I’ve written before about the study schedules I create for our tutoring and some self-study students (depending on package level) at the Bar Exam Toolbox. I’ve also mentioned how it can be frustrating to spend so much time creating a schedule only to have it ignored by the person who needs it most. This is about how to not be that person who ignores the schedule. Or…at least…why to not be that person.
We always get a fair bit of pushback from students. Some don’t have time to study, and some have never properly learned how to study. (No judgment! It’s not intuitive at all for most people!) But some just plain don’t want to study. Or they think we’re exaggerating about how much work they need to do to be prepared. So, let’s take a look at those four wildly-over-generalized reasons for pushback.
Pushback #1: I don’t have time to study
People have jobs, families, needs, and obligations. These are important! But there’s still a choice here, and there are options. As I write this, two particular students from prior bar years come to mind. They both had full-time jobs and high-maintenance kids. One had a schedule that was as pared-back as possible, with just barely enough time to review and practice each subject. The other had time to hit each subject multiple times, with lots of practice and multiple practice test sessions. The difference? The first student came to us less than three months before the bar. The second chose to get started at least five months in advance.
If far-advance study wasn’t an option for some reason, you have to look at your availability carefully and without preconceptions. There are some things that seem like they’ll get in the way of studying, but they’re actually optional. Your weekly therapy session? Mandatory. Your weekly nail appointment? Well…maybe that needs to be deprioritized until you’re done with bar study. Or offered up to yourself as a reward for staying on track. Self-care is important, but if you want to pass, time is short to the bar, AND you have a busy schedule…you might need to make some hard choices. Is passing the bar important enough for you to cut some things out of your schedule for a few months? Or is paring back your day-to-day schedule impossible enough that you should push to the next bar date and do slow-burn bar study? Only you can decide.
Pushback #2: I don’t know how to study
To start with, this is a matter of making sure you choose a bar prep program that is the right fit for your learning style. Once you choose, though, you need to actually read their directions so that you can figure out how to make the program work for you. Take control of your learning so that you’re making the most of it. If you start and get confused, talk to people at the program, professors from law school, a therapist, or even a trusted friend/relative so that they can help you figure out what you need to do to make it work. Some people learn by listening to lectures while fidgeting, others learn by reading material while wandering around, others will not understand anything until they use it. So take some time to find a method that works for you. Don’t be embarrassed about not knowing! Make the choice to figure out how your brain works, and take advantage of any support system you can access to help you along the way. And once you do, make the choice to use that information and not fall back into ineffective study habits.
Pushback #3: I don’t want to study
Yep. I have a feeling this is at the root of a LOT of bar procrastination. Because, really…I don’t want to study either! Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s frustrating, it’s rarely fun, and if I study, I have to think about that thing that’s causing anxiety. Why would I do this to myself?
That question. That last question I asked. That’s what you need to focus on. Why are you doing this to yourself? Why are you bothering? (And no, I’m not doubting your ability, random reader who I don’t know. I mean, quite literally, why are you bothering to do this?) Bar study is hard. It takes time away from people you like and things you enjoy doing. It adds stress to your daily life. So, what’s your reason? Write it down. I tell this to self-study students a lot. Write down your reasons. All of them. From the silly to the deep, write them all down (I personally recommend writing them on several, colorful pieces of paper and scattering them through your bar materials so you’ll find them later). Are you doing this because you want to help people? Are you doing it because you love the work, even though you hate to study? Why are you doing this?
Bar study is a choice. You don’t have to take the bar. You want something enough that taking the bar has become necessary.
Pushback #4: You’re making this up, right?
Nope, sorry. I’m hearing from a lot of students lately that they want to treat bar study like a part-time job. They want weekends off to hang out with friends, and lots of time in the afternoons to just chill. They just got through three grueling years of law school, and they want to kick back and relax. I am (apparently) the evil messenger telling them that the slog isn’t over. Creating schedules, I assign hours of review and dozens of practice assignments. (Because practice is absolutely critical to bar success). They want me to reduce their time spent studying, and won’t accept that I can…but it’ll also reduce the efficacy of the schedule. It’s a choice.
Here’s the thing. All of these tasks are what bar prep companies have found to give their bar studiers the absolute best chance of success. No bar prep company can guarantee success, but we can give you the benefit of our experience, and tell you what you need to choose to do in order to maximize your chances of getting the result you want. It’s still your choice, but our recommendations won’t change unless the bar does.
So, what do you want to do? There’s no shame in deciding that bar prep isn’t right for you right now. But if you want to pass the bar, you have to choose to prioritize it, and make the decisions that will let you be successful.