What to Do When You've Failed the Bar Exam - JD Advising
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what to do when you've failed the bar examWhat to Do When you’ve Failed the Bar Exam: Five Fears and How to Conquer Them. Failing the bar exam is not only aggravating, disappointing, stressful, and a number of other emotions all at once, it also quickly breeds fears. These fears can be fears about the future — both immediate and distant. Fears about what other think. And fears that you will never feel better. In this post we talk about five common bar exam failure fears and how to conquer them. Conquering these fears is the first step. So if you are wondering what to do when you’ve failed the bar exam, or where to begin — recognizing and getting over these fears is a necessary first step.

What to Do When You’ve Failed the Bar Exam:
Five Fears and How to Conquer Them

Fear One After Failing the Bar Exam: Your boss will fire you. And you will never be employed anywhere ever again.  

As for your boss firing you: Some students do find that their bosses fire them when they fail the bar exam. However, to be honest, this seems to be the rarer route. While it is possible that your boss could fire you, more your boss may instead choose to:

  • Allow you time off of work to study again but tell you that your position is secure (this is very common).
  • Allow you to continue working in the same role while you study again. This is super common. Think about it: Your boss will basically be getting an attorney but will not have to pay you like an attorney! It makes financial sense for them to do this.
  • Give you time off. Pay for your course. And promise you a job when you are done. We have had firms be super supportive, pay for a bar exam course (or bar exam appeal!) and give a generous amount of time off work. Firms like this build a great reputation and their future-attorney employees usually pass the bar exam and feel extremely supported.

If you have been a good, hardworking, reliable, employee, your boss will probably truly consider keeping you on. Those are all valuable assets which are difficult to find!

Wondering how to tell your boss you failed the bar exam? See this article.

Note: If you are working as a paralegal, or in business or some other role that does not (and will not) require a law license, you should feel more secure that your boss is less likely to fire you. Some bosses are even happy if you are not licensed right away because they don’t have to worry about you leaving to find a lawyer job!

As for getting a job in the future:

Yes, it is harder to get a job if you have been out of the job market longer. But we have several students who have taken the bar exam two, three, four, or more times and who are working as lawyers and leading fulfilled careers.

Another thing we have noticed? Many bosses do not ask is someone had to take the bar exam more than once. We find people fear this question a lot but it is actually not asked very often.

Fear Two After Failing the Bar Exam: Everyone will know you failed the bar exam.

First of all, people are too busy worrying about themselves to really care about whether or not you passed the bar exam. That is simply human nature. Even if your state posts a public list of those licensed to practice law, unless someone is looking specifically for you, they will likely not even notice if your name isn’t on it.

Most people are just thinking about themselves — and their own post-bar exam journeys and careers. Many attorneys a year out don’t even pay attention to when the bar exam is or when results are released.

Also remember that you might be feeling extremely nerve-wracked because you failed. But some people feel the same way when they pass the bar exam. They now have to get a job, make serious life decisions, grow up, and move on to a different stage in their life.

Fear Three After Failing the Bar Exam: You feel stupid. Or you are afraid people will think you are stupid.

First of all, you are not stupid! There are several reasons that smart people fail the bar exam.

If you made it through law school, you should not let ONE exam determine how you feel about your self worth. And you should certainly not think anyone else would draw a negative conclusion about you — you, who have completed an extraordinarily difficult graduate program.

Keep in mind that there are students in the top 10% of their class that fail the bar exam every single administration. You may be one of them!

Will you friends think you are stupid? To be honest, many of your friends that passed may have done so by the skin of their teeth. They do not think you are stupid – they think you had bad luck and may even find it hard to believe that they passed.

Keep in mind, bar exam passage results are low everywhere. Many states report that between 20 and 60% of people taking the bar exam fail. So you are not alone! And, in fact, you may be in the majority.

Fear Four After Failing the Bar Exam: You cannot imagine studying again. And you cannot imagine what you could have done differently to pass. 

In the beginning, don’t even think about studying for the bar exam right away. Take some time off. But set aside a few hours (once you have your score report) to come up with a game plan. You will feel better as soon as you have your “game plan” day scheduled in your calendar. Then you will feel even better once it is complete.

Wondering how to come up with a bar exam game plan? We have plenty of resources.

Fear Five After Failing the Bar Exam: You feel terrible and you will not feel any better until you pass.

 There are three things that we have seen over and over again, every single administration.

  • First, every day will get better than the last. You will start to eat. You will start to sleep. You will not cry as much. You will start to recover. The human body and spirit is amazingly resilient.
  • Second, studying will not be as bad as you think. It is easier the second time than the first. You are not starting from scratch. You have done it once and you will build on what you know. It will be a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.
  • Third, there will be a lot of good things that come out of this experience. The people who have the hardest time believing this learn this lesson in the biggest and best way. Read this note to those who fail the bar exam. Many students who fail the bar exam are shocked six months or a year down the road to see all of the unexpected gems that come from failing. It might be a new strength, or resilience. Or it might be an opportunity or experience. It takes time to find these gems. But know that they are there.