Law School · Work Life Balance

Is it Even an Emergency? Responding to Crisis During Bar Prep

You are a month away from the Bar Exam! I hope everything is going as smooth as possible. I was in an incredibly fortunate position to not have to work during bar prep and even without that added stress of finances, I was so overwhelmed with emotion, worry, and anxiety. Many of you may be feeling the same pressure (or will soon feel it as we get closer to the date). So, I wanted to talk about avoiding stress and situations that deter you from your goal. I have heard many stories of family “emergencies” that crop up during bar prep that distract someone from their studies and lead to not so great results come fall.  Cases where a person’s family expected too much of their time during bar prep or situations where a person subconsciously  uses a family emergency to self-sabotage their studies. You obviously want to avoid this at all cost.

Of course, I’m not going to tell you to ignore your family if they request help or if something major happens to not help–but I am going to encourage everyone to be discerning in when your help is actually needed so that you can make a real decision as to whether your study time should be divested somewhere else.

To make that decision we need to agree on what is an actual emergency: to me, an emergency is a situation where I can absolutely help resolve the problem AND there is no one else available to help.  For example, your sister calls because she got a flat tire and needs someone to pick up her kids. If you are the only option and it’s going to take just a few hours away from studying, then go for it. But if this situation is going to turn into an everyday pick up because she doesn’t have a car for the next two weeks then you need to really consider whether you can commit to losing hours of studying for a week to help her with childcare and then determine if there’s someone else equally suited to help her out.

Similarly, if friends or family suddenly have a big breakup you really can’t be the one that is their go-to during this crisis. First, you can’t put the relationship back together. Second, your mindset will be on the Bar, not helping your friend’s emotional distress so it’s not even fair to your friend. Yes, good friends provide shoulders to cry on but not during bar prep. This sounds harsh, but everyone needs to come to terms with the fact that bar prep is cumulation of a huge investment of money and time. It is the last round before the game is called–how you spend your time absolutely matters because it’s not just taking a few hours (or a day away)–rather it is losing time that you could use to sharpen your essay format or memorize mnemonic devices in order to get your license. Family and friends should be supportive of this and not ask more from you.

Yes, this feels shitty to not be the dependable one; especially if your family just doesn’t get why this exam is so important or sees you studying so much, and thinks surely, you don’t need to study so hard. But it’ll be up to you to draw boundaries. Once crunch time starts you really need to commit yourself to not allow distractions to use up your time. It isn’t easy, but keep reminding yourself that 1) it’s only temporary–you’ll be back to your reliable self come August; 2) most of this situations are not life or death, so take a beat and let someone else handle it; and 3) most importantly, long-term, passing the bar will be better for you and your family. You will be in a better place for it and hurt feelings will eventually fade away.

Bar prep is not a pretty time in most anyone’s life. The sooner you come to terms with needing to putting yourself first during your studies, the better your focus and, hopefully, you’ll only have to do this rope-a-dope once!

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