Bar Exams, Law Schools

Bar Review Diaries: How Do We Deal With Stress?

We have a definite theme for this week’s installment of the Bar Review Diaries: stress!

Big surprise, right? What’s not stressful about a multi-day test that culminates three years of study and kind of determines your entire future?

Our columnists are in the thick of their review, and by the looks of it, anxiety is starting to creep in….

Michael Dulong put together a handy list of (fake) studying tips, to combat feelings of anxiety, stress and, most importantly, humorlessness:

1. Watch every movie ever made about law. My Cousin Vinny will remind you what a great lawyer you will be especially if you fail the bar five times.

2. Line up the pages of your prep materials on the floor and set them on fire, starting with page one. Knowing your Torts outline has only a few precious moments left will help you concentrate and memorize it faster.

3. Play the lottery. When you win, you will be forever exempt from the requirement of passing the bar.

4. Tell your parents you’re studying 15 hours a day and don’t have time for dinner. They will feel bad, stop calling, and send you money “for a meal.”

5. If you need a quick study break, watch the entire series of Lost.

6.  Tattoo the Constitution on your forearm. It’s not cheating. It’s art. This tattoo is commonly referred to as “the Bachmann.”

7.  Get arrested. This is a quick way to gain substantive experience in criminal law and procedure.

8.  Take a Tylenol PM before your last lesson every night. It will make it that much tougher to concentrate, thus preparing you to grind it out when answering your 173rd multiple-choice question of the day.

9.  If you don’t want to study, stay in a Holiday Inn Express the night before your exam.

10.  Smile. Seriously, studying for the bar is less stressful than complex litigation.

That’s a good list, Mike. Just remember everyone, My Cousin Vinny is totally a true story, and if you buy enough Mega Millions tickets, you are required to win eventually.

Mariah Ford got stressed out, along with a ton of other people, when the New York Bar Examiner’s website crashed last week. Luckily, she finds solace in the fact that she won’t have to take the exam on top of a bunch of cow poop. Way to stay positive, Mariah!

Last week, we were finally graced with an email from the fine people of the New York Bar.

The email was 12 paragraphs long, but I got the basic point: Click the link at the bottom to confirm your seat location. I clicked the link. Nothing happened; I guess the server went down because every other student was doing the same thing. I told myself not to freak out. The next day I clicked the link again and selected my New York City preference.

I’ve heard horror stories about the exams. One of the first Themis videos emphasized the importance of remaining calm and not getting stressed out by the dude with five stopwatches next to you, or the people jabbering about something you’ve never heard, or the girl poring over her color-coded outlines minutes before the exam.

My uncle took the Colorado Bar Exam at the stockyards. For the test, they put wood boards over the sawdust and dung and just stuck desks on top. The smell of manure in the summer heat wafted up through the slats all day.

You never know what sort of bizarre circumstances might occur on exam day. But I have been conditioning! I have been training myself! I have been bar-studying on a farm, hosting about 20 heifers that belong to the people down the road, along with an Irish terrier who barks at the cows.

I think if I passed the bar in that situation, nothing would ever stress me out again. Wow.

Hypothetical bovine scenarios notwithstanding, Christopher Curran is pondering stress on a big-picture level. He’s looking for a way to face his stress and then let it go, despite endless hours behind a desk and the intimidating responsibility of solving other people’s big problems.

Why are lawyers so stressed out? Is it because they get paid to take on other people’s problems and sort them out? No, I don’t think that fully explains it. Everybody in the world constantly deals with everybody else’s problems, but lawyers seem to have a harder time letting go of stress.

Maybe they’re so stuck in over-developed intellects that they fail to notice tension building up in their bodies, and they’re too busy to let go of it.

People who only use their bodies as containers for their minds tend to be unaware of how much stress builds up when you don’t move around enough. They don’t realize how physical tension leads to mental rigidity and weakness.

I’m sitting on the floor as I study for the bar. This is the best thing I can do for my back, because I’m holding myself up instead of leaning into a chair. I want to strengthen the muscles that keep me in alignment, but I’m realizing this is not a passive process that will happen automatically.

I have to actively become more aware and then stay aware, despite the discomfort that comes along with it. We can release a lot of the physical discomfort, similar to the mental discomfort that comes from stressful situations, once we realize it’s there.

So, whether you’re on the floor, on the farm or at the Holiday Inn, good luck with your studying. You can do it!

Tune in next week, but first, take a little study break and share your stress reduction tips in the comments.

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

ATL Law School Directory
(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments