There are 4 stages of bar exam prep. The Excitement, this is the adrenaline before prep even starts. The Stress, this is the motion of actually going through bar prep. Challenge Day, the actual exam. And lastly, The Anxiety, the waiting for results.
How would you rank these stages on a scale from absolute worst to terrifying?
This post is about easing the last stage, the anxiety. After you take the exam, you go home and beat yourself up about what you could’ve done better. You wish results would come out a.s.a.p. but they’re not. Depending on your state, it will be weeks, maybe even months before you get results. In a perfect world, you have secured an offer at your dream firm, irrespective of results, and you are starting work soon. But for most of us that isn’t the case. The reality is we don’t have a job lined up and bills are due soon or we do have a job but we can’t start until results are out. Maybe you haven’t even thought about life after the bar because you were so consumed by it. I understand. Here is some suggestions on how you can best spend that wait time.
1. Work responsibly. This seems like the obvious answer right? Let me explain what I mean by work responsibly. While I was waiting on bar results, I made a conscious decision to work as a server at restaurant instead of as an assistant or paralegal at a firm. This was so that I could have flexibility with my schedule to allow me to go on interviews, meet prospective employers for coffee, and attend bar association meetings. I did not have to travel far and I could keep my physical appearance to a minimum. I was able to save money by not having to get my hair done, wear makeup, or have a dry cleaning bill. If you have a job to help pay the bills but it isn’t what you want don’t give in just yet. Just work responsibly and keep your options open at the same time.
2. Network. Network. Network. If you are not where you want to be you should be networking to get there. Periodt. Check out this post, Networking 101, to make sure you are on top of your game.
3. Start a Side Hustle. No matter what you do in life you should have multiple streams of income. Trust me, when those student loans hit, you are going to wish they had their own paycheck. Put the gears in place for that now by starting a side hustle. Whether it’s monetizing a hobby you love or finally launching that business idea that came to you in law school, now is the time to get it going.
4. Build a library. Im not talking about books although I LOVE books (hint hint). Spend this time building your law library. You will soon be an attorney and you need to have your go-to legal forms on hand. Start with the practice area you intend to be in and collect forms and copies of court documents. For example, if you plan on practicing family law, gather samples of custody orders, agreements, pre-nups, etc. A place to start is that free Westlaw and LexisNexis subscription before it ends. Next, there are tons of resources on the internet, and then bar association websites. Remember, stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
5. Familiarize yourself with “easy money.” If you haven’t already noticed, you will see that friends and family are going to approach you with their legal issues. You may have no intention of practicing that area of law but don’t let easy money walk away. We got loans. Okurrt? Familiarize yourself with things like how to file a copyright, trademark, and business formation in your state. This is what I call easy money that you can do for extra money on your own time.
6. Bar Associations/CLEs. Take advantage of the free student memberships and join every bar association remotely associated with what you intend to practice. Going to bar association meetings is an excellent networking opportunity and also an excellent learning opportunity. You may feel like you’re not ready to practice or you need more exposure to real life situations. Most bar associations have CLE’s at their meetings. This is a great way to learn and make yourself sound more informed than your average peer at interviews.
7. Clean up your social media. The last thing you want, is to get looked over for a job because of the Gram. Now that you have time and if you care (some people don’t), go back and delete those old tweets and statuses.
8. Work on branding/marketing. It is time for you to package yourself to the world. Google yourself and make sure you like the results. Get that social media in order. Get some updated headshots taken. Start a personal website. Get some business cards. Take your branding seriously. Pinterest has tons of branding pallets where you can match fonts and colors for free. Put some respect on that J.D.
9. Make a budget. Life hits different when ain’t no more refund checks coming. I sincerely wish anyone reading this post, all the success they deserve. But, the reality is that your salary as a new attorney can range anywhere from 50K to 150K. Take out taxes from your paycheck and add student loans to your expenses. You may be excited to leave your roommate but seriously consider living expenses being solo before you do. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
10. Get back to yourself. This really shouldn’t be last but I’m realistic about career/financial priorities. Also, this can be done concurrently with anything else on this list. Take care of yourself and find that work/life balance. Unfortunately, you will see job postings that say things like “45-50 hrs/week” or “we go home when the job is done.” I wish more employers cared about wellness but the reality is most of them don’t. That is why it is so important to already have time set aside for yourself. That can be a set volunteer schedule or morning yoga class. Whatever it is, prioritize yourself.