Mississippi College Law Review

Publication Date

Fall 2022


During a recent administration of the bar examination, I observed the following: a student who had a child ten days before the exam passed; a student on law review failed; a student whose predictors indicated he should fail the bar exam passed; two students who were in the library every day studying failed. Even though these folks were all taking the same exam, their outcomes varied dramatically, and there did not seem to be a common variable that predicted whether they would pass or fail. My first inclination was to throw up my hands in frustration and chalk it up to the fact that every student’s situation is unique.

I was satisfied to shrug and mutter, “what can you do?,” until I came across a podcast on Coach Nick Saban. Saban is a successful college football coach at the University of Alabama.2 As I listened to the podcast, I realized that the bar exam experience is very similar to a football team’s preparation for a championship game. The stakes are high, the preparation is intense and condensed, each individual bar taker will either win (pass) or lose (fail), and there are points assigned based on how well the performer does.

I wondered whether the tools that assist championship teams could also assist bar takers in their quest to pass the bar examination. Thinking back to the students who passed the bar exam when statistics or circumstances predicted they would not and to those who failed even though all outside indicators pointed to them passing, I realized there was something that the passers and the failers (unfortunately) had in common, but it was not predictors or grades. The passers dedicated themselves to a process to pass the bar. They not only studied, they studied the right way. For those who failed the bar exam, there was inevitably something missing—it could have been time spent on the bar exam or it might have been the failure to be in the right state of mind as they were studying.

My goal in this article is to draw from sports psychology and Coach Saban’s idea of “The Process” to help those taking (or retaking) the bar exam reach their full potential and pass. Success on the bar exam requires dedication and the right state of mind. I hope this article helps bar takers get in the passing mindset by giving some concrete steps to enhance study habits. To do this, Part I discusses how sports psychology is relevant to bar exam prep. Part II, the central portion of the article, describes the elements of the Process and how they relate to bar prep. Part III discusses how college athletes are different from those taking a bar examination and how developing self-discipline is crucial to bar exam success. Part IV emphasizes the importance of keeping life in balance while committing to the Process.



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