Help! I Failed the Bar Exam.


Not passing the bar exam can generate a widespread mix of emotions, most of which you may be experiencing right now. These feelings are normal, but before you put yourself down or begin critiquing your study habits, consider the following:

You are not your scoreYou are a bright, dedicated, inquisitive mind whose talent cannot be measured by pass or fail standards. So you didn’t pass the bar exam…yet. You have numerous chances to get your lawyer’s license. But you did get through law school, which shows that you already possess the will to persevere, even when difficulties emerge. Apply the same attribute to the bar exam, and recognize that this is just another hurdle you will undoubtedly overcome to reach your goals.

Just as well, you can use this experience as greater motivation to succeed instead of allowing it to discourage your efforts. Take note of these examples of people who didn’t pass the bar exam right away and still became well-known for their successes.

Franklin D. Roosevelt failed the New York bar exam on his first try after attending Harvard College and Columbia Law School. After passing the bar in 1907, he practiced law for several years before becoming Governor of New York. Shortly thereafter, he was elected four times as the president of the United States.

John F. Kennedy Jr., Brown University and New York University Law School student, failed the New York bar exam twice before passing. He then went on to work as a district attorney and start George, a successful political magazine.

Kathleen Sullivan failed the California bar exam on her first attempt before passing in New York and Massachusetts. She then became the Dean of Stanford Law School and is currently a name partner at top litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

Other well-known names of people who, at some point, did not pass the bar exam include first lady Michelle Obama, former secretary of state and upcoming presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and Governor Pete Wilson, who failed three times before passing on his fourth attempt.

Judging by these examples, it is obvious that failing the bar exam will not inhibit the potential of your future law career. While it may be easy to criticize yourself for not passing, it is important to realize that one exam result isn’t enough to determine how successful you will be as a practicing lawyer. After all, you have passed numerous other exams; this is only one of them.

For further inspiration, read these stories and quotes as proof that many of the people we view as successful in society today have also had to overcome their own trials and failures first.

  • “I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft.” Bill Gates
  • Thomas Edison made 999 failed prototypes of the light bulb before creating one that worked. When asked in a later interview, “Mr. Edison, how did it feel to fail 999 times?” Edison replied, “Young man, I have not failed 999 times. I have simply found 999 ways how not to create a light bulb!  
  • Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper editing job for “lacking imagination and having no good ideas”. In fact, several of his own start-up businesses failed, forcing him into bankruptcy, before he created the world-renowned empire, Disney.
  • Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected 27 different times before it was published.
  • Henry Ford’s first car prototypes were a bust, causing his financial backer to withdraw his support and thus terminate Ford’s first business, Detroit Automobile Company. Three years later, Ford went on to create the successfully thriving automobile enterprise, Ford Motor Company.
  • Michael Jordan, dubbed the best professional basketball player of all time, didn’t make his high school basketball team. When later asked about getting cut, Jordan said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

With the right perspective, failure isn’t a tragedy. It is a learning experience. According to Henry Ford, “Failure is the only opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” The same can be applied to your endeavors with the bar exam. You may not have passed this time, but it isn’t the end of the road. Success is a journey, so take this time as an opportunity to begin again…only this time more wisely.

Want some tips on what you can do differently to pass the bar exam next time?
Look out for AdaptiBar’s next blog post, coming soon! 

Written by The AdaptiBar Team
AdaptiBar is the only Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) bar prep provider to combine 100 percent of the licensed questions from the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) with patented adaptive technology that tracks performance and targets weaknesses, yielding the most efficient and personalized study experience available. The program is designed for each individual to customize their learning and refine internal timing by simulating real-life conditions of the bar exam. Since 2003, AdaptiBar’s dedicated team of lawyers, technology experts, and customer service specialists have provided thousands of law students and lawyers in every jurisdiction in the United States, and more than 50 countries, with the tools and confidence they need to pass the MBE.

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