The sound of thousands of students breaking into a wild applause in the Pasadena Convention Center after enduring three six-hour days of the California Bar Exam is something I'll never forget. Almost instantly, people have returned to their normal selves, are smiling, and life is good -- time to crack open the champagne.
The transition from graduation (one of the best days of my life) to bar studying was pretty quick -- really just about two days...cruel and unusual punishment, anyone? But, I quickly came to terms with my fate. As bar studying began, I was interested to see whether this exam would be the monster that everyone made it out to be. I always wondered, is the "hype" justified?
Having heard too many stories of people who burnt out way too early, the first month of studying for me was no different than a regular eight-hour work day. I spent my mornings listening to the videotaped BarBri lectures either at Loyola or from home, and my afternoons doing multiple choice and essay questions.
Before I knew it, July 4th came and went, and at that point (just three weeks shy of the exam), things began to change. Almost overnight, fellow bar takers started to crack and crumble from information overload. Refusing to walk down that path, the gym was without a doubt the single most important part of my day and a must-do for all bar takers. While there were surely challenging moments, I firmly believe that if you can beat the mental game and put in the work to learn just enough, you can prevail.
Now that all is said and done, I'm in Dr. Suess's "The Waiting Place...for people just waiting." Odds are if you're reading this, you may not have even started law school yet and the bar exam may seem so far away. But, if you can get in the right mindset early on, I think it's safe to say that the process doesn't have to be as crazy as many make it out to be.
My advice to future bar takers:
1) Things you can do during law school to make studying a little easier: Take a trial advocacy class; take part in an externship that will allow you to spent time in court- whether it's criminal or civil; participate in the law review write-on competition, which will give you a feel for what you'll have to do on a performance exam (worth approx. 1/3 of the bar exam).
2) Exercise: If you remember one thing, hands-down this is it.
3) Don't try and memorize: Instead, just try and grasp the underlying concepts as you go through the material, and try and learn through doing the multiple choice and taking practice essays. Any memorizing I did was within the last one and a half weeks- whether or not this will prove effective, I suppose time will tell...
4) Remember what worked and didn't work for you during law school and stick to it. If you've never been a flashcard person, now is not the time to change your ways. Trust in yourself to know what way works best for you.
5) Retain information through different media: I questioned whether or not listening to lectures was a waste of my time and whether I would have been better off just learning off of outlines. Looking back, because of the quantity of information being learned in such a short period of time, I'd recommend a combination!
6) Don't push too hard, too fast or you'll burn out.
7) You control the exam; don't let it control you. Keep your perspective, remind yourself that you're not supposed to know everything and that you're just human.
8) Visualization: Visualize your success; close your eyes and see yourself taking and passing the exam.
At the end of the day, "Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying. You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing."