Bar prep is upon us

bar exam

That’s a scary thought. In only a few short months, I will be taking the biggest exam of my life and hopefully I’ll finally reach my goal of being an attorney. I got an email from my vendor course (I went with Barbri) about the “early start” program and decided the more prep I have over a long period of time, the better I’ll be in the end. So, my calendar is crammed with bar prep stuff for the next four months now.

My father in law has a saying that he loves to tell his kids “plan your work, work your plan”. As someone who has things planned all the time, this saying has always stuck with me. It really applies to bar prep too. There are a lot of things you can do to make bar prep time easier and less stressful for everyone involved. Now, I can’t say all of these will be super helpful because I haven’t gone through bar prep yet but this is what I’ve done so far:

1.Notify your family 

Explain to your family what bar prep is really like so they can understand why you won’t be available as much. I sat down with Patrick a few weeks ago and laid out exactly what the bar covered, why it was so difficult, and how high stakes the bar really is. We have a shared calendar where I put all my bar prep lectures, practice tests, etc. I set up my office away from the house and told him to use the front door during bar prep so I wouldn’t be disturbed.

Really, this goes beyond just people who live with you though. I talk to my friends and family ALL the time. While my friends easily understand that they won’t hear from me and it’s temporary, my family doesn’t always get that. Over Thanksgiving my mom and stepdad will be visiting. I plan on sitting down with them with my bar prep calendar and explaining that I won’t be available as much. I hope to schedule at least a few calls to them a week so they know I haven’t succumb to bar prep stress. Then, over Christmas, I’ll give my extended family the “don’t bother me, I’m living but super busy” talk and explaining just how bad bar prep can get.

2. Plan the nitty gritty 

I have two dogs. I have a household. I have a husband. Even though I’ll be super busy, those things still need to be tended to. I can’t leave my dogs crated all day and I can’t leave them outside all day in the winter. I can’t ignore everything around my house. I definitely can’t ignore my husband all the time. So, just like I am doing with the phone calls home, I am making a plan on when I can set aside time to take care of things. I have date nights scheduled and drinks with friends. I have Phi Mu alumnae events and trips to the dog park. I’ve planned dinners that can be frozen to make cooking easier. It seems ridiculous to plan these things out but knowing when things are going to occur and having an end date on when you get to take a break has always made me feel more relaxed about the situation.

3. Get help! 

Good gracious, I cannot stress this enough. You cannot do it all alone! I’m very fortunate to have my amazing husband who will help take care of the house and the dogs but even with him, there’s always work to be done. Luckily, we’ve been using a doggy daycare twice a week for about a year now and the dogs are gone all day and sleep all night. We have a lawn service we’re using right now (since we don’t actually own a lawn mower) that I would rely on if we need a cut and don’t have time. I’m in search of a dog walker for the non-daycare days and a maid service for when we just get too overwhelmed. Seriously, these services exist for a reason. It’s hard for law students to get over their pride and accept help but sometimes, you just gotta suck it up.

4. Set a budget

Patrick and I have a monthly budget that gets done every month. That’s not the type of budget I mean. During bar prep, you’ll want coffee, junk food, days out, whatever. Set a specific budget for that and only that so you don’t have to stress about “big picture” money and can focus on keeping yourself healthy. For example, I have a $1000 coffee budget since I will most likely be spending a large chunk of time at Starbucks and I cannot function without coffee. I have a small shopping budget for stress relief trips to Target. In the grand scheme of things, as long as the bills are getting paid, I don’t have to worry about what’s in the bank as long as I stay in that budget.

5. Commiserate

Find someone else taking the bar and set a plan. Do you want to listen to lectures together? Sit in the same room? Get together for a drink once a week? Figure out how you can use other students and friends to just vent. The bar exam is something that non-law students have a hard time understanding. Make sure you take time to vent about your stress and just live for a bit. If you have no one to commiserate with, I’m ALWAYS available!

What other ways are you prepping for bar prep?

How to: Prepare for the bar exam

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Photo from Above the Law

The bar exam is 2.5 years away but preparation is already upon me. Starting early to prep for the bar is important but not in the typical “I should study” sense but more in the “get your ducks in a row” sense.

Some states, like Illinois and Florida, allow 1Ls to submit certain forms ahead of time in order to save money and I would assume make the lives of the bar examiners easier. These programs are perfect for 1Ls in so many ways but can take a lot of time to fill out and get the information correct for.

I’ll be taking the Illinois bar so I decided to fill out all the forms earlier so I would have plenty of time before I got too busy later in law school. In total the application, which is about 95% finished, has taken me an hour and a half. It includes addresses, employers, character/fitness questions, etc. Honestly, it was kind of a pain but I’ll have to do it eventually right?

I do not in any way suggest loading yourself up with actual study materials for the bar quite yet, though some light studying may be a good idea. However, getting logistics out of the way as early as possible will make it easier in the long run. As far as Illinois goes, you have to report changes to them but overall, it isn’t too bad. Planning ahead will save a lot of time and stress later.