OK! You have taken the Bar Exam! It’s OVER…right!?
Unfortunately, for all of us type A’s that go to law school and like to maintain control over life – the game continues. Now you have to live through weeks, or months, with no real concept of how you did. It’s borderline inhumane. But before you start to fret, let’s look at some facts.
First, you can’t do a darned thing about it now. The result of your exam is now officially out of your hands. That should actually come as something of a relief! After months of studying and feeling the stress of having to perform on game day, now you can RELAX. For better or worse, there’s nothing you can do about it now.
When I took the exam, it was a full 2 months and 1 week before our results were posted. It varies, but you are generally looking at a couple of months of not-knowing. If you are the type who is driven nuts by not-knowing, think about ways to distract yourself. I mean, you don’t get any extra points for stressing out about it. So why bother?
Focus on Work if You’re Still Working
Well, here’s a great reason to throw yourself back into your work. It will distract you from obsessing over bar results. Just be sure to resist the temptation to talk about it constantly with your co-workers. Allow normal life to resume, and balance it out with some socializing and fun.
Taking a Vacation
I’d been told by lawyer friends that the minute you walk out of the exam, your brain goes through a huge “brain-dump.” These are the words my friend used! Brain-dump. I was looking forward to it. But it didn’t happen. At least not on schedule.
I was not able to just let go of the stress the minute I walked out of the exam – and you may not be able to either. That kind of pressure doesn’t magically lift off of you. It’s pretty ingrained by now, so don’t expect immediate euphoria.
In fact, after the exam, my husband and I flew to our favorite city of New Orleans. I remember being so excited. The test was over, and I could go play! But – even after getting there – the feeling of Bar Exam pressure lingered. I remember walking down Bourbon Street with my husband and a friend. It was now 2 days after the exam. I had a drink in my hand, and seemingly no worries in the world. I’d just faced my greatest challenge, and now I was free! But…why didn’t I feel free?
I was surprised to find that I was actually feeling melancholy. I heard my husband joking that I was going through the “post bar brain-dump”. Only I wasn’t. In the middle of the conversation I actually started spitting out law that I’d memorized, just to prove him wrong. I started reciting it, like a robot. My husband and friend stopped walking, and stared at me. I’m sure they thought I was losing it! Why on earth would I be reciting law as I walked down Bourbon Street, USA?
I was still in Bar Exam mode, that’s why. I was stuck. I had in no way undergone any kind of brain-dump. It was all still there, two days later. I didn’t want it there. I was actually pretty darned annoyed that it was still taking up space in my head.
But at that moment, something pretty great happened.
As I was reciting law by rote, I began laughing. Yes, kind of like a lunatic. (But it was New Orleans, so no one noticed.) The realization that I could let it all go just suddenly hit me. It was OK! I could dump it. Give it the ol’ heave-ho! Just spill it all out, and go have fun!
So that’s what I did. I purposely gave myself permission to let all of the months and years of memorization begin to melt away. I spent the next 3 days intentionally refusing to think about the law, having a fantastic time, and remembering that life can still be fun!
It was seriously the best thing we could have done. The intensity of fun in the French Quarter was what I needed to kick my mind out of worry-mode. What’s more, I don’t remember seriously thinking about the results again until about a week before they came out. Well – that’s one way to go.
Give Yourself Permission to Wallow
If you simply don’t feel like taking a vacation, or starting on anything of substance right away, you may need time to decompress. It’s OK. Don’t feel guilty about it. Take some time to allow what you’ve just endured over the past few months to settle, and then evaporate. Indulge yourself.
If you feel like it, curl up on the couch and binge watch some great series on your favorite streaming channel. Up for a marathon of Game of Thrones? Madmen? Reign? Westworld? Choose one of the many fantastic series from Netflix, Amazon, or HBO etc., and dive in! Lose yourself in another world. A world where the Bar Exam does not exist! This may be just the medicine you need to repair, recuperate, and then get up and get on with life.
Remember all of those people you’ve been ignoring for the past few months? Some with whom you share DNA? Contact your favorites! Make a date for a girls/boys night out and go have some fun! Remember fun?! See friends. See family. Do things that remind you that there is more to life than being a lawyer.
Start, or Resume Some Hobbies
Whatever it was that brought you joy before law school, pick it back up again! If it’s been years since you scrapbooked, used your sewing machine, cooked, painted, played golf or basketball, or made a sculpture…do it! Dust off your old easel, pull out the paints, and rediscover what you once loved. Or start a new hobby! Anything to get your mind into creative mode, and off of the Bar results.
After You’ve Recuperated
After you feel the worry evaporate (for the most part), and feel able to resume normal life, decide how you want to enjoy the rest of the time until results come out. Do you want to enjoy your break before beginning your new career? Then enjoy. Relax. You have certainly earned it.
Or maybe you want to begin your job hunt. Then begin! Get your resume, cover letter etc., in order. Start going through job hunt websites to get a taste of what’s out there. It’s up to you how much or how little you want to focus on this.
Finally, make a plan for how you will get your results. You’ll find out what day they will be posted, so make a plan. Some people like to be around others when they find out. They want the support that comes from having someone close to them in the room. Some even want to be around other examinees.
For me, I wanted to be completely alone. I knew my husband was in the house, so he was within a couple of seconds walking distance once I knew. But if I failed, I knew I was going to need a minute or two – or 20 – alone. I would need to process this in private before telling anyone, even my better half.
As it turns out, when I saw PASSED in the column next to my name…I began quietly shrieking! I then tiptoed slowly into the office, where I knew I’d find my husband. I opened the door. He took one look at my face and screamed, “YOU PASSED!!!!” I busted out in hysterical laughter…then started screaming at full volume! The neighbors probably heard – but what did I care!? Then I called some friends, and we went out to celebrate!
It was truly one of the best days of my life! Here’s to hoping that you join all of us on ‘this side’ of the Bar!
And if you don’t – just remember – it’s temporary. If you fail your first time out, you are now in distinguished company. Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, J.F.K. Jr … the list goes on and on of people who failed the first time out and went on to very distinguished careers. So fret not. You’ll get ‘em next time! And maybe someday – run for President!
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