Thursday, May 13, 2021

Is Bar Prep Too Slick?

I recently had lunch with one of my colleagues from across town - Professor Denise DeForest at the University of Colorado.  

As we talked through our thoughts on learning, legal education, and bar prep, Prof. DeForest explained something to the effect that she teaches students to expect the unexpected in bar prep, that nothing will every quite feel right, at least not until the very end, because bar prep is just difficult preparation indeed. In Prof. DeForest's words, bar prep is "going from one disaster to another disaster."  That's because bar prep is about learning to solve problems, which means making lots of mistakes and wrong turns along the way.

Sometimes I wonder if bar prep can be too slick, with too many "learning" tools and pithy lines that serve to blur one of the most blunt facts of life, that learning involves challenging ourselves, finding out what we know and what we don't know, and then working on ways to learn what we still have to learn.  In short, it's hard work.  Not impossible work.  But difficult work.

As Prof. Melissa Hale at Loyola University Chicago reminds us, bar prep is  "a taxing full time job." Hale, M., How Do I Study for the Bar Exam? (May 12, 2021).   But, as Prof. Hale also points out, that means treating bar prep as a job, nothing more and nothing less.  Id.  Just like work, take breaks.  Id. Even take mini-escapes because they can rejuvenate your mind and uplift your spirit.  In short, "it's a marathon - train accordingly." Id.  

For our graduates soon to be embarking on bar prep, this is a time to remind them that they can do it, that they can succeed, and that success hinges - not so much on feeling well-prepared - but rather in facing the challenges of learning head on, with adventurous curiosity, recognizing that mistakes are the valuable stepping stones to success, real success, not just on the bar exam, but throughout life, too. (Scott Johns).

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