It is bar exam results season. Over the next few months states will continue to release bar results, leading to thousands of happy folks but also thousands upon thousands of disappointed bar takers around the country.
If you are one of those disappointed bar takers, I am sorry you are going through this. I hope these tips will help you get ready to take the bar exam again.
1. Allow yourself to be disappointed. There is no question that this is not the result you had hoped for. Dealing with a bar exam failure may be one of the most challenging things you have gone through in your professional career. Before you can move on and develop a plan, you need to grieve and allow yourself to be upset. For many this process can take a weekend or even a week. However, you cannot allow your disappointment to paralyze you. At a certain point, you need to re-group and move forward. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary.
2. Decide you are going to take the exam again. Although you may be frustrated and feel like studying again is an insurmountable task, you must decide to re-take the exam. Like it or not, the bar exam is the gatekeeper standing between you and your bar license. And you want a bar license. So it is time to commit to taking the bar exam again.
There are some things you want to consider when developing your plan. You want to make sure that you want to take the next bar exam offered. Although taking the next exam is generally my recommendation, there are situations in which waiting to re-take the exam may make the most sense for you.
Also, you may be considering taking the exam in another state. If that is the case, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of this decision. Typically, you want to take the same exam again since you already have tons of knowledge that you can apply to studying for it one more time.
3. Select the right bar review provider for you. If you are studying for the bar exam after a failure, it is important that you are smart about selecting the right bar review provider for you. And you don’t want to study in the exact same way. Something didn’t work the first time, so you need to do a self-evaluation to determine the type of prep that will help you prepare, make the best use of your study time, and help you target your weak areas. You need to consider whether you want to purchase another commercial classroom course, an online course (which gives you more flexibility), a supplemental course (such as one that focuses on just writing or the MBE), or work with a one-on-one tutor.
4. If you are working while studying, make sure you are setting yourself up for success. Often folks find out they have failed the bar exam while working at a new job and they want to keep that job while studying for the bar again. Although I don’t recommend this, it can be done. You definitely need to be smart about how you are studying and likely need to study longer than someone who is going to study full time. Make sure you are realistic about how much time you will study each week. You want to be able to find a balance between your job responsibilities and your need to study and prepare.
5. Be sure you are mentally ready to take it again. I have discussed in previous posts the importance of being mentally ready to take the bar exam. And if you are coming back after a failure, it is critical that you make sure that you are on your best mental game. It is so easy to be self-defeatist. And that type of attitude can self-sabotage your entire bar preparation. So what can you do? You can reach out for help (there are many resources out there—books, blogs, and coaches to help you with this issue so check out Bar Exam Mind and Mind Over Bar). Also, make sure that you incorporate meditation, exercise, and other stress-relieving activities into your bar preparation to help manage stress and anxiety. Many find that they struggle more with anxiety when studying for a second time, so you want to be conscious of this and deal with it moving forward.
I work with students one-on-one, most of whom are taking the bar exam after a failure. I know it is not easy. But if you are dealing with disappointing exam results, know that you can beat this test. It is not a reflection on how smart you are or how great of an attorney you will be. I know a number of smart, accomplished people who failed the bar exam. I am sorry you are going through this, but don’t let the experience paralyze you. Develop a plan to give yourself the best chance at success the next time you take the exam!
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.