When I was taking the bar exam, I had a personal motto for myself, “One and Done.” I would tell this to myself when things got hard, when I got frustrated, or when I just wasn’t sure I wanted to keep working. I was going to give this everything I had and then some, because I wanted to do this only once.
If you are taking the bar exam for the first time, you want to do what you can to make sure this is the only time you need to take the exam.
I spend a lot of time talking to people about bar exam experiences, including those ending in failure. What is interesting is that most folks seem to have an idea of what might have happened to cause the failure. They will mention things like not studying enough, being distracted, struggling with anxiety, or not practicing enough. They will confide in me that they knew that things weren’t going so well, but they just trudged forward hoping it would work out. Sometimes it does, but often it doesn’t.
The question I always ask myself is why students don’t take steps to remedy the situation when they know on some level it isn’t working. Usually the answer is something along the lines of “Well, everyone is telling me if I just do what the commercial bar review course tells me to, it will be fine.”
Okay, that is true for many people (that was true for me). But why would you ever think that your gut instinct was wrong? Or just blindly march forward when you are sure things aren’t going well? No! You must take action! You must decide what doesn’t feel right and fix it. You must explore different resources, get advice, and get help.
Most people tell me they don’t want to ask for help because it may be too expensive. Sure, help can sometimes cost money, that is true. But stop a moment and consider how expensive it is to take another bar exam. That is more time of not working, paying for a tutor, paying the fees to the bar exam, booking the hotel—the costs are looming large here. It is worth it to invest a bit more money into the first experience—to try to make it your last.
If you are studying after a failure, you should have the same motto.
If you are coming back from a bar exam failure, it is even more important that you live by this motto. You can’t not take studying and preparing seriously. You must decide you have the time, energy, dedication, and financial stability to take on this exam again. I tell students that if they need to take a bar exam season off to get to this point, that is better than studying in a situation that is not set up for success—because each failure only makes it harder to go back and study. Instead, you want to see studying again as an opportunity for you to be empowered. You should get help that you feel good about, a plan that you feel like sticking to, and then challenge yourself to give it everything you have got. There is absolutely no reason not to.
I challenge you to go “all in” in your bar preparation. Give it everything you can. Ask for help when you need it and give yourself the best chance you can for success.
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