Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success
In Part One of this series on Advance Bar Prep, we discussed the importance of “Understanding Your Why” to help you maintain motivation, to encourage daily success efforts, and to help you avoid creating mental barriers to your own success. Part Two of this series will discuss another oft overlooked component of bar exam success, “Friends and Family.”
If you step back and think about your life on any particular day, you will quickly realize that other people and your interactions with them play a big role in your day. Positive interactions can lift you up and inspire, and alternatively, negative interaction can drag you down and demotivate you. It makes sense that if your normal daily life can be positively and negatively impacted by others, if you then add bar exam study and stress into that mix, these interactions will have increased weight. A positive interaction can lift you up when you feel like you cannot possibly watch another video, do another practice question, or read one more outline. On the other hand, a negative interaction can distract you from your work, make you question how you are balancing your life, and lead to feelings of frustration and guilt. It makes sense to think about your relationships early.
Obviously, despite the beginning of your bar preparation, you will still interact with other people and be impacted by them. The key to enhancing the positivity and supportive nature of these interactions, while simultaneously minimizing any negativity, frustration, and guilt, is to do some early preparation. By having conversations with your friends and family about your journey and the time requirements of your studies, setting aside time in advance to spend with them, and managing others’ expectations of your time and availability, you can save yourself stress and frustration down the road. Here are three tips to help you be successful on the bar exam by actively managing your relationships in a way that supports your success.
1. Let your friends and family know what you are doing.
This may sound obvious, but taking the time to communicate with your friends and family about what you will be doing from graduation until you take the bar exam can help you avoid a lot of pitfalls down the road. Although it may seem like everyone should understand that you will be busy studying as you prepare for the challenges of the bar exam, the truth of the matter is that anyone who hasn’t engaged in such a rigorous undertaking may not understand why you need to spend so many hours every single day studying. It may seem instead that you are neglecting them, have poor time management, or that they are just not your priority. If you take the time in advance to discuss what your daily schedule will be like, let them know a timeline, and ask them for their patience before you begin your studies, you will potentially avoid a lot of problems and stress down the road.
2. Make your friends and family a part of your weekly schedule.
Generally, the importance of time management during bar prep is understood, and ensuring that you have time to watch lectures, review your notes and outlines, engage in practice questions, write essays, and other important things is simply a matter of assigning a time and day to them. This process is important as it helps you stay on the right track to success, but it is equally important to schedule time to spend with friends and family as well. Bar prep is time consuming and intensive, but it should not encompass every hour of every single day. Instead, treat it like a job, and when you are not working, make time to reconnect with friends and spend time with family. This will not only help you maintain positive relationships, but it will help keep you healthy, supported, and balanced as you engage in the rigors of preparing for the bar exam. If you get in the habit of scheduling and valuing others’ time before you start prepping for the bar exam, you will find that it is much easier to continue that habit during your prep.
3. Remember that other people have lives outside of bar prep.
This is one of those things that makes sense when you stop and think about it, but is not so easy to keep in mind when you are preparing for perhaps the most important test of your life. If you think back to the beginning of law school, you will likely remember a sense of disconnect with those who were not in law school because of how embedded you were in the process of legal education. No one outside of law school understood the perils and fears associated with the Socratic method, why you feared losing a highlighter, or why the letters IRAC made you cringe. The bar exam process is the same while you are in the middle of it for you, but it is also the same for those that are outside looking in at you. Just as they may not understand what you are going through, try to keep in mind that you may not understand what they are going through as someone who supports you and cares about you, and try to be open to communication and also inquiring about things that are not related to bar prep. Not only will it give you a nice break, but it will also help ensure that you stay connected with the people that matter most. Make sure that you actively engage with others before you begin your process, and it will be easier to maintain that communication and stay engaged during your preparation.
The aforementioned things are important for your mental and emotional well-being, but they will also help you on the exam. One of the most common refrains I hear from bar exam takers is about how lonely the process is, and how cut-off they feel from friends and family. If you actively engage in the aforementioned before (and during) your bar prep, you will find yourself better prepared and better able to handle the stress and rigors of the process.
In Part Three of this series, we will take a look at how you can “Make Your Commercial Course a Success Before Day One” and discuss a variety of ways that you can ensure you hit the ground running when your commercial course starts.