How To Support A Friend That Failed The Bar Exam
It’s tough to fail the bar exam. And it can be an equally tough feeling when it is someone you care about and you don’t know how to help. If you have a friend that failed the bar exam, there are things you can do to help. Read further to see our suggestions on steps you can take to assist!
How To Support A Friend That Failed The Bar Exam
1. It’s OK to let them be upset!
Your first inclination to comfort a friend that failed the bar exam may be to smother them with positivity. You may reason that if you are positive enough, it will make everything OK for them. However, remember that it’s perfectly natural to grieve! Your friends spent three or more years working up to this moment. The disappointment, anger, fear, and whatever else they feel is perfectly normal. The best thing you can do is just be supportive and listen. Everyone grieves in their own way, so be supportive, listen, acknowledge their feelings, and give them space if necessary.
If you took the bar exam at the same time your friend did and you passed, it can be especially important to pay attention to what your friend needs. They may need space from you. It is nothing personal. You should still reach out and invite them to coffee, dinner, or drinks but don’t be surprised if they take a while to accept your invitation. In the meantime, you can be supportive through what you don’t say – for example, we recommend that you refrain from posting 10,000 posts on Facebook or Instagram saying how happy you are that you passed the bar exam. Even if you do not mean to upset your friend that failed or anyone else, it can have that effect. So be mindful of that.
2. Let them know you know how tough the bar exam is.
Once your friend that failed the bar exam moves on from their initial grief stage, make an effort to let them know YOU know how difficult the bar exam is. It’s not uncommon for states to have passage rates less than 50%. California has bar exam administrations where the passage rate is less than 30%! They are certainly not alone in failing the bar exam, although it may feel like it to them at the time. Letting them know that you understand how difficult the test was can help them understand you sympathize with them.
What you should NOT do is try to draw comparisons to a test you failed in the past — even if you took the bar exam.
The bar exam is a whole different animal from most exams. Even if you passed a licensing test for your career, it’s not analogous to the bar exam.
If you took the bar exam in the past, this is also another thing to avoid. Bar exams change over time, and every administration is slightly different. Any advice you offer is likely going to be unhelpful, especially if your friend just found out they failed.
If they ask you for advice, feel free to give it to them. Otherwise, receiving unsolicited advice will probably annoy your friend.
3. Remind them they are not starting from scratch.
Failing the bar exam doesn’t mean someone who fails needs to start from scratch. Try to gently remind your friend that failed the bar exam that this is the last step in their journey. They do not need to go through law school or undergraduate again. They “just” need to pass the bar. This is a temporary setback on one of the last stages of toward being an attorney. They completed 95% of that process already. The bar is the last hurdle!
Further, even a failing score does not mean that your friend is starting bar study from scratch. Inevitably, they learned a lot and they will recall some of that law when they begin to study again (even if they feel like they forgot everything).
4. Try to assist them in moving forward.
If your friend that failed the bar exam wants help, by all means, assist them! Here are some ways you might be able to help:
- Be a good friend. Be a sounding board if they need it. Offer to take your friend out to coffee to talk. Being a good friend is the best way you can help.
- Understand if your friend is not able to spend as much time with you during bar study. If they have to skip an event or can’t hang out as much, let them know you understand. This will go a long way in helping them move on past this trying experience.
- Offer to help with personal tasks if appropriate. For example, you could help them with shopping, chores, or cooking. Some people will appreciate and need this more than others. For example, if your friend has to study while working full time, any time you can “save” them by helping them with chores or errands will probably be much appreciated.
- If you have taken the bar exam and your friend asks for help with a study plan, you can offer to help them develop a plan of action. However, don’t be surprised if your friend doesn’t ask for your help with this task.
Good luck supporting your friend! If you have any questions, comments, or ideas, feel free to post in the comments below!
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