This weekend the California bar exam results were released. We don’t have all of the numbers yet, but many people (thousands, actually) were disappointed when their name didn’t appear on the pass list. Some students are still grieving. Some are getting ready to prepare again. But after speaking with students coping with a failure, one doubt seems to come up in their minds:
What if this means I am not going to be a good lawyer?
I understand, your world has just been shaken by a bar exam failure. But you must do your best to keep perspective. The bar exam is just one big test. It is simply the licensing exam for our profession. It doesn’t test many of the important skills an attorney needs to be successful. In fact, many would argue that this simple fact makes the bar exam an ineffective licensing exam, but I digress.
Really smart and impressive people have failed the bar exam.
I got a call today from someone who had just found out she failed the California bar exam. She said that the first thing she Googled was “bar failure” and she was reassured that a lot of smart people had failed the bar exam too! (You can check out a list compiled here by Above the Law.) It is true, I personally know some really incredible lawyers and law professors who have struggled with the bar exam. You are not alone! This exam, in many ways, tests your test-taking skills and not of your ability to practice law. Remember, you are in very good company.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a lawyer.
Just because you struggle with the bar exam, that does not mean you won’t be a good lawyer. Many people who fail are either already doing the work of a lawyer (not illegally practicing law, but doing legal work under the supervision of a licensed attorney) and nothing is going to change about their ability to do that work just because of some bad bar results. Your skills are exactly the same as they were before you found out about your bar exam results. The only thing that has changed is that you have to wait a bit longer to get your bar license (and, yes, take that damn test again).
So what do you do if you just found out you failed the bar exam?
I know this is a really challenging time. You have every right to be upset, frustrated, and even angry. But after you have had time to grieve, it is time to come up with a plan of how you are going to study again. You can check out our page, Help! I just failed the bar exam for tips on how to move forward.
Hang in there! Just remember, if you failed, you are in excellent company! It is how you move forward that is important now.
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Check out these other helpful posts:
- Yikes! I failed the bar exam. Should I take it again?
- Selecting the right bar exam tutor for you.
- Five tips for studying for the bar exam while working.