Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last-Minute Plan

Things seemed to go so well at first. Bar/Bri's schedule was not, in retrospect, terribly difficult to follow. Of course, on lecture days, it was a good idea to outline lecture notes before starting on suggested assignments. And many people let things slip, but by a couple of days after the end of lectures on substantive law, people were beginning to catch up.

But not everybody learns the same way. And I found myself staring at piles of essays, which Bar/Bri had recommended us to "outline". I had been overcompensating for falling behind earlier in the summer by actually doing full essays, sometimes even spending more than one hour on a few essays (and thereby practicing how not to do them).

Then, yesterday, the Tuesday night before the California July 2008 Bar Exam was to begin, I realized that there was no way I would remember everything if I stuck with Bar/Bri's suggested schedule. So I actually went home before 11 p.m. I rested a bit. I devised a new plan. And, as I enjoyed a late dinner at Denny's with my brother, the plan gelled in my head.

It's a bit late, really, to start coming up with a plan. But the process of coming up with a new plan, one that best recognizes who I am and how I study, was therapeutic. And simply knowing that I have a plan is calming, even in a sea of bar applicants struggling with their own misperceptions about their adequacy: they are all human, with idiosyncratic flaws, but lack of intelligence is not one of the flaws. And so, I stayed up until 6 a.m. the night before to start on the new plan, just to give it a foothold; and I came to the library late, giving myself a chance to stock up on some groceries and get some sleep. And on campus, though I couldn't really say that I was really better prepared than anybody else, I could at least say that I had a plan.

It's simple, really. I would execute a new outline, compacted from the lecture notes and adjusted to better fit Professor Sakai's outlines. And I would "outline" and read as many essays as I can through lunch on Friday. Then I would do a set of 100 multiple choice questions Friday evening, and review. Saturday would be given over to a practice performance question. And Sunday would be dedicated to doing a full essay from each area I feel weak in or that is most likely to be on the exam. Then, Monday morning, I would skim over the new outline, before quitting studying to hit the gym.

I honestly don't know with any certainty if this plan will work, or if I will pass the bar exam. But at this point, just having a plan is going to be helpful, because it puts me at a place where I feel I have some control. And that's really it, isn't it? Most law students, yours truly not excepted, are control freaks, compared to the general populace. And nothing terrifies control freaks like the bar exam, because we don't know what's going to be on the exam, the breadth is immense, and we won't know the results until just before Thanksgiving.

So this little island of calm will help at least keep me sane. And that's probably all any bar applicant can ask for, 5 days and 11 hours before the bar exam begins.

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