GUEST BLOG BY Gregory Rutchik,
Attorney at Law
Years ago, about this exact time, I was studying for my first bar exam, the New York Bar.
I remember feeling anxious and thinking “how on earth am I going to study twenty-two subjects (yes, that is what the syllabus said at the time) for the New York Bar”?! My BARBRI course hadn’t even started and I was already having 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 well on law school exams, I knew that “the bar” was a different animal. At least that was my feeling at the time.
This feeling is familiar to many and some find it embarrassing to admit. I wish someone who had been there before would have taken my hand and walked me through the process. You know, like the runners who partner with newbies running their first marathon.
First and foremost, I trusted the BARBRI program. BARBRI does an incredible job. There is no need to waste time and energy asking them why. They have tested it. You signed up presumably on the referral of someone who used them to pass. If that is not the case, you are hearing it from me now. They know their stuff. If you follow the BARBRI course, you will be prepared.
Once I accepted that I could trust the BARBRI Bar Review course, I stopped asking why. I stopped asking about things that a classmate or I found in the practice answers that I thought were wrong or irrelevant. I stopped asking questions about whether I should do more than the assigned MBE questions 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 BARBRI. The answer is, if you do what they assign, it is NOT necessary. Do you hear me? I trusted the program and so should you. It works. I am living proof as I passed three bars by trusting BARBRI and I am just a normal person.
What I did additionally, and repeated throughout my entire bar preparation, made all the difference in the world for me and I’d like to share that with you. I repeated these techniques again four years later when I studied and passed the California Bar.
I call these techniques my three steps to success and my key to passing the New York, Connecticut and California Bar Exams without a problem.
1.) I made my bar prep period all about me
I knew by that point that I felt best every day when I exercised to sweat. If that is not the case for you, then identify what does make you feel good every day. Schedule it in.
Back then, I was a treadmill runner. I could picture myself running on the treadmill in the morning after my first cup of coffee before every single BARBRI lecture just to get my blood flowing. I would run again at night – with flash cards and notes once I got into the studying. 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.
My personal non-negotiables included exercise, making and eating healthy dinners and break times. I scheduled my study time around these items and included rewards such as break time with friends or “TV zone out time” so I could look forward to those rewards once I hit my study goal. It is a long race so build stamina and restore.
2.) I developed the right mind set
I remember meeting panicky classmates in law school and I am a high-energy person myself. This bar prep period of time is 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 I had to protect 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. Listen to your inner self. Be responsible for your own positive thoughts and calm.
One way that I achieved the right mind-set was through visualization techniques. I worked every day on seeing myself successfully finishing the bar. I know it sounds silly but it works. Watch an Olympian before an important race. Swimmers are a great example as they will stand with their eyes closed and move their bodies as if they are swimming the race. Winners of races visualize for weeks prior to a race – they visualize each important part and the end. It has worked for me for decades and it worked with the bar.
3.) I chose joy
As a little boy, my father let me carry his trial briefcase. In my other hand, I used to pull a luggage cart with his trial binders. I became a lawyer because I witnessed my dad helping people achieve their goals and 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 and pure 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 who study hard, eat well, play hard and kick the bar’s you know what and do it with a smile. That was me. And it can be you too!
ABOUT GREGORY RUTCHIK
Gregory passed the New York, Connecticut and California Bar Exams – each the first time. He also waived into DC on his MBE results. Gregory is a proud BARBRI Alum. He is a 1992-1993 Fulbright Fellow at the University of Tokyo, a 1992 graduate of Temple University School of Law and 2005 LL.M. 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 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.