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Failed the Bar Exam: Pass this February

You did not pass the July bar.  You are facing this crazy reality that you have to retake the exam.  But it still feels like a bad dream.   The feelings are coming at you like internal arrows:  anger, sadness, frustration, defeat.  “Why me?” you want to shout.  

How to cope.  First, know that you are not alone.  And, in the next months you will need to get reliable help from supportive people: a bar coach, a trusted law professor, a true friend, someone else who did not pass, and your bar review.  Second, get the negative emotions out now.  Express whatever you are feeling in a safe place, now, before Thanksgiving.     

This coming week will be hard, don’t kid yourself, especially if you are going to a Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends nearby.  Prepare yourself.   Know what you will say when people start in with the “Too bad you didn’t pass.” Prepare specific lines to “keep in your back pocket” to excuse yourself from conversations you do not want to have such as:

  • “Thank you for your concern.  You are right; the results were not as I had hoped. I am preparing a different strategy for the next exam ,and it’s important now for me to focus on the positives.  We can talk more about this in next spring. n How are you doing? 

Or, the shorter variation

  • Let’s talk about you.  How are you?

You do not owe anyone an explanation.  You don’t have to excuse yourself or apologize for yourself.  You don’t even have to answer comments/questions about the bar exam. And, you certainly must not spend one minute thinking less of yourself.

So, eat, drink, and go through your anger and frustration this week.  Then, after Thanksgiving, get up, brush yourself off, and get ready to pass this next bar exam, using the past experience as a learning tool.

Allow yourself this week to acknowledge sadness and disappointment, and whatever else you feel.  Then, like the stages one moves through in grieving (but faster), move on to a place where you can turn all of these negative emotions into fierce determination to pass the next bar exam. 

Failing the bar exam is a mere bump in the road to success.  Make that bump smaller and smaller each day by working toward becoming stronger and more prepared each day to pass next Exam. 

You are still on that  road of accomplishment, the road to great success, that you set out on by going to law school in the first place.  No one and nothing can take that away from you.

Decide today, that you will move forward, as an even wiser and stronger and more prepared person than you have ever been!

And, don’t forget to reach out when you are ready –to reliable academics who can help you.  Determine where you need to shift your strategy: MBEs, Essays, certain subjects, performance tests, time management,  all of the above?  Where do you need “strength training”?

Whatever else you may be thinking, keep this the closest: you are not defeated. You have experienced a bump in the road, a mere bump, a blip, but you are still moving forward, slowly and steadily on the great road to long-range success!  

Hang in, and stay determined.  Do not let this slip derail you. You deserve better.

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Top Ten Reasons why People Fail the Bar Exam. And, how you can pass your next bar exam!

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You were not worried enough.You got by in law school—maybe not the top 10%, but hey, you passed, so you thought you’d nail the bar exam. Many people you know (some not nearly as smart as you) passed their Bar exam so you thought, “It can’t be that tough.”    It was that tough.

The bar exam is a whole different ball game, physically and mentally, from law school finals. First off, it is two full days, not a few hours. You will be exhausted, more tired than you’ve ever been in law school. Second, it is way more material than you’ve ever had to deal with on a single exam. Third, the anxiety level is much higher. People around you are terribly stressed out, and rightly so since so much of peoples’ future rides on that outcome.  Get with the program. Word hard, really hard, now; relax when you pass. If you’re working while studying, realize that you may not be able to do it all. Think about taking out a loan so you can give the Bar exam two totally concentrated months of full time study.

  • You were too worried. You were filled with so much anxiety that you cannot relax enough to learn the material.

To pass the bar exam, you have a lot to study and you are right to be concerned, but you cannot absorb the law if you are completely stressed. Stop. Slow down.  As you work toward success on your next bar exam, sleep more. Take breaks. Do deep relaxation and physical exercise. You cannot study effectively for 20 hours a day, and you don’t need to in order to pass. Just be diligent, disciplined and give it a good 6-10 hour day. Remember: slow and steady won the race. Also, realize you are dealing with more material, more subjects, but the depth of analysis is not nearly as intense as a law school final or law review article. You are not trying to be Justice Holmes, or have your Bar Exam answers published in the Harvard Law Review. You just want to pass.

  • You have not learned the law. Did you brief cases on your own in law school? All your cases Do you really know and understand what a case is—what the difference is between a holding and dicta? Do you know what an easement is? Do you understand UCC Section 2207? If you don’t REALLY get it, it o.k. to admit that now. You can learn before it’s too late. But don’t set yourself up to fail. We all know that people can get by in law school, passing all their classes without really ever having the whole process of legal analysis click.

To pass the bar exam this next time around, do what it takes to learn everything thoroughly.  Be able to teach every testable concept to someone else, know it that well.


  • You were the Dreamer. You went beyond the scope of the fact patterns. You read into things. You assumed facts not in evidence.

Next bar exam, read slowly and force yourself to stay awake. Recall what you read, take notes, and then analyze them thoroughly. Stay away from saying, “But what if the party were an adult?” If the facts say the party is a minor, work with that. Why bother with the “what ifs?” The party is a minor, period, end of story. Analyze the facts and the law accordingly.

  • You have weak reading comprehension skills. You really didn’t understand what you were reading. Either you were too nervous, trying to read too fast, or you had not trained your reading skills thoroughly enough.

The Bar Exam, like all standardized tests, is largely a test of reading comprehension. Your reading must be in top shape to pass.

Do lots of practice tests and study the model answers. Figure out what you did wrong. Re-read instructions. Also, if you want a good exercise: try reading, and summarizing in one to three sentences, all the articles in the opinion section of the newspaper each day; this will train your skills and keep you informed at the same time!

  • You are a Practicing Attorney in Another Jurisdiction. You were licensed to practice in another state, and trying to get licensed in a new state. You may have been practicing for years. You are angry at having to take the Exam in the first place. You are an attorney, after all. You are licensed. You have done your time. You shouldn’t be asked to have to take another test. It’s been a while since you were a student and you resent this imposition.  You are also knowledgeable in the real world.

It’s possible that you know too much, especially practical aspects of law. You think of too many realistic concerns and issues and get hung up on them. You need to pretend you are back in school. Think BIG issues, and write a complete analysis. And, stick to the fact pattern.  

This is not shorthand; you are not resolving a client’s problem on a bar exam essay question or an MBE. This is long hand. Give a complete analysis to prove your skills for the grader –demonstrating why the facts prove or disprove every element of every relevant rule.  You often get just as many points for showing why a plaintiff (or prosecutor) should not prevail on a bar exam as why another should prevail.

“Show the math.” In other words, make your reasoning explicit.  Write in step by step IRACs. Also, lay off the jargon unless terms are used in the problem. Don’t use flashy terms to impress the grader; you won’t. Don’t use “heretofore,” “the party of the first part” “said party” or “said issue.” Just write out a simple and logical IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, conclusion), in short but complete plain English sentences.

  • You have poor typing skills and/or you write illegibly. 

If the bar exam graders can’t read what you wrote, they won’t. They will not assume you wrote the right things. They will not give you the benefit of the doubt.  Sloppy careless typing or writing with major mistakes in spelling and grammar can bias a grader.  Lawyers are organized.  Present yourself on paper on your bar exam as you would in a job interview –as a competent, organized, clear-thinking and clear-sounding professional.

  • You didn’t manage time well enough. You didn’t bring a clock with you to the Exam, or you didn’t look at the clock you had. Either way, time ran away without you. You were caught with moments to go and unanswered or barely answered questions.

Even one question left unanswered or only partially answered is enough to fail you. Practice every day, under timed conditions.  Practice with a big, easy-to-read analog clock. (Read rules for your jurisdictions about what types of clocks or watches you may bring into the exam.)  And practice with the device you will bring in to the  bar exam with you.

  • You are not ready to be a lawyer. Maybe you went straight from college to law school, and are still a little overwhelmed. You may not even know for sure if you want to be a lawyer, and you are certainly not ready to have someone else’s life or financial future in your hands. This is common, and it is just fine.  Pass anyway; pass this next bar exam!

Many licensed lawyers do not practice law.  Getting your license does not obligate you to any kind of job, or life.  You don’t have to be an “unhappy stressed out lawyer.”  You can be and do anything you want.  Your law license will provide greater not fewer opportunities, in and outside of the law.  

If you are unsure about the career you want to pursue, put your doubts in a box until after you pass the Bar Exam.  Then research opportunities before accepting a law job. Don’t commit ahead of time to a job you are not ready to accept.  Know that there are enormous benefits to passing the bar exam and being licensed to practice even if you choose not to practice law.  And, after you take the bar exam (wholly focused on passing), meet with a trusted career advisor and think carefully about what you want. Read books on what successful people are doing with JDs.  Get informed, and keep every door open wide.  

  • You were simply unlucky last time. 

Some people do just have a bad day.  Family problems, physical accidents or other incidents happen just before or during bar exams.  Bar timing is rotten luck. If you are one of these people, just climb back on the saddle, and do it again. Pass this next bar exam.


More info to help you pass the bar exam in Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals.  You will get there.  The next bar exam is yours to pass!


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Final Exam Success Tip of the Day

Many law students and college students are in the home stretch now, with final exams in the next two months.  That seems like a long way off.  It is not.  Now is the time to start thinking about finals –not the week before the exam.

It is an empowering feeling to walk into a final exam ready and prepared to the best of your ability.  It is an uncomfortable destructive feeling to go into an exam knowing you are winging it.  The choice is yours.  Start now!

How to take advantage of the lead time?

  • Prepare a timeline.  Note when any papers or other assignments are due between now and final exams.  Note when each of your exams will take place.  Write what each exam will test and in what format.
  • Try to clear your calendar as much as possible to prioritize your studies in these last laps. Tell people (family, friends, etc.) you will see them more in June (or after your exams are completed) and lay the groundwork to declining all social invitations when you need to prioritize studying.  Say No to any new commitments such as with organizations, clubs, and internships.
  • Plan a study schedule that allows you to spend time on each course respectively –paying attention to factors that allow you to determine which finals (which courses) will demand more of your time and energy to adequately prepare.

Future posts will provide other final exam preparation tips, but, for Today’s Tip of the Day, as part of your slow and steady final exam preparation:

  • Find out if any of your professors have released any of their former exams and if so, get copies of those exams.  Exams given by your professor(s) in the past will often give you insights into how particular professors test, what might be covered on the exam, etc.  In addition, it can be helpful try to obtain “practice exams” from other professors who have taught the same course.  It can be helpful to take past exams as practice exams, under timed conditions, to prepare.

Set yourself up for success.  Start on finals preparation now!

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Are you studies ever hampered by procrastination?

A great read that may help combat procrastination and get back on law school and bar exam success is at

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Rule statements: mastery of legal vocabulary

One important task for law students, and for law graduates studying for the bar exam, is mastery of legal language.  Just as when we study a foreign language, we need to know what words mean and how to use them in context.  When writing in a foreign language, we also need to learn to spell words correctly.

If you are a 1L, 2L or a 3L law student, and especially if you are planning on taking and passing the upcoming bar exam, you should be able to define all of the following criminal law terms.  Take 20 minutes.  Ready, set, go!

Crimes Against a Person

  1. Assault 
  2. Battery
  3. Mayhem
  4. Kidnapping
  5. Rape
  6. Homicide

Theft Crimes

  1. Larceny
  2. Embezzlement
  3. False pretense
  4. Robbery
  5. Extortion
  6. Theft
  7. Burglary
  8. Receipt of stolen property
  9. Arson

 Inchoate crimes

  1. Solicitation
  2. Conspiracy
  3. Attempt


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IRAC or IRPC? That is the question!


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How many Practice Tests should I do to pass the bar exam?

How many #barexam practice tests should you do?  Well, think about how many practice shots great athletes take?  Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Many of my students who passed this last bar exam completed anywhere from 3000-5000 multiple choice questions, another 30-50 essays, and at least 1-2 dozen performance tests.

It’s not all about quantity.  Vince Lombardi put it this way: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  With bar exam studies, you get to the perfection (or competence —after all, it’s a pass fail test!) by practicing and learning and improving from quality sample answers.

So how many practice questions should you do?   A whole lot, with quality study of reliable sample answers –working every step of the way to improve.  Start now!


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Happy July 4th, Bar Exam Takers!

Take the day off, if you want.  Yes, that’s right, entirely off.  It’s ok to take a full day’s break at certain points in bar review, and this is one of those days.

If you need to re-charge your batteries (and everyone does around now), and you are able to relax for a full day off, take off today.  You have earned it!

Others of you are too nervous to take a full day off.  Leaving the books may stress you out more than it helps. That is perfectly normal.  Do not think you are odd.  Over the years, I would say at least half my students work on July 4th and that’s what they have decided is in their best interests.  If that is you, a compromise is to study half the day and take off the afternoon/evening for a barbecue, food and fun, drinks and fireworks.

You may want the evening off, but prefer to watch fireworks on TV, curling up on your own couch, with your favorite food and drink.  All good.  If you don’t want to socialize, do not feel obligated.  People inevitably ask how bar review is going and you may not want to get into it.  On the other hand, you may have friends and family who are supportive and hanging out with them for the evening reminds you that at the end of the day, this is just a test.  And, it will be over in August.  You are in the home stretches, and there is a world going on out there that you just are taking a long study break from.  It can help to know that they will still be there when you are done studying.

Whatever you do today, treat yourself well.  Today is a day to reflect on how much you have learned and how hard you have worked, and to pat yourself on the back a bit.  Enjoying today in whatever way best works for you will make you more motivated to learn tomorrow, and then next day, and the next.  And, that’s what it’s all about.

You still have another several weeks to work steadily and learn and hone your skills.  You still have plenty of time. (Think about how much you learned in just a few days before some of your final exams.)

This July is your bar exam to pass.  You can do this!   Know it and believe it.

Happy 4th of July!!




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July 1st is here. Don’t panic. Move into high gear!

July is here.  Get ready.  July needs to be your highest high energy month ever, in your entire life, all month long.  So…..  Five things you must keep in mind!

1) Exercise, daily.  Even if it’s walking.  Do it every day.
2) Drink lots of water.
3) Get enough sleep.
4) Limit caffeine.  (Bar prep time is not the time to make sudden changes, so don’t go cold turkey on coffee now.  Just don’t have much beyond what you normally drink as it may interfere with your sleep and ultimately drain your energy.)
5) Get excited about the work you are doing.

Let’s explore the last point —getting excited (and if not excited, at least highly motivated such that you move into and stay in high gear).

The real question is simply this: How to enjoy and/or thrive on this challenge you have undertaken?

That bar exam is just that, “a challenge.”  It is not an obstacle.  It is not a problem. It is not a stumbling block.  It is a challenge.  And, if you weren’t the kind of person who liked challenges, I doubt you would have gone to law school in the first place, let alone graduated and signed up to take the bar exam.

So, how can you make it not just a good July, but the best and most productive July ever?    The key to is make this month a time when you are fit, strong, and ready to let your intellect shine!

Some of you are still spending (wasting) great energy being pissed off that you have to take this test.  Good plan?  NOT!  Big fat waste.

If you want to be licensed, you do have to take it.  End of story.

The bar is a closed exclusive club.  You want in?  You must take and PASS a bar examination.  So, move on past wasting any time or energy being angry about that.  It is what it is.

If you want the result, do the work, pass the test, and be done with it.  When you’ve passed, if you’re still so inclined, you can lobby effectively for changes in bar admissions.

When you move past any annoyance/frustration, you are then able to allow in the potential for FUN.  Maybe that is the secret no one tells you about bar exam preparation.

Everyone says the bar exam is so hard.  They describe it as nearly impossible.  Well, it is hard, but what people don’t say is that it has many great and empowering aspects to it.

  • But people don’t often say how cool it is to work so hard at something that you are then able to enter the exam on those last days of July powerful, calm, and confident.
  • If you work steadily and push yourself and do what must be done in the next 5 weeks, you can get to a place where you will stroll into that exam room on top of the world.  (And that is nothing compared to the the incredible high of seeing you passed on results day.  Just wait.  You will be shouting and crying tears of joy! –and so will all your friends and family.  It will be awesome.  And, it is worth all this hard work.)
  • Usually in our day-to-day world, we are so multi-tasked that we don’t get a chance to give total focus to any one thing.  We are texting or checking email while eating or cooking meals, while planning the evening, while reading the headlines, while paying a bill, and perhaps doing twelve other things at once.  We don’t often have the opportunity to be single-minded and see our body and brains work together to climb to the top of an awesome peak.  Given the hectic pace of the lives of most law students, just allowing yourself to focus on the bar exam alone can be a “break.”
  • It can be a relief to say ‘No’ for a few months to everything else, to put aside all the stuff you don’t want to do, to put off people you do not want to deal with, and to give your total concentration to something you want, an accomplishment all your own.
  • Law school focused on the details –the veins on the leaves on the trees.  The Bar Exam is your opportunity to pull it together and see the bigger pictures.  That IS intellectually exciting.  You see parallels and intersections between areas of law that you never realized existed when you were studying subjects one subject at a time, in isolation.
  • The law is not isolated.  People’s problems hit all levels.  A client comes to you about a divorce, and he or she may have community property and family law issues to be sure, but there may also be bankruptcy concerns or even related criminal matters, perhaps patent or copyright issues; there are tax implications; there may be intersections with a host of administrative legal matters, social security, disability, you name it.  You don’t open one book and find “the” answer.  You will be gathering and analyzing facts galore and then learning and juggling a range of legal rules to help find the best resolutions possible. Your Bar Exam preparation, working with many subjects simultaneously, can help you on this road to “real lawyering,” to seeing how the disparate pieces fit together.  And, that, if you let it, can be very rewarding.

So, as July approaches, work on letting the energy levels fly.  Keep yourself fit and strong, ready to soar to the highest heights.  And, having some FUN along the way, will help to keep you in high gear, until that last “TIME” is called…..

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Bar Review Starts: You CAN PASS this coming Bar Exam!

Here are excerpts from a talk I gave my students when they began bar review:

You are competing in the July 2015 Olympic Games, your Olympic Games.  You qualified to compete. We watched you, this Saturday at Graduation.  You proved yourselves these past three or four years.  Now, what do Olympians in training need after qualifying?

1) The ability, which you have!

2) A great coach, and we and your bar review are here for you as coaches.  And,

3) Time focused on hard work.  Hard work —every day, sweating, falling down and getting hurt but getting back up and trying again, every day all day until “the games” begin.

This is your two months. It is all about you.  You have everything you need.  Now bring it.

Bring your grit, your commitment, your stubborn need to learn as much as you can and get as competent as possible in taking Essays, MBEs and PTs. Those are the three events you are competing in!  Just as the athlete in your shoes is now ready to give it her all, you too must you give this your all.

You must need to pass.  Don’t just want it. Don’t just try. Need this. Hunger for it. Push for it. Do everything in your power to make it happen.

Now take a moment and picture yourself at the Swearing In ceremony after you pass the exam. That is our Medal Ceremony. Imagine yourself raising your right hand and taking the attorney’s oath as the newest members of the state bar.  It will be a day of joy, of pride –your sense of accomplishment will be unparalleled.

Keep that image concrete in your mind.  Then stop thinking about what is next. Just get licensed.  Have that power tool in your arsenal: your law license.  Then, decide what to do with it later. If you have a job, great; don’t think about it until August.  If you don’t have a job, don’t worry about it until August.  Everything is on hold until August. Whatever you decide to do in the future, you will be better served because of the effort you put in now.

Everything is about now, about this summer.  Get as much as you can out of every minute of every lecture; read, study, and practice, practice, practice.  

Remember, you CAN do this!  You can pass this bar exam!!!

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