Your Bar Test Success Will not Define Your Job

The instructors usually gave me some model of the exact warning back again when I was increasing up. “You much better study tough for this test! Because your rating will go on your lasting document!”

I was generally really curious about this so-referred to as long term history. Wherever do they preserve it? What if there’s a error? Is there an appeals process? These are not uncommon queries to ask, specifically if you are the kind of person who finishes up heading to legislation university.

About the decades, the remarkable warnings acquired worse. Specifically immediately after I resolved to be a part of the authorized profession. “Don’t mess up the LSAT, or else you’ll conclude up very poor,” they stated. And then after that, “Don’t mess up 1L examinations, or else you are going to be unemployed without end.”

The anxiety was relatively motivating I guess. But I know for a reality that it was not balanced. It led me to have interaction in surprising behavior for a 22-calendar year-previous, like being in on Friday nights to observe logic video games. My concept of enjoyment was scoring an further position or two on apply LSATs.

But by the time I graduated law school, I’d realized to take these warnings about “the exam that will make or split you” with a grain of salt. I saw how other men and women overcame lousy exam effects. Undesirable LSAT rating? Kick ass 1L year and transfer or rating that Biglaw occupation. Bad 1L grades? Do a bunch of clinics, community, and leverage your practical practical experience into a work present.

It just appeared like there ended up so many strategies to prevail over messing any a single of these make-or-crack checks. Which is why when it arrived to the bar examination, I finished up overcorrecting. Though usual law grads worry out about points like regardless of whether they meet the costume code requirement or take into consideration wearing diapers for the test, I ended up going in the total reverse way.

As a substitute of taking the bar exam seriously, I didn’t treatment incredibly significantly at all.

That’s how I finished up failing the New York bar examination on my initial try. When I identified out, I was crushed. Totally crushed. That concept from all of my previous academics about my “permanent record” that appeared so foolish at the time, out of the blue became quite real.

I believed about disappearing. It’s possible I could shift to another state and just begin over. But if I desired to hold my position, there was no way I could cover it. I experienced to inform my business.

Other than, my legislation faculty pals would in all probability notice my identify missing on the move checklist. I figured that any individual who heard the information would chat trash about me. Or at least use me as a cautionary tale. “Did you listen to about Alex? He’s the to start with Sullivan & Cromwell associate to ever fail the bar examination.”

It genuinely felt like the worst attainable factor that could have transpired.

But then one thing odd occurred. The earth did not close. My good friends and relatives rallied to guidance me. Not only did I not drop my occupation, the company was particularly form and knowing — which no a person ought to choose for granted supplied how other Biglaw firms from time to time respond.

And then about a month later, I efficiently interviewed for a federal clerkship that in lots of approaches I did not have earned. “It occurs,” mentioned the choose, dismissing my bar examination results. “It’s truly no significant offer.”

My choose gave me plenty of time to review in the course of my clerkship, which I was eternally grateful for. And there was a happy ending to all this. I ended up passing the New York bar exam on my next try out. And then a few many years later, I passed the California bar examination on my very first check out.

Searching back, I’ve occur to realize that failing the bar was just like any other bump in the road. It felt devastating at the time, but in retrospect, finished up mattering pretty minor. People today will fail to remember. Perfectly, that is, unless of course you put up a viral tweet about it that finishes up building it to Previously mentioned The Law and discuss about it on Bloomberg Law’s podcast.


It’s possible this is me just rationalizing my failure, but I really do really feel like I got a whole lot out of that knowledge. I learned an vital lesson about humility. I discovered to individual my id from my expert accomplishments. And I figured out about my personal value to my mates, my family members, and my group. Which had nothing to do with me staying a attorney.

Allow me be clear. I’m not striving to say that you’re improved off failing. If I could go back in time, I’d get my planning a large amount far more critically and do items in another way so I’d go on my first try.

What I am indicating is this: Failing the bar test was not the catastrophe that it felt like at the time. It was just a bump in the road. And in the extended run, failing mattered a whole lot considerably less than I envisioned. How hard I labored, how type I was to other folks, and how critically I took my craft — all of people matters mattered far more. Far much more than the outcomes of a single check.

So as you all head into the bar examination this week, that’s my concept to you. You are much more than just your resume. And if you take your planning critically, you will be good. No make any difference what finishes up occurring. For the reason that at the stop of the day, no single exam can make or crack you.

You received this.

Alex Su is presently the Head of Local community Advancement at Ironclad, a foremost lawful technology business that can help accelerate the contracting system. Before in his career, he was an affiliate at Sullivan & Cromwell and clerked for a federal district decide. Alex graduated from Northwestern Pritzker College of Law, where by he was an editor of the law critique and the scholar commencement speaker. In his totally free time, he writes about his vocation journey and legal tech in his e-newsletter Off The Record. You can uncover Alex on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and certainly, even Tik Tok.