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You open the letter from the bar examiners and it begins “We regret to inform you…” Now what? It’s the worst feeling in the world. The feeling of failure for most law students is utterly foreign and completely terrifying. But if it’s happened to you, don’t give up! Here are ten things to do right away to make sure you never get another unhappy bar result letter. 1. HAVE A GOOD CRY. It’s not fair and you didn’t deserve to fail the bar, but it happened. Keeping a “stiff upper lip” has its advantages but for right now, go ahead and cry (or scream) or do whatever you need to release the emotional energy that’s pent up inside. It’s perfectly normal to be sad about a bad result — the only thing that’s abnormal is acting like nothing happened. The sooner you get the “grieving” out of your system, the sooner you can … 2. KEEP IT IN CONTEXT. When you think about all of the things in your life that are affected by failing the bar, it can be pretty overwhelming. But the truth is that this is not the end of the world, and you will survive the setback. A failing score nevermeans you’re stupid or incapable or incompetent, or that you can’t become a successful member of the bar. It only means that on exam day you didn’t provide the bar examiners with enough information to convince them of your skills. In the larger context of your life, that’s pretty small stuff. Once you remember that you still have talent, brains and skill, it’s time to … 3. REVIEW THE RESULTS WITH AN OBJECTIVE INDIVIDUAL. I don’t mean a sympathetic spouse or parent, but someone who can tell you where you may have gone wrong. Perhaps it’s a favorite professor or a colleague, or someone you admire. I know what you’re thinking: “I could never tell them I failed.” Well, you’re going to have to tell sooner or later, so why not engage them as part of the solution? You’ll ultimately feel better and receive the benefit of their advice. If no one fits the bill, call your bar review course — they should have individuals available to discuss your results with you and can help … 4. EVALUATE YOUR PREVIOUS STUDY STRATEGIES. My favorite definition of insanity is “doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.” Sound familiar? If you plan to do the same thing to prepare for the next exam that you did last time, the odds are against you. I’m not suggesting you switch bar courses (though that’s worth considering) but rather, that you focus on your strategy to consider what you might do differently next time. To help make those decisions, you’ll need to… 5. ANALYZE WHAT YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES WERE ON THE EXAM. Failure doesn’t mean that you failed everything. It only means that in some areas or subjects you didn’t do well enough to overcome lower scores in other areas of the exam. Too many people simply assume that there’s a holistic sense to the bar and a failing score means everything was bad. Not so. For many applicants, there are serious defects in their writing or standardized test-taking skills. You need to analyze what you’re good at as well as what you need to improve upon. Then you can … 6. LOOK FORWARD. If you could sit in my seat for a week, you’d be stunned at how many people only look backwards. You succeeded in getting out of college, getting into law school, getting out of law school, and yet this failure obscures all of that like a total solar eclipse. Being a “failure” is a lot of unfair baggage to carry with you. It gets heavy and it will weigh you down. Protesting your score is useless. You need to look forward — not backward. It’s over and done and you can respond constructively by starting to … 7. ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME. Do you need more time to study? Do you need a different bar review? Would you be better off in a classroom or using home study or with a personal mentor? There are lots of ways to study and lots of choices for you to make. Consider your weaknesses and then proactively look for solutions. Ask your bar review provider how they are willing or able to help. I won’t work with a retake student who refuses to change their studying habits and you shouldn’t expect to succeed without making some changes. That means … 8. DON’T REPEAT YOUR ERRORS. This is different than #7. Some people constantly make changes but repeat their errors. For example, many students change bar review courses but then stubbornly study the same way with the new course. It’s not easy to change the way you study, but if you’ve honestly evaluated your results, you’ll see where changes are necessary and why you need to make them. To help you change, you’ll need to … 9. GET EXPERT ASSISTANCE. Making changes can be tough, but a good bar review mentor can help. I had a student come to me once after failing the bar exam eight times after taking other courses. I asked him what he’d do differently with our course than the others. He thought for awhile and said, “I’ll follow your advice.” He passed the next bar exam. Trust the people you’ve “hired” to show you the way and then follow them. And finally … 10. EXPECT TO SUCCEED. If there is a single, universal barrier to success, this is it. If you do everything on this list, but don’t expect success, you’ll get what you expect. Ultimately, the bar exam is a test of your will and attitude as much as a test of your knowledge and skill. With the right perspective and belief in yourself, you can and will overcome this hurdle! Jackson Mumey, J.D., is president of Celebration Bar Review, www.celebrationbarreview.com.

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