Friday, October 17, 2014

So You Didn't Pass the Bar Exam. . . Now What?

To those examinees who did not pass, this post is for you. Remember that today's news is a setback -- that is all. Not passing is not a reflection of your abilities or your potential as an attorney. With the right combination of strategy, discipline and restraint, you will pass in February. Believe in yourself! The following are some steps to take to heart.

Step 1: For many of you, not passing will be a difficult event with which to cope. You may be mad your friends passed but you didn’t. You may be disheartened that your efforts were all for naught. You may be overwhelmed by the thought of repeating the process. You may be embarrassed to face your friends and family and coworkers. And you may feel like a failure. All of these emotions are natural, mostly unwarranted, but natural. Don’t suppress them either; you need to release them. Use this weekend to get that energy out of your system. Have a good cry. Seriously -- this is important.

Step 2: Cut off Step 1 after no later than mid-next week. Step 1’s necessary, but only to a point. Any longer, and it will become a cancer. After a week, accept the news, pick yourself up, and turn to Step 3.

Step 3: Think about what went wrong. Review your scores – did you miss passing by a lot or a little? Did the MBE kill you, or was it the essays, or both? Were you unprepared? Did you over-study? Did you burn yourself out with anxiety and stress? Did you try to learn everything? Did you walk in under-confident? Did an unrelated event – perhaps a death in the family, divorce, break-up, or serious automobile collision – derail your preparation? Was this just a bad time all around to sit for the exam? Think about what happened.

Step 4: Now decide whether you’re going to retake the exam. Will you retake the exam in February or at a later date? Will you retake the exam in the same jurisdiction or in elsewhere? If in a different jurisdiction, why? Are you switching for the right reasons?

Step 5: If you decide to retake the exam, but you repeat your same preparation as before, expect the same results. I recommend trying a new approach entirely. You need to shake yourself loose of bad study habits. A new approach might mean speaking with a tutor about strategies, using different study materials, or applying new self-study methods. You also need to take the new approach seriously. Make time, not necessarily more time, but just time – and make that time count. No distractions, no excuses – just focusing on one step at a time.

Step 6: Don’t just tell yourself to have confidence. Give yourself reason to have confidence. If you’re serious about Step 5, you will have that confidence. And don’t let that confidence fade away at any point. Keep it strong up to the exam, through the exam, past the exam, and after results. Remember: You can do this. Don’t let the bar exam define you! Don’t let it beat you! Turn your despair into determination. Rise up with a full heart and bury the bar once and for all. 

Hang in there, and don’t beat yourself up. This kind of bad news is not the end of the world. It’s very manageable. You’re going to be fine.

If you are interested in being tutored by me this winter, please write to me to discuss further. Each season, I take on a small number of students (6-10). Spots fill up quickly, some of them already. 

July 2014 Virginia Bar Exam Results -- RELEASED

The VBBE released the July 2013 Virginia Bar Exam Results late this afternoon. Click here for the results. Special congratulations go out to my summer students who passed! You did it!

In summary, the overall pass rate was on the lower end for July: 68.00%, with first-time takers peaking at 72.86%. Congratulations to the University of Virginia School of Law for having the highest overall and first-time taker passages rate (88.37% and 89.41%, respectively).

Please note that there are two pass lists. If your name is on the first list -- Pass List One -- then you met all requirements and are licensed as of yesterday. If your name is on the second list -- Pass List Two -- then you achieved a passing score on the bar exam, but other outstanding requirements in your file remain (e.g., the MPRE exam). Names on Pass List Two are not licensed as of yesterday. You will find more information on the swearing-in ceremony before the Virginia Supreme Court by clicking here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Uh-oh: It's October. That Can Only Mean One Thing. . . .

"The waiting is the hardest part. . . ."

Damn you, Tom Petty. . . .

But he's right, you know: waiting just might be the hardest part of the bar exam. For many of you, October 17 will bring immense joy and relief. For others, it will bring sadness and despair. No matter how anxious you are now, the outcome will not change. What’s done was done back in July. I could say don’t bother worrying about October 17, but I know you will anyway. But try your best to keep the anxiety to a minimum. It really is wasted energy.

Chances are, the VBBE is finalizing the PASS/FAIL list by now, cross-checking their grades and tallies. For you, the last week or so will likely be a miserable one - the worst period, in my opinion. In the previous two months, when exam anxiety crept up, you could write it off ("Results are still months away, forget about it. For now."). As the moment of truth nears, that former luxury will vanish. Some of you might already have a gut-reaction on how you fared. (The poll on the left-hand side of my homepage reflects some of your reactions.) 

Now, for those of you who are fearing the worst, trust me when I say that your future is not nearly as disastrous as you are convinced it will be. Six months from October 17, you will look back on that low point as being the better for it. In the grand scheme, failing the bar exam on your first try is a puny blip on the screen. The problem is, bar examinees are very shortsighted. Anxieties are up, jobs sway in the balance, the fear of repeating feels like a death sentence. Basically, we magnify everything in our tunnel of vision. Bar exam results will never, ever define who you are, neither personally nor professionally nor any other way. You are ten times better than the bar exam to allow it to bring you down to a level of constant despair and anxiety and self-pity. Especially in this last week, you must not forget that. Pass or fail, you are still great.

If failing the bar exam is the worst thing you ever experience in life, consider yourself immensely fortunate. I expect you will face far greater challenges in your life.  So, honestly, don’t fear October 17. It’s not Doomsday. Take it in stride, and keep your head up whatever the outcome.

As a final aside, October 17 is not exactly a hard-and-fast date. Historically, the VBBE either posts results on the stated day or else the day before, in this case October 16. But for what it's worth, my hunch is on October 17. It's a Friday, and I look at it from the VBBE's perspective: Post results, close the office early to avoid the mass stampede of crazy phone calls, and let the whole thing blow over the weekend. Again, this is just my hunch. But don't expect any results before October 16.

Good luck, everybody! Hang in there, and remember to keep these next two weeks in perspective. Please, just trust me on this one. You're going to be fine.

Model Answers for the July 2014 Virginia Bar Exam

As a courtesy to Virginia bar applicants, professors from the Virginia law schools provide model answers for the most recent bar exam essays. William & Mary recently posted the collected model answers to the July 2014 Virginia Bar Exam. To access the model answers, please see this link. The answers are comprehensive and very nicely explained.