Here’s something that people who pass the bar never say:
“All I had to do was listen to all those bar course lectures. They were so helpful!”
Can you imagine?
Sometimes we think “doing whatever it takes” to pass the bar means throwing thousands of dollars into a black hole. (But it doesn’t have to be expensive.)
Or following some unsustainable cookie-cutter schedule (which doesn’t care if you have other responsibilities like work or family). Good luck if you fall behind by one day.
Or letting a perfectly fine morning slip through by religiously sitting through 4 hours of droning lectures. Worse, pausing lectures to fill in all the notes. Then not even remembering 99% of it.
tfw you think the lectures are making sense
I remember those days. Those are things I didn’t do my second time. Here’s what I would do instead:
Learn how to learn.
Why are some of the best entertainers, filmmakers, and cooks not formally certified? (See: YouTubers)
They don’t always go through a formal program with standard-issue teachers. They don’t end up like the rest of the “class” when they go out and compete to be chosen by a gatekeeper.
Instead, they have a deep desire to absorb and try things on their own. They actively seek out material, effectively designing their own curriculum. They live and breathe the craft. It’s important to them.
Last year, I spoke with someone who passed the California bar after many tries, who said this: “Every moment I’m asking, ‘Am I doing something that helps me prepare?’” A conscious approach indeed.
Barbri’s (or whoever’s) plan may be good enough. Even if a jacket is one-size-fits-all, you can still drape it over yourself. But you’re the dean of your own studies. Not Barbri, not your law school, not me, not anyone.
Are you telling yourself any of these things below? I invite you as the dean to deliberately shift the way you approach bar preparation.
Typical thinking: I need to take a huge course. Oh, maybe I’ll get the cheapest course because they’re all the same anyway. I need to memorize everything first. I need to check off all the boxes. Progress!
Conscious thinking: Hmm, this cookie-cutter curriculum can be useful in some ways, but how can I tailor the materials to my own situation? How can I use this material to learn what is required of me to pass the bar? How can I use this material to learn how to apply the rules, not just “know” them conceptually?
Brian’s comment: Don’t wait for a holy grail to fall from the heavens. Being a successful student isn’t about getting perfectly tailored advice; it’s about tailoring the advice you do get to your situation. If you’re not learning anything from the default path, change what you’re doing.
Typical thinking: I’ll just power through 15-hour days! 100 MBE questions per day! Who needs sleep?!
Conscious thinking: Hard work is a given, and I’ll do my best to have no regrets, but extreme tactics are not sustainable. What are the critical areas that I should focus more on (so that I can be prepared for the bar even if I don’t have a lot of time)?
Using too few resources
Typical thinking: I’ll just snoop around the Internet for weeks and manually put together a bunch of free resources. I’m not gonna pay for anything. I’m not a SUCKER!!!
Conscious thinking: Wait a minute, I came all this way from the LSAT to law school to this final hurdle. Resourcefulness has its place, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel (with the right tools). Even a 1% greater chance to make this my last time is worth it in the long term.
Maybe it’ll work; maybe it won’t. That’s why it’s an investment. I know I can make back whatever I invest now within hours—or even minutes—later.
Brian’s comment: It is indeed possible to prepare for the bar exam no matter your budget. I can think of ways to spend over $1,000 (not counting a bar course) or $0. You could walk a paved road. Or you could be a lone wolf and figure it out by yourself.
Somehow, we tend to be the most frugal when it comes to the thing that will stay with us the most—the act of teaching ourselves. I used to cheap out on single pages of paper in school and then pay for it on the back end when my studies were not as effective as they could have been.
Using too many resources
Typical thinking: I’ll keep collecting a bunch of tools and jump from one to another until I find the silver bullet that plugs me into the Matrix and uploads everything I need to know for the bar.
Conscious thinking: Investing in my success is important, but nothing is going to be perfect. The resources out there can all be useful in their own ways, but their utility depends on how I use them. Where can I get some key supplements and resources that will help me do the work I need to do? They are tools that serve me, not the other way around.
Brian’s comment: You don’t need to get lost in supplement hell where you have a bunch of stuff that you won’t use. Like with anything else, having too many moving parts only complicates your life. Keep it simple.
What do you notice about these shifts?
If life gave you lemons, you weren’t looking for the oranges. If you don’t proactively think about what’s possible, you get the default. Your life decides for you instead.
These shifts boil down to trusting yourself and doing what makes sense to you. It’s your call.
“Trust myself? I did that and still got fucked
on the bar”
I’m not telling you to predict subjects, write essays the way they worked back in law school, or rely on your future self to bullshit the exam.
I’m talking about having control over your approach to preparation.
- Saying NO to the fear that seduces you to jump to the shallow end of the pool rather than doing the mentally straining work that moves the needle.
- Being thoughtful about your decisions despite the 50 different opinions you’re going to hear.
- Training as deliberately as you can, then trusting that your legs will keep you pushing forward during bar week.
(Did you know that the muscles pro golfers work on are actually their legs? Stable foundations keep their aim true and far. No wonder they wear baggy pants.)
In the end, whether you use a prep course, whether you get a tutor, whether you study on your own… you’re the one preparing for the bar. It doesn’t matter if you get the best outlines, the best tutor, the best whatever. It’s still up to you in the end. Showing up with the best clubs isn’t going to let you beat Tiger Woods.
Whether you take a course or not, bar prep is a self-study endeavor. You’ll be responsible for your own success. It’s scary to be the boss, but no one cares about you as much as you. Only you can prevent forest fires.