We are pleased to welcome Jeff Curl to the Bar Exam Toolbox blog. Jeff shares his advice about how to tell your boss you didn’t pass the bar. Previously he was an apprentice grader for the California bar exam, and now works as an attorney practicing bankruptcy law at JC Law Group PC. Welcome, Jeff!
If you were fortunate enough to have a job offer made to you while you were awaiting California bar results, you owe it to that firm and person that took the risk in extending you the offer to inform them immediately of the results, good or bad.
That’s right, it’s not enough punishment that you failed the bar and have to retake it. Not only must you tell your close friends and family, you have to tell the boss, forcing you to potentially self-sabotage your own precious job prospect in this admittedly very bad market for new lawyers.
Here’s what to do:
- Schedule an appointment with the appropriate person at the firm immediately. Try to get a meeting on the Monday after the results.
- If there was an understanding before you took the exam about what would happen in the event of not passing — good or bad — be prepared to honor that understanding.
- As a soon-to-be lawyer, you know there are exceptions and “it depends” to agreements. Maybe the firm’s needs changed since your offer was made. Perhaps you have proven yourself exceptional and indispensable to the firm. Think through realistically as to whether there is some flexibility before making any kind of case for retaining you.
- Before you meet, figure out what you want. If there was no understanding before the results came out about what would happen in the event you did not pass, ask yourself what you desire. Maybe you don’t want to work at the firm so that you can study full time. If there is some flexibility, perhaps you can work less and study more, or maybe maintaining the status quo is in everyone’s best interests.
- While it is advisable to think through what you would like, be prepared for the firm having already decided. This could mean letting you go. Timing in all relationships is everything, and the firm hiring a new lawyer is no different. If an offer was made, the firm had a need. It may be that the firm just cannot wait any longer.
- Be gracious about not passing. Be sure to thank the firm for the offer. This is an opportunity to show how you handle adversity, stress and pressure. Maybe the firm can’t hire you now, but it could in the future. Keep the door open with the firm, don’t burn any bridges by delivering a bitter soliloquy about conspiracies concerning the bar exam.
- If the firm will not hold your position or you otherwise will not be working for it for whatever reason, be gracious in your departure. The firm already vetted and liked you enough before, so don’t foreclose a future opportunity by leaving a sour taste with the firm.
Following this advice requires a lot of maturity and gracefulness while under duress. That makes a good impression.
As the lawyer that extended you the offer, you can bet that attorney has great empathy for you not passing the bar. Every licensed attorney suffered through the stress of studying and threat of not passing. You’ve seen the statistics: many of those hiring now did not pass their first time.
In sum, meet quickly, figure out where you stand with the firm, and make appropriate arrangements so that you can focus on passing the California State Bar Exam.
Jeff Curl was an apprentice grader for the CA bar exam. He practices bankruptcy law with his wife Jeena Cho at JC Law Group PC.
Want more useful bar exam advice? Sign up for our free mailing list now!
Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Are You Feeling Like the Only Person Who Failed the Bar Exam?
- You Failed the Bar Exam: Eight Tips to Figure Out What Went Wrong
- Coming Back After a Bar Exam Failure – Gearing Up to Study Again
- Five Tips for Studying for the Bar Exam While Working