I Failed the Bar Exam. Where Do I Go From Here?

Where Do I Go From Here

Keep your chin up! Failing the bar is disappointing, but in the grand scheme, it’s just a bump in the road. Here are four tips to help you rebound, refocus, and thrive. 

1. Keep It in Perspective

You’re far from alone and far from the first. Bar results are no indication of how successful you’ll be. Many people have failed the bar exam and gone on to have distinguished careers, including:

  • National political figures (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama)
  • State and local leaders (Governors Jerry Brown, Charlie Crist, and Deval Patrick; Mayors Richard Daley, Ed Koch, and Antonio Villaraigosa)
  • Even a law school dean (Kathleen Sullivan, Stanford Law School)

These people did not let failing a bar exam define them or keep them from achieving great things. So take some time to gather yourself, recover, and regroup. Move forward with a positive attitude as you develop your next plan of attack.

2: Reflect on Your Studies Before Retaking the Bar Exam

If you decide to retake the bar, identify ways to improve your studies this time around. 

  • Consider how many hours you actually spent studying. You may have had more fun studying in a group, but were you less productive? Did you spend valuable study time on social media? Adjust your habits accordingly. 
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on what you need to learn and spend less time studying what you already know. 
  • Understand how you learn. Do you learn through reading, or are you more auditory? Are you a visual learner, or do you learn through practice? Use these learning strategies when you study. 
  • Reflect on your process for answering sample MBE®, essay, and MPT® questions. Did you thoroughly read and understand the explanations? Did you outline and write out essays? If not, vow to do so this time around. 
  • Identify which study strategies worked for you. If you tuned out during video lectures, reduce your viewing time to spend more time answering practice questions. If it was hard to retain what you read in an outline, create flashcards to repeatedly test yourself on those rules.

3. Develop a New Game Plan

The best coaches know how to make halftime adjustments and attack their opponent with new plays. Now is your chance to adjust your prep and attack the bar anew. Modify your study habits for this next study period—you don’t want to make the same mistakes twice! 

  • Find and utilize resources that are focused on your identified weak areas—e.g., if you struggled with the MBE, consider buying an MBE supplement (such as UWorld’s MBE QBank).
  • If you were more productive studying alone, decrease or eliminate your group study time.
  • Plan to write out your practice essays this time if you only outlined them the first time.
  • If you reviewed only pre-made materials, plan to prepare your own flashcards and outlines.
  • Speak with your law school (e.g., Academic Support Department) to evaluate your results and devise a new strategy.
  • Consider hiring a tutor; a tutor could give you a fresh set of eyes, help you understand and apply the material—and serve as a private cheerleader!

Retaking the bar exam is not your only option. Many employers value your J.D., and it can be a springboard into many successful, alternative careers. 

  • Your research and writing skills are valued by publishing companies, news agencies, and more. 
  • Familiarity with rules and regulations makes you well-suited for a career in compliance or human resources.
  • The ability to think on your feet could equip you for a career as a politician, lobbyist, or sales director.
  • Critical thinking skills could lead to a position as a legislative analyst or business manager.
  • Knowledge of law and procedure could make you an exceptional candidate for a position as a senior paralegal or law firm administrator.
  • Your understanding of contracts and business organizations could propel you to a career as an entrepreneur.

In short, your law degree makes you marketable. There are plenty of ways to use it and flourish—with or without a law license!

However, if you decide to give the bar exam another go and you’re ready to elevate your MBE® prep, click here for our FREE trial. We’ll have you prepared to ace the MBE on exam day. 

MBE® is a registered trademark of The National Conference of Bar Examiners® (NCBE®). NCBE does not endorse, promote, or warrant the accuracy or quality of the products or services offered by UWorld Legal.

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