The Bar Exam Mind – Day 1

by thedesertion

This weekend, my best law school friend came to visit me. She lives in the Desert, but in a different city. We spent time talking about my bar exam failure, what I did wrong, what I should do differently, and so forth. One of the major possible reasons for failure was my inability to manage my anxiety and stress.

My friend gave me two books that she felt were very instrumental in managing anxiety and stress. One is called Bar Exam Mind: A Strategy Guide for an Anxiety-Free Bar Exam by Matt Racine, and the other is called Daily Reflections for Bar Exam Study: An Inspirational Companion for Law Students and Experienced Attorneys Taking the Bar by M.G. Groepler.

I started out with Bar Exam Mind because it seemed like it would help get my mind in the right place so that I could be off to a healthy start with my studies. The book has a 21- day program to create a “mind capable of calmly and efficiently preparing for and succeeding on the bar exam.” This sounded like something I needed to get started on right away.

The first chapter in the book discusses two methods to rid oneself of bar exam-related fears and anxiety so that these two things won’t impede studying. The goal is to acknowledge these anxieties and fears and to put them to rest.

And now for today’s exercise in the 21-day program to achieving a Bar Exam Mind.

Method one: Stoic Method

Step 1 – Visualize all of the worst case scenarios and feared consequences of failing the bar exam (again, in my case).

  • My family will think I’m a loser.
  • My sisters will laugh at me and think that they are better off than me in all areas of life.
  • My husband will think I’m just a trophy wife.
  • My non-law school friends will think I’m a loser. They never really even saw me making it through law school anyway.
  • My law school friends will talk behind my back, but act with sympathy to my face.
  • My law school friends and other colleagues will think I did poorly in law school.
  • Everyone that finds out I failed the bar exam will think that I am unintelligent, lazy, and undisciplined.
  • I’m going to be stuck with some crappy job at some unthinkably low hourly rate.
  • Said crappy job will not even be law-related, so the three years I busted ass in law school was just a colossal waste of money and time.
  • Sorry, Sallie, don’t have any money for you.
  • I will have to move somewhere else because I can’t pass the exam here. I don’t want to live anywhere else, I want to live here.  Unless that somewhere else is San Francisco. Which means I would have to take the bar again. Which I am not willing to do. So failing again can’t happen, because leaving isn’t a really good option.
  • I’ll probably have to take the test a THIRD TIME. If that happens, I’d rather get eaten alive by sharks. Because if I have to take this exam a third time, all of the above fears will intensify by 1,000. I’ll freak out and have a nervous breakdown.

Now, contemplate all of these fears and visualize each of them actually happening. Great, this book wants me to have an anxiety attack and nervous breakdown.

Step 2 – Determine all the things I can do to minimize the concerns on this list from coming to pass.

  • Tell my family what the bar exam is really like and how difficult it was the first time around. Tell them the pass rate, so that they see that not everyone, and not even “most” bar sitters passed.
  • I don’t really have a lot of communication with my sisters, so what they hear about the bar exam, they’ll have to hear from my parents. I have to come to terms that my sisters will think whatever they want, but they are in some pretty awful situations that they brought upon themselves. I may have failed the bar, but at least I have the wherewithal not to get myself into the problems they face. To each her own.
  • My husband has seen how hard I studied the first time around. I will talk to him about this fear of being a trophy wife and hope that he sees me as his equal.
  • My non-law school friends generally do not know about my first failure, and I see no reason to share it with them. We live very far away from each other and we’re not up on the details of each others’ lives right now. They have their own issues to occupy them. One is pregnant with her first child and the other one is struggling in her relationships with her family and husband. I am pretty sure they don’t care that I failed the bar. My other girlfriends are kind of just doing their own thing. Just as I’m not up in their business 24/7, they aren’t all up in mine. I might be able to sidestep discussing the topic of my first bar failure by just simply stating that I am taking it now. They won’t know whether this is the first or second attempt. I know this isn’t a head-on approach to dealing with the topic of failure so I should probably come up with something better. So, I’ll probably give them the same run- down I’m going to give my family.
  • I have already seen some of my law school friends in person since the bar. They all acted with some level of sympathy, and all offered some good suggestions as to what I can do to improve. The conversations did not surround sympathy, but were more focused on strategy and techniques for improving studying, test taking skills, and managing anxiety and stress. I have never talked poorly about a friend failing the bar, so I just have to hope that the company I keep is a reflection of myself. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be friends in the first place.
  • While I did not graduate with honors, I was never on the brink of academic defeat. All my law school friends know I was on law review, student bar association, and a number of other active club memberships that showed my dedication to my school and studies. While my class rank is not public information, I just don’t think there is anything I can do to stop other people from thinking that I may have been a poor student. I am starting to realize that this may be a silly fear.
  • I am not unintelligent, lazy, and undisciplined. I was disciplined enough to study and score high enough to earn a passing score in a few jurisdictions. I just didn’t make this jurisdiction. To show the world, and more importantly, myself, that I am not unintelligent, lazy, and undisciplined, I will become licensed in one of those other jurisdictions. And I will sit for the bar exam again in this jurisdiction, and do the best that I can to pass it.
  • Get in touch with law school friends and other law colleagues and let them know I’m looking for work. Also, I can start drafting that business plan for that business I have been dreaming about starting. At least I will know enough about corporations at that point to form my own business entity.
  • My husband makes enough money that I don’t need to settle for a non-law related job. I can take the time and put the energy into finding a job in an area of law that I actually like. He has even told me not to settle for a job I don’t want. I am lucky to have that luxury.
  • I already got Sallie to back off. I applied for income-based loan repayment and was approved. My loan is now at a very manageable monthly payment. I won’t even have to give up getting a monthly manicure and pedicure.
  • Under no circumstances will I take the bar exam a third time. Twice is plenty. I won’t take it a third time because it is not necessary. Either one or both of these things will actualize – I will pass the bar exam in this jurisdiction, or I will already have my license in another jurisdiction where my score qualified for passing. Either way, I will have a license so there is no reason to bother taking a third time. This second time is just to see if I can get those couple more points. If I do, great! If not, no big deal, I’ve already got myself covered. And I won’t have to move away to another state. No need to have a nervous breakdown.

Step 3 – Come up with a resolution chart listing all of the steps you would take to recover if any one of these awful things did actualize.

  • Failing the bar and having to move to another state – move forward with that license in another jurisdiction. Do not take the bar exam again. That license should be good for some types of law practice right here in this state.
  • Not getting a law-related job – get started on that business plan and become the business owner I have always wanted to be, ask law school friends to help me find a law-related job, or maybe take the time to start a family.
  • Ridicule from friends and family – distance myself from my family, and get new all new friends.
  • Not having any money –  move forward with starting my own business, have friends help me get a law-related job, have a yard sale, get back into extreme couponing, apply for food stamps if the circumstances require it.
  • Having a nervous breakdown – become proactive about mental health now, write about my thoughts, talk to a counselor or a therapist, exercise, eat well, spend some time each day in meditation and prayer.

I’m glad I wrote this. I will have to revisit it and add to it as I see fit. I will read it over and over again to acknowledge my fears and realize that I can proactively prevent them from actualizing. I am leaving this post feeling quite shaken up.