Cali's Bar Results Came Out And, As Always, it Wasn't Pretty

By William Peacock, Esq. on November 25, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Black Friday? More like Blood Red Friday.

Late last week, California's bar results were released. By the time the scores hit the Internet, we were already a few drinks deep at the local watering hole (have to beat the nearly-half of bar takers that failed, after all), so we're just now catching up to the massacre.

And while the numbers aren't pretty, it's important to remember two facts: a lot of people failed, and even with failure, a great career is still possible.

Three Days of Pain

For those unfamiliar with the pains of the Golden State, the nation's hardest bar exam is delivered here, over the course of three days -- two days of essays and performance tests, plus the one-day Multistate Bar Examination multiple-guess choice test.

Attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions for at least four years can skip the MBE portion.

55.8 Percent Pass Rate (And Other Sad Stats)

You read that correctly. Out of the 8,900 people who paid thousands of dollars to take the exam (plus prep course costs and time off work), barely more than half passed -- and this was the highest pass rate since 2009.

Here are a few other unhappy statistics: for repeat takers, the pass rate was 21 percent. For California (non-ABA) Accredited schools, the pass rate for first-timers was 36 percent, and only 13 percent for repeaters, which beats out unaccredited correspondence schools by one percentage point in each category.

And for those attorney-examinees coming in from other states, only 35.5 percent of the 146 people who took the test passed.

If You Didn't Pass

Seriously, we empathize. Don't get too down on yourself -- there's a good reason why this is widely considered the hardest bar exam in the country. The important thing to do is to take a week or two, evaluate your options, and start planning for a re-test if you're still interested in practicing law. If you are planning on retaking the exam, we have some no-nonsense tips for passing the test on your second go-round.

And if you aren't wedded to this state, with its low employment rate and sadistic three-day exam, consider other geographic options, either on lifestyle or bar exam difficulty.

If You Did Pass

Congratulations. We know all too well how much of a struggle the past summer was (and how the wait for results hurts nearly as much).

If you haven't cleared the character and fitness examination, or passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), you should get to those as soon as possible, as you won't be issued a bar number or be sworn in until you do so.

Once you are an official member of the bar, if you're like many recent admittees, it's time for the job hunt. But first, take a week or two to relax. Enjoy the upcoming holidays, and spend some well-deserved time with your family. Well-crafted cover letters and resumes can wait for a few more days.

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