Kamala Harris (pictured in ~ left), then serving together California attorney General, addresses graduates the the UC Berkeley college of legislation on may 11, 2012.

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This week, U.S. Attorney basic Jeff Sessions testified in former of the Senate intelligence Committee listening on Russia and possible ties come the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Some of the more memorable exchanges came in between Sessions and Sen. Kamala Harris that California.

I won’t get in the merits of the back-and-forth between the two. But the merits the the some the the responses on social media proved a lack of appreciation for what part very famed attorneys have actually gone v to practice their craft.

A variety of users on social media have actually pointed the end that Harris fail the California bar test on her an initial try.

Granted, that footnote is a fairly common talking suggest in profiles of Harris. And also to it is in fair, we’ve stated this footnote as well – earlier in March, when Samuel Chang consisted of this quote in his write-up on how the decrease of bar test passage rates results law students:

If U.S. City council Kamala Harris, former Dean the Stanford regulation School catalen Sullivan, and two California Governors Jerry Brown and also Pete Wilson might not happen on their an initial try but were widely successful as California’s attorney general, a top law school dean, and governors that our great state, what does the say the the bar?

Let’s asking that inquiry again: What, exactly, does the say?

There are many greater profile examples of bar fail to add to these four Californians:

John F. Kennedy Jr. Failed double in brand-new York prior to passing.Notable mayors of the USA’s three largest cities – brand-new York’s Ed Koch, Chicago’s Richard M. Daley, and Los Angeles’ Antonio Villaraigosa – every failed; Koch and Daley eventually passed.

There room others out there, including new York governor David Paterson, the first blind governor of a U.S. State, who was unable to finish the new York bar exam as result of a absence of accommodations for his absence of sight.

What you discover from this perform is three things: First, if you’re going to succeed in life, fail the brand-new York bar exam at least once. Second, don’t try to sneak the weak Cardozo story past Otto Stockmeyer.


And lastly – passing the bar exam is an act of dedication due to the fact that it is incredibly difficult to pass.

Looking at the national Conference of Bar inspectors statistics because that the 2016 year, bar passage rates are down for both first-time takers – who historically fare better than repeat testers ~ a regimen of study that deserve to last fifty percent a year – as well as the overall test-taking group.


A pattern emerges of a first-timer score the is 10 to 13 percent points greater than the all at once group. Check takers indigenous non-ABA-approved schools scored at a 19 percent rate. For repeat bar exam takers for 2016, the pass price was 33 percent (38 percent for those from ABA-approved schools).

So if you’re make the efforts to pass on your second time in any kind of given year, there’s a 1 in 3 chance you won’t.

Now, let’s take a closer look at bar exam stats from Sen. Harris’ time frame.

The California Bar Exam, lot like its new York counterpart, is notoriously difficult (don’t yell at me, I know it’s an understatement). According to over the Law, the California exam’s 2016 pass rate of 43 percent to be the lowest it has been because 1984, once it was 41.8 percent. First-timers scored at 56 percent.

Here are the numbers for Harris’ years – 1989, the year Harris got her J.D. Indigenous the University that California, Hastings university of the Law, and also 1990, as soon as she passed:

California Bar Exam19891990
Total exam Takers6,9976,990
Total Passed4,1634,054
Pass Rate59.5%58%
First-Time Takers4,9094,964
Total Passed3,5443,644
Pass Rate72.2%73.4%
Repeat Takers2,0882,026
Total Passed619410
Pass Rate29.6%20.2%

The space for 1990 in between first-timers’ success rate and the as whole rate jumped increase to 15.4 percent. The overall pass price dropped 1.5 percent.

Harris and her other repeaters to be far less likely to have actually passed that year. The repeater rate in 1990 means that about 4 the end of 5 the Harris’ fellow repeaters failed. That’s intimidating.

But Harris’ passing score way you can beat the odds when you re-take the bar exam.

Missing the end on a passing score is painful, but it is no a permanent obstacle to ending up being a lawyer. Instead of “could not pass on their first” exam – which implies some level of failure – why no accentuate the positive and also say someone “passed the bar top top their 2nd try”? Or third? Or fourth?

Or 14th?

Paulina Bandy happen that ol’ California bar exam after missing the note 13 times end eight years. What does she carry out now? She operation a routine for California bar test “repeaters.”

The impressive thing around the social media nitpicking of Harris right here is the it’s only become a “fun fact” since the choice – there are only three tweets referencing she failed very first attempt at the bar exam prior to the November 2016 election, yet dozens because then. That wasn’t even bandied about via the short bar of election-season sound bite the sounds good at first glance, yet doesn’t call the entirety story.

This is the story:

Harris has actually gone top top to it is in elected and also re-elected as mountain Francisco district Attorney and also Attorney general of California to now serving together the very first Indian-American senator, the first black senator native California, and just the second black mrs to serve in the Senate.

If you’re retaking that this summer, don’t permit the odds gain you down. Friend can completely do this.


Think around all this next time someone snarks about one whiff on one of the hardest tests known to higher ed. Since a lot of of legislation students will be more than willing to take your shot in ~ success if that’s what can happen after girlfriend fail the bar exam.

UPDATE: Shortly ~ posting this article, we got to out come the Cardozo institution of Law’s Twitter handles for clarification on your namesake’s bar exam history:

So have the right to
abalsd) June 20, 2017

In response, Christine anne George, faculty and scholarly solutions librarian in ~ the Dr. Lillian & Dr. Rebecca Chutick legislation Library in ~ Cardozo, went – and also we quote – “full top top librarian on this question.” And it turns out the the story around Cardozo’s bar test failures is complete urban legend.

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George writes:

So let’s lay this rumor to rest and remember come always, always, always cite sources, no issue what the medium.