08/08/2014 12:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Free at Last! How to Spend Your Post-Bar Exam Days


Studying for the bar exam is like going to prison with the possibility of parole. Bar exam test takers spend at least ten hours a day mastering complex legal principles during the two months leading up to the exam. The condemned commiserate with other prisoners while family and friends of the incarcerated complain about the lack of visitation rights.

Case in point, Mark Eskenazi, a seasoned attorney for a federal agency, tells the common tale of the type of dedication required to pass the bar exam:

My life consisted of 3" x 5" index cards and ample caffeine. By the end of the summer, I was the proud owner of three packed shoeboxes worth of legal knowledge, which helped unlock the door to a profession I longed to enter. Thankfully, the hard work paid off, but I have never looked at a shoebox the same way again.

July 2014 bar examinees served a more burdensome sentence than most in their quest to become jurists. A program called ExamSoft, which is designed to upload test takers' responses, temporarily failed making examinees' answers and essays live in purgatory until they could be uploaded or sent to various state websites. That is why, despite my awesomely illegible penmanship, I prefer to handwrite my responses.


Regardless of how jarring one's bar exam experience was, many law school graduates have no idea what to do with themselves once the test is over. There are no longer embezzlement or larceny elements to study. Gone are the days spent cracking the commercial speech code. Those examinees who once desired to test the inherently dangerous activities found in their tidy torts outlines no longer seem interested in dynamite blasting.

I therefore submit to you the following tips which helped get me through my post-bar exam days:

Give A Little Bit: Your world has revolved around you this summer. You have lived and breathed books, highlighters, lectures on tape, and color-coordinated index cards. You survived on soggy sandwiches, insipid pizza, and tepid coffee. Consider rejoining the world by engaging in philanthropic, humanitarian, and social justice pursuits. Sure, licensed attorneys are either required or encouraged to get their pro bono groove on, however it is never too early to begin the process of giving.

Arianna Huffington, in her hugely inspirational tome Thrive: The Third Metric To Redefining Success And Creating A Life Of Well-Being, Wisdom, And Wonder, writes, "Make small gestures of kindness and giving a habit."

Your outreach efforts do not have to be law-related. Consider volunteering to help rebuild homes devastated by disaster; work with seniors or religious organizations in your community; or spend time with military families and veterans. Lawyers are trained to be ethical. There is nothing more honorable than to step outside oneself and give back.

Go Off The Grid: Congratulations! You have used your electronic devices to help you study everything from impeaching a witness to the capacity to contract. Now you must unplug and relish the quiet. Matthew Zimmelman, an attorney at the Law Offices of Craig D. Robins, a bankruptcy firm in New York, maintains, "It's important to take the time to wind down. Many people go on vacation after the exam. I spent a lot of time at the beach."

Heed the sage advice. Put down your iPhones and Blackberries -- you'll have plenty of time to cozy up to them once you start doing lawyerly things like making court appearances and answering your boss's weekend emails and telephone calls. Now is the time to enjoy the solitude.

Let It Go: Ignore bar exam white noise. Have faith you studied and did your level best. If you wish you had answered Essay Question #2 differently or studied harder the Rule Against Perpetuities (those words still send a shudder down my spine), forgo the self-inflicted gunshot wound known as regret. Reviewing every question you could've, would've, and should've answered differently is inherently unproductive. Never look back, unless you've concocted a sturdy and reliable time machine that allows you to adjust your answers accordingly.

POSTSCRIPT: If you have the privilege of becoming a member of this esteemed profession, use your power wisely and pass along any tips you learned about how to get through the post-bar exam period to those yet to be sentenced law school grads.