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Passing On After Failing the Bar

August 3, 2008

For many recent law school graduates and some others, this past week was “highlighted” by the bar exam.  It’s a rite of passage that lawyers must endure – with any luck, only once. 

Let’s face it: the main problem or fear with taking the bar exam isn’t all the studying you have to do beforehand or the 18 hours of test taking over three days (for Pennsylvania and New Jersey).  Rather, it’s the fear that one may fail and have to go through the process all over again.  It’s a difficult proposition to stomach after spending over $100,000 in tuition that you are not even allowed to practice law. 

Still, for the roughly 30 percent of test takers who are not successful, the world is not over with failing to pass this time around.  Fortunately, most firms allow their associates a second bite at the apple and keep them around after initial negative results.  (The District Attorney’s Office is the notable exception).  Next, unlike the first time, repeat test takers have the “advantage” of knowing exactly what testing conditions will be like.  By the time the next opportunity for the bar exam comes around, there should be less anxiety of the “unknown.”  Even for those who decline to take the exam again (or perhaps do not pass after further attempts), there are always other opportunities.  More and more firms, particularly larger ones, have staff attorney or contract attorney positions, which do not always require licenses. 

So for those who have just taken the bar and now dread the 2-3 month wait for results, remember to keep things in perspective.  The statistics are in your favor of passing, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.

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