Bar Exams, Law Schools

Bar Review Diaries: Discipline, Rural Peepers and Urban Jogging

Memorial Day has come and gone. Hopefully those of you studying for the bar exam took a little time out for hamburgers and baseball. It’ll be awhile until you have such a good excuse for slacking relaxing. Graduation festivities are receding into the past, and the specter of the bar exam looms a little larger with every passing day.

For the second installment of The Bar Review Diaries, our esteemed contributors, Michael, Mariah and Christopher, report back as they settle into their surprisingly dissimilar summer routines.

Keep reading to see how meditation, jogging through Chinatown and Vermont peepers all prevent the Summertime Bar Blues….

From Mariah Ford:

I have arrived in Vermont, at my friends’ farmhouse, where I am going spend the rest of my bar study time.

In New York there was a large industrial fan immediately outside my window; the echo made my room sound like a helicopter launch pad. At night I fell asleep to the booming music and shouting of the frat party across the alley. In the morning, I woke up to the screams of toddlers at the preschool next to the frat. Recently there was a lot of jack-hammering.

Right now, it’s Sunday night in Vermont, and the only things I hear are “peepers.” The first time my friend mentioned them I thought there were a bunch of pervos outside, but apparently a peeper is a frog. When I look outside, all I see is a cow. The cow is not making any noise, because she is sleeping.

It is a good environment to study for the bar. Peace, quiet and fresh air… a far cry from New York, where I spent last summer in an apartment sans air-conditioning.

The Themis approach is pretty conducive to the Vermont situation, because it allows me to work from home, the law school or the library. Since each video is about 20 minutes long, I am able to balance my schedule as I see fit. I can maintain my focus for each video or task, and then absorb what I learned by doing something active, such as working in the garden, gathering eggs from the chickens or walking the dog. Bar studying as dreamed up by Michael Pollan.

The holiday, combined with some of the time lost from moving, means that I really have to buckle down for the rest of this week. Though I did take Memorial Day off because the town had a parade and Firemen’s BBQ. I was beyond excited.

I am also… bitten. Mosquitoes = one downside of rural life in summer.

Michael Dulong hasn’t escaped the Urban Jungle, but fresh air plays an equally crucial role in his daily routine. I’m not much of a runner, but there’s nothing like a little morning exercise to beat summer laziness.

Lawyers love to talk about running.

As you Type-A’s already know, a quick daily jog is a great way to gear up for the grueling exam. Jogging is a chance to clear your head, plan your day and prepare your body for the two- or three-day marathon of hypotheticals.

Every morning, my route leads through South Brooklyn to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. The traffic spills out near City Hall and the Federal Courthouses, where I stop to distribute my résumé and panhandle for a job. “Can you spare some employment? No? God bless.”

Then I head up through Chinatown. Judging by the crowded sidewalks and shops, the Chinatown markets have not been hit by the recession. I should probably start handing out my résumé here instead.

Next is the climb up the Williamsburg Bridge. It’s tough near the end of a run, but much easier than cranking (or walking) a fixed-gear bike to the top like everyone else. The hipster capital of the world awaits back on the Brooklyn side.

From there, it’s smooth sailing home. Right before I got back to my apartment today, some guy with long white hair and a matching beard gave me some encouragement. “Slam, pigeon baby!” he said. Or, actually, he might have said, “Slam pigeon, baby!”

No matter where he intended to place the comma, I’m sure he was wishing me luck on the bar exam. It was just the morale boost I needed before starting the day’s worth of studying.

Christopher Curran, like anyone who has ever existed during the summertime, is still figuring out the best answer to the persistent question of “Should I do my homework or go play Frisbee?”

If only everyone had his own Mr. Miyagi, life would be peaches.

Before starting bar review, I foresaw the summer might be a tug-of-war between discipline and freedom. I’m glad I signed up for a self-directed online bar review course, and I’m actually enjoying (so far) the chance to look back on different pieces of my law school education and get them straight in my head. Watching video lectures as I lie in the sun is not half bad.

Still, as I put off my first graded practice essay, it’s becoming clear that I’m going to have to resist temptations to veer off the Themis path. I need to find my inner disciplinarian to stick with the program.

In high school, I equated the word “discipline” with the authoritarianism that teenagers rebel against. It wasn’t until I ended up at a 10-day silent meditation retreat six years ago that I discovered the difference between authoritarianism coming from outside and self-discipline coming from inside.

After meditating 10 hours a day through excruciating physical and mental discomfort, there was a moment that felt like flipping a serotonin switch in my brain. By focusing my mind and learning how to objectively observe the roller coaster of sensations passing through my body, I found a new way to be free, which goes hand-in-hand with mastery over oneself.

I’m clearly into freedom — that’s partly why I left for another free Vipassana meditation retreat the day I finished my last law school exam. It’s why I’m taking free yoga classes this summer, and it’s why I’m blogging to get a free bar review class.

But I also recognize that freedom is only one side of the coin. Getting through the bar exam will require plenty of discipline. Then again, it’s not even June yet… so instead of hitting the books, I’m on my way to the park.

Not a bad idea, Christopher. In fact, I think it’s time for me to hit up my neighborhood soft-serve truck. Happy studying, everyone. Tune in again next week.

Disclosure: This series is sponsored by Themis, which is an ATL advertiser.

Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He previously covered legal technology for InsideCounsel magazine. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at You can read more of his work at

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