Wednesday, November 1, 2017
As bar results from various jurisdictions continue to trickle in, July 2017 bar takers are either filled with excitement and relief or are sorely disappointed and devastated. As those who were unsuccessful on the exam sort through their emotions and decide what to do next, they cope with the results in different ways. There are those who know they did not put forth the effort necessary and are therefore disappointed with the result and even mad at themselves as they see friends elated to have passed the bar exam. On the other end of the spectrum are those who put forth every effort but did not yield the expected result. These individuals are distraught, directionless, overwhelmed and apprehensive about embarking on the bar study journey all over again. As individuals who were unsuccessful on the bar exam regroup, some will sulk in their emotions, sadness, and fear of failing the bar exam again. The reality is that some will continuously be haunted by the fear of failure throughout their bar preparation period. Others will be motivated to succeed by the fear of failure and make significant strides toward passing the bar exam.
The most challenging aspect for bar support professionals is working with students who were unsuccessful on the bar exam but their entire ‘friend group” passed the bar exam. It is even more difficult when the unsuccessful individual overwhelmingly put in their best possible effort and was the very source of encouragement and support for the entire group of friends who passed. It is also difficult in an era when everyone posts every life event on social media so one is constantly faced with the successes of others and one’s perceived failure. Where then do we even start?
As a bar support professional, we have a general idea about the probability of success on the bar exam for those law students we have regularly engaged with throughout law school. Of course, students defy the odds and my goal is to ensure that students beat the odds against them each and every time. When one has worked with a student who struggled throughout law school, helped that student build the mental fortitude to overcome defeats in small battles throughout law school, seen the student master various skills and work diligently during bar studies, it is difficult to see the student not attain their goal of passing the bar exam. How do you uplift the encourager?
My approach to working with any student who was unsuccessful on the bar exam is twofold. First, address the mental coping mechanisms then second, address the practical aspects of preparing for the bar exam. Individuals usually want to avoid discussing how they feel about the bar exam, how it is impacting their day to day life, and how it will affect their bar preparation process but these are conversations bar preparation professionals should never shy away from. It might involve tears and maybe even require a break but strategizing about how to manage interactions with former classmates, professors, family, and employers, just to mention a few, are all very important. Also realizing that they are not alone in having these emotions and that others who were also unsuccessful feel the same way and may have coping mechanisms that might be helpful to adopt. This is also a time to build a relationship with the bar studier which might encourage them to have the conversations with you about their fears and moments of doubt and concern throughout the bar preparation process. However, there might be situations when we might need to encourage students to obtain other professional help.
Although we aim to adequately address the practical aspects of preparing for the bar exam, it is the mental fears that typically make this process daunting. The voice students hear ringing in their ears, “you are going to fail the bar exam again” or the frustration of not immediately getting all questions correct might awaken the fears that all of their hard work may not yield the result they long for. Students can learn how to write better essays and performance tests with strategies and individualized and consistent feedback. Students get better at multiple choice with strategy, practice, and specific techniques to critique their process. Students can build time management skills with progressive time management drills. Students can build knowledge and memory by developing techniques to study and retain material and adequately applying those techniques. The one thing we cannot do is get into the minds of our bar takers to block all of the negativity they might tell themselves.
To those who had a practice run and are going to get back on the bar study schedule, LET’S DO THIS!!! You CAN do it. You are not the first and you are not alone. Your bar support professionals are there to support you with this round. Be courageous! (Goldie Pritchard)