If you were a non-traditional/part-time/evening night student, after four years of law school you are now an expert at balancing life and your studies. Think about it. Look back at the few months before law school started and remember all of the nay-sayers. You proved them wrong. You graduated law school (or are just about to), you have kept your job, your family and your sanity intact. That is an amazing accomplishment. What comes next is nothing more and nothing less than a rite of passage for every your lawyer – the bar exam. If you want and need to maintain your job, family, and yes, your sanity intact this time too, follow these few tips:
I have heard numerous full-time students comment about how part-time students were usually better prepared for class than they were. It seemed counter-intuitive, yet it makes perfect sense. Simply put, most of us function better if we are busy. This applies to every area of life. If I have three full days to do one load of laundry, guess what. It’s getting done on day three. As night students, we never had that luxury. Time is scarce and we had to make the most of it.
The same principle applies to studying for the bar. Even if you tend to do things last minute and still swing it, force yourself to at least “prepare to study” early. Sign up for the bar exam course. Order your books. Set up your studying space. Line up your highlighters. Don’t allow yourself to make extra work for yourself once the time to actually study comes. Be ready.
Work Study Time Into Your Day
If your work environment allows it, work study time into your regular day rather than leaving the bulk of it for the evening. Get up a little bit earlier and watch part of a lecture before work. Use your lunch break to go over your study materials. Take a 15-minute break, if your schedule permits, and read over some flashcards.
The reality is that you will only have a little over two months to prepare for this exam. It is a relatively short period of time compared to four years of law school. You will have to come to terms with giving up social interaction with co-workers and friends for the benefit of studying. It will be over before you know it and you will get your life back. Until then, focus your attention on the bar exam.
By now, you know what works for you and what does not. You clearly know how to study well enough to make it through law school. Tap into the same strategies you have used to get to where you are.
Do you learn best by hearing the material? Download the lectures in the audio format and stream them in your car. Over and over again.
Do you learn best by seeing the material? Make yourself see it all the time. Create post-its with important terms and plaster them around the house: on and in your kitchen cabinets, on your bathroom mirror, by your bed.
When I took the bar exam and worked, I essentially wallpapered my living room with 8 x 10 “flash cards” with important terms and their definitions. Every time I walked into the room I saw them. Every time I sat in the room I saw them. Whether or not I wanted to, I saw them. And they stuck with me. That’s the point.
Make Sure Your Family Is On Board
I previously wrote an article on balancing life as a night student. Within it, I advocated for making it a priority to set time aside to spend with your family. After all, four years is a long time and you want to make sure your family is still around when it’s time to put on the cap and gown.
However, the time allocated to prepare for the bar exam is short. It’s only a little over two months. Balancing work and studying is quite an act already. Explain to your family that you will truly need them to be supportive and forgiving during that time. You will not be able to run grocery shopping errands, or repair the leaking sink. You will have to take advantage of every free minute to cram as much material as you are able to into your head. And you will need them to understand. Just be sure to set aside a weekend of family time once it’s over.
Know Your Limits
At the same time, you need to know your limits so you don’t come crashing down. You probably won’t get much sleep. You won’t see your family much. You will still be expected to perform on the same level at work.
Know when to take a break if you need to take a break. It’s ok to take an evening off when you feel like you’re losing your footing. Order pizza and watch a funny movie with the family. Or jump into your pajamas right after work and go to bed. However, recoup the next day and jump right back into studying. Again, it’s only a short period of time and this too shall pass.