Two weeks from now but many, many years ago- twenty four to be exact – I was all ready to start studying for the Bar. The New York Bar was my first. I studied from a hotel in Philadelphia. Actually, I vaguely remember feeling a bit anxious and wonder. How on earth was I going to study twenty two subjects – yup that is what the syllabus said – for the New York bar?! Bar bri hadn’t even started yet and I was having a bit of trouble sleeping. My mind was racing with anxiety. I could not afford to fail the exam because I was off to a Fellowship as soon as the bar ended. Even though I did quite well on law school exams, I knew that “the Bar” was a different animal. Or at least that is how my mind started off.
For many, this discussion is familiar and some find it embarrassing to admit. They too have anxiety about starting to study for the Bar. Oh did I wish someone would take my hand and just guide me through the process. You know, like the runners who run with newbies running their first marathon. Well, here I am for you.
I had signed up for Bar Bri in my very first semester of law school. My cousin encouraged me to go find that “Bar Bri table” at orientation and pay the deposit even though I had no idea what Bar Bri was. I did it because I trusted her. But still what was I up for? I could forget about it for three years but now I was about to start the course.
THREE STEPS TO SUCCESS
What I did next, and repeated throughout my next eight weeks of prep, made all the difference in the world. I repeated it again four years later when I studied and passed the California Bar. I call it my three steps to success. Spoiler alert: I passed the New York Bar and Connecticut Bar without a problem.
Oh and ONE MORE THING
But before I share these pearls from my experience, I have one more thing to share.
Trust the Bar Bri program. I have found that Bar Bri does an incredible job of identifying the what. There is no need to ask them why. They have tested it. You signed up presumably on the referral of someone who used them to pass. And, if that is not the case, you are hearing it from me now. They know their stuff. If you follow their what, you will be over prepared which means it will not strain you. It is better to walk over the Bar than to hit your head on it. Right? Once I accepted that I could trust that they had identified the WHAT for me, I stopped asking why. I stopped asking about the problems that I or a classmate found in the practice answers that I thought was wrong. It isn’t wrong. I stopped asking questions about whether I should do more than the 50 MBE questions assigned each night. No need unless I wanted to for the heck of it. I stopped asking whether I should take another course on top of Bar Bri. The answer is, if you do what they assign, it is NOT necessary. Do you hear me? I trusted what they gave me to study and so should you. It works.I passed three bars with it and I am just a normal person.
Step one: It is all about me. I knew by now that I felt best everyday when I did some exercise to sweat. If that is not the case for you then what does make you feel good everyday. Schedule it in your study schedule. Back then, I was a treadmill runner – I know that is a sad admission but it is true. I can picture myself running on the treadmill in the mornings after my first cup of coffee before every single Bar Bri class just to get my blood flowing. I would run again at night – with flash cards once I got into the studying. I will write about what was on those flash cards later. By coming up with an organized schedule of non-negotiables – things I had to do for me – I knew I could have some control over the craziness of the eight week study marathon that was to begin.
My non-negotiables included exercise, making and eating healthy dinners and scheduled break times. I also scheduled my study time so that I knew it was there. I scheduled rewards of break time with friends or “TV zone out time” (now known as binge watching) right after so I could look forward to the reward once I hit my study goal. Remember, it is a long race. Build stamina and restore.
Step two: My mind set. I remember meeting panicky, different energy classmates in law school. Heck, I am a high energy person myself. That was fine as a class mate but now was different. I had to form and protect a winning mindset for myself during this study phase. I was in this for me and my loved ones and would start by protecting my mindset with positive, good energy activities and people. No one’s advice about how to keep your mind set positive is as meaningful as your own self. Listen to your inner self. Be responsible for your own positive thoughts and calm.
Visualization. Another major aspect of the mind-set for me – which may not work for others – was visualization. I worked every day on seeing myself successfully finishing the Bar. I know it sounds silly but it really works. If you don’t believe me, watch an Olympian before an important race. Swimmers are a great example. Go Youtube it. They will stand there before the race with their eyes closed and move their bodies as if they are swimming the race. And it isn’t the first time they are doing this visualization thing. Winners of races visualize for weeks prior to a race. They visualize the end and they visualize each important part of it. It has worked for me for decades and it worked with exams and the Bar.
Step three: I choose Joy. My father let me carry his trial briefcase as a little boy. I used to pull a luggage cart with his trial binders with the other hand. I became a lawyer because of how my dad helps people achieve their goals or overcome obstacles in life. The look on my dad’s face and the look of his client, after a successful trial, is the look of exhaustion yes but it is also the look of joy. I went into law to have a joyful professional life. What about you? Channel why you are going to be a lawyer. Taking the bar was just another opportunity to explore the exhausting challenge of the profession and I was committed to doing the eight weeks in as joyful a way as possible. There are those that slug through any challenge and they finish well. And, that might be you. But there are those that study hard, eat well, play hard and kick the bar’s you know what and do it with a smile. That was me. I know it sounds silly but it can be done easily without strain. And it can be you too.
You’ve got two weeks before Bar-Bri starts – Get Ready to Launch!
GREGORY RUTCHIK Gregory passed the New York, Connecticut and California Bar’s – each the the first time. He also waived into DC on his MBE results. Gregory is a proud BAR BRI Alum. He is a 1992-1993 Fulbright Fellow at the University of Tokyo, a 1992 graduate of Temple University School of Law and 2005 LLM graduate in Tax Law from Golden Gate University. Gregory’s practice started in Silicon Valley at Cooley LLP and is now a mix of business development and lawyering for established family owned or closely held businesses. Gregory identifies and qualifies business partners for his clients and forms and designs their business structures, entities and agreements so his technology, real estate acquisition and even chocolate manufacturer clients can make, sell, distribute and protect their products. Gregory has also has litigated dozens of IP infringement cases in Federal Court. When not lawyering, he is a martial artist, a yogi, a writer of children’s books and helps high achievers whose anxiety and panic interrupts their performance. Gregory runs his blog www.thepanicproject.com and is based in Los Angeles.