I took a look at my calendar today, and I am almost at graduation. I’m excited to wrap up this chapter of my life, but I’m also nervous for what’s coming next: the bar exam. This is a big transition period for many people. Law school is coming to a close and the next adventure, bar prep, is starting soon, and it’s a smart idea to get ready now.
How can you get ready? Below is the checklist I’ll be using to make sure I start my bar prep off on the right foot!
1. Take a Pre-Bar Prep Break
It’s tempting to finish your law school finals and jump right into bar prep – in fact, it may even be encouraged. Many bar prep courses have pre-bar prep programs for those who want to get a head start. However, there’s a reason that your bar prep class doesn’t start until a week or so after graduation. It’s a smart idea to take a study break before you start your bar prep. Give yourself a chance to decompress and relax. Enjoy the amazing accomplishment of graduating from law school. Spend some quality time with family and friends. Then you can start bar prep refreshed and ready to go!
2. Get Your House In Order
Get your car serviced, go to the doctor, make sure your computer is working well, and get your finances squared away. These are important things that you won’t want to be stuck doing mid-bar prep. I have the additional task of relocating before bar prep starts, so my to-do list includes unpacking my new apartment, getting car insurance, and finding a new gym. Those tasks won’t be the most fun, but it’ll feel great to get it all done before hitting the books.
3. Make a Schedule
You’ve likely already received your bar prep schedule, which gives you a general idea of what you’ll be doing and when. Start with that schedule and build it out. Include time to study on your own, do your bar prep homework, and work in some personal time. It’s important to take your studying seriously, but it’s also important to care for yourself. Make sure you’re taking short breaks to eat healthy foods and get a sufficient amount of sleep. You should also consider taking a day or two off from your studying. Bar prep is exhausting, and you won’t perform well if you’re overtired and overworked. Schedule a day off to do something you enjoy and give yourself permission to re-fuel.
4. Find a Stress Relief System
No matter how prepared you are, you’ll likely experience some stress throughout your bar prep. It’s important to find ways to effectively manage your stress and keep it under control as the bar exam approaches.
5. Set Up a Study Space
Bar prep involves a lot of studying, both in your bar exam prep class (if you’re taking an in-person course) and at home. You’re going to need a space where you can be completely focused, organized, and comfortable. As comfortable as your bed or couch may be, it’s not the ideal study spot. There’s no one-size-fits-all study space. Take some time to reflect and see what works for you. Some people prefer to study in a quiet library setting, while others, like me, prefer to set up a home office. Wherever you choose, make sure your study space has enough room for your books, notebooks, highlighters, computer, etc. and is free of tempting distractions.
6. Communicate with Family and Friends
Your family, friends, and significant other want to support you throughout the bar prep process. Explain to them that you’ll be busy and won’t have a lot of free time. If you have to miss a big event, like a family party or wedding, say so up front and be clear about your study schedule. Your family and friends will likely be understanding and respectful of your bar exam commitments. If there’s some way they can help you, reach out—you don’t have to do this alone!
7. Plan a Post-Bar Getaway
When the bar exam is over, take a well deserved break! Your post-bar getaway doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, it just needs to give you an opportunity to get your life back and have a little fun. Visit some family members you haven’t seen in a while. Go to a concert with friends. Take a day trip to the beach. Or hop on a plane to somewhere new. Wherever you decide to go, plan your trip now and write it on your calendar so you can use it as motivation when you’re studying and feeling a little down.
Everyone’s pre-bar prep checklist will look different, but I hope this will give you a good starting point to make your own. Remember, the key is to get organized and prepared so you can tackle bar prep head on and get the most out of the experience with the least amount of stress!