The Balanced Approach


Be a Bar Exam Warrior

Believing in yourself: Turning failed into passed, and passed into published!


This week is especially anxious for those of you awaiting bar exam results on Friday.  Know that whether or not this was the exam for you, you must believe in yourself.  Believe you are capable of passing and try again.  Many brilliant lawyers don’t pass the first time.  In fact, one brilliant lawyer passed the second time, and his answer was published. 

Meet Ben Reccius.

On December 6, 2015, I met Ben.  He was an anxious, but eager, young lawyer and we met at a coffee shop for our first session.   As someone who had just learned that his first attempt was unsuccessful, Ben was nervous but determined to try again.  Over the next 3 months, I got to know Ben as a person, learner and writer.  He worked hard during my program, never gave up and his progress grew rapidly.  So, fast forward to May 13, 2016…I was ecstatic, but not surprised, to receive an email from Ben titled “PASS PASS PASS PASS PASS!”  But what came in July knocked my socks off!  Ben called and revealed that his entire test booklet was chosen as the published answer for February 2016! 

Ben and I started working together with a close eye on essay writing.  As I do with all my new clients, we focused on SucceedLaw’s necessary ingredients to bar passage: the planning, implementation and reflection phases of expert learning by stepping into the grader’s shoes. After Ben’s July phone call, I looked through his file to learn from and share the lessons of Ben’s extraordinary success.   What lessons were learned?

First, failing is not a dirty word.  Failing the bar does not define who you are, determine intelligence or reveal what kind of lawyer you will be. To the contrary, the act of failing can be an amazing teacher, if you let it.  I reminded Ben, as I do with all my clients, that he was capable of passing this exam.  And as it turns out, he was more than capable.  In this case, an applicant who failed the bar exam was capable of writing not only passing answers, but publishable ones!

Second, Ben took my teaching mantra, “Purposeful Practice Makes Perfect,” to heart and embraced the three stages of expert learning.  He was not afraid to take risks writing practice essays for me early on and often.  My essay feedback has always been detailed and tough because my goal is to help my clients write an above passing answer rather than merely a 65.  This is important to ensure every exam taker has cushion in the case of a curveball question (usually question 5).  Ben and I worked carefully to plan his study time around his work schedule, to implement essay writing in a consistent manner and to incorporate self-reflection sessions after each essay.  He turned in essays on a schedule that allowed him to receive feedback from one essay before writing the next.  He purposefully and thoughtfully communicated what he learned from my feedback after reviewing it.  Every conversation and email following a turned-in essay came with great self-reflection as well as learning from mistakes or misses. 

Third, he self-graded – a lot.  By planning, implementing and reflecting on my feedback, he was able to see my perspective as his grader and ultimately put himself in the CA grader’s shoes.  He knew what they wanted and was determined to give it to them.  In his final few weeks before the exam, he told me he had continued writing and self-grading several practice essays from both his commercial books and online and said, “I feel I am really turning a corner here…”

That he did!  His answers showed that he carefully pre-planned by outlining before implementing and writing.  He spotted issues, he organized them well and he explained how the law worked in each hypothetical. 

Today Ben is a successful practicing litigator.  As I knew he would be!  Bravo Ben!  

If you want to review Ben’s sample answers click here:

Ben's Published Answers


Ben’s answers are as follows: 
Answer 1 – Sample A was his.
Answer 2 – Sample B; his.
Answer 3 – Sample B; his.
Answer 4 – Sample A; his.
Answer 5 – Sample B; his.
Answer 6 – Sample B, his.



Amy Parekh