Happy Holidays! I Failed the Bar


I’m living inside the warhead of the biggest “bad news bomb” of my life, and I don’t know how best to drop it. The longer I wait, the more nuclear it feels. And it’s starting to look like it’s scheduled to detonate at my parents’ house on Christmas, turning a modest home in Reno into Hiroshima.

In about two weeks, I’ll walk into my childhood home, drop my bags, pet my dog and tell my parents that I failed the California bar exam.

See how dramatic I’ve become? In reality, lots of people are in my shoes right now. About 3,800 people—or 44% of takers—to be exact. (I use those numbers when I want to feel better about myself.) In reality, only 1,850—or 30%—of those who took it for the first time didn’t pass. Yeah, I use those figures when I’m being honest with myself.

I’m far from a haughty Ivy Leaguer with a pitch-perfect pedigree, but I certainly never thought of myself as a bar failure. Finding out the weekend before Thanksgiving was like the bottom falling out of a legal career that was already in a ditch. It was bad enough that I already had a pretty decent job offer rescinded, but failing the bar was a massive blow that I cannot rationalize or blame on economic factors.  Regardless of tireless studying and massive preparation, I didn’t pull it off—and that’s a tough lump.

Accordingly, Thanksgiving was ruined. (Why the bar committee decided to post the results before a major holiday seems like a sick joke to me. But I guess I would be singing a different tune if my name had appeared on the pass list.) After four days of clicking through every letter of the alphabet hoping for a slight typographical error, I flew from Los Angeles to Nevada, walked into my childhood home, dropped my bags, pet my dog and didn’t tell my parents I failed the California bar exam. I just ate pie. And felt like an asshole.

In fact, I haven’t told anyone yet. And the fact that I haven’t is why I’m about to implode from the gut-wrenching stress, anger and anxiety that have been poisoning me for weeks. I’m abusing myself—and I deserve it.

Sure, everyone from law school already knows just by looking. But I’ve managed to crudely avoid all of them. And luckily not many have reached out to me. (I guess it takes a real d-bag gunner to call someone who you know didn’t pass to gloat about how you did.) But other than those fools, the people closest to me—my parents, my new girlfriend, my real friends, my bosses—are all still in the dark.

Every time my mom or dad calls, I either pretend to be really busy or lose service just as we start talking about my life. The mad-cool, crazy-hot girl I started dating last month has no idea the bar exam even exists (which is why I asked her out to begin with), but she’s sure to be unimpressed when she hears I’m not technically a lawyer. And while I don’t think the powers that be at the chintzy collections litigation firm I’ve been interning at the last couple months have ever considered my bar status, it hardly bodes well. But they’re the least of my concerns. As long as I keep drafting summons and complaints for chump change, passing the bar would hardly convince them to hire me.

This all probably sounds like a pathetic pity party, but this was definitely something I did not expect—and cannot afford. The thought of looking into my father’s eyes and telling him I fell short haunts me. And the anticipation of my mother making some snide remark about how I should have spent less time on the golf course this summer may cause me to bitch slap her before she even opens her mouth.

Ho, ho, ho—Christmas is going to suck this year.

Read more anonymous tales of Associate Abuse. Or consider contributing your own.

38 Comments

  1. Alma Federer

    December 10, 2009 at 4:43 am

    I have a confession to make.  I studied for both the New York and New Jersey bars, but I only passed New York.  Somehow I thought I would be more marketable with both, but now that I flunked New Jersey, it is a mute point.  I will not study again just to pass New Jersey.  All of the men taking that bar just stared at me and it made me very nervous and self conscious.  Maybe that’s why I failed New Jersey.

    • Cindy

      December 8, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Mute, really? After three years of law school? Surely that is a typo. Sigh.

  2. Juris Depravis

    December 10, 2009 at 5:39 am

    My advice to you: drink heavily; start now.
    Trust me; I am a (juris) doctor.

  3. BL1Y

    December 10, 2009 at 6:48 am

    I would think that having your offer rescinded would be a bigger blow than failing the bar.  With the bar you know when you can take it again and have a pretty good idea of what to do to pass it next time.  But losing your job is like being cast out into the employment wilderness in one of its worst winters with no cold weather gear.  Either way though, Juris Depravis is right, drown your troubles.  Oh, and don’t tell your girlfriend.  Why should you?

  4. PGuy

    December 10, 2009 at 7:03 am

    You’ve been given a gift, son. Everything about your life says practicing law is not for you. There’s no shame in that. Tell your parents you’ve decided not to practice, and that you’re looking for a different career. After that fight is over, the fact that you failed the bar will just be icing on the cake.

  5. BL1Y

    December 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Am I correct that after being pinked, I’m off the hook for buying my former secretary a Christmas present?

  6. Leon

    December 10, 2009 at 9:52 am

    You are correct, BL1Y. Although if you guys keep in touch and she still has a job, maybe she owes you one.

  7. Juris Depravis

    December 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    If you banged her, or if you have designs on banging her still (or both), you should get her a gift.  Otherwise, she should understand your sitchu.
    And I agree wholeheartedly about not telling “the receptacle.” If she was clueless before, why screw up a be-ooo-tee-ful friendship by conveying irrelevant information.

  8. R Smith

    December 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Your golfing hobby suggests you are not worth pity.  People that waste days chasing small balls on the grass may as well wear a sandwhich board shouting “I have no work ethic.” Rather like JFK jr who failed the NY exam becasue he had better things to do.  But failing the bar has always been a humiliation I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  And its almost christmas and I am feeling charitable for once this year, esp since we have to hand out those obscenely large bonuses next week (I suggested donations to “coal for tots” but was voted down). Then too, I probably passed because my handwriting was so bad.  So, seriously:  put aside your shame, worry etc.  Most big firms have someone that fails despite great LSAT’s and a coif certificate that is then hidden away.  Having a job rescinded will throw anyone off.  A year from now no one will care.  They’ll be exclaiming over a cross-dressing partner caught in a motel, one that was indicted or BL1Y becoming manager of Sullivan & Cromwell.  Just don’t fail it twice.

  9. KateLaw

    December 11, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Wow, Juris Depravis… did you refer to his gf as “the receptacle?” You are a douche.  So you failed the bar… It happens.  I think you need to swallow your pride a little bit and learn how to cope with disappointments in a more healthy and mature manner.  It’s never a good idea to keep things like this to yourself and whatever reactions you think you may get from your friends, former classmates, family, etc. are likely to be far worse in your head than in actual reality.

  10. SFLawyer

    December 11, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Time to bite the bullet!  It’s you, who needs to preserver.  Go buy a holiday gift and help the economy that’s one right step.

  11. NS Lawyer

    December 11, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Look at it this way…at least you can keep your bosses in the dark. Our Barristers’ Society sends a letter to our principals to let them know whether we passed or not…it gets sent about a week after the results get posted! They figure if you pass, everyone will already know….and if you don’t, well, that gives you a week to tell your boss.

  12. Steak

    December 11, 2009 at 7:16 am

    I didn’t pass the first time either and it took weeks for me to stop telling people that results just hadn’t come out yet.  If there had been a lying section on the bar, I would have aced it.  I passed the February bar and it wasn’t a big deal.  Now, a couple of years later, nobody even remembers.

  13. Hannah Palindrome

    December 11, 2009 at 8:56 am

    The CA Bar is the hardest Bar in the country.

    “A Lawyer Walks into a Bar” is a great documentary.

    You will Pass! It’s only a test. Think Positive!!! Good Luck!

  14. Juris Depravis

    December 11, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thank you, KateLaw.  I aim to please, and I am pleased to aim.  Sometimes I even put the seat up first and back down when I am finished.  I have learned my lessons and avoided the perils cautioned by Mr. Hiatt. “Now some men will drive/To the edges of nothing/So they can take a peak at the great abyss/Some men avoid love/Like it was a plague or something/So they can leave the seat down/When they piss.”

  15. Mona

    December 11, 2009 at 10:24 am

    failing the bar is such a drag. and then to have to go home for the holidays and tell everyone. nightmare.

  16. Mrs Federer

    December 11, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Honey, please stop colouring every post with your looks.  Of course the NJ test-takers stared at you. Given the time you spend to look good, they’d be blind if they didn’t.  Be assured that the Guano Dubangos of the world will ignore you soon enough as your looks fade.  You might be nicer to that Craig, or that BL1Y fellow, or to one of the bi-coastal Guanos.  You’re not getting any younger. Be good. Mommy loves you.

  17. Pacific Reporter

    December 11, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Hey asshole, everyone already knows you failed. CA bar results are public. All your friends already looked and saw that your name was missing from the passing list. The gunners created a “fail list” of all the people missing from the passing list, which has now been circulated to everyone in your law school class. Similarly, someone in your family looked and told the rest of the family. They don’t bring it up to you out of pity.

    • Cindy

      December 8, 2011 at 11:04 am

      Totally agree. I’m OneL and we are already taking bets on who will fail. We have the guy who failed his contracts midterm, who also is a golfer, at the top of the list. Get it together, man, and quit yer crying and pass that thing.

  18. Alan

    December 11, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Pac Reporter, he mentions that he knows his law school classmates already know he failed.  But that’s nice of you to want to break the bad news.

  19. Alma Federer

    December 12, 2009 at 7:10 am

    I know I am not going to be young forever, but I have to make the best with what I have.  You wouldn’t have said that Albert Einstein should have been a garbageman, are you?  Well that is the same as telling me I can’t use my beauty to my advantage, while I can.  I hope to be able to land a successful guy who appreciates ME for ME, and that includes both my mind and my looks and body.

  20. Mrs. Federer

    December 12, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Honey, you don’t want to continue in your profession.  You want to be rescued. As one poster noted, you don’t want to earn financial security, you want a man to provide it.  Damsels have just so many chances, so many knights.  Financially secure knights are now fewer in number and looking at women in their early 20’s.  You’re almost 30, getting older and I want grandchildren.  Take it from me Mr. Good Enough will know as he carresses you, that you’re better looking than he deserves. He beats the illusory “Mr. Perfect.” That nice Mr. son of Guano or BL1Y will give me grandchildren and will never look at another woman because you’d surpass anyone else they can get. I don’t mind if the kids are named B:1Y or Guano.  Give yourself completely to either man, and I’m sure theyd adore you.  Wait much longer and you’ll be 37 needing a man in his late 50’s. Trust me sweetie. Men don’t look at women much after 30.

  21. Daisy

    December 13, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    How in the world did your parents not know when the results were coming out and ask you??????????? You should come to Virginia, where we don’t keep painful things private.

  22. Guano Dubango

    December 14, 2009 at 5:16 am

    I am taking myself out of the running for Alma, Mrs. Federer.  She no longer has the allure I originally had for her.  I layed myself out there, but she did not take the bait.  She does not want money, stability, companionship nor the life I could offer her in Accra.  So she gets nothing now from me.  I am still available for quick sex, but she does not want this, especially for me, though I can be of assistance in that department.

  23. howie

    December 14, 2009 at 8:18 am

    To Alma Federer,
    A “mute” point. No wonder you failed.

  24. Son of Guano

    December 14, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Alma said

    you can’t

    take me to bed

    dismissing Guano as poor.
    She says “I’m a hottie

    with a phenomenal body,

    Of that I am perfectly sure.”
    Without a Hamptons house

    you’re simply a louse

    she said

    “So I’m staying pure.”
    So Guano go away

    don’t come back another day

    for you I am far too cute
    You haven’t enough money

    to make me your honey

    your pursuit is totally “mute.”

  25. http://rachsu.livejournal.com/

    December 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    i have always thought the timing of bar passage was lame.  sort of like always firing people on fridays.  sure, it might be better for those around you (as you’ll be too busy drinking your sorrows to go postal) but it really sucks for *you.* not sure if your family is comprised of gunners – but, upon the needed assumption that they’re not – i think they’ll be sympathetic.  who knows, maybe you’ll get a better present out of the whole deal?

  26. jbcork4

    December 17, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    It hurts.  No doubt about it.  Knowing that you missed it-in my case I didn’t take the multiple choice portion seriously enough.  Talk about kicking myself.  Tell em.  It may not make you feel better about yourself, but the family generally makes an attempt to be supportive.  And at least then you can move on and re-prep.  Learning from your mistakes. It took a few months before I was ready, but that’s what I had to do.  Now did I ever regain that confidence in myself??  That’s a whole different issue.

  27. Whitey

    December 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Damn, bro.  I feel awful for you.  At the very least, you write very well.  Screw law anyways…it’s crap.

  28. Michele

    December 22, 2009 at 9:01 am

    This may be the BEST thing that ever happened to you!  Find something you love to do, do it with a passion, make every day count.  Always tell the truth, your family will love you the same and you will feel better about yourself.  Good luck!

  29. Ego

    December 23, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I know it’s hard to swallow not passing, but you just sound like such a d-bag who can’t get over how awesome you are but just not awesome enough to pass the bar. FACE IT. you failed.  Why so down? It’s no big deal, just take it again.  People do it all the time.  I am sure you’ll pass the next time.  That is, if you can accept the fact that you failed and get your sh*t together.  I passed two bars while practically living on a golf course.  I really don’t feel any different after I passed. It’s just a test. Get over it.

  30. g21in45

    January 28, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Alma, maybe you failed the Jersey bar because you think “mute” means moot.

  31. Gunners = Glorified Law Dorks

    June 7, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Ugh, that sux!!  Seriously though, how does your work not know yet? CA has the hardest bar in the country. Come take it in the south. Everyone gets a job with their dad whose been in the business for 30+ years (except me) and the bar passage rates are in the upper 80’s for first-timers. Plus, tons of cute girls in sundresses who wouldn’t know the difference as long as you keep them in designer clothes and their roots died.

  32. FreddieKrueger

    December 8, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Failing the bar does not make you a failure – but if you don’t get back up, dust yourself off, and get back at it, only then will you turn yourself into a failure.

  33. Post Juris, ergo!

    December 14, 2011 at 3:07 am

    Tell your family you are gay – they ‘ll do the decent Merican thing and – forgetting all about the bar – disown you immediately! THEN take a shitty bar like Nevada, look for a job out ther (or not) but more and say you received a great offer outside CA. Problem solved. (And I bet you won’t even have to suck a single d&@k!).

    Post Script – years from now you can even return to CA and register as an in-house lawyer and work for Disney – or Out Magazine!)

  34. Post Juris, ergo!

    December 14, 2011 at 3:10 am

    (by the way – its not just typing on an ipad at 1am that led to so many typos – I just didn’t take that much care!)

    Signed PJ,E
    Gay, Lawyer in CA & Scotland and insomniac.

  35. Ian H.

    November 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Failing the bar is embarrassing, but it’s socially understood and accepted. I passed the bar 2 years ago, but my character and background component have held me up and I’m still not sworn in. Try explaining THAT to people in social situations.

    Failing sucks, sure. But it could be way worse.

  36. Dragonater

    November 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Sue an appeal, pro se, just like William Penn.

    Let me guess, you’ve never even fought a parking ticket before?

    Loser!

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