For anyone wanting to practice law, taking (and passing) the bar exam is an unavoidable, yet essential, part of the journey to becoming an attorney. As recent graduates of the Chapman University Fowler School of Law prepare to take the bar exam—most for the first time—we asked their antecedents to share advice for mentally and physically preparing for, and getting successfully through, this two-day undertaking.

How did you stay motivated during bar exam preparation and testing?

I kept in mind what is at stake when you take the Bar Exam. This is the final step in the long process of becoming an attorney. Also, it is quite possibly the last test you will ever have to take.

– David Lantzer, JD ‘02

The test itself was motivating enough for me. I realized it was the last thing that stood between me and my chosen career.

– Greg Diaz, JD ‘14

Can you share a success story of overcoming doubt during the bar exam?

I self-actualized; I saw myself going into the convention center and passing the exam. I figured if I completely devoted myself 100% to studying, there would be nothing more for me to do. I also thought that studying for one month after three years of law school was not a lot to ask. One day while out on a run, I had an epiphany. I realized that I’d done everything possible and that I was prepared. I conquered my biggest motivating factor: the fear of not passing the first time.

– Christian M. Santos, JD ‘98

Ignore detractors. The gentleman sitting next to me during the bar exam kept saying, “oh man, I know I’m going to be back here in February.” The bar exam is half mental, so stay positive!

– Kelly Brown, JD ‘10

I kept repeating “calmness is power” as the people around me got up and finished early while I kept erasing answers on the multiple choice.

– Carol Rugh, JD ‘16

There was a part of the first essay on the first day that I knew absolutely nothing about. I had to remind myself that I knew something like this was coming, to focus on the parts of the essay I knew, and to trust that I would do better on other essays. I passed, so I must’ve been right to trust.

– Brian Nelson, JD ‘11

Do you have any wellness tips or other words of wisdom to help in readying the mind and body for the bar exam?

Remember to exercise, take breaks, and try to establish a good routine.  The bar exam is a serious undertaking, but you need to take care of yourself, too.

– David Lantzer, JD ‘02

Get a massage if you can. One of my friends from the prior class told me that after spending six hours a day hunched over, stressed out, and working quickly, my back and shoulders would be wrecked. She advised getting a massage after the second day of testing to alleviate that. And I’m glad I did! Also, whatever happens, stay calm. Law practice is stressful and requires you to think on your feet. Examiners will ask you questions you don’t know the answer to, but guess what? Neither do the other people taking the exam! When you encounter that situation, just take a deep breath, and work your way through it. If you don’t know the rule statement, then make up a reasonable rule statement and apply it. You won’t receive full credit, but you will get points for your analysis. That may well make the difference between passing and failing.

– Ryan Darby, JD ‘08

I hopped on the treadmill and ran in between bar days, which I haven’t really done before or since. I never liked running, but it was a good way to clear my head. Also, don’t study during bar days, because if you haven’t learned it by then, you aren’t going to learn it on the fly.

– Jesse Bablove, JD ‘11

Trust Professor Mainero‘s advice not to study in the couple of days prior to the exam. You will just end up stressing yourself out. For the body, a regular exercise schedule definitely helped me. Finally, if you get to the exam and don’t know an answer, that’s OK, as you do not need a perfect score to pass.

– Lara Petersen, JD ‘17

Are there any other words of encouragement you can offer to our current bar takers?

Trust your training. Professor Mainero knows what he’s doing. Do what he says. You’ll be fine.

– Richard Green, JD ‘98

Statistically, your class is very strong. Hang in there and have confidence in your abilities.

– David Lantzer, JD ‘02

Don’t let anyone else’s expectations define you. You can do this. It takes practice every day. With patience and preparation, you will overcome even the hardest fact patterns and the most complicated rules.

– Carol Rugh, JD ‘16

Like everything else these days, this is a short period of your life, so take studying seriously, but don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. You can do it!

– Kelly Brown, JD ‘10