Why I Withdrew from the Bar Exam After Being Bullied Into Retaking It featuring Kate Dwyer

Kate Dwyer withdrew from the bar exam when she knew she was not ready to take it. In this episode, Kate explains why she trusted her gut and avoided toxic positivity surrounding the bar exam. The bar exam is a gatekeeping exam that keeps the undesirable lawyers away from becoming an attorney. Listen to learn why Kate had to trust herself and how the bar exam affects your mental health.


  • How to trust yourself
  • The importance of jobs where your JD is an advantage
  • Why a paralegal would attend law school 
  • What is a legal fellow


  • How to the bar exam affects your mental health
  • Best career choices if you have a JD and an interest in immigration/immigrant civil rights
  • Why you should forgive yourself for failing the bar exam
  • How a viral tweet made the legal community smaller

Why I Withdrew from the Bar Exam After Being Bullied Into Retaking It featuring Kate Dwyer

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Why I Withdrew from the Bar Exam After Being Bullied Into Retaking It featuring Kate DwyerWhy I Withdrew from the Bar Exam After Being Bullied Into Retaking It featuring Kate Dwyer

About This Episode

After a tweet about the bar exam went viral, Kate Dwyer found herself advocating to trust your gut and eliminate the bar exam. The bar exam is a gatekeeping exam that keeps the undesirable lawyers away from becoming an attorney; undesirable meaning those who cannot afford to re-rest, poor test takers, people who need to start working immediately. Listen to learn why Kate had to trust herself and how the bar exam affects your mental health.

Kate Dwyer's Background

Kate Dwyer was the student who never had to study. After college, it just made sense that Kate would attend law school because she wanted to work on immigration issues. However, Kate Dwyer was in law school when she discovered her lack of study and memorization skills. 

In college, Kate worked as an English tutor for foreign exchange students and this sparked Kate’s interest in making systematic immigration changes. This advocacy push encouraged family and friends to tell Kate that she should go to law school. Although she was initially resistant to this idea, Kate interned with an immigration office to learn more about the immigration process and engage on a higher level while addressing harm that immigrants face. 

Immigration law is intrinsically tied to employment discrimination issues, wrongful death cases, and Title 9 issues.

Kate interned in immigration offices and focused on immigration law when she started law school. When she began to feel burnout, Kate knew that she was not in the proper mental space to show up for her clients. 

Why Law School

Kate attended law after being a paralegal for four years and shadowing immigration lawyers. However, this practical experience is not a guarantee that you will pass the bar exam and be given the chance to become an attorney. 

Kate withdrew from the bar exam, the second exam she signed up for, because Kate does not want to take the bar exam until she is adamant that she is ready to take it. 

At the time of this recording, Kate Dwyer was a fellow with the Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration, where she was a project manager and grant writer. As a legal fellow, Kate was able to bring a different perspective and background to law school. Kate believes that working before attending law school is the best way to gain soft skills and practical experience for being a lawyer.

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Lawyer Perseverance

Kate Dwyer knew that she didn’t pass the New York bar exam. Immediately after taking the exam, she knew that she did not do it. But Kate was met with comfort and toxic positivity after the exam, instead of the safe space where she could have explained why she was accessing the situation correctly. 

She knows herself and she was weary of the toxic positivity that is around not taking the bar exam or taking a different path. 

It is totally fine to fail the bar exam and that it doesn’t say anything about you as a person or your professional prospects, exclaims Kate Dwyer. 

Although she knew that the bar exam did not define her, Kate didn’t know how to get off of the law school conveyor belt. 

Even though Kate knew that the bar exam wouldn’t define who she was, Kate took the bar exam to “be in the driver’s seat” in her career. Moving from a paralegal to an attorney often brings more money and additional responsibility. As a paralegal, Kate completed assignments that she hands off to others compared to becoming an attorney and having the final sign off on paperwork. 

Currently, Kate Dwyer is working as a program coordinator for refugee family reunification.

Connect with Kate Dwyer

Kate Dwyer is not licensed to practice law. Learn more about Kate Dwyer:  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kateelldee

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Review Kyla’s favorite books here: https://amzn.to/3OTfrrZ

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