5 Self-Help Tips … Before You Have That Dreaded Bar Prep Meltdown

GUEST BLOG by Sara Valentine, Graduate of Capital University Law School

Stay calm! We got this.

We’re approaching that notorious time in bar prep, when all of your lawyer friends say, “Oh, I had a meltdown, you’ll have one, too. It’ll be fine.”

… PARDON ME?

This is probably true. We’re close to July and that’s supposedly when the meltdown happens (although, let’s be real, who hasn’t already had some bad days? I’m looking at you, Commercial Paper).

I want to help give you the proper tools so that when the time comes (or doesn’t, if you’re lucky and are staying calm throughout this whole process — go you!), you know what to do.

This week, we’ll focus on mental health and the importance of staying calm, cool and collected.

1) GET SOME REST

I get it. We’re all stressed out and feel as if we’re not doing enough when we’re not studying. However, getting good sleep is so important. You’re not going to be able to focus throughout your bar prep if you’re not getting good sleep. Make sure that you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep per night. It may seem unreasonable, but it’s going to make the difference.

2) MEDITATE

Patrick is on to something, okay? I struggle with anxiety and I cannot begin to tell y’all how much meditating has helped me throughout law school and certainly throughout bar prep. Taking a few minutes a day to calm your mind and give yourself some time to process and ~chill~ can lower your stress and help you feel more prepared. I enjoy using Headspace (find it here), but there are also plenty of free guided meditations that you can find on YouTube. Reach out to me if you want to talk more about it.

3) GO OUTSIDE

This is cliché, I know. So many people have told me to just go outside and take some time away from my studies and I’ll feel better … they were right. After sitting inside all day and staring at my computer screen and books, I get lethargic! I’ve started to take some time in the evenings to walk around a local park and it has done wonders for my stress (also, an added benefit, petting doggos!). Granted, there are times when I take my study aids with me, but that’s okay. If you can get some time outside and away from time in front of your screen, you’ll be much better off.

4) COLOR

Taking some time out of your day to color has been proven to reduce anxiety levels. Yes, it may seem juvenile and, yes, you may think that it’s a waste of time but trust me. Focusing on coloring inside of the lines as opposed to whether you can introduce character evidence is helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. Next time that you want to treat yourself, pick up a coloring book.

5) SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS

I know that your friends and family can be stressful sometimes, especially if they don’t understand the gravitas of what you’re going through. You need to give them the chance to help. Your friends and family love you. Although they may not quite understand the magnitude of what the bar exam entails, they do know that you’re stressed and you’re going through a lot. They want to help! How are they going to be able to help you if you don’t tell them how?

The perfect time to reach out to your support network is when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. They’ll be able to get your mind off things and even make you laugh (what’s that?). Not to mention, they may even offer to help you do things that you need assistance with, but didn’t want to ask — maybe they’ll offer to cook you a few meals, or maybe they’ll offer to do your laundry for you or clean your place. We know how much time these chores can take away from studying.

If you give your friends and family a chance to help, I’m sure that they will. Spending time with them and away from your studies will help you calm down, recharge and get to a good headspace so that you’ll be at your best when you’re studying. Rely on your support group and stay calm. We’ll be able to #PassTheBar.

Bar Prep Assigned Essays: Don’t Miss Easy Ways to Pick Up Points

Practice Essays

GUEST BLOG by Sara Valentine, Graduate of Capital University Law School

Assigned Essays for Grading, Anyone?

How many weeks are we in now? What day is it? Should I wear a hoodie or shirt today? Tbh, I’m at the point where I don’t know what day it is, but I can rattle off the Criminal Law distinctions in Ohio. Isn’t that what’s important?

LET’S TALK ABOUT ESSAYS

Y’all, I cannot tell you how thankful I am that BARBRI spends so much time working with us on essays. Not only did we start out at the beginning of the bar prep course with an in-depth “how-to” on writing essays, but now we have completed numerous assigned essays and should be getting the hang of what to do, right?

Okay, so maybe we don’t have perfect bar exam essays at this point, but we’re not aiming for perfection. If your essays aren’t perfect, BARBRI will help.

This past week, I had the opportunity to submit a an essay and receive personalized feedback from BARBRI essay experts.

WHAT YOU CAN DO BETTER

The more that you practice writing bar exam essays, the better that you are going to be at them. Obvi.

But, what are we actually getting out of the essay sample answer in the book? Maybe a lot, maybe a little. But I can think of a few times when I may have read them a little too quickly and didn’t put in as much effort in reviewing what I could have done better on the essays (the days are long, okay? Let me live).

So, that’s why I was absolutely thrilled to see the opportunity to write out and submit essays to BARBRI.

Our first essay was an open book essay. What? Why? How does that help!?

Let me tell you: the first essay that you submit should not be about what you can recall in terms of a rule statement. It should be about how you craft your essay and how you can improve. You can’t assess how good you are at crafting essays if you’re hindered because of a bad rule statement or unfamiliarity with the rules.

Okay, picture it, (Sicily, 1922 … if you get this reference, then we’re friends) … I’m sitting here, with an open book and my rule statements ready to go. I craft a great essay, in my opinion. I submit it. The turnaround time is less than 24 hours. Turns out, I had some work to do. I had missed some easy ways to pick up some easy points. Here’s the thing: it’s not that I didn’t know the applicable facts to the essay, it’s just that I didn’t think that they were necessary to include.

MINOR DETAILS CAN LEAD TO EXTRA POINTS

Although I had everything that I needed in front of me, I didn’t craft the best possible essay because I was missing out on what I thought to be minor details that were irrelevant. Nope! Turns out that by adding a couple of sentences here and there (with information that I already knew, but chose not to include), I was able to add another point to my essay score.

Had I not submitted my essay to BARBRI and had someone with more experience review it, I wouldn’t have known to include the additional information that captured me some added points.

THINK SMARTER, WRITER STRONGER ESSAYS

This led me to a seemingly obvious conclusion: if there is some extra relevant law that you can throw in, do it!

Don’t get too far outside of the scope though. How do you know what’s outside of the scope? Keep writing essays! Keep working on your essays and make sure that you’re dedicating time to review your essays. Just make sure that you’re taking the time to go over what you got right and what you got wrong. If you do this, you’ll be more inclined to add relevant law that can help you pick up points.

We don’t need to be perfect on the bar exam, we just need to pass. What better way to do that then to add easy points to essays? Keep practicing so we can all #PassTheBar.

WE MADE IT!!

Guest blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

We endured the fiery darts of the first year of contracts, criminal procedure, and property. We successfully tore down the walls of second-year con law, business orgs, and sales. Then, we soared through the obstacles of third-year externships and clinics.

We’ve stood the test of time and completed a journey that many fail to even attempt or only wish to accomplish.

I’m so proud of us!

As our law school journey comes to an end and we embark on this new adventure of preparing for the bar exam, I hope you take the time to reflect on all of your accomplishments. I hope you take the time to take in all of the congratulatory remarks and the love you’ll receive. I hope you take the time to remember why you started this incredibly difficult journey. I hope you take the time to be present in every remaining moment.

Moving forward, I hope you take a small break before taking on bar prep. Additionally, I hope you find that bar prep is endurable. Study hard, but remember to take mental and physical breaks when needed.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our blogging journey and I don’t consider this a goodbye. We’ll see each other again on the other side of the bar.

Until next time, friend…

Final 3L Exams: The Ultimate Roadblock to Graduation

Guest blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

We’re down to our final 3L exams!!

3 weeks till graduation!!!

Anybody else counting?

I’m so ready to walk across the stage, get hooded, take a few pics with my family and friends and then…go home to take a nap. Ha!

Classes are starting to become a REAL “drag.” Sometimes I literally have to get up and leave the classroom for a second. It’s almost as if I get restless or anxious, especially during my evening classes…particularly the evening class that ends at 5:15. *facepalm*

Nonetheless, we’re so close, yet so far away. The only thing that’s blocking us from that monumental day is… our final EXAMS!

It’s our last hurrah with final exams and, as much as we may want to, we just can’t slack up. We have to go at these exams with the same tenacious spirit that we attacked all of the other exams that got us to this point. We have to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” How terrible would it be to get this close to the finish line and trip up on something as “small” as a final exam?

That being said, FINISH STRONG! Keep going, graduation is just around the river bend!! Then it’ll be the big kahuna…the bar exam, but we’ll just cross that bridge when we get there!

3L Job Search

job

Guest blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

How is your job search going?

So, graduation is just around the corner which means we’re one step closer to finals, which is one step closer to the bar exam, which is one step closer to an actual job.

If you’re like me, you came to law school right after undergraduate school and went to undergrad right after high school. We’ve literally been “students” for the past 24-odd years which means…our first “adult” jobs are awaiting us.

I’ve heard so many stories of individuals trying so hard to land that perfect first “attorney” job.

Here are 5 pieces of advice I’ve received about the job search process.

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the attorneys in your area bar association.
  2. Apply for the jobs you like and the jobs you don’t like.
  3. Have your resume ready to send. You never know who you might meet in an elevator.
  4. If multiple companies/offices are courting you, be upfront.
  5. Know how much your worth. ($$$)

I’m by no means an expert, as I haven’t solidified my post-grad plans either, but I’m finding those little nuggets rather helpful.

Everyone’s journey to landing the perfect first job is different, but hopefully, those little bits help you like they’re helping me.

Random Reflections: When You’re The Only One in The Room

Single red umbrella amid black umbrellas

Guest blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

As an African-American woman, I am accustomed to moving throughout social spaces that are predominately white. Growing up in relatively small West Tennessee town, my schooling atmospheres were typically predominantly white. Moving off to undergraduate school at a state school in East Tennessee, the demographics didn’t change. Now, in law school, it’s a bit better, but it’s still predominantly white.

I’ve always been aware of my schools being “PWIs” (Predominantly White Institutions). In fact, whenever I went into a classroom or a school event, I, almost instinctively, canvased the scene to get a quick overview of the racial breakdown. It just became a norm for me.

Recently I sat down at a dinner with a group of area attorneys interested in my particular interests. They’d invited a few students to attend the dinner, and, not being one to give up a free meal at a fancy restaurant, I decided to accept their invitation.

The dinner went on without a hitch. The conversation was light-hearted with advice about the legal profession being thrown here and there.

About 45 minutes into the dinner, once all of the guests arrived, I did my typical canvas of the room. At my table of 11, there was one African-American, me. When I glanced around the entire restaurant, there was one additional black person, a man sitting by himself at a table that was slightly behind our table reading what seemed to be a newspaper of some sort.

It was in that moment that I started to feel what I always knew. The majority of lawyers aren’t African-American, Latino, or even Asian. It’s no secret that most lawyers aren’t people of color. Interestingly, however, instead of my “loneliness” in the room making me feel sad or defeated… or even honored and proud… I felt a sense of responsibility.

I felt like my occupying of the space was not for my own gain. My being in the room was, in part, to make room for others who do look like me.

At first glance, it seems like such a daunting responsibility…if not impossible altogether. Honestly, I don’t know where to begin, but I do know this much. Something has to change and I won’t stop…or feel comfortable until it does. Not only that…but…in my heart of hearts I know that I’m up for the challenge.

Networking Lunches and Dinners: 3 tips

Guest blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

After the first few weeks of my 1L year, one of my admission counselors scheduled a networking lunch with one of the area attorneys. As my first 1-on-1 networking food-related outing, I was a bit perplexed about what exactly I needed to know about such an event. Last week it came full-circle when I found myself at an upscale restaurant having a networking dinner.

That being said, here are 3 basic tips for these settings.

1.  Don’t be late.
Some people are of the mind that arriving “fashionably” late is a custom. I, on the other hand, am of a different belief. I treat these types of settings as quasi-interviews. Even if it’s simply a dinner to socialize with other area attorneys, I find it important to not keep the host waiting.

2. What you order matters.
This one is a bit random, but it’s important nonetheless. Here’s my rule of thumb: order the meal that has the lowest risk of creating a mess. It’s almost comical, but stay away from the pasta with the red sauce and any other really messy foods. There’s nothing more terrifying than the idea of having an hour-long session with a nice fresh grease stain on your shirt, jacket, or dress.

3. Ask genuine questions.
The main difference between an actual interview for a job and a networking dinner/lunch is that the questions can be broader in range. With the different setting, questions can be more genuine and not as stark/rehearsed as questions in the normal job-interview setting. Plus, I think individuals can tell when questions are truly genuine.

Bar Application Tips

Guest blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

This week I started my application for the bar.

Can we just talk about how extensive this application is? These questions dive DEEPLY into our history. One question even asked about my employment 10 years ago. I read that question and thought…”10 years ago I was a freshman in High School. My focus was literally basketball, academics, and making sure I had time to hang out with my friends at the movies. I had no job.” (Interestingly, there’s an option to indicate that you were “unemployed” and you have to explain why you were unemployed.)

I’ve reviewed all the questions and have answered most. If you haven’t started your application, here’s what you might need to know.

  1. Previous addresses
    If you’ve lived in multiple places within the last 10 years, you have to indicate the addresses of each location. That includes dorms, apartments, and even your parents’ house. For me remembering the addresses of my dorms was a bit difficult, but nothing Google couldn’t help me with.
  2. Employers
    Remembering this information was a doozy as well. Fortunately, I was able to go through my old emails and find out most of the information. My email-trail was SUPER helpful here.
  3. References
    Last year a bar representative came to explain the application process. She told us that we didn’t need references from other attorneys. To me, that translates into “You don’t need any references.” Turns out, for my state’s application I need 6 non-familial references (other than your previously-mentioned employers) from each place I’ve lived who have known me for at least 5 years (Yes, THAT specific). Fortunately, I was able to figure out 6 people that met that description….but just a heads up…you’ll need the contact information for at least 6 unrelated people.

All in all, the application process can be dense, but on the positive side…we’re about to graduate and close a super cool chapter of our lives.

The Transition From 2L to Rising 3L: Setting Up Final Year Success

The end of 2L year is right around the corner. True to form, it’s been B-U-S-Y. You’ve worked your tail off. You’re more than ready to call yourself a 3L student. But it’s important to finish strong on upcoming 2L final exams, and then you can look ahead. Here are some things to do before fall semester begins, which can set you up for easier sailing through 3L year.

MARCH & APRIL | SPRING FINAL EXAMS PREP

Stay focused on spring finals. BARBRI 2L/3L Mastery can help you with challenging subjects – Evidence, Taxation, Corporations, Wills, Trusts, Secured Transactions, Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law and Family Law. Access to 2L/3L Mastery is one reason you might want to commit to bar review early. Find out more reasons here.

APRIL | COURSE REGISTRATION

Consider registering for 3L courses that will help prepare you for your state bar exam. Check out this list. Just remember to meet all the requirements for graduation. Be sure to get with your advisor to make absolutely sure you complete (and have completed) the right courses.

APRIL | JUDICIAL CLERKSHIPS

If you want to go after a judicial clerkship, you’ll need to ask professors to write you a letter of recommendation. Don’t be shy and don’t wait. Most judicial clerk applications require three letters of recommendation and at least two should be written by a law professor. Try to meet with each professor personally to let them know enough about you to write a great letter.

APRIL | EXTERNSHIPS & CLINICS

Keep building valuable practical experience. Check with your school for externship or clinical opportunities available. Think about what you’d like to do and during which semester of 3L year. Start by thinking about the kind of law you want to practice and then research the options. Be aware, too, of any special student licensing or course requirements.

MAY | CHARACTER & FITNESS APPLICATION

Start now, if you can. Many states/jurisdictions require you to submit a character and fitness application before you take the bar exam, and some allow it afterward. You can save yourself hundreds of dollars by completing this portion of your bar application early, but you need to know the state in which you are taking the bar to begin the process. It’s also extensive and time-consuming – you’ll need to gather details about your academic, work, financial, any criminal history … maybe even provide fingerprints. Getting started as early as possible is key.

Be mindful, too, that the character and fitness application is just one of the many requirements you need to have ready to take the bar exam. Follow our 3L Bar Admissions Checklist to stay organized and ahead of the game.

MAY | LAW PREVIEW JOB NETWORK

Get noticed. Whether or not you’ve landed a job offer by now, keep your name circulating through our Law Preview Job Network website. Put your resume in front of legal recruiters, as well as our BigLaw and AMLaw 200 partners, who actively scour the site to connect with law students. Take a few minutes to create a free profile.

JUNE | MPRE REGISTRATION & DEADLINES

If you didn’t take (or pass) the MPRE during 2L year, your next chance is in August. Pay attention to the “regular” and “late” registration deadlines, which usually fall within the second and third weeks of June. Registering by the regular deadline date will save you a little money, too.

JULY | ANOTHER ROUND OF OCI

No job offer yet? You’re still in the game. There are both private and public sector employers out there that participate in OCIs with the intent to hire 3L students. These firms may not have extended as many offers to summer associates as expected or have an increased capacity to hire.

JULY | BAR EXAM RESEARCH

Your legal career may not begin as a straight line to a single destination. It could potentially lead to prospects in more than one state/jurisdiction. It’s smart to familiarize yourself with the bar exam for all of them. You can start by downloading our comprehensive BARBRI Bar Exam Digest. Know the deadlines and fees, subjects tested, scoring, reciprocity and local content knowledge required, for example. Find out if you’ll be taking the Uniform Bar Exam and what the UBE means to your job search and career marketability.

Remember you can always reach out for guidance from your BARBRI Director of Legal Education, who is still with you every step of the way.

My Alternative Spring Break Experience

Guest blog by Courtney Boykin, 3L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

I’ve always seen Spring Break as a beacon of light in my dark, grim world of school.

Ever since the first spring break I can remember, the weeklong break has been both a desire and a necessity.

This year, I spent my Spring Break doing something that I’d never done. I opted to participate in my school’s Alternative Spring Break program and I can honestly say that I enjoyed the experience.

My school’s Alternative Spring Break program takes 4 out of the 5 days of Spring Break and provides area legal services through multiple tracks. This year, there was a range of tracks, including Health Law, Elder Law, and Voting Right Restoration. I initially signed up for Health Law, as that is my preferred legal area.

Instead, I was assigned to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Education. For me, this was uncharted territory, something I’d NEVER dealt with before.

I spent the first 2 days getting an in-depth overview of domestic-violence-related legal issues. We spent hours going through the Violence Against Women’s Act, Child Custody laws, and Orders of Protection. We visited the court and saw how Courts handled the order of protection process. Quite Frankly, it was a lot of information.

After going through the training, we spent time creating brochures that outlined the legal rights of Domestic Violence victims and orchestrating presentations expounding on the related legal rights. We even included a mock trial video so that pro se litigants would know what to expect when requesting orders of protection.

Ultimately, I left the week with the knowledge of a new legal area. I felt as though I’d been a part of something that could truly help domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. Initially, felt a bit “down” that I was using my LAST Spring Break to provide “free labor.” I walked away knowing that my work had the potential to really help someone and that made the experience worthwhile.