Much has happened in the year since I drunkenly stared at the phrase “…is not on the pass list” on my laptop. Congratulations to those of you who don’t find yourself similarly situated tonight. But to those of you who likewise find yourselves in the same position I found myself in, I hope that this blog is of some use to you as you begin the process of picking yourself off the mat and start contemplating what steps you will take moving forward.
Now that I’m able to look back on the experience with a degree of hindsight and distance (If you read this before you check your results I hope you don’t feel that I’m fucking with karma) the following are a few things I wish I’d known in the aftermath of failing.
From experience, I know how easy it is to beat yourself up over the results. I felt stupid, isolated, depressed and found it virtually impossible to talk to any of my fellow classmates who passed. It wasn’t until I joined a few study groups and met a few others who had failed (all with topnotch credentials) that I realized that the bar is not in any way shape or form an intelligence test. Just know that you are not alone, failing the bar is not easy for anyone and no matter how isolated you may feel there are literally thousands of equally well qualified and intelligent individuals going through the exact same emotions that you will likely feel should you not pass this time around.
To be sure, weeks after learning that I had failed were nothing short of miserable as I was left to ponder the prospect of having to relive what had previously been the three shittiest months of my academic career. I also wanted to go postal on anyone and everyone who felt compelled to recount inane anecdotes concerning about the bar or ply me with innumerable questions concerning whatever it is caused me to fail. But life does move on and things will get better with time.
Fortunately, once I started studying for the February exam I found that I was able to block out much of the embarrassment and misery associated with failing as I began to focus on how not to turn my experience into a trilogy. To be sure, studying for the bar the second time pretty much sucked, but as much as I hated the material, studying was infinitely better than wallowing in my misery.
In the midst of the agony associated with failing, it was hard not to view failing as nothing but a blown or wasted year, and in some ways, I still feel this way. I was also very worried that failing the bar would be akin a millstone hanging around my neck preventing me from progressing with my career. Fortunately, after a shitload of interviews, I feel that I can safely put this fear to rest. To be sure, I’ll never work in biglaw, but my law school grades had already taken me out of the running. Few if any employers seemed to give a shit about the fact that I’d failed. I was asked about it a few times but the questions were always easily disposed of and were usually part of the inane thread of interview questions along the lines of what did you learn from the experience etc.
I sometimes wonder how I’ll look back on the past year in the future. After re-reading some of my posts today, much of the angst expressed feels more like distant background noise than anything. Concerns about whether or not I did enough MBEs, how irritating fellow bar takers can be, the weird after affects of taking the bar and the agony of waiting for results a second time have been replaced by more mundane worries such as how will I ever pay off my private student loans and am I hitting my billables this week. Life does truly move on, time heals all wounds and all that bullshit but I doubt I’ll ever be able to wholly forget my experience with failing the bar.
Since this will almost certainly be my last post, I want to thank my fellow comrades in arms who shared their experiences going through the strange trip that was the bar by blogging, commenting and/or emailing, it was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one struggling through a particular subject area or combating the inevitable burnout during the doldrums in early February. To the few of you who stumble onto this site in the future, I hope this site gives you some encouragement that you’re not alone and that the shittiness of failing will eventually pass. The bar is a giant crap shoot and nothing more than an evil hazing ritual that has no bearing on one’s ability to practice law and/or have a successful career. I still believe that there is a special place in hell reserved for the evil minions responsible for creating the bar and for the equally malevolent assholes who bilk thousands of law grads each year by playing on the fear and anxiety that naturally flows from rolling up three years of law school into three hellacious days of meaningless essays, performance tests and multiple choice.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings, best of luck to you all.