Former law student ends life after failed bar exam amidst overall low passing scores for the state

By Claudia Balthazar | Dec 24, 2016

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SAN FRANCISCO – University of California, Hastings College of Law staff said counseling services are available for students after the recent suicide of a former student following his negative bar-exam results.


Brian Christopher Grauman took his own life Nov. 18 after failing a test that, on average, only about 51 percent of first-time takers pass, according to And while there is help for law students who are under stress, there is hope that there will be more assistance for alumni in the future.


“I think UC Hastings will not only continue to offer mental-health counseling services to students as they do throughout the year, but that the school will make sure recent graduates know that those services are available to them during bar study in the summer months,” Staci Zaretsky, an editor for Above the Law, told the Northern California Record.


“If those services are not available during the summer months for some reason, I suspect they'll become available pretty quickly,” she added.


Zaretsky said she feels for Grauman’s family and hopes that former law students going through what Brian went through will find productive ways to channel the negative feelings that go hand in hand with failing the bar exam.


“As someone who has been unsuccessful on the bar exam herself, I know that it's a very emotional experience,” she said. “If you're someone who has never failed a test in your life, you question everything you could have possibly done wrong. I know I did.”


“We need to hear that how we score on an exam is not a measure of our potential as a lawyer, much less our worth as a person,” UC Hastings faculty wrote in a statement. “We need to hear that many of us have not always had a smooth or uninterrupted path in our professions.”


Joe Patrice, another editor for Above the Law, talked about his support system during his days in law school and said he feels blessed to have kept a level head for the most part.


“That is not the case for everybody,” he said. “I had a lot of friends that did go through rough times. But we were a good community that helped each other and made each other feel better when times were overwhelming.”


Patrice, who wrote about the alarming rates of UC Hastings students not passing the bar exam, criticized the test for being harder on participants, than any other state.


“California is notorious for low passing exams,” he said. “It’s brutal. A little more than 1 in 10 Stanford law students failed. That’s a sign of an exam that is not doing its job …There's a major justice gap in California, and they're not helping that by making a shortage of competent lawyers to serve that purpose.”


The issue with lower-tier law schools, Patrice said, is that students are faced with higher stress because they are putting in more money and are worried about not getting a job later. At a higher-tier law school, there is more emphasis on services, and students are banking on the idea that they will be more financially secure in the long run.


“The simple fact of the matter is that today's law students have a lot more to worry about than their peers who graduated in the past,” Zaretsky said. “A law degree is no longer considered a golden ticket thanks to the recession's effects on the legal-job market.”

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