Practice Essay and Performance Test Writing: dig in now, no delays!

Fit a full performance test (“PT”), under timed conditions, into your study schedule today.  Hopefully this entire you have already begun writing bar exam essays in full.  If not, start today!

Many people ask me if it’s ok to just memorize rules now, and wait to write out in full.  No.  Write.  Practice writing.  The time is now!

There is no way to master bar exam essays and PTs without practicing them. As I told my class yesterday, if we decided to spend the next month in an intensive tennis workshop and what we did were to take every class session to read tennis books and watch tennis videos without ever hitting the court, we would not learn to play tennis.  Even if we watched and read for 15 hours a day for 30 days, we would not have trained our muscles or reflexes.

Likewise, to learn to write effective bar exam essay and performance test answers, you must put the book learning into practice.  It’s often ok to write open book in June (not looking at answers but simply looking up a rule if you need to) so long as by July you are regularly writing practice exams closed book. The point is now to get started.  Dig in, and go!


You have heard of Anticipatory Repudiation. Have you ever heard of Anticipatory Excuses to Fail??

Too many people set themselves up for failure.  They take measures to “build in” excuses “just in case” they fail.  (I call them “anticipatory excuses” –what you will say if you fail.)

Some people create anticipatory excuses unconsciously; others do it quite intentionally.  You know what I am talking about:

“If I fail, it’s because I had to take off time to go to that wedding.”  Or,

“If I fail, it’s because I didn’t write enough practice tests.”

No!  Do not make excuses; do not build in excuses.  Ban excuses from your vocabulary and your mind.  Do not let them in, period.

Do everything in your power to pass, and believe you will pass.  If next fall you learn you did not pass, address that then and plan to pass the next  bar exam.  For now, keep it all about passing.

  • If you have social plans this or next month, cancel them.  (Remember the words, “Let’s plan that for August.”  Or, “We’ll do that for sure, in August.”  Or, “I’m in.  What day in August?  I’ll put it in my phone right now.”)
  • If you are not on schedule with your bar review, get on schedule. Catch up.  We are still 6 weeks away from the bar exam.  There is still time now to get back on track.  But, in another few weeks, it will be too late; you will not be able to get back on target if you are too far behind.  So, no excuses.  Get rolling!  Right now.
  • If you are too tired to study well, sleep more.  You must be on and efficient for a long time.  That requires rest, and focus.  Keep you eyes on your goal.  And, get in shape to succeed.  (Eat well, sleep enough, and exercise.)
  • If you don’t understand real property (or any other subject), get a good outline or hornbook, ask a professor for help, grapple with the law and learn what you need to know.  Don’t think for a second you can’t learn it and hope it won’t be tested.
  • If you have friends who are texting you or posting things you “must” read on social media, cut yourself off.  Take a social media break until August.  Remember that these same people will likely be running to ask you for legal advice when you pass the bar exam.  But it will be your life, not theirs, negatively affected if you fail this bar exam.

If you are truly not able to do what it takes to pass the July bar exam, face the music and postpone until February.  There is no shame in delaying. But if you decide to take the exam, be honest with yourself now, while there is still time to get and stay on track.


Preparing for your Bar Exam? Watch your language and keep it positive!

The great basketball player Michael Jordan apparently once said, “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”  How do you think of yourself? How do you talk to yourself?

You must ask the right questions in order to get the right answers. You must think of yourself and speak of yourself as someone who can and will succeed. (If you feel you cannot honestly speak positively, because you truly doubt that you will achieve, talk with someone and do everything in your power to dismantle the self doubts. Law students, make an appointment with your ASP faculty and talk over your doubts.)

Changing the tone and content of your own inner dialogue (something that is totally within your control) can empower you in your quest to achieve your goals, and propel you toward success. Consider the following examples:

Thought: Why can’t I get a higher score on these practice tests?  Re-phrase: How can I improve these practice exams and do better next time?

Thought: This material [for law students perhaps easements and covenants; for high school or college students perhaps physics, statistics] is so difficult. I’ll never understand it.  Re-phrase: Maybe I need to re-read the material a couple of times before I get this. Or, maybe I need to find a different explanation of the concept, one that makes more sense to me. But, I will get it eventually. (Be patient and kind with yourself. We live in an age of instant gratification, but difficult concepts are not always graspable on your first read or the first time you hear a professor introduce the topic. Something you must puzzle over something for many long hours to really get it.  That is normal!  Do not get frustrated. Be stubborn and stick with it, all the while believing the answer will come.)

Thought: I’ll never be able to sit and focus for three days. I can’t go ten minutes without checking my phone. Re-phrase: I have a challenge before me to build the endurance to focus for the entire length of my bar exam. I will have to wean myself from all my distractions, including this phone.  I’ll do it a little bit each day. In two weeks, I should be able to focus for at least two hours in a row and in four weeks for four hours straight. I will train then in four hour blocks going forward so that I am ready to perform for the three-hour blocks that I must be on and focused for during the bar exam.

Thought: There is no way I can write an answer that is as good or detailed as the model answers. I can barely re-type a model answer in the time allotted.  Re-phrase: I am studying sample answers and model answers to learn from them. I am not taking the bar exam tomorrow. I have time to absorb this way of thinking and writing. The more I read these and study how someone got this answer from this fact pattern, the easier it will be for me to write this much detailed analysis in this organized a manner within the allotted time. Whether I feel it or not, I know that with each practice test I do I get stronger. My issue spotting gets better, my rule statements become more precise. I am increasing my speed and my accuracy as I practice. I just have to keep going. I can do this.

Adapted from Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals 

Bar Review in Full Force: Get ready to PASS the July 2015 Bar Exam!

Lectured last week in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia; this week in California.  Great students in great locations!  A real honor to spend time with such amazing people.  It also is something extraordinary to walk into rooms filled with so much nervous energy, to be in the company of hard-working and dedicated law school graduates getting ready for success on the July 2015 Bar Exam.

The best part is watching people’s eyes light up when we practice performance tests and essay questions and they realize that the bar exam is challenging but wholly doable, when they feel empowered to know that they can prevail.

If you are studying for the July Bar Exam, hang in.  It’s a long couple of months.  Proceed (and do your best) one day at a time. Work hard, but do not judge yourself harshly.  It’s all about incremental improvement.  For every practice question you complete, just ask yourself how you could have improved.

Soon, very soon, you will learn that you passed the test and you will obtain a license that is truly an opportunity, a privilege, a tool with which you can better the lives of so many.

Keep at this, and stay positive.  It is worth all the hard work you are now putting in!


Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals

Clearing Clutter to Make Space to Achieve your True Goals

Meeting with students now who are taking the July Bar Exam to help them see what will be critical over the next few months, and what can be put aside or postponed until August.

We can only focus on so many things at once.  When there is too much going on, nothing gets done at the level it must for success on the big things, such as the bar exam.

So, now is the time to look hard at what you must do and what you can put aside.