The bar exam can intimidate anyone. The law is challenging, the scope is daunting, the prep time is short, and the stakes are high. If you are working while studying, it can be easy to feel sorry for yourself and to feel like you are trying to do the impossible. You have taken a tougher road to bar success than others to be sure, but you can’t let those feelings take too much of a psychological toll. You have to be confident going into the bar or you will not be at your best. Here are five reasons to be confident as you work and study and study and work and study some more —
1. Structure is Valuable
Embrace your busy schedule. Believe it or not, spending time wisely is a struggle for people that are exclusively studying for the bar exam. If bar prep is all you are doing, procrastination and a false sense of security can sneak up on you. If you are busy, you know you have to make the most of the time you have. Your tight schedule can be an asset as much as it is a liability. If you only have a few hours each night, you will not even think about binge watching a television series in between practice questions. Just be determined to make a challenging (but doable) study schedule and hold yourself to it.
2. You Went to Law School Too
While your bar prep period is vital to your bar success, so is the three or four years you spent in law school learning substantive law and how to think like a lawyer. Find confidence in the fact that your legal education is a firm foundation on which to build. Just like everyone else, your bar prep really began the day you sat down for your first law school class. Think back on all the hours of class credits you took in bar exam related courses. Go find your outlines for those courses and read through them. Yes, you will have to refresh your memory and learn a great deal during bar prep, but you will bring your legal knowledge and critical analysis skills from law school with you to meet this challenge.
3. Everyone has Something
Rest assured that few individuals preparing for the bar have a life entirely free of complications. Most of your fellow bar examinees have things that make their bar exam prep period tough also. Some may be moving across the country, some may encounter personal hardships, some may need to job hunt concurrently. Working and studying is a lot to juggle, but most will be splitting their time in some way. So, if misery does indeed love company, many will be suffering through different but similar struggles during their bar prep. The best approach is likely to ignore everyone else and focus on being as prepared as you can be.
4. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Remember the tortoise and the hare. Even if you are studying at a slower pace than those with more time to dedicate to bar prep, just keep going. If you are following your study schedule, trust your plan and stay the course. (And do include sleep in your schedule—it is not optional. Read Lee Burgess’s post Warning: Working and Studying Can Cause Sleep Deprivation!) When the others burnout, you just have to keep your pace. In a very real way the fact that you have to forget about the bar exam (to some extent) and go to work will keep you fresh. You may physically be exhausted, but you may avoid the burnout pitfall that snares many that have no break from bar prep stressors. If your practice time is compressed, just make the most of it and keep with it.
5. You’ve Got Grit
Few would even attempt what you are attempting. If you signed up to tackle the bar exam while pulling a paycheck, I bet you have the grit to pull it off. Carolyn Negrin writes in her post How to Add Some More Grit to Your Life, “One thing is clear. Gritty people do not let life get in the way of reaching their goal.” After a long three or four years in law school, this is the final hurdle to clear. Think back to a time you were mentally tough in the past and think about how rewarding it was to succeed in the face of adversity. Set your mind to accomplishing your goal of passing the bar exam and don’t worry about your circumstances being tougher than others.
It will be hard work—there is no way around it. But you can work and prepare for the bar exam successfully. You can be yet one more in the long line of gritty, hard-working, strong-minded individuals who worked and studied and passed. Good luck!