Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Internal Signaling: The Power of Motivational Self-Talk to Improve Performance

Having just returned from a bar exam conference, I am struck by how little we know about what actually correlates to success on the bar exam.  Nevertheless, for our students, it is common to jump to the conclusion that bar exam results are "preordained" based on a complex mathematical formula consisting of primarily (or indeed solely) LGPA and LSAT scores.  In other words, those that pass have high numbers; those that don't, don't.  

Interestingly, in our attempt to reduce the complexity of life experiences to numbers, there are always what we refer to as "outliers."  People that pass (or fail) regardless of LGPA and LSAT scores.  I sometimes wonder whether we are all outliers because even the best of statistical models fails to accurately predict bar passage results for our students.  And, that brings me to the field of human performance.  

You see, according to writer Alex Hutchinson, early on in the field of sports-based human performance, "[p]hysiologists pieced together an impressively detailed picture of the factors that - in theory - dictate our ultimate capacity [in terms of predicting athletic success]....There was one problem with this approach: It couldn't predict who would win an athletic contest....Clearly, something was missing from the 'human machine' picture of athletic limits."  Alex Hutchison, The Mental Tricks of Athletic Endurance, Wall Street Journal (February 2, 2018), available at:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mental-tricks-of-athletic-endurance. That something tends to be not easily reducible to biological measurement; it tends to be what some refer to colloquially as "head games."

In other words, in an athletic competition, your body is sending signals to your brain about the current physiological state of your body, i.e., whether you are running of out of energy, or dehydrated, or overheated, etc.  As interpreted by your brain, those signals then become self-fulfilling; they can serve to limit our endurance and our perseverance such that they become a barrier to improving our athletic performance.  However, psychologists have begun to explore the power of motivational self-talk to reinterpret those signals so that they do not in fact have such determinative power over athletic performance.  According to Dr. Hutchinson, it seems that positive self-talk can boost performance beyond what we think is possible based merely on the internal signaling of our biological markers.

That raises an interesting question with respect to bar passage.  We often hear people analogize that passing the bar requires preparation akin to preparing for a marathon.  As such, there's a case to be made that it might not be true that LGPA and LSAT are the major determinant signals as to who passes the bar exam.  Indeed, it is much more nuanced and complex; otherwise, why have a bar exam at all if results are preordained by past testing results in the form of LGPA and LSAT scores?    

Well, to be frank, we have a bar exam precisely because we know that LGPA and LSAT scores do not determine bar pass results.  And, as in athletic competitions, I have a hunch that one's self-talk has much to do with one's success in overcoming the nagging self-doubts that are common to most of us ("I don't fit in the law; I can't pass the bar exam; there's way too much to learn to pass the bar; I just don't have the time needed to pass the bar; I wasn't much of a success in law school so I'm not going to be successful on the bar exam; etc.").  Although there is no "magic cure-all," and of course LGPA and LSAT scores indicate something, it is important to recall that "something" doesn't mean "everything."  

And, that's where we come in.  Our bar exam destiny is not predetermined.  It is something that we can positively and concretely influence and improve by acting upon positive self-talk as we work - problem by problem and question by question - to train ourselves for success on the bar exam.  Those two things go hand-in-hand - "practice and talk" and "talk and practice."  So, whether you are preparing yourself for final exams or getting ready to study for the bar exam, pay attention to your self-talk.  Indeed, ask yourself today "What am I telling myself and is it really true or not?" (Scott Johns).

 

April 26, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

NCBE Reports February 2018 Average MBE Bar Exam Score

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has indicated that the national average MBE multiple-choice scaled score for the February 2018 bar exam declined once again.  As illustrated in the chart below, the MBE score has declined from near-term highs of 138 to 132.8 in just the span of a few short years.  

February 2018 MBE Averages

According to the NCBE, "[r]epeat test takers comprised about 70% of those who sat in February 2018 and had an average score of 132.0, a 1.7-point decrease compared to February 2017. This result drove the change in the overall February 2018 MBE mean."  http://www.ncbex.org/news/repeat-test-taker-scores-drive-february-2018-average-mbe-score-decline/.  

In contrast, the NCBE reports that the February 2018 average MBE score for first-time takers remained relatively flat, 135.0 for February 2018 first-time takers as compared to 135.3 for February 2017 first-time takers.  There have been several changes to the MBE exam over the last few years. In February 2015, the NCBE added another subject to the scope of the multiple-choice exam with the addition of Federal Civil Procedure.  And, in February 2017, the NCBE changed the number of pre-test (otherwise known as experimental) questions from 10 to 25, resulting in the 200 point scaled score calculated out of a total of 175 graded questions rather than previous MBE exams which graded 190 questions.  In addition, for the February 2018 MBE exam, the scope of Property Law was expanded to include some new sub-topics.

For those of you taking the July 2018 exam, there are several take-aways.  First, the MBE exam is a difficult exam.  Second, you can't learn to pass the exam without practicing the exam.  Third, statistics don't determine your destiny; rather, your destiny is in your hands, in short, it's in the reading, the analyzing, and the practicing of multiple-choice questions that can make a real positive difference for your own individual score.  So, please don't fret.  It's not impossible...at all. 

Finally, let me be frank.  In my own case, as I work through practice MBE questions, I am NEVER confident that I am getting the answers correct. And, that is REALLY frustrating. In fact, when I get a question right, I am glad but often surprised.  So, I try to NOT be confident that I have chosen the correct answer but rather be CONFIDENT that I am reading CAREFULLY and that I am METHODICALLY puzzling through the answer choices to step-by-step eliminate incorrect choices to help me better get to the correct answers.  

So, for those of you taking the bar exam this summer, take it slow and steady.  Ponder over every multiple-choice question you can.  Eliminate obviously wrong choices.  And, you might even keep a daily journal of your multiple-choice progress, perhaps by simply creating a spreadsheet of the issues tested, the rules used, and a few helpful tips as reminders of what to be on the lookout for as you approach your bar exam this summer.  In short, make it your aim to be a problem-solver learner.  (Scott Johns).

April 19, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fear of the End

      In our created bar support group (link here), candid conversations evolved into the development of two primary camps. Group A includes those who absorb all information and have countless questions. Group B includes those who seem to panic each and every week as new information is presented. Even with the development of these two camps, all students support one another.

      Group A students plan to sit for the bar exam in jurisdictions that administer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and several non-UBE jurisdictions. These students are excited to discuss questions they either asked but did not receive what they consider satisfactory answers or to reaffirm knowledge or concerns. These students take notes, ask a number of great questions, anticipate concerns that I have not even thought about, and appear eager and grateful each and every week. Our pre and post session discussions are vibrant and these students extend the discussions to involve other students who did not opt to join their sessions. This enables me to reach more students without additional programming.

      Group B students generally plan to sit for the bar exam in non-UBE jurisdictions and one UBE jurisdiction. Obviously what exam a student takes is of no consequence because fear is fear. My goal is not to generate fear unless it is motivating for individual students. I encourage students to prepare and anticipate various scenarios throughout bar review so as they arise; students are not shocked but have a plan of attack. With this group of students, after each session they communicate how overwhelmed they are by new information and questions posed. We then discuss why the information may or may not relate to them and how to manage and compartmentalize the new information received. We typically end on a good note.

      For example, a discussion addressing the pros and cons about where to study during bar review, to my surprise, significantly overwhelmed one of the students. Because I am very familiar with the student, we discussed choices she made 1L year and the impact those choices had on her academic performance. We also discussed her transition from undergraduate studies to law school, how ineffective it was for her to study back home over breaks, and highlighted some of the positive choices she made and their impact on her academic performance. She left the conversation with a plan she was comfortable with and we collectively decided it might be helpful for us to check-in after each session to discuss her individual circumstances.

      As a bar support group, we have met seven times thus far and have five more meetings. As students pick-up their caps and gowns and start to receive books and schedules for their bar review program, these are all signs that the end of their law school career is upon them. This leads to a number of conversations about the excitement of graduation, the fear of bar review, and the true end of an educational journey. Education was predictable for many and serves as a safety net but now the realities of “adulting” are quite overwhelming and is probably the source of most of the fear that students in the bar support group experience. Whenever we have candid conversations, the fear of the end of what is familiar and facing the unknown is overwhelming for many. (Goldie Pritchard)

March 14, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Congrats February 2018 Bar Takers!

Congratulations Feb 2018 Bar Takers!

It’s a great time for you - as this week’s bar takers - to reflect, appreciate, and take pride in your herculean work in accomplishing law school and tackling the bar exam.

Let's be direct!  Bravo! Magnificent! Heroic!  Those are just some of the words that come to mind…words that you should be rightly speaking to yourself…because…they are true of you to the core!

But, for most of us right now, we just don’t quite feel super-human about the bar exam. Such accolades of self-talk are, frankly, just difficult to do. Rather, most of us just feel relief – plain and simple relief – that the bar exam is finally over and we have somehow survived.  

That’s because very few of us, upon completion of the bar exam, feel like we have passed the bar exam. Most of us just don’t know.   So now, the long “waiting” period begins with results not due out for most of us for a number of months.

So, here’s the conundrum about the “waiting” period:

Lot’s of well-meaning people will tell you that you have nothing to worry about; that they are sure that you passed the bar exam; and that the bar exam wasn’t that hard…really.

Really? Not that hard?

Really? You know that I passed?

Really? There’s nothing for me to worry about?

Let me give you a concrete real life example. Like you, I took the bar exam. And, like most of you, I had no idea at all whether I passed the bar exam. I was just so glad that it was finally over.

But all of my friends, my legal employer (a judge), my former law professors, and my family kept telling me that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about; that I passed the bar exam; that I worked hard; that they knew that I could do it.

But, they didn’t know something secret about my bar exam. They didn’t know about my lunch on the first day of the bar exam.

At the risk of revealing a closely held secret, my first day of the bar exam actually started out on the right foot, so to speak. I was on time for the exam. In fact, I got to the convention center early enough that I got a prime parking spot. Moreover, in preparation for my next big break (lunch), I had already cased out the nearest handy-dandy fast food restaurants for grabbing a quick bite to eat before the afternoon portion of the bar exam so that I would not miss the start of the afternoon session of the bar exam.

So, when lunch came, I was so excited to eat that I went straight to Burger King. I really wanted that “crown,” perhaps because I really didn’t understand many of the essay problems from the morning exam. But as I approached Burger King, the line was far out of the door. Impossibly out of the door. And, it didn’t get any better at McDonalds next door. I then faced the same conundrum at Wendy’s and then at Taco Bell.

Finally, I had to face up to cold hard facts.  I could either eat lunch or I could take the afternoon portion of the bar exam. But, I couldn’t do both. The lines were just too long. So, I was about to give up - as I had exhausted all of the local fast food outlets surrounding the convention center - when I luckily caught a glimpse of a possible solution to both lunch and making it back to the bar exam in time for the afternoon session – a liquor store.  There was no line. Not a soul. I had the place to myself. So, I ran into the liquor store to grab my bar exam lunch: two Snicker’s bars. With plenty of time to now spare, I then leisurely made my way back to the bar exam on time for the start of the afternoon session.

But, here’s the rub:

All of my friends and family members (and even the judge that I was clerking for throughout the waiting period) were adamant that I had passed the bar exam. They just knew it!

But, they didn’t know that I ate lunch at the liquor store.

So when several months later the bar results were publicly available on the Internet, I went to work for my judge wondering what the judge might do when the truth came out – that I didn’t pass the bar exam because I didn’t pack a lunch to eat at the bar exam.

To be honest, I was completely stick to my stomach. But, I was stuck; I was at work and everyone believed in me. Then, later that morning while still at work computer, the results came out. My heart raced, but my name just didn’t seem to be listed at all. No Scott Johns. And then, I realized that my official attorney name begins with William. I was looking at the wrong section of the Johns and Johnsons. My name was there! I had passed!   I never told the judge my secret about my “snicker bar” lunch. I was just plain relieved that the bar exam “wait” was finally over.

That’s the problem with all of the helpful advice from our friends, employers, law professors, and family members during this waiting period. For all of us (or at least most of us), there was something unusual that happened during our bar exam. It didn’t seem to go perfectly. Quite frankly, we just don’t know if we indeed passed the bar exam.

So, here’s a suggestion for your time right now with your friends, employers, law professors, and family members.

1.  First, just let them know how you are feeling. Be open and frank. Share your thoughts with them along with your hopes and fears.

2.  Second, give them a hearty thank you for all of their enriching support, encouragement, and steadfast faithfulness that they have shared with you as walked your way through law school and through this week’s bar exam. Perhaps send them a personal notecard. Or, make a quick phone call of thanks. Or send a snap chat of thankful appreciation.  Or, Instagram them.  Regardless of your particular method of communication, reach out to let them know out of the bottom of your heart that their support has been invaluable to you. That’s a great way to spend your time as you wait - over the course of the next several months - for the bar exam results.

3.  Finally, celebrate yourself, your  achievement, and your true grit....by taking time out - right now - to appreciate the momentous accomplishment of undertaking a legal education, graduating from law school, and tackling your bar exam.  You've done something great, and, more importantly, something mightily significant.  (Scott Johns).

March 1, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Finances and the Bar Exam

Even though we talk to students at the start of their law school journey about planning financially for the bar exam, it is not until their 3L year that they begin to pay attention and ask questions. Reminders about bar applications and the bar exam seem to either motivate students to further assess their finances or totally avoid them. Some students paid attention early and by the end their 1L year, have already made financial plans for the bar exam. Students without a plan are often distracted throughout bar review usually pondering how they will pay for various expenses.

 

I often encourage students to refrain from tapping into private loans as their first resort to finance their bar exam expenses but consider it a last resort. The primary reason being that many of our students who have resorted to private loans have had challenges either obtaining one for a variety of reasons or paying it off. The interest rates differ and the terms differ from one lender to another. With this information in mind, I offer the following few suggestions for students to consider as they prepare to financially manage their bar exam journey.

 

(1) What’s my budget and what are my expenses?

• List current monthly/weekly expenses

• Take stock of necessities such as rent, apartment related bills, food, car maintenance and repair, gas, etc.

• Consider all obligations including current debt

• Anticipate Bar Exam related expenses such as Bar application fees (registration, application, character and fitness, fingerprints, criminal history records, driving record, birth certificate, credit reports, laptop fee, notary fee, etc.); MPRE (registration fee and reporting fee); Bar review course and possible supplemental bar review program; Bar exam day accommodations and necessities (hotel for 2 to 3 days; transportation to and from exam by plane, rental car, or personal car; meals and snacks for 2 to 3 days; parking; etc.); and relocation costs after the bar exam

(2) What savings?

I often hear from students: “what can I save? I am barely making it.” In response, I tell them “a dollar or more here and there that is set aside on a regular basis can amount to quite a bit.”

  • Distinguish between what you need, what you want, and what can wait. You might not need to purchase all items immediately. Strictly assess your use of money and leave credit cards alone.

 

  • Embrace couponing and other cost savings options for groceries and necessities. A few of my students started a couponing group and they have saved and shared items and coupons.  The money saved goes toward they bar exam fund.

 

  • Bring your lunch and coffee to school. Instead of purchasing food on campus, you could probably save a few dollars that you can set aside.

 

  • Consider “staycations” for spring break and save your money. When I ask students how much their spring break trips cost, it is often a good chunk of money that could go to their bar review or bar application costs.

 

  • Save monetary gifts. Birthday money from grandparents, holiday money, graduation money and other such monetary gifts can be set aside for bar exam needs or emergencies.

 

  • Be specific with those who want to support you. Family and friends are usually elated to hear about individuals graduating from law school and typically want to offer support to you in their own way.  I have had students who were very specific about their requests, asking for monetary support to assist with bar applications, bar review programs and expenses during bar study.  It is often surprising how many persons are willing to assist once they become aware of specific needs.

(3) Sources of Funding

Inquire about sources of funding at your law school and from students who recently sat for the bar exam.

  • Are there scholarships offered to assist with bar applications or bar review programs?                 

       •   Are there funds created by students or alums to assist?

  • Are there opportunities for discounts or reduced costs from bar review programs?

If you never try, you will never know. (Goldie Pritchard)

February 28, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The "Key" to Golden Success - Being "Super Chill?"

As described by reporters Sara Germano and Ben Cohen, Norway might have a secret weapon in winning so many gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Korea this month, namely, being "super chill."  https://www.wsj.com/mostchillnationiscrushingit

Surprisingly, even just a few hours before a big competition, the Norwegian athletes are still living life, speaking freely with reporters and chatting & laughing it up.  Indeed, the Norwegians are even taking time off to, well, to play video games, have fun, and to socially relax with others.  Yep, they watch TV, they play jigsaw puzzles, and they even have a day or two prior to their big events to be completely "100% free."  You see, according to Norwegian coach Alex Stöckl: "It's important [in achieving success that the athletes] can turn off their minds."

There's an important message here for those of you taking the bar exam next week.  It's A-okay for you to take Monday off before your big event next Tuesday and Wednesday in sitting for your bar exam.  

I know...  

It's REALLY hard to take anytime off, let alone all-day Monday.  But, as illustrated by the success of Norway's athletes, rest strengthens us, rest empowers us, rest restores us.  So, take a lesson from the Olympians and feel free to give your mind a day of rest before the bar exam.  You've earned it...and...you've got golden proof that it works, especially in preparation for high stake events.  (Scott Johns).

 

February 22, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bar Exam Positive Affirmation

Every year, I am aware of the stress that bar studiers experience the week before the bar exam but I continue to be surprised by its various forms of manifestation. Some bar studiers are so fearful of the exam ahead that they consider sitting for the bar exam at a later date, some anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong, while others simply doubt their ability to pass after all the time and work they have invested. It is perfectly normal to have concerns and be nervous about the bar exam but when they ignore progress they have already made throughout the bar review process and when self-doubt, fear of failure, and a defeatist attitude dominate then momentum and progress made thus far could hinder the last few days of bar exam preparation. It is heartbreaking to be aware of the obstacles a bar studier has overcome to get to this point in bar preparation then see every bit of confidence they built up seemingly disappear. Worse of all is when the bar studier who served as the support system for other bar studiers breaks down. Fear is contagious and particularly when those who have relied on the strength of another become overwhelmed and scared when that person is overcome by fear and doubt.

If we are what we think then we must derive words that manifest our intentions and hopes. Even if we do not completely believe all that we say, we can at least state a desire we might like to see manifested and propel ourselves into making it a reality. Similarly, a change in attitude and a positive outlook on a situation may well become reality. I encourage bar studiers to have a few positive affirmations they can read out loud, say to themselves, or say with others. I ask them to think about something other than: “I will pass the bar exam.” I ask them to be specific with their choice of words to counter negative thoughts.

Below are some of the affirmations bar takers have shared with me over the years. Each is unique to individual bar taker’s state of mind and concern.

 

Affirmations

“I am capable of passing the bar exam because I have done everything necessary and in my power to ensure that result”  

“I have been given endless talents which I can utilize to tackle unanticipated subjects on my essays and tasks on the MPT”

“I have a process for tackling MBE questions and when I panic, I will go back to my process”

“I have prepared for whatever comes my way (proctor failing to give 5-minute warning, others getting sick, others discussing issues I did not identify, etc..) on each exam day”

“I will stay away from people who create additional stress until the bar exam is over in order to surround myself with positivity”

“When I panic about my surroundings on exam day, I will remember that I have done this before (completed 200 MBEs in 6 hours) in bar review and get into my zone”

“I am capable, I made it through law school and can make it through this exam”

“I was very focused in my preparation for the bar exam so I am prepared”

“I will turn my nervous feelings into productive and positive energy to maximize my performance on this exam”

“I know most of what I need to know and what I don’t know I have a strategy for”

“Every day I got better at the tasks and will be my best on bar exam days”

“Passing the bar exam is not ACING the bar exam, it is achieving the passing score and I can do that. I reject the spirit of perfectionism”

“I succeed even in stressful situations”

“Today I release my fears and open my mind to new possibilities”

“Whatever I need to learn always comes my way at just the right moment”

(Goldie Pritchard)

February 21, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Struggling with Reading Comprehension? It Just Might Be Related to "On Line Reading!"

Are your students struggling with reading comprehension difficulties?

Well, it might be just related to something quite surprising...the ever-increasing emphasis in on-line reading over paper-based reading.  

You see, according to educational researchers in Norway, even controlling for learning differences in student populations, on-line readers statistically underperform in comparison to paper-based readers (as ascertained by test results concerning reading comprehension).  Anne Mangen, et al, "Reading Linear Texts on Paper Versus Computer Screen: Effects on Reading Comprehension," International Journal of Educational Research, 58:61-68 (2013), available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com

According the article, at least based on my own reading of the article, there are several possible reasons for the disparate tests results between on-line readers versus paper-based readers such as:

First, on-line reading often requires scrolling, which seems to negatively impact spatial orientation of the text because it disrupts our abilities to mentally represent and recall the material.

Second (and closely related), on-line reading lacks the visual certainty of knowing where to re-locate material that one is struggling with because on-line text is fluid (with different parts of the text never occurring preciously on the same page of the screen) in comparison to paper-based texts (in which we often visually recall a certain passage from its spatial position, for example, in the upper-left hand-side of the page in the text book).  In other words, paper-based readers might perform better in comparison to on-line readers because paper-based readers can more easily reconstruct a mental image, leading to more efficient recall during assessment of the material previously read.  Those same clues are often lacking in on-line text presentations.

Third, on-line reading seems to impair our overall metacognition abilities (our abilities to monitor and assess our own learning) because on-line reading tends to be perceived by us -- at the outset -- as a familiar way to glean information quickly (and almost effortlessly). In contrast, paper-based reading tends to be perceived by us -- from the get-go -- as requiring much more effort on our part in order to make sense of the text, which by implication suggests that paper-based reading pushes us to better monitor whether and to what extent we are learning through our reading as we move back and forth through the text.  In other words, in on-line reading, we tend to overestimate our reading abilities.

If the article's conclusions are true, then that leads us to wonder whether, the next time we see one of our students struggling with reading cases, dissecting statutes, or analyzing multiple-choice or essay problems, perhaps we should first ask about their reading. Are they primarily reading using on-line text or paper-based text?  The answer to the question might just lead to a memorable breakthrough in one's success in law school.  

That leads me to one final thought.

I wrote this blog trying, as best I could, to read the Norwegian article online.  So, please take what I've written as a grain of salt...because...I might have well have overestimated my own metacognition of the research findings.

In fact, writing this blog has been mighty hard work on my end because it's required near-endless multi-tasking as I switched screen shots between the article and the blog.  In short, I very well might have demonstrated the merit of this research based on my own, perhaps mistaken, paraphrases of the research findings. I'll let you be the judge. Just make sure you print out the article before you read it! Oh, and if you're not sure if you can recall how to read old-fashioned paper text, here's a funny video clip that'll serve as reminder:   https://www.youtube.com/medevialreadinghelpdesk   (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

February 15, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Reading, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Highest Stakes

The bar exam is slightly less than two weeks away and as academic support professionals, we can feel it even though it is business as usual in the law school.

One way we are reminded that the bar exam is approaching is through hearing from bar study mentors and bar support individuals. Some mentors are discovering that their mentees failed to take full advantage of resources and support available to them in preparation for the bar exam. Most likely, they are concerned about their mentees’ ability or simply excited about progress and wish to check-in. Whatever the cause, it is always great to hear from supportive individuals who have rallied around bar takers. These individuals usually serve as secret weapons, giving bar taker the extra boost of confidence necessary to bring them closer to passing the exam.

Another way we are reminded that the bar exam is fast approaching is through countless expressions of fear and panic from bar studiers through phone calls and email messages seeking advice on how to improve essays, Multistate Bar Exam questions, and Multistate Performance Tests. Bar studiers are also simply seeking last-minute advice and pep talks as they take the final preparatory steps for the bar exam.

Most students in the law school building appear unaware that the bar exam is this month, let alone a few days away. They are mainly focused on their day to day activities and academic endeavors. Students who are aware that the February bar exam is upon us are either currently completing their bar exam applications or students with friends who are former classmates who will sit for the February bar exam. Current 3Ls who anticipate taking the July 2018 bar exam have some familiarity with fears and challenges bar studiers experience and are therefore attempting to minimize those concerns, ask more questions, and strategize for their bar exam.

The fear of being unsuccessful on the bar exam is equally a motivating force and a source of stress. Lately, 3L students are alluding to having nightmares and awaking in a panic consumed with thoughts about the bar exam. In my opinion, it is too early to exhibit these emotions. I advise them that although the bar exam is a high stakes test as employment, opportunities, and livelihood are all at stake; nevertheless, many other students before them have successfully survived the journey and made it to the other side. I am confident they can too.

All the very best to all the students taking the bar exam this February! You can do it! To the current 3Ls, you still have time. (Goldie Pritchard)

February 14, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Article on Bar Passage and Externships

A post on The Legal Skills Blog mentions Scott Johns' latest research article exploring whether there is any relationship between externships and bar passage.  Scott Johns is at University of Denver and serves as one of our Contributing Editors. You can read the post and abstract here .

February 4, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Bar Exam is in Sight Panic vs Bar Exam Avoidance

Annually, between the end of January and early February, I manage two groups of students with different concerns and stressors. The first group is comprised of recent graduates who plan to sit for the February bar exam and the second group includes current 3Ls completing their bar applications and gearing up for the end of the law school journey. Of course, I work with several students who do not neatly fit into these two groups but at this time, these are the students who require my immediate attention.

The Bar is in Sight

As February approaches, recent graduates appear completely panicked. February means the bar exam is fast approaching and students have a few weeks before they sit for the exam, the event they have anticipated since completing law school.

Some grads are questioning whether or not they should have started studying earlier, doubting their ability to recall information studied thus far and pessimistic about passing the bar exam. This group of individuals regularly calls or emails me in the mist of any meltdown, primarily sharing their concerns about dropping scores on practice MBE questions, inability to answer essay questions on subject areas they once felt comfortable with and fear that time is rapidly running out. In response, we collectively strategize how to purposefully use the remaining weeks and days. In addition to reassuring them and giving them permission to feel all of the emotions, they might possibly feel, I encourage them to get back to work.

Other graduates simply call or email for a last-minute pep talk and a few words of encouragement. I find it quite easy to do so as these graduates are practically ready to face the final stretch.

Another group of individuals that usually starts to engage with me at this time is those I never met throughout their law school careers or those who disappeared for extended periods of time. Typically, my final advice to these students is: “Take some deep breaths, keep your eye on the ultimate goal, get some rest, and keep working. You can do this!”

Bar Exam Avoidance

For current 3Ls slated to graduate at the end of this semester, the concerns are a little different and mostly relate to the unknown. For a few students, bar application deadlines have passed so they have already experienced the range of emotions that accompany that experience. For many others, application deadlines loom and the reality of the demands associated with completing a bar application is overwhelming. The Boundless time they once thought they had, is now very limited. Fitting application tasks into daily and weekly class and work schedules is tedious. I usually seize this opportunity to remind them of the routine messages they received from me each and every semester and prior to summer break encouraging students to read the bar application instructions, survey the application, and start compiling vital information such as addresses, employment history, and supporting documentation. Those who did not heed the advice articulate regret about not initiating the process sooner and some even acknowledge that they just could not face the process; therefore, delayed it until the very last minute.

It would not be me if I did not inquire about why they avoided starting early. I find that their responses vary. For some students, revisiting residential history and work history awakens familial history that they have shelved or tried to forget about. For others, revisiting financial debts and obligations awakens stressors that they once set aside. It is amazing how what appears to be a very simple process such as answering a number of questions, producing documentation, and completing tasks can lead one to revisit a significant part of one’s life history with a critical eye. While this is regarded by some students as a very emotional process, for others it is a mere formality. Although we see students and regularly interact with them, often we are unaware of the multiplicity of adversities and challenges they overcame just to make it to law school and/or to get to this point, the precipice of completing their law school journey. (Goldie Pritchard)

January 31, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Matter of Perspective...Makes All the Difference in Learning!

Howdy Bar Prep Students:
 
I am writing this note especially to those of you currently in the midst of preparing for the February 2018 bar exam.
 
If you're like me, about this time in bar prep, I felt like I was striking out...1...2...3...yikes...another swing at a question with another miss.  I didn't even come close to the right answer so many times. And, so many times I wanted to throw in the towel.
 
But, it's not the misses that count...but...rather...what you're learning along the way.  In fact, it's in our misses that we learn where we need to improve so that we can more confidently demonstrate our spectacular problem-solving abilities to our chosen Supreme Court bar.  So, capitalize on your mistakes by turning them into positive lessons learned to improve your problem-solving skills.
 
Frankly, that's hard to do...unless we realize that we all have amazing strengths as we work on preparing for bar exams.  You see, to use a baseball analogy, some of us are pitchers, some catchers, a few umpires, and some runners.  And, there's room a plenty for all of us regardless of our "playing positions" as attorneys of the state supreme court bar.  So don't give up on yourself just because you feel like you are striking out.  We all feel that way.  Rather, keep on looking at the bright side by learning through doing lots of practice problems.  That little change in perspective - turning misses into pluses - can make all the difference in your learning.  To help give you a perspective of what this might look like in action, take a quick look at this short video clip:   https://www.passiton.com/inspirational-stories-tv-spots/99-the-greatest   And, good luck as you continue to learn in preparation for success on you bar exam this winter.  (Scott Johns).

January 25, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cultivating a Bar Support Community

This is the third week of classes and usually a time when many of my 3L students start thinking about the bar exam because they have either submitted bar applications, are working to complete applications, or have received materials from bar review vendors to start studying early for the bar exam. In response to articulated concerns of students I work with on a regular basis, particularly last year’s group, I decided to use this opportunity to build a bar support community among students. This is in addition to addressing fundamental questions related to bar applications and early bar study from the general population of students.

Last year we had a small group of dedicated 3Ls driven by the fear of the bar exam and who planned to sit for the exam in several different states. We had a few “real talk” segments to address fears about the bar exam, why students fail the bar exam, financial concerns during bar review and immediately after, and law school debt. This was also the opportunity to visit or revisit some of the skills and content addressed in the voluntary bar preparation course offered by the institution that not every student enrolled in. This was also a timely opportunity for me to form and solidify a better acquaintance with my students. We talked about home life and its impact on bar preparation, how students manage stress, and the financial challenges students face. These discussions allowed me to direct students to resources I was aware of or at least alert the students to other resources I heard of later. They also identified individual support system(s) for use throughout the bar study process. As a result, students checked-in with one another, encouraged each other, went to each other in moments of panic and sent encouraging messages to each other each day of the bar exam.

This year, with added work responsibilities and being the sole person responsible for academic support and bar support, I thought it impossible to offer the program again this year. However, students know how to get me on board. Several of the students who were part of the group last year and passed the bar exam appealed to me by phone and email to offer the program again this year to current students. Additionally, they encouraged current students to approach me about repeating it. Peppered with questions, I found room in my schedule and decided to repeat it this year only if a certain number of students signed-up. The threshold was met and I have a new set of students this semester.

We had our first meeting and even though it will be added work to my heavy schedule, I am equally very excited and optimistic about working with this new group of students. I have already learned so much about them individually and about their families. They are an enthusiastic group and I look forward to their growth and success on the bar exam. It is my ardent opinion that we must support our students holistically as they prepare for this high stakes test that is the bar exam. Although we cannot address all challenges students experience; we can help them through some challenges which might put them in a better mental state to prepare for and sit for the bar exam. (Goldie Pritchard)

January 24, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Fresh Start" Steps for Bar Exam Repeaters!

'Tis the season, they say.  

But, for many law school graduates, the month of December seems like a herculean challenge because a number of graduates are preparing to retake the bar exam next February...after receiving devastating news that they did not pass.  

So, let me write directly to you...to those of you who did not pass the bar exam this past summer.

First, you do not have to be a repeater.  Repeaters repeat, with the same outcome likely to result.  Instead, it's time to take advantage of the information and the experience that you had and turn it into a "fresh start."  You see, you have "inside information," so to speak, that first-time takers lack.  You know what it's like to sit for the exam, and, in most states, you have concrete information about what you did that was great along with inside scoop about where you can improve.

But, where is this inside info?  

It's in the scores that you received along with your answers.  The first step on your "fresh start" journey takes incredible courage but is key...grab hold of your exam questions and answers and work through them, one by one, reading the questions, outlining answers, writing solutions, and reflecting on what you learned through re-writing the exam. In the process, you'll be able to see firsthand where you can improve.  That's important information that is not available to first-time takers.  So, take advantage of it.

Second, don't focus on studying but on learning.  You see, success this time around on the bar exam is not a matter of working harder but rather working differently.  [That's why I’m always reluctant to call it studying because the focus should be on learning.].  From a big picture viewpoint, as Dr. Maryellen Weimer, Professor Emerita of Teaching and Learning at Penn State University describes, learning involves three overlapping activities focused on (1) content; (2) experiences; and, (3) reflection.

Let me be frank about the content phase of learning.  We often feel so overwhelmed by the content, particularly because it comes to us from bar review companies in the form of massive detailed lectures and equally massive detailed outlines, that we never move beyond the content.  In short, we don't feel like we know enough to practice.  Consequently, we tend to be immobilized (i.e., stuck in) in the content stage.  Instead of experiencing problem-solving first hand, we tend to re-read outlines, re-watch lectures, and in general create gigantic study tools before we have had sufficient experiences with the content to know what is really important in the big scheme of things.  

And, in my experience, most often when people don’t pass the bar exam on the first time around, it is almost always NOT because they didn’t know enough law but rather because they wrote answers that didn’t match up with the questions asked.  They were stuck in the content stage, spending too much time learning answers rather than experiencing questions.  As mentioned above, that's because we are so naturally focused on trying to learn and memorize the law.  But, I can’t EVER recall someone not passing because they didn’t know sufficient law.  It’s almost as though we know too much law that the law becomes a barrier...because we write all of the law that we know in our answers...even if it is not relevant.

That’s why the second stage is so important – experiencing the content through active open book practice.  

And, the third stage is critical too – reflection – because that is where we dig in to see patterns in the bar exam questions over time.

With that background in mind, let me offer a few suggestions so that you are not a repeater but a "fresh start" taker on your bar exam next February.

1.  Avoid the Lectures!  I would not redo the bar review commercial lectures.  At the most, if you feel like you must, feel free to listen via podcasts while exercising, etc.  In other words, just get them over and done with so that you can move quickly into the experiencing stage using the content of actual practice problems to solve problems for yourself. In other words, the least important thing in successfully passing the bar exam on the second go is listening to the lectures or reading outlines.  Rather, as you work through practice problems, take the time to dig in and understand whether you really understood what was going one...that's the sort of experience in practicing along with the sort of reflection that makes a huge difference.

2.   Daily Exercise!  Establish a schedule so that you exercise consistent learning every day.  The key is to be on a daily regimented schedule because it’s in your daily actions of experiencing and reflecting through actual bar exam problems that leads to big rises in bar exam scores.

3.  Practice Makes Passing Possible!  Right from the "get go," take advantage of every practice exam you can.  Most of your days, from the very beginning of your studies, should be engaged in practicing actual bar exam problems and reflecting on what you learned.  Don't try to learn the material through reading the outlines.  Dig in and use the outlines to solve practice problems.

4.  Reach Out To Your Law School!  Meet once per week, on a schedule, with someone at your law school to talk out your work. Bring one of your written answers or a set of MBE question that you have done or a performance test problem that you just solved.  You see, according to the learning scientists, when we explain to someone the steps that we took to solve a problem, it sticks with us.  So, take advantage of your local ASP professionals on your law school campus.

5.  Make Your Learning Work Count!  Skip the commercial bar review online homework and drills.  If the problems presented by your commercial course are not formatted like actual bar exam problems (essays, MBE questions, or performance test problems), don't do them. Period.  That's because the bar examiners don't test whether you did the drills or the online homework; rather, they test whether you can communicate and solve hypothetical bar exam fact pattern problems.  So, focus your work on the prize. Only do bar exam questions.

6.  Two-Thousand!  Okay...here's a number to remember.  According to a recent successful "fresh start" taker, the number is 2000.  That's right.  A recent taker said that she/he did just about 2000 MBE questions.   That's really experiencing the content.  You see, it’s important to work through lots and lots of bar exam problems because that helps you to see fact patterns that trigger similar issues over and over.  And, if you do that many questions, you don’t really have time for commercial bar review online homework or making gigantic study tools or re-watching the lectures over and over.  Instead, you’ll be using your time...wisely...for what is really important, learning by doing.   In particular, focus your learning (not studying!) on probing, pondering, and reflecting through every available essay and MBE question that you can.  Unfortunately, we often hear of people slowing down in the practice arena during the last two weeks to make big study tools and to work on memorization. But, memorization doesn’t work without content...and content doesn't work with out experiencing lots and lots and lots of practice problems. In other words, by practicing every possible problem that you can get your hands on you are actually memorizing without even knowing it. 

7.  The Final Two Weeks!  In the last two weeks, while you are still spending the bulk of your time practicing problems, for an hour or two a day, start to run through flashcards, or your old study tools, or posters, or your subject matter outlines.  But, do so in a flash.  It doesn’t matter whether you use commercial flash cards, your own note cards, or your own short subject matter outlines, etc., just pick something and use it to reflect on your learning. Here’s a suggestion:  The learning science experts say that it is important to “elaborate,” i.e., to explain and talk through what you are learning and ask why it is important, etc.  In other words, as you run through your study tools, put them into your own words, e.g., vocalize them, sing them out if you’d like, or even dance with them or put some “jazz” into them. In short, make your study tools live!  However, always remember that the best way to make your study tools come to life is to use them to work through lots of bar exam problems throughout the last two weeks of bar prep.

8. Be Kind-Hearted To Yourself! Realize its okay to have melt-downs.  Note, I said meltdowns not just a meltdown.  Everyone has them, and they happen more than once.  That's being human.  So, be kind to yourself.  Feel free to take time off for short adventures.  The important thing is to take some time to rest and to rejuvenate, in whatever form works for you.  My favorite is ice cream followed by a close second with hiking and even watching Andy Griffith shows (you’re too young to know what that is!).

Well, with that learning background as a foundation and these steps in mind, I wish you well as you prepare for success on your upcoming bar exam!  (Scott Johns).

 

December 7, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Decision for Now: California Supreme Court Maintains Current Bar Cut Score

Hat tip to Professor Mainero at Chapman...

In a recent new release from the California Supreme Court, the Court set out its reasons for not adjusting that state's current minimum passing bar exam score of 144 (1440 or 72 percent):  

https://newsroom.courts.ca.gov/news/supreme-court-issues-letter-relating-to-in-re-california-bar-exam

In the release, the Court discusses the following major points.

  1. The California Bar Exam has seen wide fluctuations in first-time pass rates since the state first begin using the current cut score of 144 (1440 or 72 percent) in 1987, and that more recent bar exam pass rate declines mirror bar exam pass rate declines across the nation based on published NCBE research findings.
  2. The Court acknowledged that the current cut score was "not established through a standard setting study," i.e., whether the bar exam's cut score measures minimum competency, and that most if not many states similarly lack such research studies.
  3. Thus, using July 2016 answers and scores with a panel of court-appointed subject matter experts, an independent psychometrician largely concluded that the a score of 139 (1390) [69.5%] was the baseline value for measuring minimum competency (though the study was questioned by two independent researchers and by many in the legal education community).
  4. Based on largely on the lack of data, the Court at this point in time is not convinced that the cut score needs adjustment based on either the independent psychometrician's research nor based on the numerous amicus letters the Court received.
  5. The Court will revisit the issue based on any "appropriate recommendation."

For those of us in the ASP community, we were hopeful.  But, even though at least for now the Court did not amend the cut score, perhaps there is still a glimmer of sun shining through this news release right into our domain of expertise.  

That's because the Court then goes on to "encourage[]  the State Bar and all California law schools to work cooperatively together and with others in examining (1) whether student metrics, law school curricula and teaching techniques, and other factors might account for the recent decline in bar exam pass rates; (2) how such data might inform efforts to improve academic instruction for the benefit of law students preparing for licensure and practice; and (3) whether and to what extent changes implemented for the first time during administration of the July 2017 exam — that is, adoption of a two-day exam and equal weighting of the written and multiple choice portions of the exam — might bear on possible adjustment of the pass score. 

Speaking plainly, the Court is reaching out to each of us in the field to provide the evidence as to what have actually been the factors in the most recent declines in bar pass rates (and how to improve legal education and the licensure exam).  At least based on our own research study, it's not due to LSAT declines.  https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2842415.  That's because we have seen dramatic swings in bar passage rates with very little fluctuation in LSAT scores at the 25 percentile and the mean.  In other words, it seems like LSAT scores have, at least in our case, played very little (to no) role.  If not LSAT, then what?

Well, here's a possible list of some of the factors:

  1. Increases in student debt loads.
  2. Increases in the numbers of bar takers studying largely or solely through online bar review learning platforms despite years of experience primarily as classroom learners.
  3. Changes in the bar exam subjects matter scope or format.
  4. Changes in the way(s) that we teach students to learn (and perhaps changes in the way students learn).

That's just a few possible other factors.  But, without evidence, at this point in time the California Supreme Court will not adjust its bar exam cut score.  

So, the time is ripe (or, to use a bit of contrast law terminology, "time is of the essence") in providing the Court, legal educators, the bar, and the public with what might be the appropriate cut score to measure minimum competency and whether the bar exam itself is actually up to the task.  So, make your voice known today; share your thoughts and inspirations.  Put it down perhaps in a draft SSRN article or essay or your own blog.  But, make a record of what you know because what you know might make a real difference down the line in empowering people to succeed on the bar exam and as professional attorneys too!  Simply put, there's no time to waste.  (Scott Johns)

 

October 26, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tracking Bar Exam Passage

The ABA should implement a national database for tracking bar examination results. 

Bar passage reporting, in its current iteration, is (a) inconsistent across agencies due to a lack of common vocabulary; (b) increasingly time consuming for law schools to complete, especially when tasked with tracking graduates for several years; and (c) largely dependent upon state courts' willingness to share information.  A unified, national database would alleviate many of these issues. 

A. Adopt the ABA's definition of first-time takers.  

Is this the first time that you’ve sat for the bar exam? Seems like an easy question with a straightforward answer … but not so fast. The correct answer all depends on who is asking the question.

The American Bar Association says that you are a first-time taker if this is the very first time you are taking any bar exam in any jurisdiction.  The ABA's common sense definition gives bar exam takers just one shot (feel free to hum Hamilton lyrics now) at being a "first-time taker."  

Meanwhile, the National Conference of Bar Examiners defines first-time takers as “examinees taking the bar examination for the first time in the reporting jurisdiction.”  The NCBE’s (arguably illogical) definition allows me—a professor who prepares law school students to sit for the bar exam—to be counted as a first-time taker at least 48 more times, if I am so inclined. Incidentally, the U.S. News & World Report follows the NCBE’s definition when computing a school’s national rankings.

On the other hand, other accrediting bodies (such as a state's Higher Education Policy Commission) make no meaningful distinction between first-time takers and repeat takers when calculating institutional pass rates on professional licensing exams, resulting in a third, different pass rate statistic for the same school.

The two primary definitions of “first time taker” employed by the ABA and NCBE are further complicated by examinees who sit for the bar exam in one UBE jurisdictions and then seek to transfer their score to another UBE jurisdiction with a different cut score.  The lack of a common vocabulary defining "takers" and "passers" is just the tip of the reporting iceberg, however. 

B. Adopt an academic calendar based reporting period of reasonable duration.

Agencies also cannot agree on how long law schools should be tracking their graduates.  Most agencies require law school's to report bar passage based on a calendar year (e.g. February 2017 and July 2017), not an academic year.  The calendar year model frequently has the effect of blending two distinct graduating classes into one report, e.g. the Class of 2016 and the Class of 2017, respectively, in my earlier example.  Reporting difficulties are poised to become even more complex if law schools are tasked with tracking their graduates for up to 24 months after graduation, as has been proposed by the ABA.

C. Require state courts to release comprehensive examination results.

The ability of a law school to produce an accurate bar passage report can be substantially impacted by the manner in which their home and neighboring jurisdictions elect to release its results.  Currently, there is no acceptable template or formula across the more than 50 U.S. jurisdictions.  Some jurisdictions release the names of those who passed the exam on a publically viewable website, while others only list anonymous seat numbers.  Some states will voluntarily mail a law school a results notification, while others require that the law school affirmatively request the results for individual applicants each time they sit for an exam (which presupposes that a law school is aware that one of its applicants sat in that jurisdiction at that time.)

D. Establish a national database that implements the ABA's definition of first-time taker, employs an academic calendar reporting model, and serves as a single repository for every state courts' examination results.

With both accreditation and national rankings at stake for law schools, a unified and comprehensive bar passage reporting system is imperative. The Conference of Chief Justices recognized the need for collaboration across the various agencies ten years ago when it passed a resolution urging the Law School Admissions Council, the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to establish a national system for tracking bar examination test results. Then five years later, the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar passed a virtually identical resolution. Yet, despite apparent support from at least two of the key stakeholders (namely the ABA and the state courts), no national database exists. The various agencies cannot even reach a consensus on who constitutes a “first time taker." 

A national database should no longer just be an aspirational goal. Rather the database needs to be created, and fast—especially in light of the growing popularity of the UBE and proposed changes to bar passage reporting requirements. A national database housing bar passage data for all law school graduates would alleviate a substantial administrative burden on every law school. For example, each state court system could report their state’s bar passage data to one agency—likely the ABA given their primary role in accreditation. Then the ABA could code the information in such a way that law school administrators and ASP’ers would be able to access the results for just those graduates who are affiliated with their particular school. The information could be searchable, such that any ASP’er could query: “2107 graduates + West Virginia + July 2017 + first time taker.”  With a few simple clicks, accurate bar passage reporting could be achieved by the masses.  Oh, the possibilities! 

I look forward to watching this issue develop in the coming months and years, with hope that the justices’ decade old dream of a national database becomes a reality.   (Kirsha Trychta)

October 24, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Letter from a Bar Coach to Her Goal Achievers

The hustle and bustle of day to day academic support life does not always allow for me to say all that I would like to say to the countless students who contact me to let me know that they passed the bar exam. In the moment, I am excited, I might scream, my heart and my soul are filled with joy, and I might even shed a tear as the bar passer and I recall the challenges they overcame to make it to this point. While addressed to one individual, this letter addresses most of what I would have liked to say but may not have. I am certain that I missed something so please forgive me in advance.

Dear Achiever,

I am so very proud of you!!! You passed the bar exam and did it on the first try! You should be very proud of yourself and your accomplishments. I am certain that your family is very excited for you. Many of your former law school colleagues have stopped by to ask whether I heard about your success and expressed their joy, excitement, and pride. You are an inspiration, a role model, and mentor to others who will walk in your shoes very soon so please do not take that role lightly. I also look to you for support of soon to be bar takers so please do not forget to provide me with any advice you have for those who will soon sit for your state bar exam.

At this time, passing the bar might be a surreal experience but I am here to remind you that you did it. I also want to remind you of what it took for you to get here because the journey was not a simple walk in the park. You sacrificed a lot in the past three years. Was it worth it to you? I want you to take some time prior to your swearing-in ceremony, prior to the start of your job, prior to your journey to finding a job, or prior to the official start of your legal journey to reflect on your legal education journey so that you never forget what it took to achieve this success.

Remember the community you come from and what lead you to consider pursuing a law degree. Maybe you are a first-generation college student, first-generation graduate, or first-generation professional school student so you had to sort through how to navigate the necessary steps to attend law school. Maybe everyone around you said you could not make it to or through law school or maybe you had a supportive family who believed that you could achieve anything and you were slated for success. Maybe you were the only one in your community to graduate from high school and/or college. But you did it and that in itself is an achievement you should be proud of.

Remember all that you sacrificed to attend law school and how much of a toll it took on you, your children, your marriage, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your family, and all those around you. Maybe you moved from across the country to attend law school. Maybe you gave up a well- paying job to live like a college student to pursue your dream of obtaining a legal education. Maybe you left an environment you felt comfortable in to move to one where you stuck out like a sore thumb and never really understood or felt a part of. Maybe you had to leave significant others behind or become a different type of parent, husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, son, daughter, brother, or sister to achieve your dream. Maybe you were not as “present” as you used to be, missed holiday celebrations, and other significant life events to obtain your law degree.

Remember the countless hours you devoted to law school studies and bar exam studies. Maybe you were admitted through a conditional admission program, alternative admission program, or simply opted to participate in a pre-law school program, early start program or jump start program. Maybe reading cases, understanding concepts, briefing, outlining, and drafting memoranda took you longer than the next person to master or at least get comfortable with. Maybe law school studies posed the first academic challenge you have ever experienced in life. Maybe you sacrificed hours on course preparation, did not yield the expected results but you kept going. Maybe you experienced many challenges during your summer bar studies. You had no idea how you would manage all of the subject matter and apply it when necessary. Maybe your scores and feedback on essays, Multistate Bar Exams (MBE), Multistate Performance Tests (MPT) and mock bar exams were subpar and you were unsure about whether you would pass the bar exam. Maybe your entry credentials did not “guarantee” law school or bar exam success but you nevertheless dispelled every single one of those myths - you PASSED!

Remember when you said that you were “over law school”, law school was not for you, and you wanted to and also planned to go back home and never return. Maybe you felt like an impostor, alienated, alone, pushed to your limit. What would have happened had you given up on your dream? Would you have experienced the success you now have? The world would have lost an amazing attorney, YOU!

Remember when you ran out of funds and had no food to eat, no means to buy books, and thought you might become homeless. You became resourceful, learned about the options available to you, and overcame each and every one of those obstacles. Your classmates, professors, friends, and family may not have known about your needs and thought you were doing alright. Remember when your grandmother passed away, when your classmate passed away, when your mother or your father told you they had cancer, and when you faced countless other tragedies. Those experiences may make you relatable to some of the clients you will encounter or at the very least will motivate you to support causes that impact various indigent, disenfranchised, and struggling communities and individuals. You are also a stronger person because of what you have experienced.

You did that! No one else! You stared fear and challenges in the eye and emerged stronger, wiser, and capable. Someone once told me: “what is meant for you is yours, and no one can ever take it away.” This statement holds true for you.

You are an amazing person! You inspire me every day and by sharing your story with me, many others will benefit. You persisted in the face of challenges when some others gave up.

My only advice is that you remember the positive things others did for you and do it for someone else if and whenever you are able to. That is the biggest reward you will ever experience. My role as your coach was to push you so that you would see your endless potential and to propel you beyond your own limited dreams and aspirations because hopefully, I saw more in you than you saw in yourself. Remember all that you are, all that you experienced, all that you accomplished and did not accomplish, and where you have been. Never be so important as to deny your ability to lift someone else up. You are done with one challenge and I am certain that you will experience countless others in the months and years to come but you are equipped for it all. Believe it!

All of the very best,

 

Your ASP and Bar Coach (Goldie Pritchard)

October 4, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bar Tips to Check Out

Robbins

Allie Robbins, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at CUNY School of Law, started a blog last summer for graduates studying for the bar exam. Many helpful tips are included in the posts. Allie will be adding new posts specifically for February bar studiers, so keep this blog in mind.  The link to The Activist Guide to Passing the Bar is found here. (Amy Jarmon)

September 29, 2017 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

This Week's Bar Takers: Congratulations To You (and a few tips while waiting for results)!

For those of you that just tackled the bar exam this week, here's a few words of congratulations and a couple of tips as you wait for results from this summer's bar exam.

First, let me speak to you straight from the heart!

Simply put...

Bravo! Magnificent! Herculean!

Those are just some of the words that come to mind…words that you should be rightly speaking to yourself…because…they are true of you to the core!

But, for most of us right now, we just don’t quite feel super-human about the bar exam. Such accolades of self-talk are, frankly, just difficult to do. Rather, most of us just feel relief – plain and simple relief – that the bar exam is finally over and we have somehow survived.  

That’s because very few of us, upon completion of the bar exam, feel like we have passed the bar exam. Most of us just don’t know.   So now, the long “waiting” period begins with results not due out for most of us for a number of months.

So, here’s the conundrum about the “waiting” period:

Lot’s of well-meaning people will tell you that you have nothing to worry about; that they are sure that you passed the bar exam; and that the bar exam wasn’t that hard…really.

Really?

Not that hard?

Really?

You know that I passed?

Really?

There’s nothing for me to worry about?

Let me give you a concrete real life example. Like you, I took the bar exam. And, like most of you, I had no idea at all whether I passed the bar exam. I was just so glad that it was finally over.

But all of my friends, my legal employer (a judge), my former law professors, and my family kept telling me that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about; that I passed the bar exam; that I worked hard; that they knew that I could do it.

But, they didn’t know something secret about my bar exam. They didn’t know about my lunch on the first day of the bar exam.

At the risk of revealing a closely held secret, my first day of the bar exam actually started out on the right foot, so to speak. I was on time for the exam. In fact, I got to the convention center early enough that I got a prime parking spot. Moreover, in preparation for my next big break (lunch), I had already cased out the nearest handy-dandy fast food restaurants for grabbing a quick bite to eat before the afternoon portion of the bar exam so that I would not miss the start of the afternoon session of the bar exam.

So, when lunch came, I was so excited to eat that I went straight to Burger King. I really wanted that “crown,” perhaps because I really didn’t understand many of the essay problems from the morning exam. But as I approached Burger King, the line was far out of the door. Impossibly out of the door. And, it didn’t get any better at McDonalds next door. I then faced the same conundrum at Wendy’s and then at Taco Bell.

Finally, I had to face up to cold hard facts.  I could either eat lunch or I could take the afternoon portion of the bar exam. But, I couldn’t do both. The lines were just too long. So, I was about to give up - as I had exhausted all of the local fast food outlets surrounding the convention center - when I luckily caught a glimpse of a possible solution to both lunch and making it back to the bar exam in time for the afternoon session – a liquor store.  There was no line. Not a soul. I had the place to myself. So, I ran into the liquor store to grab my bar exam lunch: two Snicker’s bars. With plenty of time to now spare, I then leisurely made my way back to the bar exam on time for the start of the afternoon session.

But, here’s the rub:

All of my friends and family members (and even the judge that I was clerking for throughout the waiting period) were adamant that I had passed the bar exam. They just knew it!

But, they didn’t know that I ate lunch at the liquor store.

So when several months later the bar results were publicly available on the Internet, I went to work for my judge wondering what the judge might do when the truth came out – that I didn’t pass the bar exam because I didn’t pack a lunch to eat at the bar exam.

To be honest, I was completely stick to my stomach. But, I was stuck; I was at work and everyone believed in me. Then, later that morning while still at my work computer, the results came out. My heart raced, but my name just didn’t seem to be listed at all. No Scott Johns. And then, I realized that my official attorney name begins with William. I was looking at the wrong section of the Johns and Johnsons. My name was there! I had passed!   I never told the judge my secret about my “snicker bar” lunch. I was just plain relieved that the bar exam “wait” was finally over.

That’s the problem with all of the helpful advice from our friends, employers, law professors, and family members during this waiting period. For all of us (or at least most of us), there was something unusual that happened during our bar exam. It didn’t seem to go perfectly. Quite frankly, we just don’t know if we indeed passed the bar exam.

So, here’s a few suggestions for your time right now with your friends, employers, law professors, and family members.

1.  First, just let them know how you are feeling. Be open and frank. Share your thoughts with them along with your hopes and fears.

2.  Second, give them a hearty thank you for all of their enriching support, encouragement, and steadfast faithfulness that they have shared with you as walked your way through law school and through this week’s bar exam. Perhaps send them a personal notecard. Or, make a quick phone call of thanks. Or send a snap chat of thankful appreciation.  Regardless of your particular method of communication, reach out to let them know out of the bottom of your heart that their support has been invaluable to you. That’s a great way to spend your time as you wait - over the course of the next several months - for the bar exam results.

3.  Finally, celebrate yourself, your  achievement, and your true grit....by taking time out - right now - to appreciate the momentous accomplishment of undertaking a legal education, graduating from law school, and tackling your bar exam.  You've done something great, and, more importantly, something mightily significant.  (Scott Johns).

July 27, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 24, 2017

ALWD Intro and Bar Exam Encouragement

This last week, I attended and participated in a diversity and inclusion conference hosted by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The three-day conference was engaging and timely. And it included a thought provoking and informative plenary presentation on stereotype threat and implicit bias by fellow-ASPer, Russell McClain. Having seen Russell present before at various ASP conferences, I knew he would be a charming and enlightening presenter—and he certainly was! Congratulations, Russell! I know the ALWD attendees were impressed by your interactive presentation, and I am sure many of them will be reaching out to you in the future for additional ways to address stereotype threat and implicit bias.

I plan to write some more about the ALWD conference and its theme “Acknowledging Lines: Talking About What Unites and Divides Us” at a later date. But, for now, I wanted to spend a little time talking about what is likely on the minds of most academic success professionals and all the recent law school graduates—the bar exam.

Exam takers: We all know you have been working hard, and we believe in you. The next few days will be beyond tough and tiring. But, you have trained your mind and body for it.

Yes. You will likely second-guess yourself. Yes. You will likely face questions that you might not feel good about. But, you are also going to see and work with a lot of information that you do understand and have encountered many times during your bar preparation. Trust yourself. Read the questions carefully. Organize your essays. And don’t let those few questions that you might not know the answers to bring you down. You don’t need to get that A+ to pass. If you spend too much time focusing on the information that you don’t know or can’t remember, you may not leave yourself enough time or energy to show the bar graders what you do know. And you do know. A lot.

A few more things . . . remember to breathe and it’ll be over soon.

We look forward to welcoming you into the profession. (OJ Salinas)

Good Luck (2)

 

July 24, 2017 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Meetings, News, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)