No matter the results, if you took the bar exam, you already succeeded


By Deborah Sanders

If you just took the bar exam and are awaiting results before allowing yourself any recognition for your achievement, I would like you to reimagine your measure of success. Here’s a bit of insight: You already did the hard thing.

I always send my students off with the great belief that they have everything necessary within in them to pass the test, no matter what ultimately happens when the results are posted. This is not just a flowery expression of confidence; I am sure. That is true of you too. Here is why: one day you decided to go to law school, a feat that seems so common to you, but one that is actually quite rare in the population at large.

You set out to accomplish that great thing and you did it. Despite the oddity of the universe that is the law, and the complete lack of necessary skill that you possessed then (but that it still required) you finished. Nothing you did before was anything like law school, though some things in your past predicted your ability to endure it. And you did.

Law school stripped you of whatever former conception you had of yourself. But rather than diminish you, it added a layer: of toughness, of will, of humility, and in the end, of teaming and powerful self-regard. Those qualities prepared you for test day — a day far more extraordinary than even the original endeavor. Never forget that is who you are. You do not need the results to know that you did something magnificent and that you are worthy of recognition right now. 

You will never again be the person you were before law school or after the bar, no matter what the results, because both are, by design, transformative. When I graduated from law school, I left looking to reclaim my former self, but that person was gone. I had changed. Rather than return to that person I was when I first arrived, an awkward, terrified 1L, I walked out the door with an entirely different lens on the world and I stepped into my potential. That first day was just a precursor to test day, which I hesitate to tell you will be just a precursor to all the days beyond it, when, as a lawyer, your mettle will really matter.  Then, the fear that you rehearsed in preparation for the exam will be replaced by the awesome responsibility its reward carries.

Be grateful you have had this time to prove your worth and that it was difficult, sometimes almost unbearable.  You would not have wanted it to be easy. The result will be better because of the angst, the struggle, and the unrelenting anxiety. Those feelings are intended to signal that you are doing something important and that something great lies ahead, something you had not yet earned the right to claim before, but that now you have. I know this because I too have had to earn my place as my students’ guide.

I am always humbled that they chose me, but I never doubt my ability to light their path or their ability to finish this thing because not only did I undertake the same endeavor, but through thousands of students, I have observed first-hand the greatness that every bar student possesses. It’s always the story about how the student got to or survived law school that makes them the most remarkable. There are so many remarkable stories. And law school is hard. It is uncommon for a person to be sitting for the bar that is not capable of passing it; acceptance to law school and its rigors generally ensure that. Know that you are a worthy adversary.

I hope you went in there and channeled all that you have done leading up to that fateful day.  If your faith falters while waiting for results, you can remember you, that first day of law school. Never forget that the whole thing began with a flicker of belief you had in yourself. Smile at that person and acknowledge all the two of you have been through.  I hope you took that person into your test, but more than that, I hope you walked out of the test center with that person --- whatever the result.

If you showed up, finished the exam, and did not die, the experience increased you as a human, and you succeeded at taking the test. Don’t deny yourself this moment, right now, before the results are posted to congratulate yourself. If you do not pass this time, you will need something to place your hopes upon for the next effort. If you did, you deserve two celebrations, one for getting through the test and one for passing.

I truly believe in you because I know what it takes just to be worthy of sitting in that room to take the test.  If you showed up on test day you have done it. You are worthy, even if the result is ultimately not as you had hoped. If the congratulations for passing are delayed for another administration of the test, you are no less worthy and you should be no less proud.  The results cannot subtract from that achievement. You already are a success at that that and you have already done the hard thing. Congratulations!

Deborah Sanders is owner of Bar-None Prep and is based in New Jersey. She has been teaching thousands of bar students throughout the country based on her unique method aimed at providing a methodical and predictable approach to passing the bar for more than a decade. She is writing a book on "The Spiritual Path to Passing the Bar" and her writings can be read on, where she has a regular column, and Deborah also independently tutors law students both through her company, Bar-None Prep and on the platform.