Reflections on The Bar Exam

In case you’ve been living on another planet (or know no one who’s a lawyer, law student, recent law school grad), bar exam results are finally being released across the country. This past Friday, Kentucky  released its results (like two weeks sooner than my results were released three years (!)). Even though it’s been three years since I found out my results, I remember how terrible that day was.

Spoiler alert: I passed. BUT  for the months, weeks, days, and the entire morning leading up the posting of results (in a horribly public manner), I was convinced, totally and completely convinced, that I had failed. In fact, I spent those months, weeks, days, and the morning before the results were posted trying to figure out how I was going to break the news to everyone that I failed. I was convinced that, other than having to retake the bar (something I’m honestly not sure I would have done), spreading the word that I hadn’t passed would be the worst thing that had ever happened to me.

Even though it turned out that I didn’t need to break that news, I was faced with a slightly less awkward task in the next few weeks and months. Talking to my friends who hadn’t been as lucky as I was (and yes, I think no matter what anyone says, passing or not passing the bar is due in part to a large dose of luck). Maybe it was because I had been so convinced that I had failed. Maybe I had a bit of bar exam survivors guilt. Who knows? Whatever the cause, I felt awkward talking to people I knew hadn’t passed.

All of this to say this: a friend of mine who didn’t pass on her first time, just posted a bit of advice for those unlucky ones. If you have ever taken the bar exam, regardless of the result, or know someone who has or might in the future, you should read it. She does a great job of summing up every.single.fear I had about not passing and then telling you what the reality is: It doesn’t matter whether you pass on the first time. Really. Once you pass, you’re a lawyer and that’s all that matters.

P.S. I just realized I wrote a post last year about the bar and promised it would be my last ever. Apparently I suck at promises. Sorry.





The Bar

It’s been awhile since I wrote about The Bar. Honestly, after I found out I passed I thought I would never speak of those dark days ever again. That I would slowly, but surely, block the entire summer between graduation and The Bar out of my memory until it was like I went straight from graduation to lawyering.

Something happened this week that prompted me to revisit those terrible times. I’ve had a few people who are taking The Bar this year contact me because they needed to be talked off the ledge for advice on how to spend the last few days before the bar. Those calls and texts broke open my carefully concealed memories, but I only decided to blog about The Bar again when I saw what people have been googling to find my blog in the last week. Take a look:

yoga bar exam, care package bar exam,  day in the life of a law clerk, “extreme stress” “bar exam” “kill myself”


That last one is particularly concerning.

So, I’ve decided to offer some advice to those of you who may be taking The Bar in the next week or so. For those of you who aren’t taking the bar, go ahead and read this. You probably do or will at some time know someone whose liberal arts degree forced them into law school in hopes of not living a life of poverty who is taking the bar. I’m not saying my tips below are the best ever, but they are things that would have made me feel better.


1. It’s okay to be crazy. The stress brought on by the bar exam is indescribable and does terrible things to you physically, psychologically, mentally, and emotionally.

2. Take a break. It doesn’t matter what you do, but don’t do it in your study cave. Get out and really take a break.You’ll feel taking a break will doom you to failure, but I promise taking a break will refresh you enough to make it through.

3. Study. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. By way of comparison, the week before the bar is like the hour before a normal final. Cramming isn’t going to work; it’s only going to make you so stressed out that you’ll forget everything that you re-taught yourself over the summer. (Don’t worry. You actually did re-learn things this summer).

And that’s all for all you bar exam takers. Seriously. Take it easy and don’t beat yourself up too much.

Surprised there were only three tips? That’s because the bulk of the burden falls on the friends and family members of exam takers.

Friends/Family of Exam-takers:

1. Your friend/family member is going to be crazy. Accept it and don’t judge.

2. Back your bar-taker take a break. Take them out to the dinner or to a movie or to an actual bar. It doesn’t matter where, just make sure they take a break.

3. Do NOT, under any circumstances, EVER reassure your bar exam taker that they are going to pass. Depending on where they’re taking the exam, it might be that statistically they are more likely to pass than not to pass. BUT, do not say that to them. To the bar exam taker, the seemingly innocent “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll pass” just adds to the pressure. It lets them know that you think they’re smart and in the  stress twisted mind of the bar exam taker that means they will let you down horribly when they fail. So. Never ever try to soothe by reassurance.

4. Soothe your bar-exam taker by taking care of them. Studying for the bar is like having a job where you work 20 hours a day. Make sure they eat real meals and shower everyday. Take over chores they normally do.

5. Care packages. Great idea. In theory. In practice, a lot of care packages are full of things that require effort to use. If you’re giving a car package, make sure the recipient doesn’t have to do anything to use the contents. So. No gift cards. No un-popped popcorn. Nothing that needs refrigeration or freezing.

I’m not going to pretend that these are the best tips ever, but they are things that I wish someone had told me or things that I wish people had done for me. If you have any other tips, feel free to live them in the comments.

Also. I will now returned to my regularly scheduled memory erasing for that period of my life. So. We will never speak of The Bar again.

An Addendum

I receieved this via email yesterday

July 2009 Bar Results Information
The July 2009 Kentucky Bar Examination results were released on Friday, October 8, 2009. Because all applicants (except one) passed the July 2009 bar exam, we will not be posting a list.

Instead, MARTHA KEEP GUESSING MY TRUE IDENTITY did not pass the bar exam. Ms. NO NAME, you may reapply.

Official results were also mailed to all applicants on October 8, 2009 to the last known address in the Office of Bar Admissions’ records.
Applicants, please allow sufficient time to receive your official results in the mail. If you have not received your results within one week after the release date, send a written request to the Office of Bar Admissions either by mail, fax or e-mail with your current address and your results will be re-sent to you.

This was sent to me by my “friend” Peter over at The Kaintuckeen. What a clever way to exploit my nightmares. Admittedly, I did laugh once the initial shock wore off, but the point is this: Not Cool, Peter. Not Cool.


It’s Bar Result Day. Yikes!

Right now I still have no word on whether I passed or not….

But here’s how this is going to go:

If I mention passing in the next post, then congrats are very welcome.

 If I mention drinking excessively and doing shots of some sort of liquor in the next post, I did not pass and you should never mention the bar or anything related to the law ever again.

Got it? Good.

Those of you who are not also waiting for bar results have a great Friday! Those of you who are waiting for bar results, well, try to make the best of it!

It’s coming!

Tomorrow is bar result day.

I’m sure you remember the dream I had before the bar exam. If not here’s a quick recap. I was the only person in the state of Kentucky who failed. And here’s the worst part of that dream. The part that I didn’t blog about before. In that dream, because I was the only person who failed, instead of announcing all the people who passed the bar examiners just put my name on the internets as having failed. Looking back that was actually a pretty funny dream. Of course at the time, it was a harbinger of doom .But now it’s kinda funny.

Well, Sunday night I had yet another I-failed-the-bar dream. And this one was worse. I dreamed that it was Friday (aka tommorrow!) and the list of numbers that passed had just been posted. I scanned down the list for my number and didn’t find it. In my dream, I kept trying to rationalize why it wasn’t there and none of the rationalizations were the actual reasons. They hadn’t listed the numbers by table or row number; they hadn’t only posted a few at a time, there wasn’t some sort of computer glitch that made them skip my number… All in all, it was a terrible dream and when I woke up on Monday morning, I panicked for a minute and then remembered it was Monday.

But tomorrow is Friday. And Friday, October 9, is bar result day. Hopefully it won’t be a nightmare and when I wake up on Saturday morning, I’ll think I’m waking from a happy happy dream!

PBD (Post-Bar Depression)

As ridiculous as it seems, I have PBD. This time last week all I thought I would be ecstatic to be done with the bar. You can image how surprised I was when I woke up on Thursday morning feeling nearly as stressed as when I woke up on Wednesday morning. I assumed that would gradually pass. It didn’t. And I spent the rest of the day moping on my couch and declining calls from friends and family (if I screened you don’t feel bad, I screened literally everyone). I was so distressed that I skipped yoga class, but by the end of the day Thursday, I was feeling a little better. Friday morning I got up and went to the gym and expected that my good mood would continue. I was wrong. PBD returned a couple of hours after the gym.


After talking with a couple of friends, I noticed that we were all a little “off” after the bar. For the most part, we don’t know what to do and that’s distressing! The last three years and especially the last three weeks have been a marathon of studying all leading up to one huge test: the bar. But now that we’re done, there’s nothing to study, nothing to do, and feel a little purposeless. And that feeling of purposelessness, as if there is literally no goal to work toward, nothing to accomplish, is PBD.

And it sucks! I don’t think this is because I have a hard time relaxing (although that may be part of it), but now that I don’t have something to do everyday nothing is getting done! I decided on Friday to clean my house. It’s now Monday and all that I have done is unload and reload the dishwasher. Quite a task, I know, but I think a 4 day turnaround on a load of dishes is some sort of record.

I can slowly feel the PBD lifting though. I’m getting used to not having something that must be done everyday and it’s pretty nice not having a terrible event like the bar hanging over my head. And in just a few minutes I’m going to my first post-bar yoga class. So very very slowly I’m returning to the land of the living.

Wish me luck!