How balance, sleep, down time and saying “no” can help you pass the bar exam

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By Stephanie Chandler, Esq.,
BARBRI Manager of Legal Education

It is important to embrace balance in every aspect of your life, especially when it comes to law school and the bar exam. You already know how important it is to stay focused and regimented in your studies. It is equally important to make sure you are getting some down time each day.


During law school, it was so easy to burn the candle at both ends, procrastinate on assignments and pull all-nighters. Unfortunately, Red Bull isn’t an acceptable food group. Studying for the bar exam is a strenuous process and you are going to need to work hard.

You should be spending 8-10 hours per day studying, seven days a week. You do not want to extend much beyond 10 hours a day, as you are going to fatigue your brain and get diminishing returns on your efforts. Sleep and adequate rest are irreplaceable and necessary for memory retention and performance.


For those who may be unfamiliar, sleep is that thing you avoid when you are binge-watching Netflix at 1 a.m. or staying out until close on bar review night. It is also what keeps you from turning into a living zombie who chases caffeine instead of brains. It may be possible to get by on inadequate rest during law school, but it’s not going to fly during bar review.

Getting enough sleep is important in terms of being ready to work hard each day and in making it through two months of intense daily study. In order to prepare yourself, you may be well-served to assess your sleeping habits and make any necessary changes during the time between graduation and the first day of your bar review class.

I don’t fall asleep easily. I am not sure that I ever did. However, I explored different sleep-help options and I ended up finding gold. My secret weapon was yoga. Specifically, this video.

Other helpful sleep tips:

  • Turn off your phone, TV, tablet, computer, etc. The blue light from the screens will keep your body awake.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise too close to bedtime.
  • Use your bed for sleep only. Don’t study or work in your room. It will help prime your mind to recognize your bedroom as a place of rest.
  • Cut caffeine by the afternoon.
  • Listen to meditation/relaxation podcasts or a white noise app.


Although you may have heard this a thousand times, it is so important to regularly take time for YOU. You may feel anxious about doing it, but just let it go. You need to decompress so you don’t go crazy.

Each day is going to arrive with its own challenges. That may seem horrifying, but it’s part of the game. You need to identify and work on your weak areas now so that you can be a rock star on the bar exam. That means you are going to spend about two months getting wrong answers and taking constructive criticism on your writing. This is a normal part of the process and it does help you improve (even though you may feel like throwing your computer against the wall).

What do you like to do in your free time? Check out this blog for ideas.


For everyone else, summer is a fun time of picnics, weddings and baby showers. You will be living outside of this world from late May through July.

“But wait, Stephanie, you’ve been spending all this time about how we need to focus on ‘me time’ and balance and Kumbaya!”

Downtime is just as important as the time you spend studying, but that doesn’t mean you can spend an equal amount of time devoted to each pursuit. Remember, you need to be studying 8-10 hours per day. That still gives you adequate time to socialize. However, you may want to keep in mind that you probably shouldn’t party the way you normally may. (You know what I mean. Back away from that second Corona.)

Many students have family events taking place during their bar studies and ask me whether they can attend. I can’t tell you whether to go or not, but there are some factors I think you should consider: How far away is this event? How much time would you need to take away from studying? How are you feeling about your bar studies? Are you on track with your assignments or do you feel behind?

You need to think about your needs as a student, and as a person. Consider your life after the bar exam and whether you will regret missing out on sharing in your friend or family’s special day.


A big factor in studying and sitting for the bar exam is your emotional state. Honor it. Get enough sleep. Focus on you during downtime. Know your boundaries and have the freedom to say no to others.

Given all the time you will spend hitting the books, it may not seem like you are focusing on yourself much at all. But let me put it this way – you get to take the bar exam. You earned this and have worked hard to get to this point in your life. Not many people qualify to sit for the bar, but you do. Trust in your drive, ambition and strength. You can do this!

If you want any podcast recommendations, or have questions or concerns, you can reach me at

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