Notables Who Failed Their Bar Exam

From time to time I meet with young men and women who have dreamed of becoming a lawyer as long as they can remember and are seeking encouragement or advice on their journey to the bar. I believe that the legal profession, although often maligned, is a noble calling, and to those lawyers who much has been given, much is owed.

Yesterday’s discussion with the daughter of a client, who is a bright 18 year old girl, caused me to reflect on the process. After the completion of an undergraduate degree and successfully passing the Law School Admission Test, three years of law school follows. With a law degree in hand the only impediment to calling yourself a lawyer is the passing of the bar exam.

It is at this point where many people run into a roadblock. Certain of the bar exams are notorious for their difficulty, including the tests required in New York and California.

The top spot for lawyers who have failed their bar exams goes to MAXCY DEAN FILER who obtained his law degree in 1966, but failed the California Bar Exam 47 times before finally passing the exam in 1991.

By the time he was permitted to practice law, both of his sons were lawyers. He worked with one of his sons for about five years before striking out on his own. His other son is now a judge in California.

But there are many more lawyers who struggled for the right to practice law, but were forced to retake the exam. Some of the notables include:

1. MICHELLE OBAMA- A graduate of Harvard Law School, Ms. Obama failed her first try at the Illinois Bar Exam, said to be one of the easier bar exam States;

2. BENJAMIN CARDOZO- Renowned Justice of the United States Supreme Court, former Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, who entered Columbia Law School at the age of fifteen, failed at his first attempt at the New York Bar Exam;

3. HILARY CLINTON- Current Secretary of State, former Senator for New York State, former candidate for President of the United States, First Lady during Bill Clinton’s presidency, attended Yale Law School, wrote her bar exam in Washington DC and failed. She later wrote and passed the Arkansas Bar Exam, practicing patent law and intellectual property law. Her pro bono interests were in the area of child and family advocacy;

4. THE MAYORS- RICHARD DALEY of Chicago, ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA of Los Angeles and ED KOCH of New York;

5. THE GOVERNORS- JERRY BROWN of California, PETE WILSON of California, and DAVID PATERSON of New York;

6. PAT ROBERTSON, founder and host of the 700 Club and leader of the Christian Coalition, graduated from Yale Law School but failed the bar exam. He then abandoned law and obtained a Doctor of Divinity degree. Leader of the christian right, he is a successful businessman and entrepreneur, who founded Regent University which includes a Judeo-Christian law school.

7. KATHLEEN SULLIVAN, former Dean of Stanford Law School, Marshall scholar at Oxford, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1981, constitutional and appellate law expert, often mentioned as a candidate for the United States Supreme Court, failed the California Bar Exam, but rewrote it in 2006 and passed. Many years earlier she had been admitted to both the Massachussats and the New York bar.

It is clear that perserverance is the cornerstone of success. To all my friends, young and old, who have a dream, remember these words:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful
people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is
almost a proverb… Persistence and determination alone are
omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge

About these ads

27 thoughts on “Notables Who Failed Their Bar Exam

  1. This post was very well written, and it also contains many useful facts. I enjoyed your professional manner of writing this post. You have made it easy for me to understand.

  2. Pingback: Exactly Why Composing Ones Own Bar Exam Appeal In Michigan Is Compared To An Absolute Trial

  3. I appreciated your own site, and still have received quite a lot of expertise about the issue. we have some sort of website within the similar area of interest. regards for all your info. i’m sorry pertaining to my own poor english, i am coming from philippines.

  4. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in composing this article. I am looking forward to the same good work from you in the future as well. In fact your writing abilities has prompted me to start my own blog now. Actually blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your articles are a fine example of it.

  5. Did any of the following eventually pass the bar exam? THE MAYORS- RICHARD DALEY of Chicago, ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA of Los Angeles and ED KOCH of New York;

    5. THE GOVERNORS- JERRY BROWN of California, PETE WILSON of California, and DAVID PATERSON of New York;

  6. Pingback: Even Benjamin Cardozo failed the bar! « Bear Hill Blog

  7. Pingback: Even Benjamin Cardozo failed the bar!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s