Do you have a five-year plan? A one-year plan?

In Chapter 2 of PASS The Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals, I wrote about developing your Plan for Success.  That plan for success, I said, starts with looking at the timeline of what must happen between where you are now and your goal in order to achieve what you desire.

I wrote about how to get the most out of every step on your way to achieving your goal –sorting out what is critical and what may be distracting.  The choices you make along the way can make achieving your goal much easier or much more difficult.

Then, after looking at that big-picture timeline, I recommend drilling down and looking at two months prior to achieving your goal, and taking a week-by-week snapshot. Often times where people get derailed or give up is just prior to achieving success.  Those last few weeks are critical.


A mentor of mine once suggested that at all times, one should have a one-year plan (with one or more goals), and a five-year plan.  I have taken this advice to heart myself and talked with many of my students about the same.

As a college student, law student or graduate student, it’s fairly easy to develop these plans around your curriculum while you are in school.  At the beginning of school, when you start in your first year, your longer term plan may be to graduate from the program of study doing your very best. But, do you stop and look at each year, one year at a time?

If not, I urge you to give it a try.  What do you want to accomplish each year of school?  (If you are having difficulties setting these goals, picture yourself one year from now talking with someone who asks you how last year when and what you accomplished.  What will make you happy to look back on and describe for that person?)  Do you want to be able to say:

  • You got good grades,
  • You were accepted for a certain internship,
  • You volunteered for a cause you believe in,
  • You networked (made lifelong friends with classmates, got to know professors, met professionals in the field you intend to pursue).

Then, consider a five-year plan.  Where would you like to be working?  What work environment would you like to be in?  What would you like your personal life to be like?  Do you have health or fitness goals?  Do you have community service goals?

A well-known driving safety tip is to keep your eye both on the immediate road ahead and at the same time on what is in the distance and surroundings ahead.  The same principle applies in goal-setting and achieving success.  Focus on today.  Knock off as much as you can on today’s To Do list.  But develop both a one-year and a five-year plan.  Even if they change radically (which is fine as unforeseen opportunities may come into your path at any moment!) it will still help you steer the vehicle that is you safely and successfully toward your destination.


Good Luck on this Week’s Bar Exam!!!

The following is an excerpt from Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals.

You may not feel it, but you are ready.

“Come to the edge,” He said. They said, “We are afraid.” “Come to the edge,” He said. They came. He pushed them…and they flew.” –Guillaume Apollinaire

The exam is your time to push off that edge and fly, to soar to success. Keep in mind not just the fears you may feel when you’re poised to jump, but the excitement and empowerment that comes with meeting the challenge. You are close to that edge now. You are ready to go. Sure it’s scary. It’s supposed to be. But you are ready. You can fly.

Some things to remember when you go in. The fact patterns that will be placed before you are all stories. They may be about contractual agreements entered into and broken, marriages fallen apart with assets left to be divided, crimes of passion. Read them like puzzles, every fact is there on the paper for you. Let it be interesting!

Think of yourself as walking through the ultimate cocktail party where each cluster of people tells you stories and problems.  (Have you ever thought about the bar exam as a “cocktail party?” I know there is an alcohol pun there. Unintended. What is intended is something I have been reiterating from page one. You can view this experience as “punishment” if you so choose or you can see it as a welcome challenge. You can grow and learn from every aspect of preparation and performance.)

For each person at the cocktail party, you have advice –good, solid, sound, and rationally reasoned answers!   In your mind are rules that help unravel how each of those stories can play out. If they might well go one way or another, say that. (“Defendant will argue; plaintiff will argue; and the likely conclusion will be….”)

Read your exam questions, your “bar stories,” and feel the incredible power that comes with knowing you can do that unraveling. You can and will pick each fact pattern apart and put it back together in a logical way that answers the questions asked.

Take in and appreciate that feeling of richness that comes from having this many rules at your command. It’s like being ready to run a marathon knowing that all your muscles are strong. The intellectual flab has melted away these past two months, through the long hours of mental work out.

There are few if any times in your life when you will have this many rules in this many subjects, memorized, at your fingertips, and ready to go. Enjoy this.  Appreciate yourself and how hard you worked to get to this place.  In daily work as a lawyer, one may almost always look up information.   Here, all the rules you need will be packed into your memory –in a usable place, ready to be called upon.

Appreciate how strong your wings are. When Day One of your bar exam approaches, push off despite the fears. Push off with as much confidence as can muster. You are ready.


If you cannot “study” any more, but cannot relax and are looking for something productive to do in the last hours before the marathon begins, read on….

A Walk through your bar days.

The famous race car driver Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet. Your “opportunity” comes when you walk into that exam room and stays with you until the last “time” is called. When you start your engines, be ready to succeed!

Exercise: Notes to yourself for bar days

Alright, let’s say it’s Tuesday, Day #1 of your bar exam. What is your POA (plan of action) this morning? You have your timing down, you have your approaches and your systems for reading and answering the types of questions that will appear on this session. What do you want to remember before going in to your first segment of your exam: ________________________________________________________________________



What will lunch look like? Who do you want to lunch with? What will you try to eat?




What about the afternoon session? What might appear here? What would you want to look at or listen to at lunch to get you pumped up for the afternoon?




Have a great dinner. Do not experiment with any foods that might make you ill. Do not drink excessively. And remember, no matter how you think you did, the first day is over. (I always think of the Cat Steven’s song, “Tuesday’s Dead,” on Tuesday evenings of the bar exam. Bar exams often start on Tuesdays.) It’s all about the future now. Do not look back. Do not second guess yourself or allow in any doubts. I have seen far too many students fail because of a perceived “defeat” early on that they carried into later session. Let go of whatever is done and do your very best on each and every minute of what follows, until the last time is called. Success on this exam is not about perfection. It’s a pass/ fail test. This is your Olympics; but in this competition, winning the bronze is every bit as good as gold.


What will you do this evening?





Now Day #2. Wednesday, MBE day. What do you want to do this morning? (Look over your one sheets for MBE subjects, do a few MBEs as warm ups over breakfast?________________________________________________________________________




Day #2 Lunch?




Afternoon? 100 more questions.




Day #2 Dinner?




Day 3, if you have one on your bar (truly the home stretch)

What will the morning of Day #3 look like? What do you want to remind yourself?





Day #3 Lunch?




Day #3 Afternoon? The very last lap. Keep that energy high. Just being fully awake and focused will give you a great edge because others around will be dragging. What do you want to tell yourself going in?




CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!   YOU DID IT!!!  After the bar, maybe head to a bar, one that that serves drinks! Or go to a nice dinner? Or sleep? Or….




NOTE: The excerpt above is from Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals and may not be reproduced without the author and publisher’s permission.


Pass the July Bar Exam. Take a study break today and read your state bar’s exam-related rules.

Every bar exam study season I get last minute questions such as:  Can I bring highlighters and post-it notes into the exam?  How do I certify my laptop?  A pillow?

I remind students that it is critical to study (not just glance through but carefully study) all the rules and regulations about what you need on exam day including admission ticket and identification, what you may and may not bring in, and how to certify your laptop, etc.  Also, know what you must do and what the deadlines are for uploading your answers after your bar exam.

Learn everything you need to know for your bar exam.  Some steps must be taken in advance, so this is a good weekend to re-read all the instructions, well in advance of bar exam days. See today’s post

The bar exam is already difficult enough.  Why have any problems on the exam that can be prevented?  Be proactive.  Read and know all the rules!

Top Three Takeaways from Bar Exam Essay Practice

When studying sample answers, after completing closed book practice tests under timed conditions, focus on how to improve.  Don’t be too critical of yourself.  Remember, you did a great job by digging in and working the practice test!  The key is in the learning you do from the practice work, though.  So, at a minimum, focus on at least these three points:

  1. Did I miss any major issues?
  2. Did I write any rules incorrectly or incompletely?
  3. Was my organization clear and logical, with headings and subheadings to show the grader my logic?

1. If you missed issues, go back to the fact pattern and see which facts triggered the missed issue(s).

2. If you missed rules, go back to your outlines and study them.  Make flash cards.  And, learn any concepts you missed not just because you didn’t have it memorized but because you truly don’t understand the rule.

3. As to organization, go into the model or sample answers, and highlight where the Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusions are stated. Compare to your own answer.  And adjust your organization to be as clear and logical as the sample passing answers.

Bottom line, keep practicing.  Keep up the hard work! Slow and steady wins the bar exam race!

Watching my students begin bar review brings back memories –believe it or not, good memories!

Why?  Bar review does not have to be the nightmare or hazing ritual so many think of it as.  It can be one of the most empowering experiences ever, if you approach it that way and keep your attitude positive.

You CAN learn everything you need to know.  You would not have graduated law school if you weren’t ready to do this.  There is nothing that is above you or too complicated for you to grasp, if you work hard enough. You will be surprised how many concepts that may have been confusing in law school now become clear. That is exciting.  It feels great to master rules that once confused you.

There are many reasons why bar review makes concepts clearer, including:

1) Bar review lecturers try to make rules clearer.  Their objective is not to “hide the ball.”

2) You see the immediate application of rules in the practice exam questions you are completing each day.  Your mind is ready and eager to absorb the concepts.  This is not about some far off “maybe you’ll need this one day.”  This learning is part of the toolbox that you need to go in and ace the bar exam this July!

3) Most concepts are easier to grasp once you have been exposed to them.  This is Bar Review not Bar Learning.

So, stay confident and optimistic!  To the extent you can, enjoy this opportunity to review. Study hard enough and seriously enough to feel like not only do you understand all the rules but you could explain them yourself to a lay person.  When you can clearly and easily explain a concept to someone with no legal background, that is when you know it’s crystal clear –or at least clear enough to walk in and PASS the Bar Exam!

Stay strong, eat well and a get a good night’s sleep every night, and let you mind be a sponge.  Bar review can feel a bit like a picture finally coming into focus after having been blurry for years. This summer is about clarity, and mastery; that is exciting.  It is empowering. And, I hope it may even be, dare I say, at least a little bit fun!

Good Luck Starting Bar Review!

Here is the talk I gave my students yesterday when they began bar review:

You are competing in the July 2015 Olympic Games, your Olympic Games.  You qualified to compete. We watched you, this Saturday at Graduation.  You proved yourselves these past three or four years.

Now, what do Olympians in training need after qualifying?

1) The ability, which you have!

2) A great coach, and we and your bar review are here for you.  And,

3) Time focused on hard work. Hard work —every day, sweating, falling down and getting hurt but getting back up and trying again, every day all day until game time.

This is your two months. It is all about you.  You have everything you need.  Now bring it.

Bring your grit, your commitment, your stubborn need to learn as much as you can and get as competent as possible in taking Essays, MBEs and PTs. Those are the three events you are competing in!  Just as the athlete in your shoes is now ready to give it her all, you too must give this your all.

You must need to pass.  Don’t just want it. Don’t just try. Need this. Hunger for it. Push for it. Do everything in your power to make it happen.

You qualified to compete. We are your coaches. We are here for you.

Now take a moment and picture yourself at the Swearing In ceremony after you pass the exam. That is our Medal Ceremony. Imagine yourself raising your right hand and taking the attorney’s oath.

Keep that image concrete in your mind, then stop your mind from thinking about what is next. Just get licensed.  Have that power tool in your arsenal. Then, decide what to do with it later. If you have a job, great; don’t think about it. If you don’t have a job, don’t think about it, and certainly don’t worry about it until August.  Everything is on hold until August. Whatever you decide to do, you will be better served because of the effort you put in now.

Everything is about, this summer.  Get as much as you can out of every minute of every lecture; read, study, and practice, practice, practice.  

Remember, you CAN do this!  You can pass this bar exam!!!

Seven Suggestions to Avoid Study Burnout

Note: This post is relevant to everyone studying. Whether you are in high school, college, law school or any other graduate study, if you are giving it your all, you will burn out from time to time. Here’s how to re-charge!  

You are perfectly normal if you are thinking, “Not another day of this stuff!  I cannot handle any more studying.  Not another lecture, paper, or practice test.  I need to sleep.  I need a day off.  I need my life back!” You will have your life back when exams are over.  But, for now, “Another day of this” is precisely what you must do. Another, and another, and another –all in  high gear.  You must remain totally motivated, batteries fully charged, util the last “time” is called on the last day of your last exam.  For the upcoming bar exam, that is a full month away still.  So you have lots of time.  But you must make the most of it.

How to re-charge?  How does one maintain that kind of persistent motivation?   It’s not easy.  I remember the first week of July when one of my classmates said, “Just bring it on already.  I am so [expletive] sick of studying.  I just want the test now.  I’m tired.”  I have to confess at the time I felt so un-ready for the Exam that I could not relate at all.  I wanted every single day that remained to practice.  I wanted every minute to get ready.  I was happy to wait.  But, I can relate now.  Thousands of students later, I see how some people have just had it even by this time.  Others want even more time to pull it all together.  (They wish the exam were two more months later.) Wherever you fall on this spectrum, give yourself a break if you are feeling stressed and burned out. Stress and burnout are normal

Bottom line, you have no choice.  You are taking this exam at the end of this month, are you better believe with all your heart, soul, and might that you going to pass!  Done deal.  No options.  (To quote Apollo 13: “Failure is not an option.”)

What will you do on actual bar exam days?  You will go in and do your very best. That is what you owe yourself.  That is what must be done.  So, how do you get through from now until then?

Here are 7 Tips to Prevent Bar Exam Burnout:

1) Exercise. 

Most people are stressed, quite normally so.  The best way to burn off the excess stress is to burn it out, with exercise.

Do something active every single day.  Walking, yoga, biking, swimming, weight lifting, jogging, spinning, skating.  Whatever you do, don’t skip a day.  You must think of time exercising as an investment in your own success.  It is never a waste of time.  (If you simply cannot justify taking “time off” to exercise, then study while you are on a treadmill, or walk while playing a bar review lecture in headphones (or listening to a recording of yourself reading rule statements, see below.)

2) Pace yourself. 

Take breaks.  Remember even during the bar, you get close to a 2 hour lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions.  So, feel free to take long lunches now, each day.  Stop fully and relax.  Then get back into it.  And, when you’ve put in a full day of studying, take off at night to relax before you get a good night’s sleep.  And, make sure to get a good night’s sleep, each and every night.

3) Reward Yourself –daily and weekly.

Give yourself some daily reward.  At the end of each evening, do something before you go to sleep that acknowledges a hard day’s work.  (For some, that’s a mindless TV show.  For others, a glass of wine.  For others, a few minutes on social media.) And, give yourself a bigger treat to mark the end of each week of hard work.  Every Sunday night, for example, go out to a really nice dinner, or watch a movie.

4) Plan (and book) an after-bar vacation.  For those in college or graduate school, plan something fun for Spring break and summer!

Schedule something as soon as possible after the exam, something you really look forward to.  Just thinking about that and knowing that you have something definite in August will help alleviate some of the burnout today.  It can also be a great way to reward family and a significant other for letting you have time and space to study this June and July.

5) Shake up your study routine.

If you are tired of reading quietly, read aloud to yourself.  One of my students found the way to keep motivated (and better retain the material) was to read aloud in a funny accent and record her voice reading rules.  She played them back to herself  while driving and laughed while learning.

Try charting, try flashcards, try re-typing sample answers.

Study in a different location one day.  Explain the rules/theories you are most afraid will be tested on the bar exam to a lay person.  (If you can explain something correctly to someone else, likely that means you have mastered it.)

Variety can go a long way to helping stop burnout before it drags you down.

6) Get comfortable with “practice test days.”

Practice days are critical.  They will help you train the skills to pass.  And, if your practice work has simulated the intensity of the real thing, you will be able to walk in to the actual exam with power and strength.  You will have a  ”been there, done that” attitude and confidence.

7) Above all, be kind to yourself.

This IS one of the hardest times in your life, one of the steepest mountains you will ever have to climb.  The good news is, once you get through, it’s a lifetime license.  You never have to do it again.  Just pay your yearly dues and remain ethical, and you’ll keep your license for life.

PS. Be sure to eat lots of chocolate, and ice cream!  It won’t add brain cells, but it should put a smile on your face!!!!!