By early November all U.S. jurisdictions, save California, will have published bar pass results. For those of us who've chosen careers in academic support and bar prep, the results are met with conflicting emotions. I am elated and overjoyed for my students who find their names on the bar pass list. I understand the sacrifice, the grit, the fear, the pressure, the exhaustion, and the anxiety that are necessary conditions precedent to bar passage. I actually get teary-eyed as I scroll through social media feeds that announce newly minted attorneys or that contain expressions of gratitude from successful bar candidates.
My joy is tempered by the heartache I feel for those who fought so valiantly and fell short of the state cut score. To those examinees, I ask: by whose gauge do you measure your own success? The absence of your name on a bar pass roster is only a failure when compared to your classmates and a host of strangers whose names are listed. If another's exam performance is your standard of measure, it's time to recalibrate. We set ourselves up for failure when we evaluate our outcomes by the barometer of someone else's success.
Repeat bar takers need to visualize success. The visualization can begin by identifying small nuggets of victory from prior exam performance. For some, success may have been the amount of legal rules you committed to memory in record time. For others, success may have been sitting through a two or three-day exam while ill, distracted, or without the testing accommodations that you have depended upon during undergraduate and law school. Perhaps you took a bar exam scribed in a language other than your native tongue and your measure of success (for now) is that you completed every essay question in the time allotted. Maybe you were within 5 or 6 points of a passing score, but you graduated in the bottom quartile of your law school class with a low entering LSAT score. Your success can be measured by the fact that you are but a few points away from realizing a dream that all published statistics say that you could not achieve. View success as an individual pursuit, not a comparative endeavor.
I encourage bar candidates who did not pass the most recent bar exam to scrutinize their score reports, and when available, meet with the bar examiners. Identify the areas where you performed well. What did you do to prepare for those areas, that you did not do for others? Make your answer to that question, the building blocks for your next bar study plan. If you find it difficult to muster the motivation or organization to create an effective study plan, seek the assistance of an experienced bar tutor or coach. Decide that you are worth the investment in your success, and with a renewed sense of fight, you will find yourself on the pass side of the cut score the next go around.