I’m sure you’re aware that bar results will be released over the next few weeks in different jurisdictions and I know the anxiety that can provide…
In light of world events, and in these extraordinary times, I think perspective is an important, if not vital tool for each of us to have as the time comes closer for the bar results to be released. I share the following thoughts with you because past students have told me that this was meaningful to them. I hope that it will be of some comfort as we approach what will be a time of some stress and anxiety for many.
…It’s been a few weeks since the bar exam and in a short time, results will start to be announced in different jurisdictions. Given that time frame, this seems like an appropriate opportunity to address a question that I’m often asked but rarely seem to have the right words to answer. For many of you, the great relief of simply getting the test over with is enough, and you won’t think much more about it until the envelope or the email notice arrives with your results. I think that’s a good outlook to have and if that describes you, the rest of this post may be meaningless.
For a number of people, however, this time of waiting is something of a struggle; a mix of what-ifs and what-abouts and general anxiety and neurosis. As you wait for results, be comforted by this: Most of you will pass the bar; only a few of you will not. The question I find so hard to answer, however, is why some will succeed and others fail. Oh, for a few people, the answer to poor results will be obvious; they didn’t spend much time studying or there was a crisis at home or work that diverted their attention, or in a few cases, students will blame us for providing a deficient course, or the examiners for writing an unfair exam. I can deal with all of those responses. The problem for me comes with those who do what we ask of them, make the effort and still fall short. It just doesn’t seem fair or just.
A few years ago I read a wonderful book by Philip Yancey called Rumors of Another World. In it, the author seeks to explain some of the contradictions of why God’s world is sometimes so messed up. Yancey notes that people of faith are called to live in 2 worlds: the “city of God “(that is unseen) and the “city of this world” (which is visible). In the “city of this world,” passing the bar exam, taking a new position, receiving the accolades and prestige of becoming a member of the bar seem nothing less than HUGE. It’s the gateway to paying the bills, opening the doors and making a difference with your life. It matters. And yet…the “city of God” seems to call us to renounce those very things; prestige, money, material trappings of success. And therein lies a dilemma.
I’ve had students call in tears and ask, “Why me? Why can’t I pass? I tried. I studied so hard and nothing works.” It used to be that at those moments in trying to console a student who had failed that I felt most helpless. But here’s where I diverge from the “pity party” that seems natural at that moment: I don’t believe that God deliberately places obstacles or troubles in our path, but I do believe that He allows them to be put there in order to grow our trust in Him.
I’ve told many of you the story about Tina H. the student who failed the California bar exam 21 times before she finally passed. I worked with Tina over the last 3 exams she took. Oh, she wore me out! There were days I was so frustrated that when I saw her phone number on caller ID I wanted to let the call go to voice mail (not that I would EVER do that!) but Tina perservered and she never lost her faith in God or in what we were doing. Ultimately, she passed, and here’s the weird part: not a month goes by that I don’t receive a note from someone, somewhere in the world, who saw her story, communicated with her and was touched by her humility and her faith. Based on the amount of communication I receive, Tina has impacted more lives with her failure than all of my other passing students combined!
Another student, Jose G., failed the Florida bar 8 times before he came to us and passed. Now, he helps other students who have given up to persevere and pass their exams too. What a gift! And last year, I heard from a NJ student who first failed the test 14 years ago and passed last year’s exam with us! His tears were ones of joy and gratitude to God for giving him the strength to keep trying. Each exam has stories like these and I’m humbled when you share them with me and allow me to share them with others.
You see, sometimes there is a reason for a failing result that we simply cannot understand at that moment. I could go on with incredible stories from so many of our students, but I hope you get the point: if, when the results arrive and they are favorable, congratulations! That’s so wonderful! Be a kind, patient and gentle member of our profession and bring honor and glory to the God of your understanding by the way you carry yourself as a lawyer.
But for those who receive unfavorable results, know this: you were created for a purpose that God prepared beforehand for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). This “setback” may be for reasons that seem clear or are completely hidden from you. (I doubt that Tina could find much good in 20 consecutive failures or Jose after 8 unsuccessful tries but they ultimately turned that into something extraordinary in their lives and those they touch.)
No matter your results, I encourage you to seek God first, to trust Him, even in the midst of the “signs of disorder” that may cloud your vision. The apostle Paul wrote (ironically from a jail cell) “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re…peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears…We’ll see it all then.” (1 Cor 13:12 MSG) I don’t know what you’ll see when the mist clears, but I do hope that you enjoy the rest that comes before the results. May this time of rest be a blessing to you in every way.