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So far there has been little about my law school experience that has been anything like the way most people do it. Most people don't start law school at thirty-nine years old with three children and a husband at home. Most people don't get diagnosed with breast cancer half-way through law school. Most people don't attend class bald and sick from chemo. Most people aren't lucky enough to land their perfect dream job before they even graduate from law school. And most people don't fail the bar exam. I, however, have now done all of those things.

When I first read the results online at the end of last week, I was in shock for a few minutes. I had to read the sentence over a few times and I felt a physical sinking of my stomach, my heart, and every other organ in my body as the news washed over me and began to sink in. When I left the exam last July I didn't feel as if I had aced it, but I certainly didn't feel as if I had failed it. I was (and still am) devastated. I immediately thought of the ramifications of this failure: I would lose my beloved dream job, I wouldn't have any way to pay my loans, I would have to prepare for and take it again.

As the shock of the initial news began to wear off, I felt (and still feel) a deep sadness and frustration. I worked so hard this summer and I did everything I was supposed to do...how could this happen? I was (and still am) embarrassed and humiliated at the thought of all the people I let down with my failure: my husband and kids who went through it all with me, my parents, my family and friends, the people who had enough confidence in me to hire me before I graduated, the people in my unit at work, and myself. While I always knew failure was a possibility, this was not the way I had planned it all out in my head.

One of the things I hated about having breast cancer (one of many!) was that I never wanted to be the poster girl for cancer. And yet when you are bald and sick, that's exactly what you are. I hated that role, and I was so happy when my hair grew back and when people I met didn't know about it unless I told them about it. This time I get to be the poster girl for a bar exam failer. At least I don't have visible signs this time, but I am still reluctant to have to take on a role that I would never have chosen on my own.

I wasn't sure how to share this information, but in keeping with my recent tradition of over-sharing the difficult parts of my life, I decided that maybe the best thing to do was to just own this and put it out there. I know I'm not the last person who is going to go through this, so maybe if I just go ahead and write about the experience here it will be cathartic for me and maybe someone else will find it and know that they are not alone.

So now I'm just trying to figure out the best way to bounce. The next step, just like with a cancer diagnosis, is to figure out what to do next. Not being one to take to my bed and pull the covers over my head, in between crying bouts I have updated my resume, cleaned out my desk at work, and signed up for the February test. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I keep telling myself that this could be worse. At least it's not a cancer diagnosis! Failing the bar isn't going to kill me, even if it does feel like I want the earth to open up and swallow me right now.

I keep comforting myself with a growing list of people who failed the bar and who have all gone on to be successful and to do some great things: Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, both Daleys (father and son), several fantastic attorneys who I know personally, John Kennedy, and one of my favorite law school professors, just to name a few. That is not such bad company.


Oh Kim. I KNOW your attitude will get you through this and yes, you will BOUNCE back. All kinds of faith and hugs pouring your way.


Kim, knowing you as I do, your "bounce" will be high and mighty and will suprise even you with it's blessings. After all you have been through, allow yourself this setback. You are still amazing, strong, and relsilient. This does not define you. Your family, your restored good health, your passion (the law) ~ those things define you. I have all the faith in the world that life still has great things in store for you and will be praying for it!
Love, Cynthia :)

Oh, Kim, I hate this for you. There is no bright side to this, but you will take it in February and pass it, and this will all soon be an annoying but distant memory. Whatever happens next, you'll do with style and grace, just as you do everything else.

And good god, the MBE was horrendously brutal, I'm not sure I even got 50% right.

Ditto Proto and everyone else. I am so sorry.

Well, hells bells. That totally sucks. It's too bad your employer didn't keep you through February.

I'm never cheered by "it could be worse" stories but I'll still offer one.

At my old firm, everyone in the new class of associates got their passing bar results, except for one. The partners kept telling him, "oh, don't worry. If you made the highest score in the state, your name won't be on the pass list." This made him feel worse, of course.

The poor guy went out that night to cry in his beer and got a DWI!

Did you really lose your job? I know a bunch of people who failed the bar but whose employer didn't let them go. If your employer did, well, then that was not the place for you. Think about it, this test has so little to do with actually being a lawyer and is no indicator of who will be a good lawyer that any company that makes passing a contingency is just clueless and missing out on truly talented people. This too shall pass and you will overcome.

It was bound to happen... you were a threat to the status quo. All the bar examiners, having read your blog--of course, thought to themselves, "This woman has forged a path of her own--on her own terms! And beaten cancer! What will become of us if other attorneys start thinking outside the box, too!"

Frightened of the threat you represented to the institutionalized hazing ritual, they clearly set out to try to teach you a lesson.

Little did they know, that by striking you down, you have now become more powerful than they could possibly imagine.

Once the dust settles, get back up and kick it's ass. :)

Good for you to be upfront about this!

I think the odds are excellent that you will fly over this hump next time around. By a year from now, this will not matter AT ALL.

But for now it does, of course. Bummer but not a PERMANENT roadblock. I think Randy Pausch said that roadblocks are there to make us try harder, to test us to see if we REALLY want something.

Not sure I have ever posted on your blog, as I tend to be a lurker, but this post got me out of hiding.

Best wishes, and please do continue to keep us "posted."

Joan in PA, another BC survivor

So sorry to hear - it's a tough thing, but you've survived tougher. Did you have to leave your job, or did you just prepare?

Do you find out the margin you failed by? As you have identified, lots of hugely successful people failed a bar exam, you will pass it eventually

It's a crazy system anyway, not related to the quality of lawyer you are.

Kim, you are an amazing woman. This is an annoying blip on the radar - you will rock it next time. And I'm sorry to hear the job ended (especially after following your FB updates - you seem like a natural for the field you're in!). It is really their loss, and I hope you'll be able to go back after you've passed!

I seriously doubt that anyone is let down (other than you), either - just watching you from afar, I am so inspired to do better myself. The people close to you must really benefit from your wonderful energy!

Best of luck!

Kim...my law school closed during my first year, 3 weeks before finals when I would have been eligible for a transfer.(Housing Bubble=school bought property to expand and POP there went the bubble) I will never get to be a lawyer after being a widow for 18 years working my ass off to raise a child and finally getting into the law school of my dreams.The department of education never placed us..they just left us to the wind..Now I will never be that lawyer, because I am too busy paying for that one fateful year of tuition living expenses to the tune of 50k and my daughters University.(way less)..At least you still have a shot...take it.. hell take two:)take one for me..please

An Angel is still praying for you. Whatever happens you are not alone. There are people who love you and know with you Failure is just another word for Opportunity, you'll always be my hero!

Keep your eyes on the skies and know Blessings are just around the corner.

You are never alone when you go through somethin like this. I am 39 years now and is in school - studying to be a teacher. I was diagnosed with BC in 2001 and had 2 children 5 and 10 months at the time. Horrific as it was - it was nothing compared to the blow I suffererd when my husband cheated on me during that time.

We stayed together beacuse I thought if I divorce him God will punish me and bring cancer back. Well after 7 years, I had a beautiful son. (had 2 girls before).

2 months before my son turned 1 - guess what. No, I did not get canncer again, yes my husband cheated again. This time it was worst.

We are still together and I want a divorce so bad I can taste it. I am not afraid of cancer, God has brought me out of that. Cancer I pray that everyone woman who suffere the way we do will be strong!. Live strong my siter.

You are an inspiration and amaze me. I am a paralegal, working full time and I have two small kids. Law school is a dream and I kept telling myself I couldn't because of the kids, because I need the money, because I can't work full time, etc...but after reading your blog....I learned that I need to shut up and learn from you. Thanks for putting this out there...and btw. you will rock the bar in 2010. I know it.

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