Thursday, June 16, 2022

The Bar Prep Swamp

I'm not sure what else to call it, other than swamp.  But, for many bar takers finding themselves behind in their bar prep, at least according to their bar prep companies, it seems like there's always too much to impossibly do.  Watch lectures, take notes, read outlines, take quizzes, and finally, at last, practice essay, multiple-choice, and performance test questions.  That's a lot, and, if truth be told, there's a lot of swamp to gets us stuck in the muck, so to speak.

For example, take lecture assignments, Or reading outlines, Or taking notes.  

Too often, bar takers turn these pre-learning exercises into well swamps, often because we don't feel like we know enough to move onto where the learning really takes place - in the midst of practice bar exam problems.  So a 4 hour lecture becomes a 5 to 7 hour lecture because we stop the lecture repeatedly, trying to make sure that we carefully recorded each jot and jingle.  Or, we read the outlines, as though they were meant to be read, with nothing soaking in because it's just words that don't produce action.  Or, after the lectures, we feel like we need to create gigantic megaton study tools so that we have something to meaningfully say, anything at all, when we finally get to practicing bar exam problems.

But, if we wait until we feel confident enough about the law to practice problems, we will run out of time to actually learn the law because learning takes place in experiences of creative courageous activity.  In short, learning is growing and growing only happens when we push ourselves to try and try hard and to fail and to fail often.  It's hard on the psyche but learning only happens when, well, we have something to learn.  And that only happens when we find out what we don't know and they figure out a way to know that in the future by practicing it again until we get it correct.  And, that's a perfect time to dive into the bar review outlines to help you learn, with a specific bar exam problem in mind.

So, as you prepare for your bar exam this summer, face your fears upfront and dive into practicing bar exam problems, lots of problems, courageously and creatively.  And, when you miss something, count that as a positive, an opportunity to learn something new.  It's hard work but the pay off is big - you'll be licensed as a practicing attorney and, more than that, you will have accomplished something which, for many of us right now, we aren't sure we can do.  So, as the slogan goes, just do it, a little bit, step by step, everyday.  That's learning in a nutshell. And that's something you can do..  (Scott Johns).

P.S. In the words of a recent successful bar taker, here's tips from one who has just been through the process that you are doing right now and came out the other end as a licensed attorney:

  • Practice way more than you think! If you are wondering whether you should watch a lecture or do a practice question, do the practice question.

  • Let go of memorizing everything. It is impossible. Learn what your weak areas are and spend more time with those subjects.

  • You will feel like you know nothing until approximately the last week of bar prep. Somehow, magically, it does come together. I promise.

  • Do all the practice tests.

  • Think really hard about who you want to study with. This is not the time to do something different from how you handled law school.

  • Come up with a plan and stick to it. Decide how many practice questions you want to do everyday and do it. But if you are starting to burn out, be OK with taking breaks. It's a marathon!

  • Log your progress. Be intentional about compiling lists of rules I kept missing on MBE questions. This helped me to keep track of weak areas so I could spend more time learning the law in specific subjects.

  • Spend timing thinking about any testing anxiety you might have. Adding mindfulness meditations to my study plan helped a ton!

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