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!

How To Spend (Part Of) Your Winter Vacation

Now that final exams have been over for a week, it’s time to talk about The Big One: the bar exam. Before you run screaming into the night — stop! By thinking about it now and doing some planning, you will take a lot of stress off yourself and improve your chances for success the first time you take one. First, let’s dispel some urban myths. Yes, it is possible to fail the bar even if you did very well on your LSAT. No, it is not a good idea to work while you study for the bar exam to pursue a job, because if you fail the bar, that job isn’t going to be yours anyway. Yes, you can pass even if you had a low LSAT and law school GPA, as long as you put in the time and do 85% or more of your bar review course. No, there are no shortcuts. Preparing for the bar exam is hard work, a fulltime job, and it take at least 600 hours.

You heard that right. 600 hours. So if you do nothing until the week after graduation (Emory’s Commencement is on May 9), you have 11 weeks to put in at least 600 hours. That’s about 55 hours/week. Fulltime job hours. Lawyer hours.

Here’s the good news: you can start putting in some of those hours now, and during the spring semester, to lighten that load. If you haven’t chosen a commercial bar review course yet, now is a good time to research your options and commit (check out the Resources link on this blog, to start). Ask the vendors questions to make sure their course is a good fit for you. Once you’ve made a deposit with any of the major vendors, you get access to lots of useful study and review materials. Take a look at the bar admissions website for the state where you think you will take the bar. They post old essay and MPT questions, with model/sample answers. You can self-test on your own and identify any weak areas, or subjects you’ve just forgotten, then use the commercial bar review study materials to brush up on your memory or understanding.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners posts old questions online at www.ncbex.org. It also posts an outline of the subject matter tested on the MBE, and other materials about its tests (MBE, MEE, MPRE, MPT, UBE). Look them over! We’ll repeat last spring’s faculty-led bar readiness presentations on all the MBE topic areas, with some additional presentations. And I highly recommend buying a copy of “Pass the Bar!”, by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz. It’s available on Amazon and you can even get it on Kindle.

Have a wonderful break, use some of that time to take stock of your bar readiness and plans, and we’ll see you in January!

Photo: UniversityParent.com

Pass The Bar! Action Checklists and More

Two of the leading lights in law school academic assistance, Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz, have a very helpful guidebook for law students called “Pass The Bar!“. It is a comprehensive guide to bar readiness, starting as early as 12 months before you start taking a bar review course after graduation. It includes action checklists, self-assessment tools, a decision grid to help you choose which commercial course to take, information about various aspects of bar exams, practice questions and sample answers, and appendices with all kinds of additional information and resources to help students get ready for this high-stakes test.

I highly recommend this book to all students who will graduate this spring, i.e. in six months. The very first action checklist covers the period 6-12 months before you start your post-graduation course, so now is a great time to get the book (available directly from Carolina Academic Press in hard copy or for Kindle, or from Amazon. com and other booksellers). Yes, you have exams coming up, but it’s important to start getting familiar with the skills you will need for success on the bar, while you still have one more semester in law school to address any deficits and strengthen them with help. Start working on that checklist now, and feel free to come ask anyone in the Office of Academic Engagement and Student Success if you have questions.