“My name is Victoria, and I failed the bar exam,” A Successful Lawtina’s Insight Into Passing The Bar

As I began receiving emails and messages about passing the bar a few weeks ago (when I have yet to pass it myself)- I sought out the help of an amazing Lawtina who didn’t pass the first time but is thriving now as a licensed attorney. I loved reading this story. She’s now a role model and inspiration to me, and I hope her insight inspires you to not give up.

Check out Victoria Velazquez Walker, Esq.’s story below: 

“Hello, my name is Victoria and I failed the bar exam. I studied for the North Carolina bar exam; an exam known for its difficulty and unpredictability. This simply means I HAD TO STUDY EVERYTHING and after graduation, I jumped right in. My school offered a bar preparation course in conjunction with Barbri. It was intense. Each day consisted of about 12-14 hours of studying; I was all in. Every morning I watched lecture videos that lasted about 3-4 hours. In the afternoon I reviewed/practiced multiple-choice, studied with my study group, and attend EVERY bar preparation activity offered by my school. At night I created/reviewed my outlines, studied, and spent time with my husband. Oh, did I forget to mention I did all of this while married? At night I also had to set aside time for my husband, cook him a meal here and there, and be present and supportive of him. In summary, I did everything that I was told would improve my chances of passing. I even took three full practice exams.


The night before day one of the bar exam my study group and I went to dinner. We reflected on law school and bar study. We discussed our nerves, how prepared we felt, agreed not to discuss our answers at lunch and what essay questions/issues we really wanted to see on the bar exam. Our list included the following: equitable distribution (family law), formation (contracts), adverse possession (property), validity (wills and trust), piercing the corporate veil (corporations), and I do not remember what we discussed for the remaining topics.


The next day, exam day, I felt confident. Confident in my knowledge and my preparation. When the exam started I hastily opened the first page and read the first question. I smiled. It was family law and the issue was equitable distribution! Filled with confidence, I wrote my answer and continued to the next question. I’m unable to recall the order of the remaining questions, but the issues were almost exactly what my study group and I discussed the night before. So much so, during the lunch break my study group and I looked at each other with somewhat of a smirk but said nothing.


A few weeks later I opened the mailbox and there it was, a letter from the North Carolina bar examiners. I snatched the envelope and without hesitation opened it. I read the words “I regret to inform you”. I failed. I was shocked! How could this happen? I was at the top of my class, I did EVERYTHING during bar study and the essays were almost exactly what I wished for! Sure, some of the questions I did not know, but I did EVERYTHING! Standing there at my mailbox, I realized I had to walk back into my house and tell my husband, my mother (who called almost every day for results) my entire family, all my friends that I failed. I had to tell EVERYONE I failed. I felt ashamed and disappointed. I think that’s the hardest part of failing. The shame we feel over and over again each time we are asked about the results. But, rest assured failing the bar exam is not a badge of shame that will follow you or your legal career the remainder of your life.


The lives of recent law school graduates revolve around the bar exam. It is all they think and talk about. After all, recent graduates spent the last 3 years, maybe even longer, thinking about the bar exam. From day one of law school orientation law students are lectured, threatened with and felt to feel inadequate about taking the bar exam. The last semester of law school is intensely focused on the bar exam. With all of this, it is understandable that recent law school graduates believe the world revolves around the bar exam and failing the bar exam is the most horrific event imaginable.  


You are not the first nor will you be the last person to fail the bar exam. There are thousands of licensed, and successful, attorneys who sat for the bar exam multiple times. It DOES NOT matter how many times you sit for the bar exam. One, two, three, four or five times. I know licensed attorneys who sat for the bar exam upwards of 4 times. If you want to practice law do not give up! You only need to pass the bar exam one time. Over the course of your legal career, no one will ask if you passed the bar exam your first try. The only people who ask this question are law students and recent law school graduates.


Nevertheless, passing the bar exam is a prerequisite to practicing law. The best step forward is to bring clarity to your failure by evaluating your study habits and methods. First, evaluate your study habits. This is a time for honest self-criticism. Did you really put in the time and effort to be successful? Passing the bar exam requires extended and intense preparation. Your study schedule should be unfamiliar. It should be incomparable to any study schedule you ever created. Do not be the person who did everything but study and is now acting clueless as to the reason for their failure. For me, this question was easy. Yes! I really put in the time and effort. What is your answer? If your answer is no, then your path forward starts here. It starts by putting in a better effort.


Second, evaluate your study methods. Passing the bar exam is part what you know and part how you perform under exam conditions. Did your bar preparation include timed practice? Did you practice multiple choice questions under time constraints? Did you limit your practice essays to only 30 minutes? You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you are unable to answer the examination questions in a timely and efficient manner then all of your knowledge is useless. Yes, my bar preparation included timed practice. What is your answer? If no, adding time practice should be at the top of your list.


Third, how did you perform on test day? Did your nerves get the best of you? Yes, my nerves got the best of me. I remember sitting at the table relaxed waiting for the exam to start. The proctor said on the microphone “proctors close the doors”. I looked up and seen the proctor walking through the aisle with a stack on exams. I remember thinking there it is; THE BAR EXAM. From there my nerves were at a heightened level. What is your answer? No matter your answer, congratulations you have an advantage over first-time exam takers. How? Because you have been there before. You know what to expect. You are familiar with the process and procedures. This will greatly reduce your stress level the second time around.


So, how can you be successful the second time? Here are a few tips that I used and found helpful the second time around.


1. You must either forget about your failure or use it as motivation. I used my failure as motivation. I failed the bar exam by 1 point. Yes, 1 point. I was livid! I put my letter on my refrigerator and looked at it every time I opened the door. If you are unable to use your failure as motivation, then you must forget about it. To be successful you must study with a clear mind. Forget the failure and move on.


2. Even if you studied every and anything the first time do not relax your studying. DO IT ALL AGAIN. Know what I did? I signed up for my schools’ program in conjunction with Barbri. I did everything all over again. Lectures, timed practice, and outlines. I did it all as if it were my first time studying.


3. Focus your studying. At this point, you should have a good idea of what you know and do not know. When I say know what I mean is you can answer the most frequently asked essay (in your state) and multiple-choice questions with ease. Spend less time on what you know and more time on what you do not know. You should spend the same amount or more time studying as you did the first time with a focus on what you do not know. This does not mean to never review what you know. It means being confident in what you know and build confidence in what you do not know.


4. Spend time understanding why your answering questions wrong. Spend more time on this than you did the first time. The first time going through bar study can feel like a sprint where your constantly trying to catch your breath. It can feel like your running and running, but this is the time to catch your breath. Meaning slow down and take time to understand why you are making the mistakes you are making.


5. Focus on improving your multiple-choice score. All of the information you need to answer the questions are literally on the paper. These are free points. Identify what topic is your weakest and spend time improving your score for this particular area.


Remember, the bar exam does not determine your worth, abilities or future. After my failure my I came an immigration and small business attorney. A successful and rewarding legal career will follow your failure as well. I’m sure of it!”



You can connect with and follow Victoria on Instagram @ViccsWorld. Thank you, Victoria!