I spent 14 hours studying for the bar exam

I spent 14 hours studying for the bar exam

January 22, 2021

Early on in my life people used the term procrastinator like it was a bad thing.

A nasty word that somehow meant lazy or unmotivated. Teachers told you not to wait until the last minute. Other students would brag about all the hours they put into the paper, project, or studying for an exam. 

Looking back now I realize this for what it actually is. A form of the status game. 

It’s a way to signal to people how hard they work. A way to show people that they have their life together. A way to feel good about themselves.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with working hard and being prepared. In fact, many people who spent the most time studying in law school ended up with the highest grades. That’s great in law school.

Except in life, we don’t have unlimited time. We aren’t only in law school anymore.

Life rewards speed and efficiency. 

Photo by sutirta budiman on Unsplash

My favorite example is the bar exam. It’s a right of passage for every new lawyer. Spend 3 years in law school. Graduate.

Then study for another 3-6 months for a 3-day exam that determines if you get to actually work as the thing you just spent the past 3 years on. 

It’s a sick joke in so many ways. But as a law student, I didn’t make the rules so I had joined my other grads in the ritual of sitting in a giant convention center testing my fate.

Most students take some sort of prep course for the bar exam. Another sick joke. Spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on law school and then throw on another thousand or so for bar exam books and classes. 

The education system is broken. But that’s the topic for another day.

When I graduated students from SMU Law School mostly took Barbri and the classes were housed in a big conference room at a local hotel.

I went to the first day of class and never went back.

They said I could watch the lessons online. So that was my new plan.

I turned on the first lesson on my laptop.

I never finished it.

That summer was the World Cup in Brazil. 

I watched every match. 

Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

I was deep into my CrossFit phase too. So I spent 3-5 hours a day training and recovering. That didn’t leave much time for studying.

Inside of my head, I constantly shifted between, I should be studying and “I got this”.

On Facebook, all I saw were complaints from friends and classmates about how miserable studying was. Not exactly the encouragement I needed to join the study train. 

So I kept putting it off. 

I finally told myself that I would spend the last month actually studying and burning through all the videos. Barbri had a tracker on its website to measure your progress. Mine was at zero percent just one month out. 

I still waited. 

Two weeks out I finally cracked open a book. I spent one hour a day reading past essays on the exams. Figuring out the structure of good answers. Finding patterns in the questions. 

Reverse engineering how to succeed. 

I worked from oldest to newest. I realized that topics reappeared around every 5-7 years with the surprise repeat of a topic within just 2 years. 

This wasn’t the Barbri way. It wasn’t anybody’s way. But it was mine.

Right before I left for the exam I pulled up my Barbri student page looked at the progress tracker that still read ZERO.

I took out my phone and grabbed a picture. 

I was either going to look really stupid or have a hell of a story (the picture is somewhere on an old iPhone).

And I don’t like looking stupid.

Photo by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash

So yes, I passed the bar exam on that first try. I was the second person done each of the 3 days. Honestly, I was frustrated that somebody else was faster than me even though speed is not a consideration for the exam. 

I like to move fast and not waste time. 

The word procrastinator no longer bothers me. People can’t use it as a weapon against me. 

As I’ve grown older efficiency and speed matter more. Spend the least amount of time to get the best outcome. 

People don’t have time for me to study a problem for three months if I can do it in three weeks. The bar exam showed me how to use pressure to focus. 

And I learned exactly how to reverse engineer to get my desired result.

If you know anything about my speaking, I use a very similar process of reverse engineering to achieve results.

So maybe it’s best if most people study more than one hour a day for two weeks to take the biggest exam of their life.

For me, it was the right way.

Most importantly, it was just the beginning.

I'm the Founder of Performative Speaking. In December, On Deck acquired my startup and I now serve as the Program Director for On Deck Performative Speaking.

Want to learn more about On Deck Performative Speaking? Email me here with questions: Robbie@beondeck.com

Follow me on twitter @robbiecrab

Cover Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

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Performative Speaking uses storytelling ideas that incorporate other forms of art, culture, media, and pop culture to create the mood, feeling, or vibe in the audience to convince them of a position.

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