In Greek mythology, the 12th and final labor of Heracles to become hero was to go down to the underworld (hell), capture Cerberus the three-headed dog, and live to tell the story. Well, going through the bar exam process is often related to others as ‘Going through Hell’. So if we carry the analogy and the travails of studying and taking the exam is the first head, and the torment of waiting is the second, we still have one head left on our bar exam monster we need to describe. I call that head: Results Season.
Although results won’t come out until as late as mid-November for some states, there are states beginning to release this week and so we now find ourselves in the throes of Results Season.
Results Season is an impactful time. I can remember, vividly, the who/what/where/when of each time I got back my results from the bar examiners. When I received my results from the Virginia bar exam I can remember standing outside the office building in Washington, D.C. where I worked, cars and taxis passing by, and the excitement my wife and I both felt as she read the results to me over the phone. When I received my results from the Michigan bar exam I was standing on the street by the mailbox with my wife who was expecting our second child and holding our first. I can still feel the tension I felt opening the envelope and the release of pressure when I learned that I’d passed and that it meant I could keep my job, which was contingent on me passing, and afford the house that we were in the process building.
But I can also remember hearing of other people’s results. Calling other people to share my results. Rejoicing with those who also passed and trying to lend an understanding ear to those who didn’t. Both Michigan and Virginia are states that release their results relatively late in the process. So, each time I was hearing from or about friends from other states who had received their results earlier than I. Sometimes, several weeks earlier than I. This is what makes Results Season so difficult. It isn’t just the varied emotions of dealing with our results and others’, it is the length of time that we must manage them.
Each Results Season I hear from several former students. One of the great joys of being a professor is hearing from former students who have passed the bar exam. One of the great difficulties of being a professor is hearing from those former students who were unsuccessful on the bar exam and thus have to endure another bar exam. So, over the years of working with students during this uncertain time, as well as from my own experience, I’ve developed a couple pieces of advice for those going through Results Season.
Remember that your results are independent from other people’s results.
One of the nasty byproducts of going through law school is the tendency to let what happens to other people affect our own psyche. Whether it is the grading curve or the stressful and competitive environment of law school generally, we are often measuring ourselves against others. Results Season can exacerbate this. This is especially so if you are in a state that releases its results somewhat later in the season. Do not let the results of others cause you stress. Remember that whether someone passes or fails the bar has nothing to do with whether you passed or failed the bar. When I learned that the person who finished first in my law school class failed the bar on the first try, I got scared. I asked myself how I could possibly pass if she wasn’t able. That was foolish. It would be likewise foolish to hear of someone who was ranked lower than I that passed and assume then that I also had passed. Every aspect of your bar exam experience is independent and irrelevant to someone else’s and the same is true for theirs.
Furthermore, whether you pass or don’t pass, it is important to resist measuring yourself against others. There are a myriad of factors that go into taking and passing the bar exam. If someone who was ranked below you passes and you don’t, it doesn’t have anything to do with you or your capabilities. Remember the person who finished first in my class but didn’t pass the bar the first try? Everyone that passed was ranked below her. She passed the bar the next try and is a capable and successful attorney. When results come out before yours, please remember that the results of others have no bearing on you or your results.
Keep your results to a close circle for a few days but don’t be ashamed.
No matter which state you are in, everyone knows when the results come out. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone needs to know everyone else’s results when the results come out. When you pass, you’ll want to shout from the rooftops. Or, in today’s world, post it on every social media platform possible. If you don’t pass the bar, you will hope that nobody ever finds out. In either case, for the first few days try to keep your results close to just your family and friends. If you don’t pass, you need time to truly internalize those results and work with family and close friends on your next steps. If you do pass, be respectful. You don’t want to be the person calling around to see if other people have passed. I explained above the feelings I had when I passed the bar. You will feel that too. But, others who are awaiting results will be just as excited for you in a few days, as they will be the day the results come out. Waiting allows those who didn’t pass some time to gather themselves and also to reach out to you for the good news.
After a few days, especially if you didn’t pass, it is time to reach out and try and keep things in perspective. I know, and every attorney knows countless people who didn’t pass the bar exam on the first, or sometimes the second, try. The key to being successful the next time is being open about what worked and didn’t work this time. Hiding your results, being in denial or not reaching out for help will only continue the cycle. Your friends who pass the bar will want to help. Plus, you will be excited for them, as they will be excited for you when you ultimately pass (And You Will!).
So, while managing Results Season can be a long and emotional roller coaster, it doesn’t have to be. Remember that other people’s results are irrelevant to yours and that should keep Results Season from amplifying your stress. Remember also to keep your results close for a few days so you can manage your emotions and others have the chance to manage theirs as well. The goal, from the day you start studying to the day you get the results, is to control the bar exam and not to let it control you. I’m confident you can manage the Results Season well, capture that three-headed monster, and get the hell outta the underworld.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Waiting for Bar Results? How to Keep the Bar in Perspective
- Do’s and Don’ts of Waiting for Bar Exam Results
- 5 Things To Do While Waiting for Bar Exam Results
- How Can Parents Help Their Student Who Failed the Bar
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