It is the end of September, which means that states are starting to release bar exam results. And this leads to thousands of happy folks, but also thousands upon thousands of disappointed bar takers around the country. If this is you, I am sorry to hear it. But hopefully, this post will help you navigate your post-results situation and set yourself up to successfully beat the bar exam in the future.
Allow yourself to be frustrated and disappointed.
There is no question that this is not the result you had hoped for. You may have even had nightmares about it. You are allowed to be frustrated and disappointed. You are allowed to turn off your cell phone for a day to grieve. It is a huge disappointment, but it is not the end of the world. You need to give yourself time to be frustrated and disappointed, but then get ready to move on.
First, deal with any immediate ramifications.
If you are currently employed, you need to talk to your supervisor about what happened. I hope that your job will not be at risk because you didn’t pass, although I would be lying if I said I didn’t know some folks who were dismissed after not passing. You need to find out the policy of your employer regarding sitting for the bar exam again. Most employers will let you take it twice without risking your position. But if you are allowed to sit for it again, make sure to discuss whether you can take some time off to study in the weeks before the exam. You need to get an idea of how you are going to balance studying and working leading up to February.
If you are not employed, this can be frustrating from a financial viewpoint, because you are not going to be able to hunt for attorney jobs in the immediate future. So, you need to develop a financial plan. That plan might involve getting a part-time job before the next bar exam season. Or it may involve some difficult conversations with family about finances. I actually had a student who decided to put off studying for the exam again for a year, so she could work and save money to prep effectively, hire a tutor, and not work while studying (she is now a licensed attorney). And don’t forget those school loans! You may need to defer those payments as well.
Plan for the future.
To answer the question posed in the title of this post, yes, you should take the bar exam again. It doesn’t matter if you think the bar exam is fair or if you hated the experience. The reality is that right now it is the gatekeeper to your law practice. So you need to do it.
But in order to pass the bar exam in the future, you need a plan. The plan has three parts:
(1) Identify what went wrong: You need to complete a self-evaluation of what went wrong. You need to consider how you studied and how you felt about the exam. Did you feel you didn’t know enough law? Did you feel you didn’t do enough practice? Or were you so anxious that you felt you couldn’t execute the exam? What about your scores? Were you weak on the writing, multiple choice, or both? Did your bar exam have a performance test? Did you score better, worse, or the same? You want to take a stab at identifying what went wrong so you can create a plan to get the help you need.
(2) Come up with a game plan: You need to develop a game plan to help you study for the exam, next time. The most important thing to remember is do not prepare in the exact same way. Something needs to change. Perhaps you need to work with a bar exam tutor or try a different bar review course. Perhaps you need to use a program like AdaptiBar to help you with multiple choice. Perhaps you need to work on your mental game? Your needs will be different from the next person’s. But you need to develop a plan of how you are going to get ready.
(3) Ask for help if you need it: If you are struggling (you don’t know what went wrong or you don’t know what you need to do differently), you should reach out and ask for help. Talk to people like me (I email and chat with students all the time about bar issues), other bar exam experts, mentors, or other attorneys who have gone through the same experience. You don’t need to go through this journey alone. Asking for help can decrease your anxiety, as you go into this challenging study period.
I believe that almost everyone can pass the bar exam. It is not that you are not smart enough to pass, it is that you need to develop better skills related to taking the bar exam. These skills can be learned. Don’t give up. I know fabulous attorneys who have failed the bar exam. It is not a reflection on the type of lawyer you will be.
Have any other suggestions about bouncing back after a bar exam failure? Share them in the comments below.
Check out these other helpful posts:
- Seven reasons the bar exam is hard. See our thoughts on what makes the bar exam so challenging for bar takers!
- Tips on whether or not you should take the next bar offered or take a break. Generally you should take the next bar offered, but there are situations where Lee recommends students wait to re-take the bar exam.
If you’d like all our new reviews and tips sent straight to you, sign up now for our free mailing list!