting back to the books, here are my tips for not-at-all-guaranteed-but-very-likely-success on your bar exam of choice:

  1. Go back to the basics and study for the bar in your favorite way (Flash Cards, Highlighting and Summarizing, Mnemonics). Do NOT rely on straight reading the materials--that probably didn't work for you in law school, and it will work less now!
  2. Find your happy place and leave your laptop home. Mine was on my back deck on sunny days, and in my local library on rainy days--no distractions, nice and quiet.
  3. Read it. Read it again. Read it once more. Now explain it to yourself. If you can't conformtably repeat it or explain it out lout, read it again. 
  4. Commiserate, but don't complain. You still have a support network of people who went through this or are going through it now. Rely on them to break the tension, but don't kvetch. No one wants to hear it. You chose to go to law school, so your pain is self-inflicted. 
  5. Google what "kvetch" means if you're not from New York. 
  6. Remember that it is all important, even if the bar people tell you that it hasn't been tested in X years. Know it anyway. 
  7. Make sure you rest, but stick to a routine so that you don't over-rest (lazy).
And most importantly--avoid the people who are telling you that they're finding this process "easy" or "not that bad."  Those people are not putting the work in, and you might be tempted by them to ease up. Those people will also probably not pass the first time. You should be sufficiently stressed, almost to the point of hives. This is extremely important and many people do fail these tests. They are expensive, painful, time-consuming, and expensive, and you want to get it right the first time. You will not do that if you don't give these tests their due. Get them over and done with once, and then get back to your family and enjoy future summers. This one is a wash. 

Be this:

Not this. Ever:

Good luck, hang in, and pay your dues. It will be worth it come November! 


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