Congratulations on finishing the bar and welcome back to our new series, “So you just finished the bar and…”. In this series we streamline our advice to help answer your most pressing questions post-bar! Read the first article of the series here.
In the first part of this series, we focused on ways to look forward and move on after the bar exam. You need to get back your life! But, we are realistic, and we know that worry about your bar results will creep into your mind. In this post, we give our advice on how to handle that.
Dealing with reality
To begin with, you need to fully realize that the result is out of your hands now. We know that fact can cause even more stress. But it can also save you time thinking about, “what did I do wrong? What should I have done?”
Given how much time, money, blood, sweat, and tears you put into your bar exam, it may seem like your entire life hinges on your results. Well, guess what:
There are literally countless stories of incredibly successful lawyers who you would never guess failed the bar exam their first try. From Hillary Clinton to several Deans of law schools, a failed bar exam has been just the first step in countless successful legal careers. Yes, you won’t be happy if you failed, but, after understanding what went wrong, you will try again and come out successful.
Go through all of the scenarios
Say you failed. Would that make you sad? Most likely. Embarrassed? Probably. End of the world? No way. You will have to study again, you will have to own your failure, and you will have to delay starting your legal career. But, you can do it, and you will get through it.
Hopefully, if you take some time to work through the scenario of not passing the bar exam, you can put your mind at ease. If you are worrying for the sake of worrying, working through scenarios can help you put your mind at ease. You realize that this one test is not the ultimate gauge of your accomplishments or predictor of your future success.
But remember: you could have passed! And if you feel good about your test, you should prepare as if you passed. Edit your resume, start up the networking, and start thinking of the kind of jobs you want to apply for soon. If you do pass, you are ready to hit the ground running toward your new career. If you don’t, you have made great progress on something you will be doing eventually!
Whether you pass or not, right now you have down time that you won’t get again for a while. If you pass, you’ll go on to being a lawyer, which doesn’t involve much relaxation at all. If you don’t pass, well, you’re going to have to think seriously about studying again or doing something else, which will probably be stressful enough.
Take this opportunity to care for yourself, try something new, and have some fun!
What if you really feel like you failed
It’s important to seriously confront the consequences of failing the exam. It’s ok to be scared of failing the bar exam. You are definitely not alone in that sense. No one wants to fail the bar and no one would ever want to purposefully go through that. Even people who felt pretty certain they passed have moments of doubt. But there is a difference between well-founded fear and fear for its own sake. You need to know which one you are dealing with to know what to do next.
There is a difference between having actual evidence that you failed (like you didn’t do an entire section) or just having uncontrollable fear of failing. If you have evidence that you failed, taking action and starting to study again is the best way to move forward. If you are just afraid of failing, think twice about starting down the road of studying again.
The most important thing is to determine why you are worried about your results and act accordingly. If you know you did poorly, consider getting a jump on studying again after you have relaxed a bit. If you are just nervous about getting the test back, find out why, and find something else to think about. Remember, you are not defined by this one test and there are always second chances!