Life Happens, Even When Studying for the Bar

The Law School Academic Support blog always has much wisdom to share, and its most recent post is no exception: The Inevitable Roller Coaster: Bar Review. All of it is worth reading, and I hope you will, but I wanted to highlight this section:

Life Happens

At a bar exam program presented several years ago, a speaker announced that everything that can go wrong will go wrong during bar review and everything you have ever wanted to do will become a possibility during bar review. She continued that bar review is only a few weeks and months out of your entire life and you will likely have the opportunity to experience many of the things you miss out on at some point in the future. Over the years, I note that Bar Studiers experience a range of life occurrences including: death in the family, breakups with significant others and spouses, issues with character and fitness on the bar application, car accidents, financial challenges (even with planning), lack of food, familial demands and expectations, emotional and physical impact of socio-political events, and much more. Life does not simply stop because you are studying for the bar exam. You will have both good days and not so good days and your reaction to and feelings about everything will be amplified.

You might waste a day or a half a day attending to real life situations and that is okay and necessary but it does not mean that you will be unable to complete your preparation for this exam. If however, life completely takes over and when you assess the situation you recognize that you are unable to sustain the pace and expectations of bar review then you might want to have a conversation with someone. You want to discuss alternatives or develop a new game plan to achieve your goals. Be open and honest with yourself and those helping you. (emphasis added).

I believe you still have time to readjust your bar study schedule now for success on the bar exam in July. But please do not avoid having this honest conversation with yourself. Avoiding the issue will not solve it. Addressing the issue by taking concrete action is likely to solve it, at this point in time. At some point soon, that window may close. Don’t take that risk — assess what’s going on with your life and bar readiness now, and you will improve your odds of success!

Law School After Charlottesville

I have felt disturbed and distracted for a week now, since I became aware of the white supremacist gatherings at UVA and in Charlottesville. I was so proud of Emory President Claire Sterk’s ringing rejection of any such ideology:

Message from Emory President Claire E. Sterk:

The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, serve as a stark reminder that although we have made tremendous advances in civil and human rights, we have work to do. We are fortunate to live in Atlanta: the heart of the civil rights movement. With great privilege comes responsibility. Now is the time for speaking the truth.

Emory’s core values call us to be champions of equality, inclusion, and the pursuit of knowledge. I stand committed to our values and am proud that Emory strives to be a place where people can hold difficult conversations respectfully. But let me be clear: supremacist groups are not engaged in the difficult work of informed civil discourse. Theirs is a different project. These groups seek to undermine the fabric of civil society through ignorance, fear, and violence. Their actions stand in contrast to everything we strive for as members of an academic community committed to the discovery and application of knowledge for the greater good.

I believe that education still matters. I believe that the liberal arts, the sciences, and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake still form the foundation of civil discourse in this society. Supremacist ideology does not, and will not, have a seat at Emory University’s table.

As President of Emory University, I am proud of the courage shown by those who stand for our shared values.

What more is there to say? She said it so well, and this blog is for discussions of bar readiness and academic support, not politics (and I am not inviting comments).

The emotions churned up by the weekend’s shameful events understandably consume attention, energy and focus among our students, as discussed here: Law School Academic Support Blog. But one student’s reaction restored some of my own energy. The keynote speaker at our Welcome Week program was Aloke Chakravarty 97L, who successfully prosecuted the surviving bomber of the Boston Marathon. Both he and Dean Jud Graves 75L highlighted the recent crisis in Charlottesville in their remarks to all new students in our auditorium, noting that the rule of law, and the social contract to accept and abide by the rule of law, is what stands between the peace-loving majority and the few who would violently impose their points of view. As each of them said, the “rule of law” is much more than just words, and the people who bring law to life are lawyers. An international student who has studied law in his home country told me later that he knew at that moment why he wants an American law degree and what he wants to do with it.

So all of us in legal education must recommit ourselves to helping our students become the very best, the most enlightened, the bravest lawyers they can be, in defense of the rule of law. We can’t be distracted. We must help them keep their eyes on the prize.

You Made It!

By the time you read this post, if you took a bar exam this week, you will be done. Wow. I know most of you are just heaving a sigh of relief that it’s over. Now begins the long wait for results, which don’t come out until the fall: in Georgia, the end of October. What can you do in the meantime?

Well, you can’t do anything more about the bar exam for now. You’ve given it your very best shot, and you have earned a break. Here is some excellent guidance from the Law School Academic Support blog: Congratulations To You (and a few tips while waiting for results). As Prof. Johns writes, many well-meaning people will tell you to relax, you’ve passed. And it may not feel that way to you. I suggest that you take the first part of their advice: relax. Don’t ruminate. Get LOTS of sleep and lots of time with friends, family, loved ones. Do some of those summer things you’ve been putting off, whatever they are: vacation, staycation, new book, old hobby, etc.

We’re proud of all the hard work you did to get to this point. Have a GREAT weekend!

Award-Winning Bar Advice — and Food Truck!

Healthy brain food graphic

The publication Texas Bar Today gives awards for law-related blog posts, and this academic support blog post was a recent winner! It’s great advice, so I share it with you: Bar Review Learning: What Happens in Lectures …

We look forward to seeing those of you who are in Atlanta today at 1 pm to enjoy a nutritious lunch from the Blaxican food truck! I’m not sure you can quite call it brain food, but the owner calls it Mexican soul food, and good nutrition does support better academic performance, which is good for the soul. This Atlanta-based food truck has won many food truck awards, including best in the US in 2015. Get a ticket voucher and an Emory Law bar readiness swag bag from Tanisha Pinkins 16L, Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo, or Jennie Geada Fernandez 03L, in Gambrell Hall. The food truck will be on the surface parking lot behind the law school from 1-2:30 pm, for this week’s “Well-Balanced Wednesday”. And for the rest of your bar study period, here’s a list of healthy, easy-to-find brain food snacks in addition to those pictured below, and here is another list with recipes. Enjoy!

Brain food; https://memory.foundation/2015/05/18/brain-food-recipes/

Top image from www.snacknation.com.

Bar Results

If you took any state’s bar exam in July 2016, you likely have your results by now. Most of you are thrilled and relieved; some of you are not. Let me share some wise words and advice from Scott Johns, a law teacher who posted this on the Law School Academic Support Blog :

First, if you passed the bar exam, congratulations!  What a wonderful accomplishment!  As you celebrate your success while waiting to take your oath of office, here’s a quick suggestion.  This a great time to reach out to your support team (family, friends, colleagues, mentors, etc.) and personally thank them for their encouragement and inspiration.  And, with respect to your law school colleagues that did not pass, its important that you reach out to them too.  Send a quick email.  Invite them for coffee.  Let them know that you personally stand behind them and for them no matter what.  Most importantly, just listen with kindness, graciousness, and compassion.  In short, be a friend.

Second, if you did not pass the bar exam, please know that the results are not a reflection of who you are as a person….period.  Lots of famous and successful people did not pass the bar exam on the first try (and some after a number of tries).  Yet, they are some of the most outstanding attorneys and successful leaders.  So, be kind to yourself.  Take time to reflect, cry, and ponder.   Most importantly, just be yourself.  Then, in a few days or a few weeks, reach out to your law school.  Make sure you order your exam answers if they are available in your state because looking at your exam answers can give you inside information on what you did that was great and where to improve too.  Contact your bar review company for a one-on-one chat.  Overall, though, the most important task at hand is to be kind to yourself, and please remember, your value comes from who you are and not from the bar exam at all.  Period.

We are proud of all of you for undertaking something as challenging and exhausting as preparing for a bar exam. We will be offering resources to those who did not pass, but feel free to contact us yourself for support, whether in bar passage, employment or a fellowship. To the advice above, I would add that you should absolutely get as much information about your own answers as you can from your bar jurisdiction; make sure you know the deadline for making that request. In New York, for instance, it is 60 days after the date of notification that you did not pass.  Also, in most jurisdictions, you can request hand-scoring of your MBE answer sheet if you think that would make a difference. Contact your state bar jurisdiction for instructions on how to do that, as each of them has different rules. In Georgia, the process is:

Send a request in writing to the Office of Bar Admissions containing:

Your Name/Address/Phone Number/Email and Applicant Number

Month/Year Bar Exam Taken

Signature

Include a money order made payable to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE):  $50

The address is:

Office of Bar Admissions — ATTN MBE Hand Score Request

244 Washington Street; Suite 440

Atlanta, GA  30334

If you passed the Georgia bar exam, you should have heard from our Alumni Relations team inviting you to join your classmates and members of the Emory Law community to be sworn in at a special ceremony hosted here at the law school next week. If you did not get that information, please contact Bethany Glass at bethany [dot] glass [at] emory [dot] edu. You must RSVP and bring the original of your Georgia Bar certificate to Rm. G120 in Gambrell Hall. We look forward to hearing from you or seeing you soon.

Featured image provided by Al Haidar.

Obstacles to Bar Readiness: Depression, Anxiety, Substance Abuse

The legal profession and legal education are increasingly willing to acknowledge that many of their participants struggle with disorders that undermine their personal and academic goals. Prominent among those are depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Sometimes those “travel” together.

If you are a law student, chances are high that you or a friend may suffer from one or more of these challenges, according to a recent in-depth study of law student wellbeing: Twenty-Five Percent of Law Students Have Been Diagnosed With Depression, Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses.

You don’t have to suffer in silence, and you shouldn’t. Please seek help from your law school, from your campus counseling center, from Student Health Services, from your state’s Lawyer Assistance Program — wherever you feel comfortable getting help. The sooner you take care of these issues and take care of yourself, the better you will feel and the better you are likely to do academically and on the bar exam that lies ahead. It is normal to feel anxious about law school and the bar, but there is so much you can do to lessen that anxiety and set yourself up for success. Let us know how we can help!