GET READY TO LAUNCH to study the bar

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.  


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.


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 and is based in Los Angeles.


I remember when one of my law school classmates told me that they had signed up for a bar prep course different from mine.  I remember the self-doubt. Did I make the right decision?

I remember when that same person started studying and they told me that they had a study group, was going to take a separate essay writing class and a separate multi-state question class that I had not signed up for.  I had only signed up for a comprehensive bar prep class (*Disclosure: I took Bar Bri and passed three bars with it – first time around). I had some self-doubt.

BUT ONLY FOR ONE SINGLE MOMENT.  And then I remembered, this:

I picked Bar Bri because my cousin – whom I respect – took Bar Bri and passed New York easily.  I remembered why I had signed up and who I was going to believe – someone who had taken the Bar and had passed it OR some fellow classmate who had not yet taken a bar or studied for one.  Why did you pick the course you signed up for? I’m betting it was because someone you respect – who passed the bar taking that course – told you to sign up. I was so confident in my cousin that I signed up for Bar Bri the first week of law school to get the savings.  She said actually “sign up at that table, keep the receipt and forget about it for three years.”  That was precisely what I did. Worked for me well.

If anything, I was over prepared. But better than the other option. 
Most people don’t just do the work in front of them.  They add other “to dos”, and “other” courses to the courses they signed up for as if all the make work of the “other” stuff is going to help them pass.  But they know the truth. There are only two things – that is right TWO things that will make you – permit you to pass:

  1. Studying the material in front of you.  Remember that course you signed up. It will cover everything if it is one of the majors. But you have not started the course yet – and so long as you did sign up for one of the big names – Bar Bri, Piepers, Princeton etc. (Here is an post about the various top courses but you know which ones they are.  They are the courses that the people you know who passed too.  That is the best measure of a good course.
  2. The right mindset. Without a positive, confident, winners mindset, you can’t do as well. By adding work on your mindset while you study, you magnify your chances of passing significantly.



One thing I want you to start to tell yourself, after you have begun to visualize your success is this: It is a BAR exam – something you either trip over or hit your head on. It is designed to filter out those that (a) don’t study; (b) can’t figure out how to study; or (c) those that think they can study 22 subjects the week before the exam (ie, those that don’t study.).

Failing the Bar Exam Is Not an Option – So Here Is How To Pass

I don’t know about you but FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.

This post is about three simple things you can do to tremendously increase your ability to pass the exam.

I remember folks who failed. They were embarrassed, frustrated and exhausted.  And they couldn’t move forward in life. They had to rinse and repeat while I went on to do what was next.  And, for many of them, they had studied just as “hard” as I did. Their minds and nervousness messed them up and they hadn’t spent any time on that part of the preparation.

You, however, won’t make that mistake. As you will see when you watch a pro athlete.  There is the ability to take the shot under pressure – the actual skill of shooting the ball which is a given. But it is their ability to keep their minds calm that will determine whether or not they will make the shot.

As soon as the proctor says “Begin”, your heart will race faster than your mind towards the finish line. How you train your mind will determine your outcome. And I don’t mean what you learn and how “hard” you study.

You remember the first year of law school, waiting for your grades. I sure do. When I was in law school in the late 80s, our grades were posted on a board in the lobby of my law school.  They were not posted by name but by the random ID that was issued during my first semester and that changed each semester.  I remember standing about ten feet away and saying to myself, “Are you prepared for a B or a C?”  I got many As, some Bs and even a C in law school. But I kept moving forward.

The Bar exam is different. You either pass and go onto a job, an interview or the next phase of being a lawyer OR you FAIL and wait until the next bar exam cycle and START OVER.  Do not collect $200, stay in jail.  In other words, failure is NOT AN OPTION.

I passed three bars. Each the first time.  I took New York and Connecticut first – in the summer of 1992.  I waived in to DC (which was a waste of money and not necessary based on my multi-state score).  I took and passed California in February 1998.

I took Bar-bri – and will assume that you have signed up for at least some course – and did the exact schedule they set out. BUT, I did two things (ok three things) differently that I am convinced made a huge difference.

Here they are:

  1. Non-negotiables of Studying.

    Here is the good news.  Even if you have to work while you study for some of your bar prep time, there are many non-negotiables.   Regardless of which course you take, and I assume that you are taking one of the courses, there is a schedule. This means that there are many things you don’t have to think about. Just do.

    1. Here are the non-negotiables.
      1. Sleep (and, do not short yourself on this),
      2. The course itself: mine ran from 9 am until 1 pm every week day.
      3. Food: three meals plus snack time
      4. Daily hygiene including bio-breaks.
      5. Study time after class.
      6. Exercise.
    2. Make yourself a calendar now.  Schedule everything in your calendar and adjust it once reality sets in.  BUT, you will do yourself a huge favor if you have create a schedule and even if you never look at it again. I remember printing mine up and put it on the wall. It was like a permission slip because it taught my mind what every single day would look like AND I built in rewards.
    3.  Here is a sample schedule.
      screenshot-2016-11-27-10-09-45 screenshot-2016-11-27-10-09-55
    4.   Note that I have added THREE potential study slots. I won’t have to stick with them or use them but they also become PLAY slots IF I finish my work early.
    5. Note that I added three potential exercise or relax slots during the day.  Planning to exercise is key.  If you do not have an exercise routine, then go for walks, listen to music while you walk but do something active.
    6. If there are two things you must learn to do, it is (1) learn to comfortably sit for two to three hour slots – which is the length of the bar sessions and (2) learn how to dissipate the anxiety and stress.
    7. As for Studying, it is a non-negotiable. Don’t ask them why, just do their schedule.  Their schedules of what you study and for how many hours each day is pretty much science. If you do more, that is up to you, if you do less, you are fucking with science. And don’t think you can start studying four weeks into an eight-week program.  If you miss a day or two that is one thing, but you cannot shovel a sidewalk clean during a blizzard with a spoon. Ok, that wasn’t the best metaphor but there is a lot of material and you will need to shovel (I mean study) every day for the most part to keep up with the storm.

      2. The mental game.


The number one trick I learned about studying was visualization. I learned how to visualize myself successfully completing the exam in front of me.  I learned it early in my studies and refined it but here is what I mean. In sum, you can increase your ability to pass this exam by literally envisioning yourself as precisely as possible finishing the exam successfully. And if you practice visualizing yourself there, starting now, even before you start studying, your mind will only know what success looks like.  It has worked for me for almost thirty years. Give it a try.  I cannot hurt you.  PS. I did not invent this.  Folks including Usain Bolt use this method to visualize their success.

a) Envision your exit.

As you sit here right now, can you envision where you will walk out of when your bar exam is done? I mean specifically, can you envision the building and the street and the neighborhood where you will walk out into when your bar is done?  I could not.

I was studying for the New York bar in Philadelphia, where I went to law school.  Because I was a non-resident New Yorker, I would take the New York Bar up in Albany.  Even though I had been to Albany, I had no fucking clue where the building was or what it looked like.

So, I looked up the address and sure enough there was an image of the building up in Albany.

b) Envision what you will look like when you’re done.

The most important part of an exam is the grade but the next most important thing about an exam is finishing it successfully.  I vividly remember sitting in the Connecticut bar and I remember the woman on my side of the table – there were two people to a side with a space in the middle.  Connecticut had six thirty minute essays and they had to be written in order. The proctor would give you two essays in the first hour and then pick up the blue books after the first hour.  So you had essentially 5 minutes to plan, 25 minutes to write or so. It was like sprinting.  Well, the woman to my right put her head down after the first hour.  She did not lift her head up until our first break and did not return.  That was it for her. She was out.

So, for me, and for you, you will see yourself successfully finishing.  You will envision your face, your neck, your shoulders, your whole body looking as you would look when you successfully complete an exam. Hard to envision right?

Go to a mirror.  Stand there and look at yourself.  Now close your eyes. Do you remember a time when you successfully kicked an exams ass? You knew it when you came out of the exam right?  You were beaming, you felt great, you felt it in your gut, your throat, your face, your mind. You just knew.  Now, open your eyes in front of the mirror.  Do you see how you look now?

Is that what you look like when you feel success? If it isn’t then I want you to fake it. I want you to change your face by relaxing your brow, and your cheeks and your mouth. Relax your shoulders so they are down and take a deep breath.  Smile.  Look at yourself.  Note every single detail of how you look. That should be how YOU look when you feel successful.

That image is the image you will refine and essentially visualize in your mind.  It is not a fixed image. You can add to it and improve it.  There is only one rule: everything you visualize, down to what outfit you wear must reflect SUCCESS.  Not a single thing can be negative or doubtful.  I pictured myself in a blue turtleneck and khaki pants and sneakers.  That was my go to success outfit.

Let me know if you need help coming up with this image of yourself.

b) See yourself from the end to the present.

Here is the weird part.  I used to visualize myself first at the end of the exam and then in the middle of the exam – seeing myself kicking its ass – and even visualize myself taking a bio break in the middle of the exam and catching myself (imagining myself) in the mirror and seeing myself “kicking its ass” and then visualise myself starting the exam as the imaginary proctor said “begin” and then finally see myself waking up that day and even the night before falling asleep.

I got so good that for two weeks prior to the exam, I could do my visualization in about 5 quick minutes with my eyes closed. I picked end, middle, beginning of exam points and the night before the exam. I pictured myself falling asleep seeing myself lying there “successful.”

If you take your mind thru this visualization effort once a day, every day while you study and all you see is yourself successfully completing the exam, then so long as you study, nothing mental will get in the way of you kicking its ass.

If you would be interested in learning more about how to visualize and calm the mind to kick this exam’s ass? Email me and I will help you.

3. The essay game.

In the study materials, you will receive sample essays, and in California, you will receive sample performance test answer materials.  If you received your study materials already, look for the sample answers.  I am sure you learned IRAC.  That is only half of the battle. For some, training your mind to answer the question their way – the way the Bar graders expect you to – is hugely important.

This seems like such an easy way to study the essays and is only focused on results.  It is not focused on learning the material.  You will learn how to be a lawyer when you work as a lawyer.  Your goal now is to pass the exam.

I took each sample answer and after briefly reading the question, I wrote out, verbatim, the sample answer. I put each subject into a three ringed binder.  Writing things out for me – as opposed to typing – helped my mind absorb the materials.  Once you start studying you will find that the sample answers often analyze things a bit differently than even your teachers teach it during your bar course.  Don’t question what is in the sample answer.  I am sure you are brilliant and think you’ve found an error in the law or answer.  Chances are you did not.  Just write out the sample answer – ok type it – and organize each sample according to subject – Con law, contracts, crim, etc.

Sure it would be great for you to read the question and blindly write out your answer without looking at the sample. But why do that when you can read the question and practice writing out the correct, passing answer?

Reviewing your re-written sample answers will make a difference to how your mind gets use to simply writing out passing scores.

If you are interested in taking a free course to teach you these techniques and help you while you study, let me know.  I only have room for 20 students.

Good luck out there.


Was that ever you?

This post is about how you can stop bombing important meetings, a test and even your sports games.

More specifically, I will teach you a basic technique that changed my life in many ways and brings about overall calm.  Les Paul, the famous guitar player, once said to me, “when you are called up to stage it is already too late to practice.”  So, this post is all about practice.

Here is why this is important. Can you admit that sometimes, or maybe even often, your important meetings or events have been messed up because you panicked or were anxious?

Sure you prepared what you were going to say and knew your topic cold but still things did not go well or as well as you had hoped.  You could feel it right in the middle of your talk, your test or your meeting.  You could feel it in your body.

I know it is embarrassing and uncomfortable to discuss this topic. Even if you never hit rock bottom, you did not nail it when you were “called up to the stage.”

You’re exhausted by all the energy that you have wasted from anxiety and feelings of panic and fear. I get it.

But you’re the kind of person who wants to figure this out, even though life, parenting, work has become a bit of a logistical nightmare.  Have you ever been woken up in the middle of the night before your big day? Were you able to fall back asleep and relax?  It is ok if your answer is “sometimes yes, sometimes no.”

Panic and anxiety come from all kinds of places but you cannot talk your way out of it for good.

This post is not about the causes of panic and anxiety.  It is about how it feels. For me, it comes out in my throat which gets tight.  My chest would get tight too. I would get redfaced and even sometimes my body would shake.  These symptoms or a combination of these symptoms are common.

What I have found to be common regardless of how panic and anxiety feels is that you cannot completely talk you way out of it.

This is true, even if you have a yoga practice or have meditated because while those tools are essential for the tool box of happiness, they often do not go deep enough into the place where panic and anxiety starts.

The answer lies in your belly.  Yup.

In my first lesson on belly breathing, we are going right to the root of where panic and anxiety starts.

Let’s Get Right to it

Today’s Goal: To feel air coming in thru your nostrils (with your mouth closed) when you push out and forward your belly button. You will be exhaling through your mouth.

  • For this first lesson, I’d like you to discover a comfortable posture.
  • Please sit so that your shoulders are over your hips.
  • Place your hands on your hips with your elbows bent but keep your shoulder relaxed and out. Please your hands in a way as a young kid would when they are saying with their body “hey?!” If that image does not help, just place your hands on your hips right above the hip bones.
  • It should be a comfortable feeling.
  • Close your mouth initially and inhale gently through your nose.
  • Now gently exhale thru your mouth.

A Note About Gently: Do Not Snort or Sniffle Your Breath Into Your Nose.  Rather, Pretend you are asleep and you are taking a relaxing pre-sleep breath.

Gently breathe into your nose. Hold for a second and just note where in your body you feel your breath – is it in your nostrils coming in?

Your throat? Your chest? Any chance you feel it on the sides of your body like where you’d feel a corset?

Now, for this lesson I am sitting in a chair that has some give to it so it is easy for my lower back to arch a bit. A chair that has give – like a tilting chair – helps initially so you can use the chair to tilt your pelvis/hips using the chair.  If you are sitting in a firm chair you will need to point and roll your pelvis/hips forward.  I would like you to comfortably roll your pelvis forward and back once or twice. Don’t force your pelvis/hips forward but see if you can get them to rock a bit.


  • With your hands on your hips and your elbows out I’d like you to take a slow inhale thru your nose and at the same time roll your pelvis slowly forward like you are TRYING TO TOUCH YOUR BELLY BUTTON TO THE WALL IN FRONT OF YOU. You can use your hands on your hips to help your pelvis roll forward.
  • Can you roll your pelvis/hips forward in a way that allows your belly to come forward like it is pouring over your belt line?
  • For now, do not worry about what your exhale is like so much but exhale through your mouth when you exhale.
  • I’d like you to inhale as you roll your pelvis forward and focus on slowly trying to touch your belly button forward.

The Goal:

By learning and practicing what is “Belly Breathing,” you will teach your body a deep, calming state of being. Your body will switch to breathing in this fashion because your body and mind seek comfort. Once your body learns this state of breathing, this new way to breathe, you will start off calmer and it will form a foundation for addressing panic. Once you do this for 21 days or so, you will have taught your body how to restore itself, and you to calm.