Bar Prep Is Overwhelming: Making Independent Choices for Yourself

You have questions about the bar exam. How to study. When to study. Whether you’re on the right track. Picking the right bar prep supplements out of all the resources out there.

"Yes, it is very overwhelming and the amount of resources out there to help are also overwhelming lol"

When you say you want the “best” answers to these questions, what are you really looking for? A sense of certainty? Someone to just tell you what the hell to do? Best for most people or best for you?

How would you even trust that it’s the “best” answer?

(In my view, it’s one where someone is willing to take responsibility for that answer.)

That’s where the danger lies in the landscape of bar prep. You shop around and yet end up where you started. Everyone who passed suddenly has an opinion (and sometimes a tutoring rate), which you should take as just that.

There are no secrets, and there are a million ways to pass. You have it in you already. It’s always been up to you to make them work for you.

Sounds scary but also freeing, right?

Sure, you could use some support from others, but I want to encourage you to listen to yourself a little more instead of blindly doing what someone else says you “need” to do… Not just with bar prep but with everything else in life.

But it’s all so overwhelming… 

Examples of frequently asked questions:

X or Y? A vs B? Should I do Z?

Analysis paralysis keeps you from doing anything at all. (Plus, you can find answers on my blog if you want my thoughts.)

It’s good to get various opinions, but waiting for perfect knowledge before you act can make you LESS certain. Unless they know your situation, advice is often just a reflection of their own situation and agenda.

All I can do is put myself in your shoes and give you some ideas. Are my measured and balanced answers (and sometimes more questions) the best for you? You should decide that. (Also, it’s difficult to answer vague questions, so ask better ones. See below for quality of output vs. quality of input.)

Bar prep is personal.

If you want to make the wrong decision, listen to everyone. Debate over conflicting views. Ask question after question and don’t do anything with the answers.

Oftentimes, you already know the answer! But maybe you just want to vent or have someone validate you in this time of uncertainty.

Instead, I want to empower you to make your own independent choices about what makes sense for you (and be confident about them).

How to make decisions about bar prep (supplements and advice) when you’re overwhelmed

Again, it’s good to do your due diligence. It’s part of making a decision. But let me offer some suggestions to narrow down that process:

1️⃣ Part of getting good answers is asking questions well.

“Great questions are a much better indicator of future success than great answers.”

There’s a difference between these examples:

“I failed the [unspecified state] bar exam. Do you have any tips for improving?”

  • No background information, forcing the other person to probe or give a useless answer
  • No regard for the other’s time and attention, probably a Google-able question
  • Vague and broad enough to be struck down if it were a regulation of speech

Result: General answers or overwhelming answers that are not targeted to what you need the most since people can’t read your mind. (Or I ask a bunch of questions back if I decide to respond.)

“Thanks for this great email as always! I learned XYZ. But I have a question about X that I couldn’t seem to find an answer to.

Here’s my history with bar exams (first timer/repeating the XX state exam). I struggle with ABC. I have these resources.

What would you do in my shoes? Thanks again, no rush and no worries if you can’t get to it.”

  • Appreciative, easy to respond to (Hint: Busy people don’t answer questions in the order received)
  • High regard for other’s attention, has already done due diligence
  • Specific but concise

Result: I answer exactly what you need and become more likely to be open to future questions. I also become optimistic about your future.

If you want vague or overwhelming answers (aka useless answers that waste everyone’s time), ask vague questions that took 5 seconds to dictate to your iPhone. Might as well use ChatGPT.

If you want thoughtful answers, ask thoughtful questions. Quality of output ∝ quality of input. Just like how we assume a lazy dating profile means a lazy dater.

Thinking about the reader is useful in your essays, career, and everyday life.

At the same time, you can be confident knowing that there is no wrong answer. This is why I send Fire-up Fridays. If you read the success stories, you’ll see that there are common traits of passers but also that everyone carves their own path.

That means…

2️⃣ If you need structure, any major course will “work” (but I’m not a fan of Kaplan).

It’s not about which tennis racquet you use against Serena Williams that’ll make the difference. It’s your technique with the racquet.

A course is a supplement, not a default.

If you use a course, know how to use it properly so that you’re learning from it.

3️⃣ Curate advice as well, not just tools.

There’s a cost to getting 100 different recommendations and joining every free workshop and study group:

You’re lowering the signal-to-noise ratio. How are you going to decide which advice to use? You get even more confused.

Pick and stick to sources of advice you can trust. Your biggest bottleneck is your attention.

4️⃣ Our minds play a trick on us where we think that the more extreme an action is, or the more we pay for something, the more we think it’ll change things.

It’s still on you. See 2️⃣.

What I realized from paying for a personal trainer is that they’ll push you and correct your form to draw out your limits, but you’re still the one who has to exert effort.

5️⃣ No one can teach you. You can only learn.

You could have a gym trainer but see no changes because you don’t actually exert yourself through the motions and keep the same diet at home.

You could have a therapist and not see any changes because you’re unwilling to change your thoughts.

Of course, like anything else, there are good ones and ones who aren’t a good fit for you.

There’s a lot of advice out there. The question is how you can implement it in your specific situation. Take what you can use, and leave the rest. There’s no such thing as the “best,” only what is a fit for you.

Instead of agonizing over the “best” resource or the “best” teacher, you should be concerned about how YOU can be a good student. Successful students apply the advice they do get instead of waiting for the advice they want to hear.

I’ve already curated some tools and approaches that have worked for me and many others. There’s no way for me to guarantee an outcome, but I can help you weigh the outcomes.

If you try something and it doesn’t work, great. Elimination is one way to progress. Cross it off the list, and try another. This is how you figure out what works for you.

Ultimately, bar preparation is a self-study endeavor. Tools, courses, and supplements are simply there to support that.

Put another way, you’re the dean of your own studies. (This is a mantra that my readers remember by the end of bar prep.) Here’s how to fix 4 common mindsets that hold you back from being an effective dean.

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