Will Failing The Bar Exam Hurt My Legal Career?
Failing the bar exam can feel like the end of the world. Many students put in months of hard work yet do not pass the bar exam. However, failing the bar exam does not mean the end of your legal career. It merely represents a setback. Check out these tips for moving past passing the bar and onto being a licensed attorney!
Will Failing The Bar Exam Hurt My Legal Career?
First, know that it’s okay to be upset
Failing the bar exam can be a huge blow to your confidence. It’s completely fine to take some time off from studying and just allow yourself to feel upset. However, remember that how you react to failure is part of what defines your ultimate success. As stated above, this is a minor setback and nothing more. Take some time for yourself and then prepare to try again.
Evaluate your situation
How exactly you move forward after failing the bar exam may depend on your situation. Do you already have a job? Was your employer relying on you passing the bar exam? Are you looking for a job? Do you need to work while you are prepping for the bar again? Are you burnt out from studying? These are all questions you need to ask yourself as you prepare to move forward.
If you have a job and your employer was relying on your passing the bar exam.
If you have a job and your employer was relying on your passing the bar exam, you are probably feeling especially uneasy. That said, you need to be honest and communicate what happened to your employer as soon as possible. Oftentimes, employers will be understanding and allow you to stay employed while you take the bar exam again. They may even provide additional support like a tutor or extra time off to help you prepare. That isn’t always the case, though. Your employer may choose to let you go. Be prepared for this and understand that there are other temporary positions you may have to look into until you get your license.
If you are looking for a job, you must figure out how to balance studying and working.
If you are looking for a job, you must figure out how to balance studying and working. Evaluate whether you will have adequate time to dedicate to studying for the bar exam while working. You should also try to determine how much time you may need to study so you can find a work schedule to accommodate that. Can you handle full-time employment or would it be better to cut your hours? Studying for the bar exam is a full-time job. Failing the bar exam might be the result of working too much. We know that not everyone has the luxury of taking time off from work to study for the bar exam, but it can help!
Finally, if you are burnt out from studying, take a break! You don’t always have to take the bar exam at the next administration. Only you know your own situation. Taking stock of what’s happening in your life and your own goals is key to moving beyond failing the bar exam.
Determine why you failed
Determining why you failed the bar exam is also part of evaluating your own situation. Failing the bar exam after doing one type of studying means you probably shouldn’t repeat that study plan! Take stock of what study materials you used, how long you studied each day, which exercises you did every day, and whether you used a commercial course. Check out our YouTube series about how to change your bar prep strategy after failing the bar exam!
Our best tip for anyone taking the bar exam, whether it’s your first or fifth time, is to memorize the law! It isn’t enough to be vaguely familiar with the law. Almost every bar exam in the U.S., whether it’s a state bar or the Uniform Bar Exam, tests the details and nuances of the law. Memorizing the law requires active studying, good outlines, and completing practice questions. Do these things after failing the bar, and we hope your score will improve!
That leads us to our next tip!
Know how many times you can take the bar exam
For many students, the bar exam seems like an insurmountable challenge. Very smart people have a difficult time passing the bar. In fact, check out our blog post covering many of the famous (and successful!) people who have failed the bar exam. Some people take the bar several times. And know that some people never pass the bar exam. If you’ve been failing the bar exam repeatedly, it’s important to be honest with yourself and practical. Taking the bar exam is expensive. Also, in some states, you can only take the bar exam a limited number of times. You don’t want to prohibit yourself from ever being barred in your state of choice if you can’t adequately prepare for the bar exam. You can read about different state’s bar exam restrictions here.
Being a practicing attorney isn’t the only career option for JDs!
It might sound like a harsh reminder, but not everyone who has a JD has to be an attorney! If you want to be an attorney, then you should keep trying to pass the bar. If you are feeling indifferent about the ability to practice law, try seeking out other career options. Having a JD degree is a valuable asset even if you aren’t a licensed attorney! There are plenty of government and private sector opportunities for someone with a JD. You could be an investment banker, a real estate developer, a legal recruiter, an HR director, a policy analyst, a politician, an FBI agent, a law librarian, etc. The possibilities are endless!
Failing the bar exam does not mean the end of your legal career. It certainly doesn’t mean the end of your career generally! If you want to be an attorney, take stock of your situation and do everything possible to pass the bar exam the next time you take it. If not, you have a valuable education that can help you in nearly every sector. Either way, you have a bright future ahead of you!
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