3 Unexpected Effects of Studying for the Bar Exam

Bar Exam Law School Graduation

 bar exam prep the introverted attorney

I know. It's a weird time and, depending on where you are, the bar exam may be postponed, administered remotely, or even waived (looking at you, you lucky Utahns).

However, studying an overwhelming amount of dense materials for weeks while stacked under bone-crushing stress has its consequences, no matter what situation you're in. 

Accordingly, I feel it is my moral duty to impart my experiences to you, bar exam takers, so these effects are less shocking.

1. 2x Speed Becomes Your New Normal.

Attempting to learn everything you can about multiple areas of law (sometimes even up to 24 different topics depending on what state you're in) within just a few weeks means TIME IS EVERYTHING. I couldn't afford the time that lecturers in videos needed to breathe between sentences -- I didn't pay my bar prep course to hear breathing, did I?! As such, I often resorted to listening to video lectures on at least 1.5x speed and, in the case of the worst slow-speaking offenders, I'd ramp it up to 2x speed.

It was like listening to the fundamentals of Criminal Law and Procedure from Alvin and the Chipmunks. But hey, I'd get through hours of materials in approximately half the time.

But, let's get to the consequences. Listening to audio at a faster speed than normal, especially if you're studying alone and getting minimal interaction with other humans who are not subject to your speed controls, means that everything at normal speed begins to sound like slow motion. There were moments where I'd take breaks from studying to watch a video at normal speed and legitimately wonder... do these people have brain damage? Why are they talking so absurdly slow?

Introverted Attorney Lawyer Law Student Watching Videos at 2x Speed vs Normal

It was seriously a major adjustment. Not to mention, I started talking faster as well... Whenever I spoke to anyone during this time, I seemed like a high-strung neurotic in a rush.

2. Goodbye, Social Skills

Social skills are a "use it or lose it" kind of thing. When your only interactions with other people are scrolling by the models pictured in your bar exam prep website banner and listening to the professors in the prerecorded lectures, your brain starts off-loading unused abilities to pick up new ones. In my case, the limited mental space I had became devoted to memorizing the elements of battery for Torts and, thus, replacing my already limited capability for small talk.

This manifested in awkward encounters where, when ordering a meal at a restaurant counter, I'd be the most aware of any signs of an impending assault ("he handed me the plasticware so roughly! I imminently apprehended harmful contact! ... but was there any intent?") and struggled to come up with complete sentences when met with a simple, "How are you doing today?"

In these cases, my response was usually something to the effect of: "Uwah! Uh, me, okay. Food want."

The Introverted Attorney Law Student Lawyer Socializing During the Bar Exam

This is an especially uncomfortable time as many bar exam takers are encouraged not to talk about the bar exam with their peers lest they stress each other out... but you may feel like THAT'S THE ONLY THING I KNOW AND WANT TO TALK ABOUT.

At that point, like I did, you may find yourself deep in dark, depressing threads on the internet, further complicating your mental state. It took months for me to regain basic and expected social behavior, such as maintaining eye contact with others and not staring off into the distance with a look of apprehension when asked, "How have you been?"

3. The Bar Exam Becomes Your New Lowest Point in Life.

The bar exam will become your new lowest point in life. That's because it's not just the studying... it's the stress of taking the exam and, if you manage to get through that alive, waiting for the results. In some cases for certain states, waiting months before you fully understand how your life will play out for the next quarter of the year. That kind of drawn out, sadistic uncertainty imposed by the legal profession truly changes you.

Especially in the year that follows passing the bar exam, your perspective on the world noticeably changes. It's like the pampered, privileged version of returning from war and trying to integrate with society again... you're not like the rest of these soft sacks of skin and bones. Outside of your firm or practice, commoners will complain of long hours and dull days, and you will sneer at them, those weaklings.

For anyone who's had the deep, deep misfortune of taking the bar exam multiple times, this has a compounding effect, and you will have to nurture whatever remnants of human identity you have left to be able to function again.

Introverted Attorney Lawyer Law Student Bar Exam Trauma Lowest Point In Life

Non-lawyers won't understand this. They may "ooo" and "ahhh" at the fact that you sat through a full-day or multiple day test, but they'll never be able to share the look of mutual understanding and respect that you'll naturally get from another lawyer (even if a complete stranger) when you both acknowledge "the bar exam".

In essence, the bar exam will ruin your life, at least a little.

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  • Lawpunk on

    I took the bar exam 7 times. Never passed it. Once I missed passing by 1 point. It damn near killed me. So now I owe $100,000 for a degree I can’t use. It’s the most ridiculous thing ever. Your comics are spot on!


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