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. 

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