So, I confess. I’m a murder-mystery junkie. And when I was thinking about writing this, all I could think of was Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot telling one of his clients that she should never lie to her confessor, her hairdresser, or her private detective (expanded version of the short story The Baghdad Chest, if you’re curious – I know you have tons of time to read, right?). Well, I’m going to add to the list: never lie to your bar tutor. In fact, I’ll go further than that. You should be really, really forthcoming.
Some of you might be reading this and wondering: why would I ever lie or withhold information? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but let’s throw them into some rough categories. We’ll go with unawareness, privacy, and embarrassment.
We work with a lot of bar studiers, both in tutoring and in our self-study course! And when a person signs up, we ask them to fill out a big self-evaluation with lots of information about their past performance, learning styles, and plans. Some students skip questions that they don’t want to think about, or offer minimal answers. From their perspective, the self-evaluation is probably an annoyance, and they don’t see the relevance of what we’re asking. Here’s the thing, though. We do see the relevance, that’s why we included those questions! Information about how you studied in the past can tell us what your tendencies are and what needs to change. Information about your learning style, learning disabilities, and neurotype can tell us what strategies to recommend for productive work. Information about your job and family responsibilities can tell us where your distractions will be, and how much help we should offer in terms of time management. Information about your goals can tell us how to motivate you effectively. This isn’t even an exclusive list! But if you’re working with a bar tutor, and they ask you a question that you think is irrelevant, stop and reconsider. Ask yourself: how can this be used to help me get better? And if you can’t figure it out, ask your bar tutor! If they’re good at their job, I bet they’ll have a good answer.
If you look at the above list of questions, you’ll see that some of them feel really personal! You might not be ashamed of your answers, but you don’t necessarily want to share the information. If that’s you, there’s no judgment (it’s me too!), but a one-on-one bar tutor might not be your best fit. So, before you sign up for tutoring, stop and consider whether you’re willing to trust another person with your confidential information. Not the identity-theft type, but those personal details that can have a really huge impact on your ability to prepare effectively. And if you decide to move forward, look at the person you’re planning to hire. Is this a person (or company) that you trust to only use this information for your benefit? If not, don’t hire them! One place where this really can hit home for repeat takers is past bar scores. In our tutoring contact form, we ask potential students to upload their bar scores. Some people decline, and that’s absolutely their right, but it also makes it really difficult to advise a person on next steps! In order to offer recommendations, we need to know what went wrong, and the scores are a great data point for starting that assessment. We’re not trying to be nosy here – it really is relevant to your future studying (and passing!) the exam.
As usual, I saved the most harmful for last. Those bar scores? Some people refuse to send them because they’re embarrassed. The self-evaluations? Some people don’t want to give us their full, honest responses because they’re ashamed of their past behavior. And it goes further. Some students actually working with tutors will give us the up-front information, and then will lie about their current study habits (only to come clean later), ghost their tutor (often because they don’t want to admit that they haven’t been studying), or refuse to turn in feedback assignments (because they don’t want the tutor to see how poorly they’re doing with their writing). All of this is totally natural, but it also puts the tutor in an absolutely impossible position! Tutoring is about the tutor giving the student tools to do the work effectively, and they can only do this with accurate information about the student’s needs and progress.
I know I can’t speak for all bar tutors; I only know the ones that work with us! But if you have hired a person who is genuinely invested in helping you, they won’t be judging you as a person based on your past scores or even your current progress. They just need to know what’s going on so that they can offer the best possible advice about your next steps toward bar success. And as to the privacy, don’t forget! Bar tutors are lawyers too, so they get the importance of confidentiality.