What could have possibly gone wrong?!! The results are posted and your name isn’t on the Pass List. You knew taking the bar was going to be tough. But, you were a good student in law school, and you studied hard every day during your bar prep. You listened to every bar course lecture and completed all the practice bar questions you could. How could this happen to you?
The truth, unfortunately, is that each year many people fail the New Jersey bar. It’s simply not as easy as it looks when compared to other jurisdictions. The pool of test takers is deep and competitive. Your MBE score counts for 50% of your total state score. And, the scope of testing is more comprehensive than just the seven MBE subjects listed.
There is good news, though. There are plenty of attorneys who have failed the bar and gone on to rewarding legal careers. You can be one of them too!
Here are 5 tips to help you clear your head and restart your engine:
Deal with the grief of failing despite trying hard.
Let’s face it. Failing the bar exam is nothing short of a major disappointment. While there are other more tragic life events, this misstep hurts deeply given the personal and professional consequences attached. It can be awfully tough getting back on your feet. But the not so simple truth is you can never move forward from this experience unless you deal with your grief. Nobody expects you to bounce back tomorrow. Anger, anxiety and depression are normal reactions. Take time to talk about your thoughts and feelings. Talk with people who care about you. Most importantly, ask for help when you need it. Integrating this loss into your life can empower you to find strength from within.
Act quickly, despite your disappointment, to improve your chances for success the next time.
The next tough decision you’ll need to make is whether to sit again or move on. The good news is that NJ offers both a February and July administration. You can get right back up on the horse again without losing any time at all. From a testing perspective, the sooner you sit, the better off you will be. The more time that passes the greater the chance your brain will be wiped clean. Even though you weren’t successful this time, you want to keep all of your momentum going forward.
Comply with any and all instructions for reapplying for the exam.
This starts unfortunately with re-reading the “Failure” letter you received in the mail. New Jersey, like any other jurisdiction, holds compliance with rules and standards in high regard. This is especially true when it comes to applicant filing deadlines and paying fees. So clear away the tears, read the letter again carefully, and highlight all those re-application instructions, dates, and filing fee amounts. New Jersey only gives you 30 days after the release of results to file at the reduced re-applicant fee price. Remember also that while you don’t have to re-submit all of your supporting documentation, you are required to update the Board of any changes in circumstances that might affect your admission into the State.
Think about your bar exam experience from start to finish.
After some time has passed, you should ask yourself if there were any “warning signs” that signaled potential problems. By “warning signs”, I mean red flags as well as yellow signs that should have been flashing but were not for some reason. I have talked with many repeaters who planned weddings, got married, took extensive vacations, or simply carried too many other responsibilities while preparing for the bar. Many NJ applicants sit concurrently in other jurisdictions. Did you blow off studying for NJ because it only tests on the MBE subjects? Where you unprepared mentally and/or physically for how exhausting it would be taking two exams back-to-back? Experts agree that if you decide to retake a bar, you’ve got to have a different game plan.
Finally, map out a new plan of attack.
One of the up sides to retesting in New Jersey is that you have plenty of time between exams to recover, plan and study. Start your recovery by mapping out a new strategy. Some things to think about include:
- What are your knowledge and exam performance strengths and weaknesses post exam (look over you test answers to identify where gaps in learning and performance exist);
- Whether to take a commercial course or go it alone (if you flew solo the first time, the answer to this question is a no-brainer);
- How to change up your study environment; or
- What alternatives exist to working during the bar.
With these tips in mind, this setback will be just that – a temporary detour. Cheers to you future success on the New Jersey bar exam!
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