Four steps to help you cope with bar exam failure

You receive the news that you have been anxiously awaiting the past couple of months - bar results are posted!  Your heart is beating so fast that you feel it heavy in your chest. Your palms might be sweaty. You check the results and for you, it did not turn out the way you had hoped. 

As bar results from the February examination are being revealed across the country, I would like to shed light on what to do when you did not achieve your goal of passing the bar exam.

Whatever your initial reaction to the news is, just go with it. Feel through it - ALL - the meh and the mehhier. It can be an alienating feeling when you see your classmates and your friends celebrating and posting on social media their success while you are still not in the "club." You wonder, "where did I go wrong? what could I have done?" Or you might be thinking, "where do I go from here?" or "I guess I need to find something else to do with my life," or "when can I sign up again? all while jotting down a list of logistical to-do's."

As someone who has received both sides of the news and the in-between: an overall FAIL to a PASS in one section and a FAIL overall, to an overall PASS, I completely understand the myriad of feelings you might be experiencing.  Having gone through it myself and having had time to process the emotion and feeling, I found the following techniques to be one (helpful!) way to cope with the news that no bar-taker ever wants to receive.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE. Acknowledge all of your hard work. Your determination. Your effort. Your energy. Even though it feels like it was for nothing, be proud of yourself for going after your dream of being a licensed lawyer. As you read this you might be rolling your eyes but the entire ordeal is exhausting and you deserve recognition for what you did and how hard you worked although it did not turn out exactly the way you wanted.

2. GIVE YOURSELF TIME. Time has a beautiful way of giving us perspective. Whether it is time to process the upset or finding a solid distraction such as adding a puppy to your family or picking up a new hobby, take the time that you need for yourself. If you are unsure of your next step(s) forward the answers will become clearer with time. I promise! And yes, in some jurisdictions MPRE scores are valid for only two years and yes, you might have taken the MPRE early and yes, it might expire if you postpone taking the bar immediately but you and only you know what is right for y-o-u. 

3. PLAN. Once you have given yourself time and feel ready to move in either direction of taking it again or taking it never (that was me!), get a plan. Preferrably on paper but if you aren't into getting it down on paper at least visualize the steps in your mind. If you make the decision to take it again a lot of paperwork and logistics will need to be taken care of. If you decide never to take it again - onward you go!  

4. EVALUATE. If you decide to take it again, evaluate what you could have done better or if there is a prep course that better meets your needs. Reach out to a tutor or to a professor. Ask them questions. Ask questions of yourself. Ask yourself what you know, intuitively, you should have done or what you could have done to get more points.  If you decide to sit it out for a while (or forever), evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, what kind of life you want and want you can do to get you there.

On a ranging scale, not passing the bar can seem like the end of the world to a major inconvenience and a barrier to the life that you had envisioned for yourself. It can also be seen as a tedious learning experience that will help you in challenging situations in the future. Whether you decide to retake it immediately, never again, or figure out that you are somewhere in between, please do not forget to give yourself credit for going after your dreams and trying. You have gotten so far! And remember, if it were a cakewalk it would not be worth it.

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