The Bar Exam: 6 Famous Failures

The Bar Exam: 6 Famous Failures

Ed. note: This post was originally published on July 17, 2007. We republish it today, with a few updates added, to remind our readers taking the bar exam later this month that even though you surely won’t fail — especially if you’re having fun studying — even failing the bar won’t stop you from having a spectacular career, in the law or elsewhere. Good luck!

We recently wrote about Paulina Bandy, that poor creature who failed the California bar exam thirteen times, before finally passing it on try #14. Her story seems to have freaked out some of you who are sitting for the bar exam later this month.

Relax. Take a deep breath. You won’t wind up in a 365-square-foot shack in your mom’s backyard. Chances are, you will pass. And even if you fail the bar once or twice, you’re still not on your way towards Paulina Bandy-dom.

As it turns out, a number of well-known individuals — some famous for their accomplishments in law, and others for different reasons — didn’t pass the bar on the first (or even second) try….

Here’s a short list of a few bar exam failures (in alphabetical order). Please feel free to add more in the comments. Thanks!

Jerry Brown: Attorney General of California (and former California governor). Failed the California bar once before passing.

UPDATE (7/16/2014): And now the governor once again! He took office for a second time in January 2011.

Hillary Clinton: Former First Lady; graduate of the Yale Law School. Brilliant, delicious, and everyone should vote for her. Future president of the United States. Failed the D.C. bar exam in the 1970s, but passed the Arkansas bar — where she went on to have a successful legal career, as a partner in the Rose Law Firm.

John F. Kennedy, Jr. (deceased): Highly attractive son of President John F. Kennedy. Failed the New York bar twice, before passing on the third try. Served as an assistant district attorney in New York from 1989 to 1993.

Emily Pataki: Highly attractive daughter of former New York Governor George Pataki. Columbia Law School graduate. Failed the New York bar the first time, but passed the second time. (We thought she was an associate at the prestigious New York law firm of White & Case, but she’s not on the firm website.)

UPDATE (7/29/2011): Emily Pataki did work at White & Case for a time. In late 2009, she was hired by the Bloomberg Administration, to a $70,000-a-year job in Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt’s office.

Kathleen Sullivan: Former dean of Stanford Law School, leading constitutional law scholar, and possible Supreme Court nominee (or Solicitor General pick) in a Democratic administration. Failed the California bar exam when she took it in July 2005. As explained by the Wall Street Journal:

Although she is licensed to practice law in New York and Massachusetts, Ms. Sullivan was taking the California exam for the first time after joining a Los Angeles-based firm [Quinn Emanuel — hey, does she have an electrical engineering degree?] as an appellate specialist.

Sullivan passed when she took it again in February 2006.

UPDATE (7/16/2014): Today Kathleen Sullivan is a name partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, one of the nation’s top litigation firms.

Pete Wilson: Former California governor. Failed the California bar exam three times, before passing on his fourth try.

So relax. Even if you fail the bar exam a few times, you can still go on to have a successful career in law or politics.

Just don’t go as far as Paulina Bandy. Keep your failures in the single digits, and you’ll do just great!

UPDATE (7/16/2014): These six names not enough for you? Check out BuzzFeed’s 14 Famous People Who Failed The Bar (including First Lady Michelle Obama).

Source: Above the Law

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