How To Tell People You Failed The Bar Exam - JD Advising
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Tell People You Failed The Bar

How To Tell People You Failed The Bar Exam

Chances are, your friends and family know that you are taking the bar exam, and may start to ask you about your results once it is over.  If you get the unfortunate news that you did not pass the bar exam, who do you have to share that news with, and how should you let them know?  In this post, we discuss some tips for how and when to tell people that you failed the bar exam. Remember that you are not alone if you failed the bar exam!  Lots of famous (and non-famous) people have failed the bar exam and went on to have extremely successful careers!  This may be a setback to the beginning of your legal career, but it is something you can overcome.

How To Tell People You Failed The Bar Exam

Who do you have to tell that you failed the bar exam?

Most people do not realize how long it takes to receive your bar exam results.  You will probably start hearing “did you pass the bar exam?” within a couple of days after taking the test.  So, the good news is, many of these people will likely forget and won’t ask you about your results.  And you certainly don’t have to alert your entire social media following that you did not pass the bar exam.

But some people are going to be sure to notice.  Your parents and close friends, for example, may notice that you aren’t practicing law or that you are spending all of your free time studying for the next bar exam.  Although it could be possible to study in secret and avoid these individuals for the next few months, it may be easier to just let your close circle of friends and family know.  Chances are, your close circle is not going to judge you and can provide tremendous support as you begin to prepare for the next bar exam.

Also, be aware of whether your jurisdiction publishes the names of students who pass the bar exam.  Check out this list of jurisdictions that publish the names of examinees who pass the bar exam.  Although you may be able to fly under the radar and avoid questions about your results, it is probably best not to lie about your results, particularly in those jurisdictions where the information is publicly available.

The most difficult person you may have to tell that you failed the bar exam is probably your employer.  If you have a job that requires a license to practice law, it would be professional misconduct to proceed at this job as if you passed, and could subject both you and your employer to serious consequences.   Even if your job does not require a license to practice law (e.g., judicial law clerk, position in academia, non-legal field), your employer is probably aware of when results are released and may ask about your results.  This is a situation where candor is best.  We’ll discuss how to tell your employer below.

When do you have to tell them that you failed the bar exam?

Receiving the news that you did not pass the bar exam can be very emotional.  You may also start to feel isolated as your classmates reach out to tell you that they passed the exam, or you see social media posts about who passed.  Before you unnecessarily tell everyone that you did not pass, take some time to process the information.  Turn off your phone and stay off social media for a day or two.  It’s okay to be upset that you didn’t pass, but you don’t want to impulsively share the unfortunate news that you later wish you had kept private.

After you process the information, you can start to tell those that you really need to inform (i.e., your employer).  After you have processed your results, it may be easier to tell them sooner rather than later.  As stated above, your boss likely knows when results are expected to come out (or may even be able to access the public list of passers), and failing to tell your boss could be considered deceptive.

How should you tell them that you failed the bar exam?

This is your news to share, so how you share it is entirely up to you.  You can simply state, “I did not pass.”  You can tell your family and friends that you plan to sit for the next exam or remind them of the very successful people who failed the bar exam.  You might also decide to share the news in a different way.

When it comes to telling your employer, you may need to provide a little more information.  They may need to know if you plan to take the next exam, if you will need time off to study for the next exam, how you will be changing your approach to the next exam to achieve a different result, etc.

Before speaking to your employer, think carefully about how you studied for the exam.  Think about what worked and what didn’t as well as how the exam went so that you can strategize and present a plan to your employer.  This is especially crucial if your job is contingent upon you passing the bar exam.  If you need help analyzing what went wrong and how you can approach the next exam differently, consider signing up for JD Advising’s Bar Exam Consultation.  We also have more tips on how to tell your boss you failed the bar exam.

The bottom line is, you will pass the bar exam.  And once you pass, these people are going to be thrilled for you.  So, don’t feel bad about sharing the news that you didn’t pass the bar exam. Once you pass, no one will remember that you failed!

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