You are invited...

Studying for the bar? Join me this Saturday, see your invitation just below.

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This presentation focuses on the non-black letter law essentials for passing the bar and I will be talking about the importance of the following:

  • practicing self-care,
  • stress management,
  • mindfulness, and
  • organization

as you continue to study hard and prepare yourself for the bar exam.

Together with the ICE Foundation, and, specifically, G.C. Murray we are creating a lively, light, and fun space to discuss the above topics (which also happen to be extremely close to my heart). Practical tips will be shared and I will speak a little about my experience preparing for the Florida bar - yes, all three times - and I am certain it will bring a smile to your face :) 

So I invite you to take a little study break, make yourself a cup of tea or a smoothie (coffee - anything you like!), and tune in!

I look forward to seeing you there. 

All of these pictures were taken directly by me during and throughout my prep experience.

Moving Past Failure And Towards Success On The Bar Exam

The news is still settling - you did not achieve your goal of passing the bar exam.  You might feel mad, angry, sad, disappointed, or anything under the sun that does not feel good. As someone who sat for the bar exam three times, I am quite familiar with the way it feels and what thoughts you might have running through your mind.

I encourage you to let yourself work through your thoughts and feelings and to be kind to yourself. Below are a few practices that can help you move through this time period and towards success on your next attempt.

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1.    Accept the results. Although the result is not what you had hoped for know that you gave it your all.  Nobody prepares for this exam with failure in mind so you should feel comfort in the fact that you worked hard, showed up, and made it to the other side. To even be eligible to sit for the bar exam you have had to work hard. Relish in your achievements up until now and remember – this does not define you and this does not make you any less of a human being or lawyer. 
 

2.    Deep breathes. You might be thinking what can deep breathing do for me and why now? When we take time to mindfully be aware of our breathing by taking five to ten deep breathes, it signals to our internal fight or flight mechanism that we are safe, calm, and results in a calming effect on our body. Deep breathing at this stage will not only help you collect yourself and your thoughts about how to move forward but it will equip you with a great tool you can utilize at any time when you feel overwhelmed or stressed whether it is bar exam related or not. 
 

3.    Become aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Not only in your study habits but in your knowledge of the law. Are you extremely strong in Contracts but do not feel as comfortable in Property? Do you struggle with time management on the exam? Do you need to write more practice essays under timed, test-like conditions? Ask yourself these uncomfortable questions.  Honest self-observation and self-reflection can help you fill in your blanks and be an extremely informative guide moving forward. If you have a professor familiar with your performance and whom you trust, reach out to them. They might be instrumental in giving you those few words of encouragement that you need to strap your boots back on and make your way!
 

4.    Be kind to yourself. I saved the best for last and for good reason. This time period can be exceptionally unsettling and stressful so I propose that you be as kind to yourself as possible.  Of course, this can take shape in many different forms.  Whether it means giving yourself time (unlimited or not) to let the results sink in and decide what to do next, spend more time doing something you really enjoy or even taking a family member or friend to your one of your favorite places or restaurants, these actions are important and signal to yourself that life will go on and that you are taking care of yourself. 

Although at times not passing the bar can feel as if all of your hard work over the years did not pay off, rest assured that you can overcome this challenge if you aspire to and that the result of this exam is not a reflection of your work ethic, persona, or character. May you incorporate what above practices resonate with you into your current life experience and may you keep yourself in good spirits.  

How to keep your cool while you wait for bar results

There are approximately 1.3 million licensed lawyers in the United States (1). Take a moment and think about the fact that, except in a diploma state, each one of them studied, sat for, and waited for their bar exam results. While this might give you comfort or increase your anxiety, I hope it will give you peace of mind that you are not the only one having gone through this experience. On a personal note, I went through the process three times and each time I had to be patient, know that I did my best, fill my time with activities I enjoy, and most importantly, believed it was going to be okay no matter how the results turned out.  If you feel at your wits' end while waiting the final few weeks for the results to be posted, I hope the below suggestions make you feel more at ease.

Be patient. Rome was not built in a day and the exam did not magically appear out of the blue. There was a lot of planning, preparing, and working on your part. Feel calm about where you are in the process and try to stay patient for the results will come.

Know that you did your best. At this point in time there is nothing that you can do. You did everything you could to prepare and to perform to propel yourself forward and place yourself in a position to pass. Feel this in your body and believe it because it is true. 

Fill your time with activities that you enjoy. Make it a point to do more of what you like and in doing so, try to put space between you and the feeling of waiting. The more you enjoy yourself with people that you admire and love and the more you do that makes you happy the quicker the time will pass. You can either spend your time sulking with anxiety or you can make the most of it - it is up to you.

Know that whatever the results are you can handle it. Because you can and you will. Hopefully, you will receive positive news after sitting for the exam. If so, soak in all of your hard work and celebrate your new milestone.  If you receive news that you did not pass either or both parts of the exam, acknowledge all of your hard work - you have made it far! - and take time for yourself. You will know what to do when the time comes. 

I hope these few pointers help you feel more at ease while you wait for your results of the bar exam.  Remember, you are the only one who can enjoy the remaining weeks of waiting. How would you like for your experience to be these few weeks: full of anxiety and dread or joyful knowing you gave it your all? Either way, it is up to you!

1. http://www.denniswpottslaw.com/united-states-attorneys-map/

Post exam, pre result bliss boating with one of my best friends

Post exam, pre result bliss boating with one of my best friends

You have decided to re-take the bar. What next?

The decision has been made. You have signed up and sent in all of the necessary paperwork for the next bar examination.  You have marked the date(s) of the exam on your calendar and you know that you need to start studying, again, and soon. Everything outside of these two thoughts might seem blurry and potentially overwhelming but I assure you, you have the tools and y-o-u are capable.

Whether this will be your second time or fifth time preparing for the bar, the following is food for thought about how you will position yourself to be in the best possible place to pass and to make your dream come true of becoming the licensed lawyer you worked so hard to be.

1. Take the time to seriously think about and even analyze all of the events, behaviors, habits, and stressors that might have been present in the past. Things happen and thing will happen that you have no control over but you can monitor your daily thoughts, actions, and reactions to those external stressors.  Think about ways, no matter how small, that you can make this time easier for yourself. For example, do you have a housemate who can pitch in a bit more while you are studying in the months/weeks leading up to the exam? Do you have a friend who has once offered to cook for you or watch your children? Take them up on it, they want you to succeed and this is the universe helping you out!

2.  Dive deeper into ways that you can make this time easier on yourself. For example, characterize your "musts" and your "shoulds." Musts are non-negotiable activities that you innately know you must do to pass this exam once and for all. Your musts might include studying, eating, sleeping, relaxing, and recharging in a way that gives you energy.  Shoulds are a bit more nebulous, although I know that you might be able to think of a few on your own. They usually come from external expectations, things that you could take or leave but that are put upon you by those around you.  They might include anything that does not recharge you and that does not positively contribute to your study plan and overall goal of passing the bar exam.

3.  Reach out. Talk to tutors. Talk to with anyone you know who is or was in the same situation. Ask them what worked. Think about ways to incorporate what worked for someone else into your routine, if you think it will be helpful. While everyone has a difference experience, the feeling of not passing is shared. A friend of mine, who was successful the fourth time, shared with me the importance of taking time for yourself because this simple act made all of the difference for him. In addition, he said that creating and sticking with a study schedule was crucial because you know when you need to be focused 110% and your non-study time can be used to have fun and recharge.

4. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize. Picture yourself the day before the exam. What will you be doing? Where will you be? How is your stress level? Are you cramming or are you feeling steady, strong, and confident? Visualize the entire day. Next visualize the day(s) of the exam. Your path to the exam center, how you will feel walking to your seat inside the exam room, etc., etc.. Use your prior exam experience to your advantage, with visualizing, especially since you already know, more or less, how the room feels and what it looks like.  Of course, you will be nervous and you might have butterflies in your stomach. That is completely normal! Learn to accept these feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they are. Practice staying present, staying in the moment. When you can master your thoughts and feelings about the test, you can master the test.

5. Put the time in. There is no substitute for taking practice exams, working practice questions under timed conditions, and quite frankly, immersing yourself in the subjects. Figure out which subjects need more attention and work accordingly. Remember to not underestimate the importance of reading the answer explanation and figuring out as well as understnding why you arrived at the right or wrong answer. 

At the end of the day, do what works and feels best to you.  Are you a morning owl or an evening lark? Is there a difference in your energy and focus when you study at the library or at home?  Figure out when and where you are most productive, make a schedule, and stick to it.  With these insights, you are now better situated to put yourself in the best possible position to pass. While the prep time leading up to the exam can feel uncomfortable - believe in yourself, remember that this too shall pass, and feel in your bones that you can do this!  

 

Four steps to help you cope with bar exam failure

You receive the news that you have been anxiously awaiting the past couple of months - bar results are posted!  Your heart is beating so fast that you feel it heavy in your chest. Your palms might be sweaty. You check the results and for you, it did not turn out the way you had hoped. 

As bar results from the February examination are being revealed across the country, I would like to shed light on what to do when you did not achieve your goal of passing the bar exam.

Whatever your initial reaction to the news is, just go with it. Feel through it - ALL - the meh and the mehhier. It can be an alienating feeling when you see your classmates and your friends celebrating and posting on social media their success while you are still not in the "club." You wonder, "where did I go wrong? what more could I have done?" Or you might be thinking, "where do I go from here?" or "I guess I need to find something else to do with my life," or "when can I sign up again?" all while jotting down a list of logistical to-do's.

As someone who has received both sides of the news and the in-between: an overall FAIL to a PASS in one section and a FAIL overall, to an overall PASS, I completely understand the myriad of feelings you might be experiencing.  Having gone through it myself and having had time to process the emotion and feeling, I found the following techniques to be one (helpful!) way to cope with the news that no bar-taker ever wants to receive.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE. Acknowledge all of your hard work. Your determination. Your effort. Your energy. Even though it feels like it was for nothing, be proud of yourself for going after your dream of being a licensed lawyer. As you read this you might be rolling your eyes but the entire ordeal is exhausting and you deserve recognition for what you did and how hard you worked although it did not turn out exactly the way you wanted.

2. GIVE YOURSELF TIME. Time has a beautiful way of giving us perspective. Whether it is time to process the upset or finding a solid distraction such as adding a puppy to your family or picking up a new hobby, take the time that you need for yourself. If you are unsure of your next step(s) forward the answers will become clearer with time. I promise! And yes, in some jurisdictions MPRE scores are valid for only two years and yes, you might have taken the MPRE early and yes, it might expire if you postpone taking the bar immediately but you and only you know what is right for y-o-u. 

3. PLAN. Once you have given yourself time and feel ready to move in either direction of taking it again or taking it never (that was me!), get a plan. Preferrably on paper but if you aren't into getting it down on paper at least visualize the steps in your mind. If you make the decision to take it again a lot of paperwork and logistics will need to be taken care of, initially. If you decide never to take it again - onward you go!  

4. EVALUATE. If you decide to take it again, evaluate what you could have done better or if there is a prep course that better meets your needs. Reach out to a tutor or to a professor. Ask them questions. Ask questions of yourself. Ask yourself what you know, intuitively, that you should have done or what you could have done to get more points.  If you decide to sit it out for a while (or forever), evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, what kind of life you want and what you can do to get you there.

On a ranging scale, not passing the bar can seem like the end of the world to a major inconvenience and a barrier to the life that you had envisioned for yourself. It can also be seen as a tedious learning experience that will help you in challenging situations in the future. Whether you decide to retake it immediately, never again, or figure out that you are somewhere in between, please do not forget to give yourself credit for going after your dreams and trying. You have gotten so far!  And remember, if it were a cakewalk it would not be worth it.

                                                    Credit: Pinterest.

                                                    Credit: Pinterest.

 PS- A treat, below is me moments after my first experience sitting for the bar. Little did I know that I would receive the disappointing news a couple of months later...