How Do I Get Past Bar Exam Failure?
The bar exam is arguably the most important and stressful exam you will ever take. That means most people definitely don’t want to have to take the bar exam more than once. The reality is, many people fail the bar exam with each administration. (Check out this list of famous and successful attorneys who failed the bar exam!) Whether you’ve failed the bar exam before or you’re afraid that you might, keep reading! In this post, we cover how to ease anxieties get passed bar exam failure!
How Do I Get Past Bar Exam Failure?
1. You might be sad, angry, depressed, or embarrassed – that’s okay.
Working hard only to face bar exam failure is a terrible feeling. Of course, you’ll feel disappointed and experience self-doubt, but you might experience a range of other emotions too. The important thing is, you should let yourself feel those things. Don’t try to ignore your negative emotions because you won’t be able to move forward.
Step back from all things bar exam-related for a few days or more. Do things you enjoy and spend time with people who make you happy. If you fail the bar exam, you want to end up being motivated to try again. Working through the defeat in an honest and healthy way will leave you stronger moving forward. And if you want a bit of extra support, try reading this post.
2. If you choose to, you can take the bar exam again!
This might seem obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind! We assume you took the bar exam with the goal of becoming an attorney (that’s pretty obvious). That goal is still very achievable; it is merely temporarily delayed for the time being. Some states have incredibly low passage rates on the bar exam. That means, if you fail the bar exam, you may even be among the majority of test-takers. We know that isn’t much consolation, but it does go to show that failing the bar isn’t the end of your legal career.
Try to make a game plan for how you are going to proceed. How many times does your state allow candidates to take the bar exam? Do you need to change your study plan? Will you take time off work or delay finding a job? Will you sit for the next test administration? These are all questions that you should ask yourself. Take some time to determine what will be best for your situation. Creating a plan and sticking to it will be key in ensuring the next time you take the bar exam will be the last time!
3. You’ll have to communicate with your current or potential employer.
How and with whom you communicate news of failing the bar will depend on your employment situation. Students who already have job offers often wonder if they will be fired for failing the bar exam. In that situation, the answer depends on the employer. Many large firms will allow employees to take the bar exam again. Our best advice is to be proactive and upfront with your employer. If you fail the bar exam but are honest and motivated to move forward, this will only reflect positively on you. Read more about communicating to your employer that you failed the bar, here.
If you fail the bar exam but you don’t have a job lined up, you may still have to have some uncomfortable conversations. If you’ve applied attorney roles and the employer contacts you for an interview, obviously you’ll need to be upfront about not passing the bar exam yet. Want to continue applying for different jobs? You’ll need to apply for jobs that don’t require a license to practice law or jobs that allow you to take the bar in the future. Again, when communicating with any employer it’s best to be honest about the bar exam and your future plans. In fact, you may want to hold off on your job search until you do actually pass the bar. Either way, create a solid plan and communicate it honestly with your current or potential employer.
4. You won’t pass unless you find out what went wrong.
When we see people who fail the bar multiple times, it is often because they repeat their same unsuccessful study practices. If you fail the bar exam and you want to pass it in the future, you will need to examine what practices worked and which didn’t. Maybe you need to memorize the law more thoroughly, or maybe you need to complete more practice questions. The important thing is to recognize that something about your old means of bar exam preparation wasn’t as useful as you hoped it would be. That’s okay! Now you know, and you can move forward. Check out our video series of how to move on after failing the bar exam. Follow these tips and hopefully the answer to “what happens if you fail the bar exam” is simply, “you pass the bar exam a few months later!”
Failing the bar exam is incredibly disheartening, and we’re sorry if that’s happened to you. Smart people and very competent future lawyers all fail the bar exam. Keep working towards your goal!
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