Although the journey through law school sometimes feels like one you’re making alone, the truth is, everyone who cares about you has a vested interest in your success (and failures). The one part of law school that is truly yours, and yours alone, is bar prep. Now is not the time to succumb to the pressures of family and friends. Be a wolf pack of one.
Buckle Up, It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Ride!
Bar prep is a miserable two months of torture. The gauntlet of MPTs, MBEs, MEEs, etc. is long and arduous. In reality, law students only have the brief window of time between graduation and July or February to cram more than three years of legal studies into their brains, and retain it long enough to use that knowledge effectively on the exam. This is made more complicated by the fact that much of what will be tested on the bar exam is from classes you probably didn’t take. The point is this: without focus, laser-guided focus, on bar prep (and bar prep alone) your chance of success on the exam is significantly reduced. Distractors like vacations, weddings, nights out, and any number of other social obligations serve little good and keep you from acquiring and retaining the volumes of information needed to pass the bar.
Start the Conversation Early
It is important to let your friends and family know early (like 1L year) that you need to focus on your bar prep for a finite amount of time to be successful. It is best to couch this discussion in terms that don’t make them resentful, but also in terms that are firm, clear, and understandable. Let them know that it’s a relatively short period of time, that the reward is passing the first time, and that you promise to return to the land of the living the day after the exam. They may not want to hear any of this, but hopefully, they’ll understand and be respectful. Now that you have had the conversation, it’s time to adopt the hermit’s life.
Be Strong and Avoid Eye Contact
If you have accepted that steering clear of family and friends is the best way to get your head in the bar prep game, that is fantastic. Now you have to implement strategies to keep your friends and family at bay. By now you have hopefully had a frank and honest dialogue about your need for separation (“we were on a break!”). The next critical component to your success is to avoid the very people that have supported your journey. You can explain the challenges and difficulties associated with bar prep until you are blue in the face, but most non-lawyers will have limited understanding or appreciation for the seriousness and reality of what you’re telling them. They will understand intellectually, they may even agree that you need time to study, but it’s doubtful that they will truly appreciate that you’re not speaking in hyperbole and really do need to go into hiding for two months. The best way to ensure compliance with your expressed desire to be left alone is to be proactively absent from view. That’s right! I am suggesting that you hide, avoid, evade, and disappear. Let people know that you plan to do so, because you don’t want any missing person reports filed. Next, follow through. Don’t study where you know people. Don’t socialize where you know people. Pretend you are Jason Bourne and disappear.
Be Strong and…Just Be Strong
Talking to friends and family is critical. Resorting to evasive tactics like you are living in the witness protection program is critical. What is also critical is that you remain strong and stay the course. You have just finished three years of law school. You are riding the high of graduation ceremonies, parties, and the relief of completion. You know that the next step is bar prep, and you are (more or less) mentally prepared. The study will be hard, but the strength required to avoid social situations and invitations to “go grab a quick meal” will be tempting. Don’t fall for it! It’s a trap. It’s a slippery slope (I have never met a law professor that didn’t hate that turn of phrase) that you want to avoid. Of course, a quick meal with a friend to help reconnect you to reality would be great. There may even be some minor benefit, but one meal can easily turn into more time and focus pulled away from the most important task at hand: your bar prep. Be strong and keep your eye on the prize and the task at hand. It’s only two months.
The two months of focused bar prep is tough. Intentionally severing ties to family and friends (temporarily) is the worst. But, by doing so, you improve your chances of the coveted “one and done” with the bar exam. You can do this. You’re almost there. Stay the course. You are going to crush the exam!