Congratulations on essentially completing law school. You should be very proud. Take a moment and just relish in this accomplishment!
My semester of law school was bittersweet. Job prospects were bleak due to the recent recession. I had a meltdown every other day of spring semester as I realized that every dollar spent on tuition, every hour spent studying will be wasted unless I can pass the Florida Bar exam. I had no marketable skills, so there was a lot of pressure to pass…and get a job…and actually learn how to practice law. I’m pretty sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Now we have this insane pandemic keeping us isolated, you most likely feel like you’re really being robbed of this time now that awards ceremony, graduation, maybe brunch to celebrate is canceled. You’re imagining what those glorious final nights out would have been like. You feel like you’re missing out on such a lovely time with family and friends, but here’s the thing…You’re not missing anything.
Honestly, that last semester, the pomp and circumstance of awards ceremonies and graduation, the last parties and nights out with my friends, even the weddings that I attended that last semester were hard to enjoy.
It was an awkward time. You know you need to get to studying, but your family wants to take a million photos of “the lawyer” and have a party. Then they ask you, “you seemed stressed, are you OK?” No, Aunt Karen, I am freaking because I have to take the Bar in less than 12 weeks and my mother is forcing me to eat sheet cake with you all. People will give you cards that say “Esq.” on them, but guess what? You’re not an Esquire because you haven’t passed the Bar.
I documented my entire life on my trusty Canon camera in 2010 (I also exclusively wore Lilly Pulitzer shift dresses). Based on the photos…my family came into town for my graduation, stayed for maybe 36 hours, and we *tried* to take photos in a crowded breezeway. I saw my friends for one minute.
We ate at a roadhouse after graduation and my sister (also in Lilly) and I went to a dive bar to play pool after the ceremony (which is NOT my idea of a celebration). I went to one farewell party for a friend who was moving to Germany in the middle of Bar study and we all looked stressed. I went to the pool one time and the only other photo from May until July was a (bad) photo that I took outside on a dock.
The only independent memories I have are my parent’s housekeeper, JoAnn bringing me an Egg McMuffin every Wednesday because she was concerned that I did not move from the dining room table and I broke up with a boyfriend on Fourth of July (my only “break”).
Post-Bar? Y’all, I went to Cape Cod, continued to wear Lilly Pulitzer but added a few brands, I ate sushi and lobster, I build a tower out of champagne flutes, and had what I remember to be one of the best summers of my life. No looming exams, nothing I could do to affect whether I passed or failed. It was truly glorious.
What I am saying is that the last semester of law school and all the accouterment was actually one of the least enjoyable parts of law school, because it was all overshadowed by the enviable 9-week hell that was to come…studying for and eventually taking the Bar. (Ok, those last nights out with friends were pretty epic. There was this one night a the Don CeSar beach…but I digress).
Think of quarantine as a gift. You can skip the awkwardness of a May graduation and “celebration.” You should already have your Bar study materials (or you can access practice exams from your state board of bar examiners). You have, not only a head start but nowhere else to be. No FOMO, no distraction. You’re “friends” cannot guilt you into coming out for a drink. (Note: this is a weird thing that people in your life may do because they get jealous of the Bar taking up too much of your time. Immediately cut ties with those people as they are toxic and will never change.) This is prime Bar study time and YOU are the ones who can take advantage of it.
By getting a head start, you can avoid burnout. Watch a lecture a day, make your outlines, take practice exams, and multiple-choice questions at a reasonable pace.
Here are some practical study tips:
Your test prep company is will give you the best guess on what to expect, but they do not know for sure. Don’t get false hope and skip something because BarBri says “it’s probably not going to be on the exam.”
Take as many practice essays from your state’s board of bar examiners as possible. Pay close attention to how the answers are formatted and the outline in each response. (Be mindful in the fast-changing Criminal Law and Family Law)
Take as many MCQs as possible and again look for patterns in the answers.
Make an outline for every subject that can be reduced to one or two pages.
Build your endurance mentally and physically.
Consider cutting alcohol and stay very hydrated.
Try noise-canceling headphones and alpha wave binaural beats when you’re studying initially…but in the last few weeks, mimic your testing conditions. So if you’re planning on wearing earplugs during the exam, wear them while you study.
Make sure your computer is in optimal operational condition. Consider purchasing a backup adaptor.
Don’t waste time, but give yourself scheduled breaks.
Don’t start or end any relationships (I did both and it was a HUGE mistake).
Don’t freak out. Everyone feels like they are going to fail and then they feel like they failed. Just make a plan, and execute the plan.
Don’t forget your ID on the day of the exam. Bring snacks, water, and layer your clothes.
When you finally get to truly celebrate your achievements, the Bar exam will be over and you can actually enjoy that time. Plus, there is a solid 8-week gap (minimum) between the Bar and results, so party it up in our post-quarantine world. You deserve it.
Shannon B. Schott, Esq. B.C.S., Managing Partner, Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law, Jacksonville, FL