As I plunge neck deep into bar prep, I have given a lot of thought to my study space needs. There is a need to find that place in which distractions fall away, life responsibilities can be placed on hold, and no other distractors are vying for your attention. The problem with this kind of post is that there is a high probability that my ideal study space and yours will bear no resemblance. Frankly, a lot about your bar prep space that makes it work for you will depend on the type of learner that you are. Here are a few ideas that might help you get your perfect study pad set up and ready to go.
Make it Loud
Personally, I like a little chaos and noise when I study. The extreme quiet of a library or nunnery freak me out and totally destroys my ability to focus and concentrate. I look for areas to study where people congregate. On a typical bar prep day, I start at one coffee shop until my lunch break, and then hit another after lunch. I even have multiple locations of my two favorites that I alternate between, which helps to keep things from getting stale. Once in a while, when I am feeling the need for something different, I will even go to that bougie coffee shop with the high-brow coffee and spotty Wi-Fi, just to mix it up a bit. At all of the locations I frequent, I have a preferred seat (and a back-up in the event that someone erroneously sits in my seat) and a routine that involves set up, buying coffee, set bathroom breaks, a mid-morning snack, etc. If you need quiet and solitude, please avoid this set-up.
My law school bestie cannot stand noise or distraction. I have seen her roll her eyes because someone in her vicinity was breathing too loudly when she was trying to interpret a particularly complex fact pattern for a practice problem. She doesn’t like to study at the library for reasons I will cover shortly, so for her, the ideal study space is in a specifically-designated room in her house. She has created an office space that is just hers (for the short two months of bar prep), and she considers the “commute” (or walk into the room with her first cup of coffee) an essential first step in her bar prep process. In her office, she has everything that she could possibly need or want to aid her in her study. Her bar review provider’s physical books, flashcards, office supplies, a coffee maker, and her computer, complete with an inexpensive twenty-seven inch LCD TV for a monitor. She says that the arrangement makes her bar prep feel like a job. In her office space, she can ignore the temptations that her home possesses (time with the pets, time with her husband, time doing the things that need to be done around the house, etc.). The point here is to create a distinct space that is designated solely for the purpose of bar prep. If you can ignore all of the things in your house calling you away from bar prep, and need a little solitude, this could be a great option for you.
Libraries Are For Studying
I have other friends that swear that after three long years of law school, they need to stay rooted in the habit of law school. For this reason, many of my fellow bar preppers are descending upon the law library every morning like they are headed to the office. For these people, the library is the ideal study space, because it is familiar, has lots of resources, and is near enough to faculty that they can take advantage of the brilliant legal minds at our school to explain the challenging concepts that the bar prep materials just can’t. In all cases, these folks have managed to develop a library routine and to stake temporary claims on isolated space in the library for each day. I think that this arrangement perhaps engages the best parts of the two above. There is quiet and isolation, but there are other people around too, just in case the silence is a little too deafening.
There is an important caveat worth mentioning for both the coffee shop and the library: be wary of friends and law school colleagues. We all want to confide in each other about how painful this process is; however, it is easy for a three minute commiseration session to turn into a two-hour conversation that totally throws you off schedule. Remember, we only have about two months to prepare. Time is of the essence. It would be a mistake to put your study space in the middle of a bunch of known, familiar distractions. For that reason, it might be best to go to a public library, or another school’s law library. Find a coffee shop where no one knows your name. Isolation is the key, even if you are doing it in public.
Just Get Started
While it is critical to have a study space, what is ideal for you now might change throughout the two months of bar prep. Be flexible. Be adaptable. Don’t waste time trying to figure it out. Just find your space, organize it in the best possible way, then make changes as circumstances require. Good luck, and I will see you in July.