Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bar Exam: Work Ethic

I teach a bar skills seminar.  The last class of the semester I reserve for a guest speaker - a graduate who took the most recent bar examination.  I chose the person I did this time because of his work ethic I observed during his bar study.  He had one study partner.  They had an express agreement to treat bar review like a job.  They showed up “for work” every day at 8:00 at the law school to study in a room they had reserved for the day.  My guest explained to my class that after checking in with each other they would go to their commercial bar review class. 

At this point, one of my students raised their hand and asked, “I heard that all that the bar review courses provide is a video lecture so why bother showing up to class?”  He had a good answer.  “Because then I was sure I would watch that video.  Coming to class each and every day made me accountable to myself and to my study partner.”  This got the class’ attention.  The students shifted in their seats.  My guest went on to describe how he brought his lunch every day to assure that he ate something healthy and affordable.  During lunch he and his study partner would review their flashcards.  “Tell me everything you know about X.” Then his partner would rattle off all the elements of X and if there were any gaps, they would note them and go over it again.  Once lunch was over, they would return to their reserved room and continue studying until 5:00.  Every day included multiple choice practice tests and essays.  They worked in extra MPTs as well.  My guest told the class that he studied 7-8 hours per day, every day including weekends.  By now you could hear a pin drop in the classroom.  Another student raised her hand and asked, “But, how did you find time to work?”  He answered, “I didn’t.”  After a beat he continued , “I didn’t work, I didn’t go to the gym (he was big into working out), I didn’t do anything but study. I wanted to be able to tell myself that I had done absolutely everything I possibly could.  If I didn’t pass I know it would not be because I didn’t work hard enough.”  So there it was. 

His method for passing the bar was basically working hard.  I felt a twinge of guilt in the moment.  Inside my head I said “Well, that goes against all I’ve been telling students about work life balance for their entire law school careers.”  After more reflection, I think he is onto something.  He looked at bar study from a long range perspective.  Bar review would be 8 weeks long.  He mentally made space in his life to do what he felt needed to be done.  He trusted his instincts.  For him at least, working harder was working smarter. (Bonnie Stepleton)

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