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Maintaining A Positive Perception of the Bar Exam

published January 24, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 80 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
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When we sit alone to study for the bar exam, many of us hear negative voices: "No, you can't." "It's impossible." "It can't be done." To avoid these thoughts, we avoid the situation, in this case, the studying, and we thereby lessen our chances of passing. I say, "Do not avoid the thoughts. Control and conquer them." By adopting The Program, you can.

Maintaining A Positive Perception of the Bar Exam


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The Program concentrates on two aspects of your life, your attitude and discipline. It teaches you how to develop a positive attitude and how to manage your life effectively to reach your intended goal of passing the bar exam.

The "Yes I Can" Attitude

You've heard it said in so many ways: "The power of positive thinking"; "possibility thinking"; "creative imagining." It is more than simply an idea. Put into action, it could be just the approach you need to remove self-inhibiting notions that you can't pass this exam. The Yes I Can way of thinking will do this. For every disaffirming thought, there is a self-affirming notion. To meet destructive action, enlist constructive energy. To neutralize thoughts of failing, visualize scenes of passing. Here are the steps.

Step One: You must engage in creative imagining by visualizing the goal of the bar exam process, passing. Before you begin studying, close your eyes and visualize the front page of the newspaper announcing the pass rates for the exam you are about to take. Go to the page of the article where you would expect to find your name, e.g., New York lists names of successful candidates in alphabetical order under the department to which they seek admission. See your name in print. It will be your last name followed by your first name and middle initial.

Now, begin to plan your celebration to start the minute the exam is over. Plan your evening out after the last day of the exam. Go to a party, dinner, a movie, an amusement park. Next, plan a trip. It matters not where you go, just as long as you get away for awhile. Get brochures, pamphlets, a list of places you want to visit, and visualize yourself there, "foot loose and fancy free." You will have earned it.

Step Two: Go back to the beginning of this mental process and let yourself think about failing. However, you are allowed to think about it only once! Then, as they say, "Perish the thought." Each time the thought seeks resurrection, meet it head-on with the image of your name in the paper, your party and your trip. Try a device some athletes use. Write Yes I can notes to yourself and conspicuously place them in your home or office.

Step Three: Keep away from negative thinking and speaking people, especially those in your family. First, tell them that you are going to pass; that you would appreciate their support; but if not, you would appreciate their silence on the matter. If you must live in a non-affirming environment during this period, stay out of it for as long as you can. Be there only when those creating that atmosphere are not.

Step Four: Surround yourself with positive thinking and speaking people, not flatterers, just people who find it easier to praise than to condemn, who elevate rather than deflate and who encourage as opposed to discourage. All you need is one or two such people. Keep a motivational tape or book handy to help you to maintain a positive outlook.

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Is the exam a torturous ordeal or a time of professional growth?

The bar exam and its preparation time test a person's mettle and give insight into an individual's personality, life and very being. Most often, we hear of the exam and the preparation for it as being necessary evils: the pits, torture. I urge you, however, to view the exam and the study process leading up to it as a huge step forward in your growth as a lawyer. The practice of law is ruled by the very same details, minutia and deadlines you must learn for the bar exam. Law practice is also marked by the same peaks and valleys in preparation and presentation as you will find in studying for the bar exam, and often requires the same quick analysis of issues to determine legal implications. Preparation for the bar exam and the exam itself, in their own way, can help you to become a better lawyer.

Step Five: Many students think that there is a bar review course, school or study technique out there that will enable them to pass the bar exam. These things help but most of what you need is already inside of you.

Jerome B.

Jerry had heard one of my lectures and requested private tutoring. He was a first-time taker and was beginning to obsess over whether he would pass. He really did not know why he was so unnerved After all, he had gone to an Ivy League law school and college and he had always done well

After we talked a bit, Jerry mentioned that he had once been overweight by 50 lbs. He told me that he had religiously followed a weight reduction program for almost a year to lose the initial pounds and now was pretty conscientious about watching his weight to stay trim.

I seized upon this information to allay Jerry's fear, explaining to him that case studies represent a composite of the challenges candidates face. Any similarity to persons alive or deceased is purely coincidental.

I convinced him that he already knew what he needed to pass. By choosing the goal of losing weight, meticulously watching his diet, unfailingly participating in a support group, and inhibiting his thoughts and cravings, he had developed the type of self-discipline needed to pass the bar exam.

We all have a success story. Your success may have come about through a step-by-step program as presented here or through your own process and creativity. A large part of what I do in my own bar review tutoring is to identify for my students their own personal experiences to show them that they already possess the intellectual, physical and spiritual resources needed to turn any major project like the bar exam into a vehicle for personal growth and success. These successes show that we already have a blueprint for passing the bar. All we need do is to recognize it and build upon it.

Whatever the approach, a similar theme will run through the successful ones. Discipline: the discipline which allows you to concentrate and to pay attention to the detail; be it the detail in measuring your food in a weight-watching program or the detail in determining whether you count holidays when calculating the number of days in which to answer a summons and complaint. Our program calls upon that discipline. It develops and strengthens it by directing all of our energies into a single focus, passing the bar.

In the face of thoughts of failing the bar exam, the Yes I Can attitude and discipline encouraged by the Program show you how to ward off such thoughts by focusing on past successes and reminding yourself of times when you said, "Yes I can"... and did!

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

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