11 Tips for Exam Season

Ahhhhhh. Deep Breath. Exam Season is upon us yet again.

For some of us at BC Law, exams simply need to come and go so that we can get on with our Winter Break. For others – particularly you 1Ls – these few weeks will be incredibly stressful as you try to figure out how to both study for and execute on exams, which are two distinct skills that each need attention. 

As we enter reading period, the BC Impact Bloggers compiled a list of 11 of our most effective exam strategies. Note: these are not necessarily academic strategies, but rather tips for enduring and persisting through this difficult time.

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Mental Health Check-ins

In support of the well-being of lawyers across the professional spectrum—from students in the classroom to attorneys in all walks of legal life—we have launched a Mental Health Impact Blog Series, in partnership with alumnus Jim Warner ’92. Comprising deeply personal essays by community members who have struggled with mental health issues, the series provides restorative insights and resources to fellow lawyers in need.

The Mental Health Impact Blog Series coincides with a Law School-wide initiative, which will include lectures and workshops to support and promote mental well-being. To get involved in the activities or to write a guest post, contact jim.warner.uk@gmail.com.

Please be advised that the following post discusses depression and thoughts of suicide. If you need help, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is now reachable nationwide by dialing 988, or visit them online.


During my first year of law school, I seriously considered taking my own life. It was a case of classic depression. There was no great nexus event to cause me to feel that way. It was simply the anxiety of being in a new situation, mixed with sleep deprivation and too much caffeine that created a chemical storm in my body. The reason I did not go through with my plan is that someone convinced me to get help. The thing is, I didn’t look like someone who needed help – at least not by law school standards. I looked tired and withdrawn, but so did most people.

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What ‘Panic’ Can Teach You

In support of the well-being of lawyers across the professional spectrum—from students in the classroom to attorneys in all walks of legal life—we have launched a Mental Health Impact Blog Series, in partnership with alumnus Jim Warner ’92. Comprising deeply personal essays by community members who have struggled with mental health issues, the series provides restorative insights and resources to fellow lawyers in need.

The Mental Health Impact Blog Series coincides with a Law School-wide initiative, which will include lectures and workshops to support and promote mental well-being. To get involved in the activities or to write a guest post, contact jim.warner.uk@gmail.com.


By Elizabeth Martin ’92

Back then, in that lecture hall, sitting for my third-year Administrative Law exam, I could not imagine the work I would be doing today: leading strategy and innovation for a multi-billion dollar business and the largest health care company in the world. In fact, at that moment, I could not imagine much of anything other than the wreckage of my future playing out in live action in my imagination. My heart was racing. My ears were ringing, drowning out every cogent thought I had ever had. That’s the power of panic—in seconds it is able to reduce your otherwise bright future into a movie of the worst imaginable things: “you will fail this exam, you will not graduate, you will crater on the bar exam, and then, you will embarrass yourself, shame your family, and never be able to make a living! Oh, and still owe thousands of dollars to the federal government for the privilege.” 

So it was written. A promising career, tanked before it even started, felled (or so I thought) by a panic attack in my third year of law school.

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Lawyers Helping Lawyers: Comfort on the Path to Well-Being

by Jim Warner ’92

In support of the well-being of lawyers across the professional spectrum—from students in the classroom to attorneys in all walks of legal life—we are launching a Mental Health Impact Blog Series, in partnership with alumnus Jim Warner ’92. Comprising deeply personal essays by community members who have struggled with mental health issues, the series provides restorative insights and resources to fellow lawyers in need.

The Mental Health Impact Blog Series coincides with a Law School-wide initiative, which will include lectures and workshops to support and promote mental well-being. To get involved in the activities or to write a guest post, contact jim.warner.uk@gmail.com.


“You are no more likely to suffer from depression now than anyone who has not suffered from depression.” And with those words from my treating psychiatrist, I was cured.

Until I wasn’t.

In the months leading up to this optimistic sign-off from my psychiatrist, I had lost my job after plunging into a major depressive episode in my late 40’s. I had undergone therapy, taken a course of antidepressants, and rebuilt my emotional and physical health in about three months. Job done. I chalked up this unexpected and traumatic period of my life to a high level of stress at work. I was the General Counsel for a company that had just gone public.  

Four years later, my old friends, Anxiety and Depression, knocked on my door again. This time, they hadn’t booked a return ticket. They intended to stay for a while.  

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Imposter Syndrome: Who, ME?

Today was the first day of my last semester of school, ever.* (*Unless I decide I want another degree down the line, but for now, after seven straight years of undergrad and grad school, I’m definitely done for the near future.) As I saw all of the “happy last first day of school” messages this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of restlessness. I’m externing this semester and was working full-time for the day. I realized my anxiety was building up over being in this new externship placement. Here, I’m working in an area of law that I have no experience in, so before I began this morning, I felt incredibly nervous about this new position: What if I’m in a meeting and get asked a question I have no idea how to answer? What if I’m supposed to know about some substantive area of the law that I actually am clueless about? Until I eventually calmed down, I even started wondering how and why I landed the position in the first place. Who, me? How? Why?

This feeling of doubt and lack of confidence isn’t foreign to me. I felt similarly on my very first day of law school, my first case during my clinic experience, and throughout my 2L summer as a summer associate at a law firm. These feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty are a form of imposter syndrome, which is something I continue to struggle with as a final semester 3L. Imposter syndrome can come in various forms for various people. One HBR article defines it as “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.”

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Wait a Minute: Am I Actually Grateful for Exams?

As I entered into the thick of finals, I found myself in the usual funk of the season. Whether it be the long hours studying, the unfortunate act of flipping through class notes only to find illegible scribbles, or the jealousy rising in me as I see people pass my window enjoying their afternoons–I cannot help but feel a bit grumpy about what I (and all other law students) are going through at the moment.

On top of the usual irritability, I am painfully aware that this is my fifth time heading into finals. As a 3L, I have found myself dragging my feet more this time around. I have admittedly become a bit more impatient with tough concepts, lackluster in my study habits, and generous with my study breaks.

It was within one of these study breaks that I found myself browsing through the BC Law Magazine website and found this article highlighting Professor Bloom’s famous Ugly Sweater Contest.

Beyond chuckling at the images of Prof. Bloom and the class showing off their goofy sweaters, I felt a rush of nostalgia. I had completely forgotten about my own section’s Ugly Sweater Contest two years ago. Cooped up in a Civil Procedure review session, I remember laughing at both the fashion choices of my classmates and Professor Bloom’s zany commentary along the way. It was such a pleasant (and needed) break from stressing over what would be my first ever law school exam–a lighter moment to share with the people that had filled my life over the semester and who were going through the same taxing time.

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The Power of “And”

Holiday season is my favorite time of year. I love the festivities, I love being around my family, and I love the overall warmth and joy this time of year brings. What I love most about the holiday season, though, is that it is a time for me to pause and reflect. Every year around this time, I especially like to think about what I am grateful for about the past year. As I reflect on 2021, I am most grateful for the opportunity to enroll in a DBT therapy group this semester. 

DBT stands for dialectical behavioral therapy and is a form of cognitive behavior therapy. I knew I wanted to make a change in my life and join therapy when I caught myself repeating some patterns that began to negatively impact multiple areas of my life. A few months ago, I began to realize that over the years, I have formed a tendency to think in ‘either-or’s.’ This type of thinking has hindered my own personal growth and is affecting my interpersonal relationships. For instance, I think in terms of either “success” or “failure,” so if I plan to get five things done on any given day and I’m only able to complete three, I see ‘failure’ and can’t process any nuanced ‘in-between’ of the situation. Similarly, in relationships with others, I have trouble breaking free from conceptions of “right” and “wrong” such that if there is a disagreement, I strongly feel I am right and I become resistant to seeing viewpoints that don’t align with my own. In both of these situations, I am causing myself, and others, discomfort and distress. When I recognized this pattern earlier this year, I knew that something had to change. I joined therapy to better understand myself, to learn how to cultivate a healthier mindset, and to make some positive changes in my actions.

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Can Passion for Work Go Too Far?

“Are you going to talk about anything else?” My brother rolled his eyes as I talked about a technical area of patent infringement that no one in my audience cared to learn about. This was just a few weeks ago, and we were at a small dinner party with some family friends. I had finished up my time with a firm this summer, and I was excited for the chance to talk about it. But my brother’s comment reminded me just how much I’d been talking about my work. I had an amazing summer outside of the firm, too: I went on some relaxing getaways, I spent a lot of meaningful time with my family, and I finally read the books that had been on my reading list for months now. Yet, throughout dinner, I had mainly only talked about my firm experience. It was a reminder to me that law school — and the legal profession — should not and does not encompass my entire identity.

During my first semester of law school in Fall 2019, I found myself burnt out fairly quickly. I was spending too many hours reading, not necessarily because I had a lot to read, but more so because I felt that this was what I had to do. I felt like I was supposed to be outlining after every class, even if I didn’t really know what outlining even was. Despite being on top of my schoolwork, I felt guilty when I wasn’t doing law school-related work, only because I felt that there was no time or room to think about anything else.

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Lawyering and Breathing: Three Lessons from My Summer Experience

Today I am hosting a guest blog from my friend Melody Mathewson, a member of the Class of 2022. -DS


What am I doing this summer? Well, the law, of course. I am drafting agreements and policies, researching admissibility, and reading trial transcripts and state statutes. It’s all very glamorous and novel to you as aspiring or fellow law students, I know. 

More importantly, I am learning how to run a marathon. Not literally. Literally, I walk for an hour every day, but I do not run. What I mean is, I am learning how to endure and thrive through the marathon of being a human attorney. I am learning what I wish I had learned two years ago, both before and during the first year of law school. 

Here are three lessons from my 2L summer experience. 

Summer Experience Lesson No.1: It is perfectly acceptable to demonstrate your strong work ethic and hustling attitude from Monday through Friday, and “breaks” can coexist with “weekdays.”

I have been listening to some really thoughtful and insightful podcasts while going for my long, near-daily walks outside, and on the weekends I lie by the pool and read similar kinds of books (or completely lose myself in a perfectly curated playlist of summer bops). On a daily level, this hour-long walk is my mid-day break. It is my exercise, my fresh air, my break from a computer screen, my break from legal jargon, and most importantly it is time I am not working, not thinking about work, not worrying about work, and not pressuring myself to get back to work. 

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Five Silver Linings of Online Classes

I know I’m only four weeks into my legal education, and less than one sentence into this blog post, but I already feel compelled to start with a disclaimer.

This post is intentionally optimistic. The world has been feeling like a grim place lately. Although I’m presenting some bright sides to having class online, I don’t want to ignore the fact that the shift to online education has widened already existing educational  disparities.

With no further ado, let’s talk about some good things for a change:

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