Today’s job market is incredibly competitive. Employers commonly wait to extend offers until after prospective candidates have passed the bar exam and become licensed. If you just failed the bar exam, you may be wondering what to do next.
Failed the bar?
Most employers want to hire candidates who have passed the bar exam, so it may be in your best interest to take the time before the next exam to study. This is your chance to dedicate your full attention to studying for the bar exam, doing the extra practice problems and questions, taking a bar review course, getting a tutor--anything to ensure that you will pass the exam next time. Although you can keep taking the bar exam until you pass, keep in mind that the more times it takes you to pass the more an employer may think twice about hiring you.
Finding any job in law while you’re studying for your second attempt at the bar is beneficial. When you start applying for jobs, employers will want to see that you have had legal experience, even if this means working for no pay. You can find an internship or a pro bono position that will provide you with valuable experience for your resume. This is also great for networking. It’s not about what events you go to; it’s about the people you know and whom they can connect you with! Even though the firm where you volunteer may not have a spot for you, they may know someone at another firm who does. And if you did a great job, they will be happy to connect you.
If (like most law students) you need a job that helps you pay the bills and you can’t find a position that will give you experience relative to your legal career, it’s fine to take on part -time work in a non-law-related field. But keep your eye on your goals. Don’t give up your essential study time during the month before your bar exam so that you earn a few hundred dollars answering phones or waiting tables. Do what you need to do, but leave yourself enough time to study (and make the most of it!).
What if I already have a job offer?
So, you have a great job lined up, but you just found out you failed the bar exam. This makes for a very touchy situation. We are sure that you have heard horror stories about people being fired as a result of their failing the bar exam. Yes, it does happen, but each situation is different. The first step is to let your employer know as soon as possible that you failed the bar exam because honesty is the best policy. Book an appointment with the proper person from the firm to discuss whether you can receive a second chance to take the bar exam. Perhaps you're working at a firm where some of the partners had also failed their first attempts at the bar exam, and they'll be able to empathize with you. They probably won’t be thrilled about the news, but hopefully they will understand and give you a second chance.
You must make it clear to your employer that you are dedicated and willing to put in an immense effort to becoming a part of their firm.
If they do give you a second chance to take the bar, do not take this for granted. It is imperative to put your absolute best effort into studying and preparing so you can ensure that you will pass the bar exam the second time. You must make it clear to your employer that you are dedicated to putting in the effort required to becoming part of their firm. It will mean balancing a job while studying for the bar exam, so be prepared for long nights of study followed by long days of work. But if they decide to let you go, don't be too hard on yourself. They may need someone who is ready for the court room right now, and, unfortunately, that's not you yet. It doesn’t mean that they won’t be hiring in the future, so be sure to leave on a good note. They, or even another law clerk, may eventually provide you with connections you need to find another job. Good luck!