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So you failed the bar exam... now what?

Thanks to the reader who reminded me that results are coming out this week. I'd meant to do a post on the matter, but seeing as I've successfully repressed all memories having to do with the bar exam except the one having to do with November 1, 2007, the date slipped my mind. But instead of a post that attempts to lift your spirits on the matter (because let's face it, when you're awaiting exam results there is no lifting your spirits and reminders that statistically you're not likely to fail don't. help. at. all.), I'm going to frankly address the other side of it.

What do you do if you fail?

Now, I can't commiserate personally on the matter. But I didn't pass by much so my fears about failing were at least credible. I wasn't one of those assholes who goes around trolling for sympathy by whining that I'd fail and then pass with flying colors. No. My score was low enough that it's plausible that a few lucky guesses and a handful of keywords on the essay when I didn't know what I was talking about may have made the difference. So when I cringed at people who reminded me of the statistics or told me they were sure I'd pass because I was so smart, I wasn't feigning modesty. And due to my own weird mash of faith in a higher power, a belief in what's meant to be is meant to be, and fear of jinxing things, I absolutely refused to answer this question for myself until it needed answering. As the days ticked down, though, the question nagged at the back of my mind and were accompanied by visions of various and increasingly unlikely scenarios. In the end, it was a bridge I didn't have to cross, but I'm going to try to dig through those repressed memories and see if I can help you cross it, should the need arise.

So... what do you do if you fail?

1. Cry. No, really. Go ahead. It's okay. You probably need it. Let the disappointment and frustration and self doubt wash over you and just cry it out. Cry for a few days if you need to. In fact, for the first week, go ahead and cry every time you have to tell someone that you failed. And yeah, telling people that you failed will be humiliating and depressing. But it won't kill you.

2. Figure out why you didn't pass. Be honest with yourself. Did you totally freak out and stare blankly at the MBE instead of, you know, filling in bubbles? Did you go get hammered the night before? Or every night leading up to the exam? Did you only attend a third of the Bar/Bri lectures? Did you just never get the feel for the stupid fill-in-the-blank procedure questions? Was it a combination of more than one? Whatever the reason(s), figure them out, and figure out whether they could be addressed if you decide to take it again.

3. Understand that failing the bar does not mean you're not smart. One of my biggest pet peeves was when people insisted I'd pass because I was "so smart." But smart people fail the bar exam too. And if you click that link, you'll see that even famous smart people can fail the bar exam.

4. Once you've done 1-3, pick yourself back up and make a decision: are you going to take it again in February or not? This will depend a lot on the answers you come up with in Step 2. For example, if your dog died the day before the exam and you couldn't read the exam questions through your tears, that may not be an issue come February when you've had some time to move on from your loss. On the other hand, if you hate the law, hate the study of it, hated Bar/Bri, and therefore had a hard time putting in more than two hours a week of preparation, that might still present a problem in another few months. If you think that whatever kept you from passing in July poses a serious threat of doing it again, then do some soul searching and figure out whether being a lawyer in Texas is really what's right for you.

And if you do decide to take it again, there's no shame in that either. I took the bar exam at the same time as a bunch of other El Pasoans. We'd gone to various law schools, including UT, Yale, Wisconsin, Indiana, and others. More than one of us did not pass. One of those guys took it again in February, passed, and started working in the same courthouse as I did during the same week that I started. His life wasn't over. I see him a lot and he's doing just fine.

So end of the world? No, but I'm pretty sure it'll feel that way at first. Which is why Step 1 is crying. But when your tears run out, figure out what you want to do from there and just do it. And if someone tries to make you feel bad about not passing, shove your bar review books up their ass. But not if you've decided to retake it, because then you'd have shitty bar review materials, and shitty bar review materials won't help matters at all.



( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 17th, 2008 05:28 am (UTC)
Good advice
I failed the New York bar exam. I found out a couple days ago. Pretty awful.

I don't have a job yet, even though I went to a good school, was on a journal, and had decent grades. So this makes things even worse. Or perhaps better in some ways because at least I don't have to tell my boss that I failed.

But it's worse that I don't have a job because I'm entirely broke. I've been living on my savings until this month. And now I'm out. Totally broke. I'm $170,000 in debt (only 10k of which I had before law school) and no law license. Plus, I now have another $5,000 in credit card debt. Before law school, I'd never even carried a balance on my credit card.

I have no idea what I'm going to do. Right now my girlfriend is helping me with rent, which makes me feel really bad.

And all of this during the worse recession in decades.

I try to stay positive, but this has been a simply terrible year.

If you're reading this and deciding whether to go to law school, don't. I wish to god I'd never done it. I have a B.A. from a top 20 undergrad and could have just gotten a decent job and started my life. But no, I had to get greedy and want more.

Now, look at me. I've worked through seven years of school and this is what I have to show for it.
Nov. 18th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Good advice
I second this advice. I passed the NY bar exam and ended up with a biglaw job, but only because I got very, very lucky. There is too much uncertainty for law school to be a good choice for most people.
Nov. 20th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Good advice
I feel your pain. I will be taking the bar in Texas for the third time in February. I, too, have agonized over my decision in becoming a lawyer because of all of the costs and all of the other crap no one tells you. Yet, even with all of this, I still feel like I need to see it through.

Look at it like this: What else are you going to do since you have made it this far? I don't know about you, but during my job hunt, no employer gave me any consideration with that blaring JD on my resume. Either you are going to be overqualified, they don't want to invest in you thinking that you are going to leave once you get a license and most obvious, no firm is going to hire you without a license.

I am not in anyway try to downplay your feelings. You have to make the best choices for yourself, I would say before hanging up your hat on the bar, take this to re-group and put things in perspective. I can empathize with your emotions. I was frustrated, angry and wondering what I was going to do, even questioning if I was fit for this profession. I realized that I wasn't going to let some exam define who I am. I sat out July 08 exam and am currently temping so I can get a handle on my bills. I plan on working while I study as I did this last time but just work a little harder.

I know part of the reason for me failing the second time was that I still had those yucky feelings from the first time I failed and I carried that around with me. But not all was lost. The upside of my 2nd failure, if there can be an upside to failing the bar a second time, was that I increased my score by 32 points.

If you decide to abandon the legal profession, hey, I understand and I wish you much success in your future endeavors. But to do this and then spend the rest of your life pondering about "what if I had retaken the bar" is far worse than the debt worries and all the other problems you may be facing. Good luck!
Dec. 17th, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Good advice
I feel your pain too. My background is similar to yours. I've been living at my parents house, and besides the psychological effect of living back at home (first time in 10 years) I seem like a failure. I have friends who've been working average jobs with average pay and have started their lives. I can't blame it all on law school, but I don't have a job either and failed NY and NJ. I too have loans similar to yours, but thankfully no credit card debt. However, my first loan payment went to collection before I could even apply for economic hardship. It's just been one thing after another with nothing positive to take out of this experience.

But the second poster is correct, what now? I'm going to retake the two bar exams, and just be hopeful. Though thousands of lawyers have lost their jobs this year, many have kept them. Or I will just pass the bars and then find some other job. It's just tough to have to scrap for money, and the loan will be hanging over my head forever, a reminder of my mistake to go to school. But we haven't come this far to fall.
Dec. 22nd, 2008 09:35 am (UTC)
Re: Good advice
I can only look at these comments and i wish i had read this before i went to law school. Law school and the bar has been a nightmare for me. While in law school i lost my new born baby, and i worked my way through that and graduated. I thought i was getting over my lost, and while preparing to take the bar in July i found out my wife was pregnant again. Two weeks before the bar, i found out that my wife was suffering through a miscarriage (she was back and forth to the hospital). Again I tried to work through that and took the bar exam. Thinking my luck could not get any worst, i got my results back only to find out i failed both exams (I failed one by 1 point and the other by 5). Now I'm here w/ the lost of 2 children, no job, and no license. I decided i am going to take the bar again in Feb b/c i do not really know what else to do, the problem though is that my wife is pregnant again and (not to wish bad luck on myself) I'm really optimistic about what will happen.

Somebody told me while i was in law school that "life goes on while your in law school." This has never rang true more than it does now. I think law school (not all by itself, but it played a major part) has somewhat placed me in a state of depression. i try to stay positive, but that's all i can do. I say this all to say that i would never discourage someone from chasing their dreams, and if someone feels that law school is the way they want to go, just be careful b/c things don't always work out the way you want them.
May. 11th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Good advice
Couldn't agree with this post more. Absolutely "on point," to use an annoying lawyering term. I wish I hadn't gone either.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Good advice
Hi could you send me an e-mail, I wanted to talk to you about the above post. Anyone who has had roughly the same law school experience please contact me at mdesir[@]gmail.com (without the brackets). I would appreciate it. Thank you.
Jul. 31st, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Good advice
i have had a chance to read some of the blogs and would like to offer you my thoughts. If they are benefit to you great, If not, please
free to pitch them.
I took and failed the CA bar exam 10 times. I know just how you feel.

However, my next plan was to take the bar exam in a different state.I
passed on my first attempt.This was in 1984. Do not doubt yourself.
Nov. 8th, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
Re: Good advice
i agree - do NOT go to law school unless you have been dying to be a lawyer since you were 7. it's a waste of money and you can make a whole lot more without the jd if you did well in undergrad and went to a top 20 undergrad.
Nov. 24th, 2008 01:51 am (UTC)
People considering going to law school after reading this: You have been warned. Don't say nobody told you.
Apr. 20th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)
failing the bar kinda feels like getting dumped...
So, I just found out that I failed the Indiana bar exam and like many other people who's posts I have been reading I hated every second of law school and wished I would have never gone in first place. My dilemma is that I have a perfectly good non legal job that I love but isn't something I want to be doing my whole life; law has become my fallback plan. I'm wondering if I should try again in July just to prove to myself that I can do it? After all so much time and money has been invested in the process. Or, should I let it go and come back to it in a year or when I decide I truly want a legal career? Right now I feel like I need to somehow prove the bar wrong by taking it again and passing but in all honesty I have no idea what to do.
May. 5th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Re: failing the bar kinda feels like getting dumped...
My 2 cents:

Your answer may be in your comments:"...I have a perfectly good non legal job that I love...law has become my fallback plan..."

At the risk of sounding too philosophical, as they say in literature and the movies, "Life is too damn short" to spend it taking (and retaking) tests, wasting thousands of $$, and spending time studying to enter a profession that you regard as a fallback, a second or third choice.

My advice to you is to count your blessings and stay in the job you love and see where it takes you. (You can always change career directions or go back and take the bar exam any time.)

It is a blessing to even have a job in this brutal economy, and it is truly a rare gift to have found a job you LOVE. Most people I know--myself included--get up every morning and drag their butts to work at a job that feels like sheer drudgery at the best, and sheer spiritual death at the worst.

Whichever fork in the road you choose, I wish you good luck and lifelong happiness.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
Re: failing the bar kinda feels like getting dumped...
Hi could you send me an e-mail, I wanted to talk to you about the above post. Anyone who has had roughly the same law school experience please contact me at mdesir[@]gmail.com (without the brackets). I would appreciate it. Thank you.
Mar. 4th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)
can employers/firms find out how many times you've take the bar exam?
Jul. 17th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
Go to law school... for the right reasons

Don't listen to everyone on this site. I went to law school and I loved it. I mean I absolutely adored it. Wait, now that I think about it, I've never been in love, and yet I loved law school. WHY? WHY?

First, I didn't go to NYU or a similar law school like everyone here seems to have done. I could have... I could have been admitted... but I went to a school where I grew up, and where my debt was only $50,000 upon graduation. Talk about freeing.

Second, I am making well over $100,000 in that place. Want to know why? Because I didn't go to school in NYC and because my competition is far less. (by the way, I live in a gorgeous place and it is not the south). I am a big fish in a little pond...awesome

Finally, I went to law school because I love to learn. I didn't go to make money. I didn't go to prove a point to my parents. I didn't go because I couldn't think of anything better to do. I went because I love to learn, and learn I did. And guess what? I did pretty damn well in law school...

Nothing in the world is better than knowledge. Nothing is better than clear, concise thought. If you agree with these statements - and realize that "prestige" is bullshit and will sink you - then go to law school where you get a substantial scholarship and love life.

If money is the only point of the game - and you were smart enough to get into a top 20 undergrad in the first place - then just start a business and move on with your life. Law school WILL NOT make you richer than you could be otherwise. IF YOU ARE SMART ENOUGH TO GET INTO A TOP LAW SCHOOL YOU WILL PROBABLY MAKE MORE MONEY QUICKER THAN IF YOU GO TO LAW SCHOOL! -- Go for the love of the intellect... and trust me, life will be great.

Cheers and good luck
Oct. 22nd, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Go to law school... for the right reasons
I couldn't agree with you more!!
Jul. 23rd, 2009 08:51 am (UTC)
Worth the ride!
I second--I hated every moment of law school. I was harder than I could believe...I also had my hands in a million pies and ran a business the whole time. You go in thinking you are going to run the show, everyone thinks they are hot shit--I was going to take the scholarship then bail to a better school---boy was I wrong....Law school will beat your ass down, and you know what....
I'm only $15,000 in debt, and It was worth every minute! don't go for the money, don't go for the fame, but its the best damn thing you will ever do for yourself. Enjoy the ride! No Regrets.
Jul. 26th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
Law school is horrible.
Just graduated. About to take the Texas bar. I studied everyday for about 2.5 months. I still don't feel confident that I'll pass.

Law school will age you. It is a horrible experience.

They just throw a bunch of crap in your lap and expect you to have an excellent grasp of it in way too short time.

Most profs don't care about you and treat the class like idiots.

The bar is even worse. They herd you like animals. No drinks, no gum, no bathroom. Same goes for most law school classes.

The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay get more freedoms than we do.
Nov. 24th, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Law school is horrible.
Agreed! I was beaten down when I opened up an envelope from the bar that said "FAILED" for the 3rd time. I looked at my wife, who was depending on me, and looked in to the eyes of my little baby daughter, and knew I had let them both down.

I even got laid off 3 months before the exam and had 3 months to study. Things could not get any worse. I saw a high school classmate on FaceBook. He graduated from an Ivy League law school cum laude and he is a partner at a big firm. I got my JD after 10 years out of school. I just remember thinking, "Is something wrong with me?"

No way, I had beat a deadly disease, survived getting shot at in drive-bys, I speak 3 languages fluently, and I have lived in foreign countries. I am not a loser. I am not my test scores. They do not define me.

Finally, a friend sent me a link to the TED talks. I ended up seeing the talk by Sir Ken Robinson. He is a PhD, and he is primary interest is education and how we need to totally rethink it.

First of all, you are absolutely right about professors. They live in their heads. They give a lecture on one thing and test you on another, and if you didn't happen to notice a footnote after 150 pages of reading unintelligible, long-winded opinions that have little to nothing to do with what you will be tested on, you're treated like a loser who cannot pay attention to detail. You are told that your analysis is just not good enough. I even had a prof tell me I should not be in law school because I could not remember somebody's name.

Anyway, look on YouTube and see what Sir Ken has to say about education. It beats people down. The line that was my epiphany was when he said that because of our education system, a lot of brilliant people go through life thinking that they are not.

At least the Marines build you up after they dismantle you. Law school dismantles you piece by piece and just leaves you like that. The bar exam furthers the process.
Sep. 28th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
My sympathy extends but I do not agree...
I have read and re-read many of the posts on this page and I sympathize with many of you. Personally, I am waiting on bar results that I am not very confident about. I keep re-running subjective statistics, trying to determine if I am "that guy" that failed. But, despite how trying law school was (spent an entire semester in a wheelchair due to a spinal injury and have a wife who disagreed with my decision to go in the first place), I just do not think it was a mistake. Even if I did not wind up at the head of the class or even at a mega-firm, the experience taught me that I could "hang" with some pretty stellar minds. That has to count for something. Even so, law school does not define us. The bar exam does not define us. We chose to challenge ourselves with the process and if we made it to the bar, we met at least the basics of the challenge. Yes, I want to pass the bar on my first time. I wish we all could. Still, if I don't pass, I will regroup, make a decision as to taking it again, and build on my experience. Not every path out of law school leads to a law firm yet those alternative paths can be just as financially rewarding - if not more emotionally rewarding than the traditional billable hour route anyway. So, let's not dwell on the suffering and instead, use the experience to find our respective ways.
Oct. 17th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC)
I am beat down. I don't even want to be a lawyer. but even the non legal jobs I apply to look for that bar admission. almost makes you want to leave the J.D. out of your resume cause they always wonder where you were admitted. but then how do you explain the three year gap. you can't. its hard. I am waiting for the bar results, but feel so discourage and disheartened. Good luck to all waiting for their results
Oct. 29th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
Waiting and Hating
I agree with the consensus of the other posters, in that after failing the bar twice, I wonder if I didn't make a tragic mistake by applying to law school. I had a decent time in law school, but I am far, far from the top 10% of the graduates. My school was tier 1, but I was a working student.

I think I did much better on the last exam, but I am mentally prepared to fail. With less than two weeks until they release of results, I am not freaking out about the possibility of passing or failing. The second time I failed, it floored me. I was broken to the core. Having picked my myself up from my last failure, I have become a little callous with regard to failure. If I faile this time, I will probably say 'Figures', mope for a day and start studying for the next one.

I went to a formal review given by the board of law examiners in my state and discovered that some of the people who made the exam didn't know the law. This was very disturbing and angering. At this point, I have accepted the randomness of the bar exam and how it doesn't define me.

Nov. 18th, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)
Failed twice
I would like to say that I failed twice, and thought I didn't know how I would go on both times. (The debt, the strain on my marriage, the ambivalence toward the profession as a whole...) But passing on the third try is still passing. And I proved something important to myself -- I'm not a quitter. I can overcome. It was worth it.
Nov. 18th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
Ready to start again...
I cried, yes, I admit it. But, unfortunately, those who love me think I can pass it the next time around. I'm not so sure but am willing to try. For those of you out there who are preparing to re-take it, be strong! I too hate the whole concept of having to take this exam knowing that in most civilized countries you become an attorney as soon as you graduate from law school. They don't require you to memorize a million different facts to prove you can become part of the profession. Taking the bar exam and being an attorney are completely different things. I know that most of us already are amazing attorneys at heart--just need to get past that last hurdle and be licensed. And, I bet, I will cry again when I do finally pass!
Nov. 24th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
3 strikes and you're out? I don't think so
I took the bar in my state 3 times. Failed all 3 times. The third time, my score was close enough to justify paying for a pro to do my appeal.

I am waiting on results. The odd thing is, I can find millions of web sites about how to apply to take the bar, but I can find nothing that explains what to do after you get a positive result.

I could be dumb, but I have no idea what to do. Do I just walk in to a court room and ask to get sworn in? Do I need to fill something out?

I'm in Michigan, by the way.
May. 2nd, 2010 01:32 pm (UTC)
Re: 3 strikes and you're out? I don't think so
I know this is an old post, but not too long ago I was searching for the same answer.

In Michigan, after you pass the exam you're sworn in court and have to pay your bar dues, then you get your P number. In Wayne county, you're sworn in at the Coleman A. Young building.

Ours was nice and simple. The passers sit in the first couple rows together. First, there are some introductory speeches. Next, any one with a sponsor (usually a parent that's a lawyer or a co-worker) makes a motion for the candidate's admission. The sponsor says something like "Your Honor, I've known John for 10 years, he's a great person, hard worker, and has met all requirements to be admitted to this court." The Judge says "The court will take it under advisement." We repeat this process for everyone who has an individual sponsor.

Finally, they ask all passers to stand to take the oath (which is a page long). Everyone reads it aloud as a group with hand raised. Then there's another speech and you're about done. It can be crowed because lots of people have family there. Cameras are fine. Nearly everyone being sworn in wore a suit. I hope this helps someone.
Feb. 5th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
I am am taking the NY bar exam for 5th time I have good family support who encourage me to do well and not be tensed about the result and just try my best. But I feel very depressed about the exam though I managed to study but sometimes failing things simply pulls me back from studying. I am worried about my bank loan, I have no job since last 8 months. My parents pay my bills and my gal friend she is wants to get married soon she is tried of my exam attempts and want me to work in nonlegal field which I am not much interested so far. I felt to share my thoughts my pain and suffering of going through this exam for 5th time and I am so lost I dont know whether I made a right decision by paying the exam fees if I am not confident to pass the exam however to show the world that I am not a loser or quitter I try to give my best but then feels victimized of my own resolve to clear the bar exam. I hate new york bar exam but would love to crack it once for all. Luck.
Feb. 25th, 2010 08:53 am (UTC)
Don't Respect Your Elders
As I child, I grew up with a presumption that adults are honorable, but every day learn more and more that the "kings" have no clothes.

The idea that the bar exam, as administered ("de facto") is rationally related to one's competence to practice law is farcical on its face.

What law practice involves having to answer multiple choice questions within a minute or so, often with intentionally badly worded answers, with no ability to ask questions or clarify?

The closest the bar exam comes to having some nexus with actual law practice and legal skills is the MBT. Even then, it is unheard of that you will only get 90 minutes to write arguments on two issues in actual law practice. Similarly, the implication that you are somehow not qualified if ... you need 100 minutes or 120 minutes ... or spend that 90 minutes free or conscious stream writing .... somehow there is no place for you in law??? It doesn't that your degree and gpa says otherwise of your analytical abilities?

Fact is, the most valuable skill of legal practice is not addressed on the bar exam at all --- the ability to know what questions to ask. Actually two most important ability to ask -- the ability to know what questions to ask and the ability to recognize what areas of law you are not qualified to speak on, to know when to say, sorry, I handle real estate transactions, you need to talk to a litigator.

As people have pointed out, we have tens of thousands of dollars in debt on the line, 3 years of our lives and the opportunity costs of that, one of the worst job climates and those who think they are suppose to be respected make or break are ability to earn a livelihood on that 3 years of life, tens of thousands of debt and having to past this farcical, made up "screen."

A "screen" that often results in designating a recent law school grad as somehow more qualified and better serving a client than people with actual professional and client experience [its my impression and my personal example that working adults who let their licensing lapse and/or went into other careers, such as investment banking, and then come back to take the bar to get licensed again have a particularly rough time getting back into "test"/"student" mode?]

It's a testament to how uncaring our "leadership" in the legal field is that the bar exam, at least as it presently is administered, continues to be allowed to "screw" with people's lives and livelihood and such "leadership" [and I do mean that in quotes] is not held accountable.

The reason I got into law was the one time stupid ideal of believe that those in power are to be held accountable . . . that no one is above accountability but the bar examiners and system behind it absolutely thinks it is above accountability [look for and read the arrogant lousiana supreme court decision denying that state's public disclosure law applies to making one's exam available to be reviewed].

Jul. 31st, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't Respect Your Elders
i fnunked the bar exam many timess. i finally passed
ina different jurisdiction. My practice is ion personal
injury, workers compensation and social security
disability. I earn well into 6 figures.

what you fail to considtua. in the acer is that you
are all capable,
intelligent and special people. you are well qualified to praqctice law. The bar exam means zero,
i repeat zero. in the actual practice of law, what
determines how far you go, how much money you
earn depends not on your law school or class rank
or if youmade law review (i was bottom quarter).
the most critical factor (at least in private practice)is you well you bring in new business'
this exam is NOT a determination oif your self worth.
Sep. 28th, 2010 07:18 am (UTC)
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Sep. 29th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Two time failee here.
I didn't hate Law school. I didn't go to Law School to make Millions (although I was hoping to be able to eventually pay off my loans). I went because i thought it was the way to hone the "skills" I supposedly had. I enjoyed learning the law and reading cases, with exceptions of course. I did all this stuff: Moot court, mock trial, clerking for a judge, honor council, to build my "skills." (*I am laughing inside and out right now*).
Nonetheless, I only finished in the top half of a tier 4 school. For me, Law School bread alot of heartache, self-doubt, tears, and numbness (not in the sense of complete apathy but in the sense of a coping mechanism). It was a mighty struggle.
I graduated a semester early so that I could get a "head start" on my career and "knock this bar exam out." I took Bar/Bri and went through the motions. I never missed one class and I struggled, but did my best to keep up with the Pace program (which I was not able to, but I really tried). I Isolated myself to give it my all. But before I had done that, I was working on my resume and had recommendations lined up from a Dean, a professor, a judge. (*I'm lauging again*). Needless to say, i failed. I had so convinced myself If I put in the time, things would just fall into place. This seems to be the case, for everybody else. This was not the case for me.
So I took it again. I studied on my own. I did what i could. I had the unfortunate occurrence that completely occupied my time for the week and 1/2 preceding the exam. I didn't really have a choice. Needless, to say I failed a second time.
I "work" unsteadily for a "lawyer." He hired me as an independent contractor to save himself money meaning I am responsible for my own taxes. He is paying me $11 per hour. He lets me work when he feels like it. I don't resent him. This is business. Needless to say if a better offer came up, I would leave without regret. I am a file clerk.
My loans have began to go in to Collections. I live with my Grandparents. I owe $158,000+ in school loans (in addition to another $12,000 plus in credit card debt.
The endless barrage of Cliches from freinds and family has certainly not helped nor made me feel any better (although I would probably be sayiing the same types of things like "everything happens for a reason" blah blah blah).
As much as I know this is not a direct correlation of my intelligence, how do I avoid not feeling "Dumb"? How can I avoid the Self loathing.
Although I didn't hate lawschool, the best thing about is that
Sep. 29th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
it is over with. I didn't really envision this scenario where I would be $180 K in debt with no serious or even decent job.

I feel like "[t]he matrix has got [me]." I'm trapped. I have gone too far to quit. I can't think of any other viable options. But I don't know what my next step is. Is it possible to take back the day you were born?

Although, the bar exam may not indicate what kind of attorney you will be, it relates to the legal profession in the sense that it tests your ability to manage your study time and your exam time. (Not that I am one) but from what I am told, if you want to be a lawyer you will need to manage your time effectively (like most things in life). If nothing else, the bar exam will test this.

People often complain about the unfairness of life. LIFE IS FAIR! It may be cruel at times, but rest assured it is fair. I have been rattling off more expletives in the past 8 days then I have probably in the past 5 years or so of my life. I feel helpless, hopeless, inter alia. I've turned into "that guy" that fails bar exams, the guy everybody shuttered at even thinking about. I feel like ATLAS carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and everytime someone pats me on the back to try to comfort me, they are only making this weight worse.

Had i the foresight to know that this was possible I would never have fought so hard to go to Law School. What do I have to show for my my struggle, my heartache, and my work? Nearly 1/5 of a million dollars in debt. People keeps saying it will be alright, but that is the same thing they said last time and it is not alright.

I want to stop complaining but I feel so devoid of hope. I don't really know how to change my situation. How do I shift my paradigm? How do i break out of my conundrum? Its a catch 22. If I don't take the test I'm a quitter who just threw away 3(4 1/2) years of my life ( or I can chalk it up to a moral victory/failure depending on whose point of view). I can keep taking the test and incurring further debt while i shun off working or finding an alternative career).

Unlike most of you here, and most of the people I went to school with. I am used to failure. I'm not okay with it but i am no stranger to failure. IT IS FAR BETTER TO BE A FAILURE THEN TO BE AFRAID TO TRY OR FAIL!!! For those who do fail at some point, success holds much more value.

I will end my rant with this. I know that something needs to change for me to pass. Its not G-d, its not the test, its not the universe or the stars or whatever else people may attribute their failures to. Change starts with me, and me alone.
Oct. 16th, 2010 01:32 am (UTC)
To Anonymous, who wrote in Sept of 2010....

After reading your post I have a solution for you. Become a writer! I went through every post on this board, but for some reason I was rivited with what you had to say. It was smart and well written and witty! It was dispairing, but disparing in a way that made me want to know more...

As a matter of fact, maybe we (all of us "failures") should come together as a group and turn our experiences from our law school / bar exam failures into a book... instead of calling it "How to Pass The Bar Exam" we could call it, "What To Expect When You Fail The Bar Exam"... or "What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens".

Not to make light of the whole situation, mind you. I can relate to each and every one of you out there who have poured your hearts out on this blog....

I graduated from law school in July of 1999 (yes, over a DECADE ago) from a well known NY school. However, that summer my father was dying of cancer. So, instead of taking the exam that July, I went home (I am from the midwest) to spend some time with him. I have never lived to regret that decesion, because my dad died in April of 2000.

To resume some sort of normalcy in my life after my fathers death, in July of 2000, I regestered to take the NY exam. I took a bar review course and locked myself away for 2 months to study. When the big day finally arrived, I felt armed (or as armed as I could be under the circumstances), ready; with all that crap swimming around in my head, I was finally prepared to take the exam. However, I got up that morning and made my way to the examination site, but I never sat for the test. Instead, I went shopping...

Everyone was very disappointed in me, I'm sure. They never really said so, but I could feel it. I explained my behavior away by saying that it was just too soon after my fathers death to study so i didn't feel prepared for the exam. However, he would have been so proud of me for going in that examination room and sitting for that test, even if I had failed. Another excuse I gave was that I couldn't concentrate on taking the exam because of the miscarriage I'd had in May. In retrospect, I'm not sure what happened that morning... i really don't know. I wish I did, because then maybe I could get on with my life now.... (read further, and you'll understand what i mean...).

At any rate, I have registered to take the exam every single July and February since that summer of 2000. I have also taken every bar review course under the sun.... Barbri, Barbri Retaker, Barbri Essay Writing, Marino, Marino Retaker, Marino Tutors, Pieper, Kaplan, PMBR, The Study Group, etc. I have also bought every type of bar study guide on the planet, plus bar related books, MBE flashcards, audio tapes, outlines, etc etc. However, I have never sat for both days of the test.

The closest I have ever come in all these years of studying was in the summer of 2009. I studied and studied and studied and studied for that f.... exam. On the day of the test, I finally got myself to the Javits center to take the exam. I entered the site, sat down at my table and began the exam. I made it through the 1st half of the day, went to lunch and actually came back. I wasn't feeling great about my results, but I was bloody determined to finish the exam. In the last half hour of the test, I fainted. Yes, I fainted. My heart was racing, I began to sweat, and my head hit the table. The proctors ran to my table to see that I was alright. I was. I was alright. Shaken, but ok. I left that afternoon, and guess what happened? The next day I didn't return...

Here I am, a year and a half later. Just surfing the web looking for bar review materials so that I can begin to study... it's october, time to start preparing for the next exam....

Oct. 18th, 2010 05:00 am (UTC)
In Response to Anonymous who wrote On Oct. 16
Thank you so much. That is the best compliment I have received in a very long time. You are a really good writer yourself.

My heart is with you. Yout story makes me shamefully aware of my weakn and selfish I am. My circumstances are not even a fraction of what you have endured. Your story is cause for reflection. I doubt you are seeking pity, sympathy, or empathy from anyone. Yet, after reading your story you have all of them from me.

I don't know why people suffer, but suffering breeds emotional growth if we allow it to. You haven't given up yet, and for both of our sakes I pray you won't give up. Your perseverance counts for so much, maybe more than you may realize. As much as I hate cliches, "there can be no 'testimony' without a 'test.'" Overcoming this exam seems to be one of many for you.

In your defense, you haven't really "failed" like the rest of us have. Also, you did the right thing by spending time with your dying father. Nonone with a pulse should ever fault you for that.

Your issue has nothing to do with your intelligence judging by the quality of your writing coupled with the fact you gained entrance and graduated from a top school. In your favor, you got into a top school meaning you probably rocked the LSAT. Studies show a strong correlation between LSAT scores and Bar passage. Feel confident knowing this.

Please, look within yourself and find the resolve you need to overcome your hurdle. When you do, you will be able to help other "failures" and students who have faced professional setbacks. Furthermore, I have no doubt when you pass the bar and receive your license you will both honor and cherish your license and the legal profession because of everything you had to overcome to get that license.

Please, keep me updated. My prayers and support are with you.

Oct. 19th, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
Failed multiple times and finding it difficult to get back on my feet.
Thank you all for sharing your thoughts on the law and the frustrations that come with it. I happened to love the study of law while in law school even though I graduated at the bottom 5% of my class and have loved the study of law since graduating law school, even though as of this October, it will be my third time failing the bar exam. Don't do it for the money, the prestige, or for the glitter and glamor of being called a "lawyer." Do it because you have an intrinsic passion for one of the greatest professions ever cultivated by mankind. Please keep your heads up as I am trying to do myself. Peace and be well.
Nov. 13th, 2010 08:34 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for the posts. Failed 3 times and contemplating the fourth. I guess in perservance it does teach growth, which is character building and can be transferred to any other area of life.

All the best for people taking Feb 2011 exam
Nov. 22nd, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
I just failed, first time. I wasn't the greatest of law school students, or fond of it, but by my third year I actually started enjoying it. I was doing a lot better too. And I did everything Barbri told me to do and scored pretty decently in the practice tests.

The thing is- I know I messed up the first day. I'd thought it wasn't that bad, that I'd made up for it, but I guess not. It's incredibly humiliating- I went to a great school and I'm the only one I know from my friends who didn't get to write a nice esquire after my name.

My friends and family are being really supportive, but I'm having a hard time getting past step one. Okay, it's been what, 2 days? And you said I could give it a week, but I have this slight history of not being able to pull myself out of funks quickly and I've been really good lately about giving myself two days and then moving on. This time, I can't see a path out so well because I had a contingent offer where I work right now. And I'm going to have to go back to work tomorrow and hear all the sympathetic comments, watch as they pull my info out of the server and undo the preparations of making me full time, and finally, watch them hire someone to take my position. I don't know if I have the stomach for that.
Oct. 21st, 2011 05:46 am (UTC)
I would like to edit this, because there was a response that called my comment scary. I passed the bar the second time and the same employer had another opening. It wasn't quite the same position, but in some ways, it was even better. I just took a motion to court that none of the more experienced attorneys thought I'd win (especially the smarmy jerk on the other side), and I got a better result than I'd hoped for. The bar has no relation to how you practice.

I cried a LOT the first week, but some people were truly helpful. I was lucky enough to know some people who hadn't made it the first time around either. They told me- don't give up. One took three tries, one had given up at 5, and they both told me not to give up. I didn't, and it was worth it. I don't think I like being a lawyer a lot of the time, but I love it when I sit in that courtroom, speak into a mike, and tell the judge why I'm there.

Dec. 2nd, 2010 02:38 am (UTC)
This has been therapeudic!
I have to say reading these stories (even the ones still in progress) are very helpful. I finally feel like someone knows how I feel. All of my friends passed and no one in my family has ever been to law school, so I don't feel like I have anyone I can really talk to. I have to say I kind of feel bad for even pitying myself after reading other people's struggle, but I'll give my story.
I went to a top 30 law school and graduated somewhere in the middle. I was in advocacy programs. I worked hard, but I hated it. Many of my peers "respected me" for my "great moral character" and "work ethic".I tried to look at the bright side. Some of the subject matter was interesting, but the people and the process wore on me. Still, I felt that since I graduated, it must have all been worth it. I had persevered. I thought working hard would be the key to passing. So... I studied during the summer, took a bar prep course, and battled my nerves and heartache. During that summer my little sister attempted suicide after she got into a physical altercation with my father. I was called to come home during the middle of the night to be with my family. Thankfully, she did not succeed in her mission, but it definitely cut me deep. I even wrestled with the idea of whether I even wanted to take the exam. I took the exam, but didn't feel great about about it. Then again, none of my friends did either. This is all to say failed the Georgia Bar Exam by 1 point. I've never failed at anything.

I am having a hard time dealing with this. I remember thinking someone only scored higher than me and they can practice law. One week prior to receiving results, I was offered a job with a decent salary and health insurance. They also offered to repay my loans which are about $65K. The health insurance was the biggest draw because I have chronic bronchitis and sometimes when it becomes acute, I need lots of medical care. I thought this offer was God telling me I had passed and that he was setting me up for a testimony. I had after all pressed through adversity and fought the good fight. But alas...I will be signing up for the February exam. Now I work for a lawyer but as a contractor and make less than minimum wage. This will be interesting come tax season. The good news is that the lawyer I work for is amazing. She has also taken a person interest in my professional and personal advancement. She was the person to buy me my first (and only) coach purse and she actually lobbied to get me the aforementioned job offer. The worst part of it all is that I live with my parents and won't be able to afford moving out anytime soon. Even that didn't seem so bad until my father lost his job and my sister blew through her financial aid. Now I feel like I HAVE to come through so that I am not a financial burden on my parents. I also want to prove to myself that I can do this. Still I wonder if this is the right decision. I have big dreams of running and directing a non-profit that works on the personal and i guess at some point professional advancement of at risk women of color. I have no idea when that dream will enter reality or even how to accomplish it. I feel that passing the bar, a goal I set out to achieve however, will give me confidence to tackle that dream. Anyone have ideas about starting a non profit? If you do, you can email me at savedbytheeBELLE@gmail.com.

I am hopeful that the second time is a charm, however, now I am aware that bar passage has nothing to do with intelligence (at least on my good days). I feel that once I move past this obstacle it will be worth it---but right now I do feel like a failure. For those who have not passed, I will be praying that we can overcome this obstacle. Interesting that I do not know any of you, but with this shared experience I feel closer to you all than friends or family. I have certainly been more honest about my feelings of failing the bar. I've been trying to "keep it together" and "be positive." When it comes to this group, however, I have a feeling that the cliche' "things happen for a reason" will truly manifest itself. And to whomever suggested writing the book, "What to Expect...", -I'm IN!Best wishes to all.

P.S. Kind of cool to (briefly)return to my live journal days! Reminds me of college.
Dec. 15th, 2010 02:46 pm (UTC)
I've read most of your comments and I have to say that it sounds to me like some of you went to Law School to impress someone. I feel pity.
I am a 41 year old mother of 3 and grandmother of a 1 year old. I was a H.S. dropout in my days. I attend a non-traditional, online Law School which is part-time, meaning 4 subjects a year (by a year I mean 11-12 months, not 9 months)
I decided to go to law school because I love to learn. I'm not the smartest of the lot, in fact for 1L my GPA was 2.55 (are you serious???)
Recently I went to California for a first year law student exam or FYLSX, it's California's way to allow non-ABA approved school students to sit for their bar exam upon successful completion of this exam (you have 3 consecutive tries) and successful completion of law school, of course. The exam was for 3 subjects: crim law, contracts and torts with 4 essays and 100 mcq's with the day being divided 4/3 hours.
Just got my results from this exam and I passed. Didn't pass with flying colors but I passed and a pass is a pass. I don't feel lucky because I don't believe in luck. I believe that you make your own luck. I prepared and always said that I wasn't going back a second time. I always said that I would pass it on the first try. When I walked out of that convention center in Pasadena, I knew I had passed.
Attitude is 50% of the outcome of anything in your life, including learning.
I have a AAS and a BA from, you guessed it, online colleges (both accredited, by the way and I graduated with honors) so, perhaps a brick-n-mortar school is not for you! Perhaps you learn more on your own than in a lecture hall filled with people that intimidate you! If this is the case, then you know why you feel the way you feel.
On a lighter note: Like most have said here; don't give up if this is what you want. And the best advise, perhaps you need to take a bar review course that guarantees success.

Good luck and when I sit for the California Bar in 2014 I will sit with the same confidence and preparation that I had in October when I passed that so feared FYLSX.

BTW: The statistics for both the FYLSX and California Bar are very grim, I guess this is because according to many, the Cal Bar is the hardest in the nation. I'll cross that bridge when I get there, in the mean time, I'm enjoying the ride!
Feb. 3rd, 2011 07:22 am (UTC)
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Feb. 23rd, 2011 05:35 am (UTC)
Well I probably blew the first day
Going into day two for MBE. Second time taker. Pretty sure I f'ed up today's essays. Wow, two time failure. can't f'ing believe it. Looks my life will suck for a good while longer now. Time to deal with some serious humiliation/self loathing and non-stop regret! Peace to all the kindred spirits here.
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Dec. 22nd, 2013 02:03 am (UTC)
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