A reader, Dana, posted a comment to my very first post in which she shares her story about having flunked out of law school and then returning, and she just learned she too failed the bar exam. Her story hit so close to home that I felt compelled to write about my own similar experience.
I too flunked out of law school my 1L year. You see, my law school had a minimum cumulative GPA for all 1Ls to meet in order to continue into 2L year, and I fell short of that minimum GPA by a very narrow margin, but enough to be dismissed from law school even though I had passed all my 1L classes. I immediately applied for readmission and was accepted but it was still up in the air whether I’d be forced to repeat my 1L year (which was usually a condition of readmission) or be allowed to continue into my 2L year. I lobbied all summer for the 2L option, obviously. That summer was fraught with anxiety and stress. I wrote memos like crazy and obtained support from a couple of faculty members although it was humiliating to have to admit my situation to them.
Fortunately, I was allowed to continue into my 2L year but I had to retake Contracts. For the rest of law school, I did progressively better in my classes although I still stumbled here and there, and my GPA never rose above an embarrassing C average despite achieving many B grades. It wasn’t easy, however. I never got off academic probation for the rest of law school. The administration still breathed down my neck at every turn. They made up all sorts of ridiculous policies that I felt were arbitrarily targeted at me, such as how rising 3Ls with GPAs below a certain point (read: me!) would be limited to a certain number of credits each semester until my GPA rose above that point (which it never did).
I wanted to do a clinic, but they wanted me to retake a 2L class that I had already passed (barely), and I just wanted to get my required credits and get out, so I didn’t do it. I wish I could have done the clinic, but graduating was more important. They also made me give up an externship during my 2L year even though I had already applied, interviewed, been offered the externship and accepted it. It was with a judge at the U.S. District Court. The law school contacted the judge themselves and told her they wouldn’t be letting me do the externship. Can you imagine how bad I must’ve looked to the judge? I really wish I could’ve done that externship because that would’ve been an amazing opportunity to work in federal court.
Throughout this ordeal, there was one dean at my school who rode me particularly hard. I had meetings with her every single semester, sometimes against my will. You can’t exactly ignore an e-mail from a dean requesting that you come in for a meeting, right? I’d always go into those meetings with a sick feeling in my stomach, wondering what the law school had cooked up for me next. Even though I clashed with the dean at times, I considered her my mentor. I still remember what she said to me after I was readmitted. She said that she had confidence in me and that I would make it through law school and graduate. She was actually on the committee that decided to readmit me and then decided to allow me to continue into my 2L year. I clung to those words for the next two years despite many more obstacles that stood in my way.
Law school was incredibly hard for me, and I believe it was harder for me than it was for many other people, but it paid off when I was able to walk across the stage at my law school graduation knowing how much blood, sweat, and tears I had put into law school. It was such an amazing milestone for me that even today I still can’t believe I’m finally a law school graduate. I have my law school diploma and no one can ever take that away from me. I’m pretty positive that I graduated dead last in my class although I’ve been too scared to ask the law school. Ignorance is bliss, right?
After I graduated from law school, I wrote the dean a long and heartfelt letter thanking her for believing in me. I also said that I would not have made it through law school if it had not been for her. She wrote back with an incredibly kind note about how she admired my fortitude and perseverance and that she knew those qualities would serve me well in the future if I ever faced more difficult times. Well, this is it. I’m not really feeling the determination and motivation – it’s more that I feel irritated and pissed off at having to take the bar exam yet AGAIN. However, after learning that Dana’s mentor passed on before she graduated, I’m so glad that I was able to thank my mentor after graduation. I still keep in touch with her and only today just summoned up the courage to e-mail her and admit that I failed the bar exam again. That was a very difficult e-mail to write since I don’t really want many people (especially people from my law school) to know that I failed twice.
Nevertheless, it really made me feel better to read the comment from Dana because I honestly thought I was the only one out there who had flunked out and then returned to law school. I agree with Dana about many people simply giving up in the face of less adversity than what we have already faced. It definitely sucked having that cloud hanging over my head for the rest of law school, but you know what? It doesn’t matter now. I have my law degree, and now I just need that freaking bar license! 🙂