As you know, bar prep is no joke. There are countless studies and statistics that demonstrate that a failure to complete most of your bar prep course significantly reduces the likelihood of passing the bar the first time. Not passing the first time is not the end of the world, but no one wants to take the exam twice. Bar prep lasts two months. We have to learn how to cope with the competing demands of life while maintaining laser focus on the task at hand: one and done on the bar exam. It is just like juggling. We have to learn to “cope with adroitly balancing several activities,” simultaneously.
Talk to Family and Friends
Part of any bar prep strategy must include a frank and open conversation with the people in your life about the rigors of bar prep. You need to make them understand what a painful and arduous endeavor bar prep is going to be. Further, it is critical that they understand that the key to success is going to be space, isolation, and support. You don’t have to live in a shack in the middle of nowhere, but your people need to understand: you are going to be largely absent from life for the two months leading up to the exam. Be gentle and tactful when you have this chat. You want family and friends to be understanding and supportive. The last thing you want is for them to start resenting you so close to the end of your law school journey.
Have A Schedule
In reality, for many law students, it won’t be possible to just fall off the face of the earth for two months. Life doesn’t stop just because you have a test to take. Bills still need to be paid, relationships still need some tending to, and people may still need to rely on you for help. The best way to handle these demands is to comprehensively budget your time. Make a schedule and stick to it. More than that, make sure the people closest to you know your schedule. Imagine the conflict that could be avoided if your significant other knows that Monday through Friday you are incommunicado between the hours of 7 AM and 5 PM. Knowledge is power here. If people know the hours you need to be left alone, they’re far more likely to be respectful of the communication moratorium.
The schedule you create is for you too. Budget time for dedicated study, of course (much of this will be dictated, to some extent, by your bar prep provider), but it’s important to budget other critical life activities too. For example, when will you pay your bills, go to the grocery store, eat your meals, get exercise, etc.? All of these activities are important. Some will actually help you in your bar prep. Life will be so much easier if, between the end of classes and graduation, you take some time to create a detailed study/life schedule. It needs to be somewhat malleable (things happen), but also comprehensive. This is basic time management.
Save Time by Being Present
When you are engaged in bar prep (watching lectures, answering MBE questions, writing essays under exam conditions) you need to be focused, isolated, and determined. When you engage in all of the other activities that are unavoidable (that you’ve worked into your schedule) be present. Especially when the activity in which you’re engaged involves friends and family. Continued support of your day-to-day, self-imposed isolation will be easier to support if, when you are doing things with your significant other (like grocery shopping or dinner), he or she feels like you are present in the moment with them. It will be hard, but you need their support, and frankly, the short (scheduled) break will do you some good. When it’s time to study, be 100% focused on study. When it’s time to break bread with your spouse or significant other, focus on that person. Don’t talk about bar prep. Take an interest in what’s happening in his or her life right now. If they feel like you’re present in the moment, they will continue to support you through this relatively short bar prep period.
Bar Prep Isn’t Fun for Anyone
Unfortunately, the rigors of bar prep are painful for the law student, but also for friends and family who have no concrete point of reference. Unless someone has gone through the process, he or she cannot be reasonably expected to fully comprehend the level of focus required to prepare for, and pass, the bar exam. Communication is going to go a long way in helping them to understand. Developing and sharing a comprehensive schedule of your time and activity over the two long months of bar prep, will help them cope with your journey as well. More importantly to you, the schedule will help you stay on track, help you to say no without guilt, and help you destroy the bar exam the first time out. You can do this.