As you anxiously await your bar results it can be difficult to keep a healthy perspective on the significance of the exam. You’ve most likely invested tens of thousands (if not hundreds) of dollars on three years of law school, spent weeks solely preparing for the exam, and then endured three long days of testing. Everyone you know is asking you “how it went” or “do you think you passed?” It may seem like your entire future hinges on this result.
But I have good news. It doesn’t! Yes, the bar exam is a high-stakes test with professional and financial ramifications, but a bad result is not a death knell to future success. Determination, resolve, and effort will have a much bigger impact on your ultimate success than one attempt at the bar exam. To prove my point, take note of these two highly successful lawyers who each failed a bar exam:
Former first lady, Senator, Secretary of State, Democratic Presidential nominee and successful lawyer, Hillary Clinton famously failed the D.C. bar exam, although she did pass in Arkansas. Clinton’s story is instructive on a few levels. First, it proves that bar failure will not necessarily prevent you from becoming one of the most powerful people in the world. Second, if relocating is an option for you, it proves that taking a different state’s exam might be worth a try. Last, it proves that even Yale grads can fail the bar exam!
Former dean of Stanford Law School and highly esteemed lawyer, Kathleen Sullivan, failed the California bar exam on her first attempt despite an undergraduate degree from Cornell, a law degree from Harvard, being licensed in two other states, authoring a casebook, and experience that included arguing cases in front of the Supreme Court. I think California has a pretty strong claim to the title of hardest bar exam based on that evidence alone. But this also shows that even experienced, highly skilled, incredibly talented lawyers can have a bad day on the bar exam.
Despite failing the bar exam, things worked out pretty well for Clinton and Sullivan, and things will work out for you too! Although it’s difficult to appreciate while you’re in the thick of it, the bar exam will ultimately be a small segment of your life. Whether you pass or fail on one attempt does not need to define you. What’s ultimately most important is not whether your name is on the pass list, but how you respond to any setback. If you can find the motivation to keep going and try again, there is nothing stopping you from becoming a lawyer, a judge, an academic, or even a presidential nominee!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Failed the Bar Exam? How to Be The Ultimate Sore Loser
- 5 Things I Did Differently The Second Time to Pass the Bar Exam
- I Failed the California Bar Exam! Here’s Some Encouragement to Help
- How Can Parents Help Their Student Who Failed the Bar
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