Student to Lawyer, Stuck in the Middle: Limbo

When I got the email that I would be a Writer in Residence for Ms. JD, I was extremely excited. I immediately started planning out what I wanted to write about. I planned what I was writing each month around what I was going through (i.e. studying for the bar, working, etc.). This month will be the first month I veer off my set path and write about something I wasn’t planning to write about. This month I will be writing about the time between the bar exam and getting your results, which my friends and I have affectionately started to call limbo.

In the last eight months I have gone through some tedious, seemingly never ending periods in my life, as will most of you. The last semester of law school really is a painfully boring time. You want to be done with school and you are probably taking classes that are easier or at least classes you can get away with not reading for long periods of time.

Studying for the bar seems like it takes FOREVER! I started studying on December 21st, which was just 4 days after graduation. Around January 17th someone mentioned that it had been a month since I graduated and I didn’t believe it. At that point it felt like it had been years.

After all those months of monotony, what makes this period of limbo so bad? For me, personally, there are two reasons why this time of waiting is so much worse than any other part of becoming a lawyer: (1) No control and (2) Self doubt.

First the no control aspect of waiting. I am most definitely a control freak. The idea that there is nothing I can do now is horrible. I can’t study more, I can’t increase my chances of passing, and I can’t get my score any sooner than when the State Bar releases all of the results. This is frustrating because other states are already getting their results. I know those of you lucky enough to be in North Carolina and Illinois have already got your results. A lot of states release their results in mid to late April while states like Michigan (my state) don’t release theirs until mid-May. Even though they say mid-May, like a lot of states, it could be earlier than that. So not only do I have no control I also have a lot of uncertainty. I cannot mentally and emotionally prepare myself for my results because I could get them as early as two weeks from now (that realization just stressed me out, as I was typing it).

The second reason waiting is so terrible is the amount of self-doubt that comes after the bar exam. I know there are some of you who have no doubt that you passed. I envy you because my thoughts on how I did change on a daily basis. There are days where I feel like I passed, there are also the days where I feel like I failed, but mostly there are days where I have no idea how I did and would not be surprised either way. This self-doubt has led to some interesting dreams in the last six weeks. I have dreamt that Michigan added an additional essay exam based on Texas law, and that I got my essay scores back and got 0’s on most of them. Because of this self-doubt I didn't even unpack my backpack with all of my study materials until last week. I didn't want to take the chance of reading over a subject and realizing I identified an issue wrong or gave the wrong rule. I waited until I had pretty much forgotten most of the essay questions before organizing my notes so I wouldn’t be tempted to look at subjects that were tested and doubt myself even more.

I would love to give advice here that made the stress of limbo disappear but I haven’t figured it out yet. The best I can do is give advice on ways I have found to make it less stressful. The biggest thing is to take your mind off of your results. This is hard because people ask (a lot) about when you will find out and how you think you did, but it is doable. Get back to doing things you enjoy, which for most of us includes things we did before law school. I have read a book a week since I took the bar exam, for the sheer pleasure of reading. I have started working out again (something that I should have been doing while studying but didn’t) and cooking. Since I don't have a job lined up yet I got a part time job to fill time. I am also still interning a couple days a week to keep myself busy. Try to remember that stressing about how you did is futile so you might as well enjoy life and hopefully time will seem like it goes by a little faster.


Julie Cummings

I laughed out loud when I read about your anxiety dream! That is so typical for me too. When those dreams come to me, I no longer wonder if I have been stressed recently. I know for sure that I have. Thanks for sharing your emotional Limbo phase.


Do you think a post bar clerkship would help with the limbo? I know i’m terrified about doing one, failing, and letting down my post bar employers.


At one time in my life when I was in a similarly stressful limbo, I took sailing lessons five days a week.  The physical and mental focus took my mind off the problem.  I was too busy trying not to dump and drown to worry! Can you find something that helps put your brain and body all in one place?  Can you play tennis, or learn to surf or blow glass?  This kind of consolidating demand is therapeutic.  Fingers crossed for you!

Write a comment

Please login to comment

Remember Me

Join Us

Contribute to our blog and join the discussion.



Enter your email address to receive regular updates, news, and events.

Connect with us

Follow or subscribe