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  • Writer's pictureTommy Sangchompuphen

Not Guilty! Easing Bar Prep with Your Secret Pleasures

When it comes to bar preparation, we often focus on the rigorous aspects of study, like timed practice tests, memorization, and continuous review. However, understanding the less serious side, like applicants’ guilty pleasures, can also play an important role in their success.

Now, hear me out.

At the beginning of every semester, I administer a short pre-course questionnaire to students in the courses I teach. Some of the questions are more traditional questions you’d expect students to answer: what are your strengths as a law student; conversely, what are your weaknesses; and what do you hope to get out of the course.

But I also try to incorporate a few non-traditional and, sometimes, quirky questions, too.

For example, here’s a question I’ve occasionally asked students to ponder:

“What is one of your ‘guilty pleasures’? (A ‘guilty pleasure’ refers to something that someone enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard, or they believe it is not typical of their usual standards or tastes.)"

Why do I ask this and other seemingly irreverent questions?

Building Relatable Connections

First and foremost, learning about students' guilty pleasures allows for a more relatable and human connection between the instructor and the student. This connection is not just pleasant but can be strategically beneficial. It helps in creating a learning environment where students feel understood and supported, which can reduce stress and anxiety—common impediments to effective learning and bar preparation.

Customized Learning Approaches

Guilty pleasures can reveal a lot about how a person learns or what the person they might find engaging. For instance, a student who loves binge-watching shows might benefit from more visual and story-based content in their study materials. On the other hand, a student who enjoys puzzles or games might find a gamified approach to learning laws and precedents more engaging. Tailoring the study experience to align with these interests can make the grueling process of bar preparation more enjoyable and effective.

Stress Relief

Studying in law school and for the bar exam is undeniably stressful. Encouraging students to engage in their guilty pleasures (in moderation, of course) can be a great stress reliever. Whether it's watching a favorite TV show, enjoying a sweet treat, or indulging in some retail therapy, these activities can help reset the mind, which is crucial for avoiding burnout. More importantly, acknowledging these as legitimate ways to take a break normalizes care for mental health during the bar prep process.

Incorporating Pleasures into Study Routines

Guilty pleasures can also be incorporated directly into study routines. For example, reward systems based on personal likes can enhance motivation. Completing a set of practice essays could be rewarded with an episode of a beloved series or a special snack. This not only makes the preparation journey more pleasant but also helps in maintaining a steady pace of study.

Remember, the key to effective learning is not just about pushing harder but also about leveraging every tool at our disposal, including the seemingly trivial or fun elements like guilty pleasures.

One of my student's "guilty pleasure" is a double blonde espresso on ice with two packets of honey, whole milk in a tall cup." Of course, I had to try it, too.


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