Dr. Juris or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bar

~ Written by Mary Tongel ~

It’s February. You’re only 35% done with your bar course. You are almost sure the numbers are against you. How could you have been so stupid? How could you have done so little? Fallen so far behind?

Anxious Brain is there to scold you. Anxious Brain says, “You always sabotage yourself.” Anxious brain says “This is it. No one will love you if you fail. People have only invested in you because they think you will succeed. They need a return on their investment.”

Perfection Brain is the one that inevitably got you to where you are, which is lying in the floor at your parents’ house in your teenage bedroom crying onto a two-foot-tall stack of handwritten notecards. Why didn’t you ever take down those stuffed animals? An overstuffed Winnie the Pooh stares at you disapprovingly.

“This is it,” says Perfection Brain. You’re only getting 40% of your multiple-choice questions correct and you think you’re going to pass? Why even bother if you’re just going to do poorly? If you’re just going to fail…” This is the same brain that told you to abandon everything from your third attempt at War and Peace to the sculpture you wanted to make your mother for Christmas. You lazy chump!

Lizard Brain is there to induce a state of pure panic after Anxious Brain and Perfection Brain have you all worked up. Your failure is a dangerous threat and by golly, that danger renders you paralyzed in your bed for two hours. That’s the time it takes to write and review an MPT! You’re wasting time! Lizard Brain is here to remind you that EVERYTHING IS OUT TO GET YOU. Lizard Brain says “FREEZE! HANDS IN THE AIR!”

Your partner calls. You answer. You cry at your partner maniacally. Your parents’ dog looks at you with deep concern. Silly dog! Anxious Brian reminds you that the dog won’t love you if you fail the bar exam. Your partner reminds you that the dog probably doesn’t mind if you fail the bar, but he does mind when you gave him a bath.

Your partner reminds you that you had this same meltdown last week when you were only at 25% completion. Your partner asks if you’ve had too much caffeine. You definitely did. Your partner asks if you remembered to take your medicine. You definitely didn’t. Your partner asks if you drank water or went for a walk or breathed. You definitely didn’t. “Really?”

Your law school friend texts you and reminds you that the first part of bar study is tedious. It’s a lot of lectures and reading and making your own study aids. She tells you it’s not so bad if you just stay calm. “You gotta chill.”

Anxious, Perfection, and Lizard laugh. The audacity!

Your friend tells them to put a sock in it. They’ve overstayed their welcome. You agree. Your friend reminds you that the worst thing that will happen is you take the exam again in July. You’re not going to die. People don’t love you because they want something from you. You’re not a stock. You’re a person, and you’ll start to feel like one again soon. If you think you’re dying, drink a stinking glass of water. You like water! Water is nice! Water doesn’t…..


This isn’t it. This is just the beginning and you’re going to be ok.

Bar Study Sounds

  • Everything Rihanna has ever touched
  • A lot of Dolly Parton
  • SZA’s Ctrl (It’s meeeeee! Ms. 20-Somethinggg)

My playlist on Spotify

A Bar Study Reading List

  • Just Kids, by Patti Smith (to remind you you’re alive and that’s pretty amazing)
  • Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness, Mark Epstein (to remind you to breathe)
  • Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy (to practice that power pose)
  • All About Love, Bell Hooks (to help heal Lizard Brain)


Cover Photo Source: https://cqf-avocat.com

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