Study for the Bar Effectively While Working

How to Effectively Study for the Bar While Working

By: Bethany Pierpont, Esq., Lead Regional Director – Helix Bar Review

Studying for the bar exam can feel like a full-time job. But what happens if you already have a job that you’ll need to maintain while studying? The reality for many is that life doesn’t stop just because you need to focus on preparing for the bar. But the good news is that many before you have been in the same situation, adequately prepared themselves, and passed!

Here are five tips to help you tackle studying for the bar while continuing to work.

1. Create a schedule.

Creating a schedule will help you manage your time wisely. Your plan should include everything you’ll need to get done. First, take a look at when your bar course opens. If you can start studying earlier than the typical 10-week schedule most students use, you will be able to spread out study tasks over a longer period. (Helix Bar Review opens 20-weeks before the bar exam!)

After you have a good idea of your start date, estimate how many hours you will need to devote to studying each week. A good rule of thumb is to plan for at least 400-hours of total studying over the course of your bar prep period. Once you have a sense of the total time commitment, look at the study schedule provided by your bar prep program. (Helix offers 10, 12, 16, and 20-week study schedule options to fit your timetable and learning style.) Then, plan your attack!

Calendar your work time, study time, meals, breaks, and whatever else you need to keep yourself on track. As you’re doing this, look for creative ways to add in extra study time. You can do things like review outlines over your lunch hour or flip through flashcards on your train ride to work. Every bit counts!

Make sure to revisit your schedule regularly. Check in with yourself to see if it’s working. Are your early morning study sessions helpful? Do you need a break after work to decompress before jumping into studying? Make adjustments to ensure your plan stays workable.

2. Protect your time and set boundaries.

It will be easier to protect your time if you set clear boundaries. Chat with your employer about your options and, if possible, schedule work around your study time. If you know you study best first thing in the morning, consider flexing your hours to start work later so you can get a good study session under your belt before you’re on the clock. Or if you can only study after work, maintain a hard stop so you can make it home to get in that quality study time.

Another way to protect your time is to refrain from taking on additional projects at work during bar prep. Let your employer know when you’ll be done with the exam and that you can take on new projects after that time.

Set boundaries in your social life, as well. Since studying for the bar is an additional job on top of your current employment, you won’t have a lot of room for free time. Make sure your friends and family know the importance of prioritizing bar prep and that your social hiatus is only temporary.

3. Use time off strategically.

Hopefully you have vacation time, paid time off, or other time off at your disposal. Consider strategically using this time for bar prep. For example, perhaps you can take off every Friday to give yourself an extra full day of studying, or maybe you can work a couple of half-days each week to build in more study time.

If you’re able to swing it, take the 10-14 days prior to the exam off to give yourself a block of dedicated time to complete practice questions and do a final review.

4. Don’t procrastinate.

It can be tempting to tell yourself: "I can take a longer break today and just study more tomorrow." Or, "I’ll study after I scroll through Instagram." We have all been there. But one excuse can lead to another and before you know it – you’re behind on your bar prep. It is so much easier to stay focused and get in quality study time by keeping up with your study plan.

Remember that you should still schedule breaks! Your mind and body need it. But if those breaks turn into procrastination sessions, it will make it so much harder to catch up and get through your daily bar prep tasks. If it helps, use reminders in conjunction with your study schedule. When you get to a planned break on your calendar, set an alarm to signal when it’s time to get back to work so you stay on track and keep moving forward!

5. Take care of yourself.

Finally, it’s important to remember yourself during this time. Working, studying, caretaking, and attending to other obligations can weigh you down. Make sure you are getting good quality sleep, eating well, scheduling breaks, and adding movement into your day. Short breaks away from your computer and books will do wonders for your physical, mental, and emotional health. You can weather this taxing (but temporary) stage and arrive on exam day ready for success!

While it may not be ideal to work while studying for the bar, it’s certainly doable. By creating a workable study schedule, protecting your time, using any time off from work wisely, not procrastinating, and taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health – you’ll be able to fit it all in!

Don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends, mentors, and your law school administrators for help along this journey. They are all invested in your success and want to help. You got this!

Ready for more? Check out our other blog posts written with YOU in mind!