There’s no doubt that failing the bar exam can feel devastating. After investing so much time, effort, and money into law school, it may be difficult to accept the fact that you didn’t pass this final exam. It may take some time to process what happened, but eventually you have to come to terms with the results. Establishing a definite plan for what you will do next can help you make peace with the outcome and move forward in a positive way. As you’re contemplating your next step after a bar exam failure, you may want to consider if any of the following paths are right for you.
1. Take the Bar Exam in Another State
Sometimes a change of venue can make all the difference. Taking the bar exam in a different state may be a good option if you have experienced multiple bar exam disappointments and/or are taking the exam in a jurisdiction that is particularly difficult (I’m looking at you California and Texas.) Most states use the MBE, so it will likely be a challenge no matter where you take the exam, but a new location with a slightly different exam format could work in your favor. Of course, moving to a new state won’t be a viable option for everyone, and it will have significant implications on where you can practice law. I know multiple people who have passed in a new jurisdiction after struggling in their original location, so if you have the freedom to relocate, this option is worth considering.
2. Change your Career Goals
Practicing law is not the only way to use your law degree. If you’re feeling disillusioned about practicing law after a disappointing bar exam – or if you weren’t too excited about the idea in the first place – a different career path may be the best way forward. There are many alternative ways to use your J.D. and many law school graduates have built successful, rewarding careers that don’t involve legal practice. A new career path may be especially appropriate if you have failed the bar exam multiple times. If you do decide to pursue a career other than practicing law, make sure you go into it with the right attitude: this is not a failure but is instead an opportunity to pursue a path that is better suited to your strengths.
3. Skip an Exam Administration
If you had to deal with a health problem, family crisis, or other stressful situation while preparing for the bar, it likely impacted your exam performance. If the situation is now resolved and you’re ready to dive into bar prep for the next exam administration, by all means go for it! If, however, you’re still dealing with whatever impacted you the last time, waiting to retake the exam until the situation is resolved may make the most sense. Skipping an exam administration can mean a long delay, so you don’t want to make this decision lightly, but you also don’t want to set yourself up for another disappointing outcome if you know you won’t be able to dedicate yourself to studying.
4. Retake the Exam with a New Approach
For most students who don’t pass the exam, the best option is to sit for the next exam administration. If you’re committed to retaking the bar exam, however, it’s crucial that you evaluate and adjust your study strategies. If you simply repeat the approach you used last time, you will likely repeat your results. Think about what caused you to struggle during bar prep so that you can craft a study schedule that will address these areas and ultimately improve your chances of success. Working with an experienced bar exam tutor is a great way to find a new approach if you’re retaking the exam.
As devastating as a bar exam failure may seem initially, you will realize with time that this isn’t the end of your legal journey – you simply need to find the right path forward.
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