Day 1 of the bar exam is done and tomorrow is the beast we love to call the MBE. So, how did you do today on your essays? The Florida multiple choice? Feel free to vent below. And remember, whether you spend tomorrow in Ontario, California or Tampa, Florida, GIVE YOUR BEST EFFORT.
I was talking to one of the attorneys in my office last week about the bar exam and he kept emphasizing something that I feel compelled to discuss at this point leading up to the bar exam. The key to your success on the bar exam is how neat you organize your essay answers, By this, I mean using headers and key words to properly communicate your understanding of the fact pattern.
You see, my co-worker is a bar tutor for a major bar review company and he reads hundreds of essays every testing period, In other words, he's the kind of overworked attorney who is going to have the pleasure of grading your essays,
As you probably have heard before, these graders spend a very limited amount of time reviewing your work. To some, it might seem shocking that something you spent an hour or more typing can be read and graded in a matter of minutes. The truth is, most of your grade is decided in how you lay out that first page or so of your answer.
Therefore, you want to make a strong impression on your first page. Use headings to identify issues and to also break down the elements of rules.
Here's one of my obsessions. You see, I failed at something last year and I'm going to fix that this year. It's something my family is pretty tired of me talking about but I absolutely deplore failure. The Winsor Trail does not stand a chance. I am coming for it.
Last summer, my family spent two days in Santa fe, New Mexico during our cross country road trip. On the first day, we hiked a small mountain near St. John's College known as Monte Sol. In short, the hike was fun and my children, ages two and seven at the time, fully enjoyed themselves. Emboldened by the first day, we set out on day two on a second, more intense hike. This was a hike that I'd done many times in my twenties. But I was now 42 and a little concerned about my fitness. I dreamed about taking my family on this hike for many months prior to our trip.
To get to this hike, we drove 16 miles up to the Santa Fe ski basin and parked our car 10,350 feet above sea level. Naturally, the air was thinner and as we embarked on the trail, my family peeled off one by one. Within twenty minutes, the only hikers left were me, my daughter, (who I was carrying) and my sister-in-law. I knew beforehand that the initial series of switch backs would be the most challenging part of this hike for me but as I actually hyperventilated on the side of this mountain and grabbed my hips as hikers much older than me breezed past. Not giving up, I picked up my daughter with my left arm and continued up the next switch back, It became clear that my daughter was feeling disoriented from the elevation. None of us were accustomed to hiking a mile and a half above sea level!
After admitting our inability to continue, my sister-and-law and I took turns carrying my daughter as we descended back to the ski basin parking lot. Every step of that hike back to my car felt like the walk of shame. In my mind, I had failed miserably. We spent the rest of our final day in Santa Fe eating amazing food and soaking in the sites of an incredible state capital. The whole time, I scrolled through websites, blogs, maps, and pictures about this trail. I couldn't let this go.
If don't succeed at a goal, I get obsessed about fixing that. This was no different. I decided that I needed to get away for a week to the Southwestern United States. So, I've made plans to hike that trail again in August. I'm not giving up on this.
Tomorrow morning, I am going to wake up at 5 am and hike a trail in the mountains near my home to prepare for what I have to do in August. You may ask, "Why is he obsessed about hiking a mountain?" The best answer that I can provide you is that just because I'm in my forties and hobbled from three bouts with cancer does not mean that I can't finish this hike or anything else that I put my mind to.
I'll leave you with a cheesy slogan I remembered from my Catholic high school football team - Pain is temporary but pride is forever. I can't tell you how many times I've powered through intense pain ONLY because I knew what was on the other side of that pain. Preparing and taking the bar exam doesn't have to be painful, but if it is for you, just remember the goal:
I WANT TO BE A LAWYER.
If you are about to or just graduated from law school, congratulations! If you are taking the July bar exam, you need to know that now is not the time to rest on your laurels. The next step to becoming a lawyer is passing the bar exam. And the competition you experienced in law school is about to significantly intensify. Whereas before you might be the unfortunate victim of forced curve grading in law school, on the bar exam, you either pass or fail - you are either employable or not.
The next two months should be grueling but fun. Because trust me, after you're licensed, most of you will be expected to bill for far more work than you're used to performing.
I wish you the best of luck in this journey,
Hello everyone. It's been some time since I last posted, I know. I am back battling cancer again for a third time as well as working full-time.
I hope everyone had a positive first day at their respective bar exams. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.
I look forward to posting more once I get through this medical ordeal. In the meantime, I'll be thinking of all of you.
Until January 1, 2017, take 20% off your order at checkout. Note: These orders ship FREE via USPS Media Mail.
We are quickly approaching my favorite time of the year - Halloween! Candy and the Great Pumpkin signal cooler weather and fall memories. This is the perfect time to get a jump on your studies for the February 2017 bar exam. Whether you are a repeater who took time off, failed July, or you simply graduate in December, you can gain an edge in your preparation by starting early.
With most commercial bar review courses like Barbri starting their February 2017 courses in mid-December, there is the potential to gain two months of a cushion on your fellow examinees. With that much time, you can really build a solid foundation in the MBE subjects.
How's about an 8 week plan consisting of the following:
Week 1 (October 10) Civil Procedure
Week 2 (October 17) Constitutional Law
Week 3 (October 24) Contracts
Week 4 (October 31) Criminal Law / Criminal Procedure
Week 5 (November 7) Evidence
Week 6 (November 14) Torts
Weeks 7 & 8 (November 21- December 2) Real Property (Extra time for Thanksgiving holiday)
For 5 days during each week of this 8 week plan,(whether you do it Monday-Friday or some altered schedule due to work is up to you), you should plan to:
This can take 2 - 4 hours depending on how fast you work. This is doable. And it can have you feeling more confident and prepared come mid-December regardless of whether you are taking Barbri or studying on your own.
I always appreciate hearing from people as to how they study on their own for bar exams. Feel free to share your story of how you're trying to achieve your dream of becoming a lawyer.
I know it's been nearly a month since the July Florida bar exam but I've been moving and could not post something sooner. In most cases, I will probably omit to mention something you wrote about. Please let me know in the comments section - I would love to hear from you. These posts are just a way to get people talking about issues. Let's get started, shall we?
This is a straight contracts essay with so much to discuss. This was definitely one of those racehorse questions where the eager examinee could have spent far more than 1 hour writing about potential issues. Here, we have Professor, a surgeon with an apparent expertise in artificial limbs. She receives an offer to teach surgery and contact research in the field of surgical procedures for artificial limbs. Businessman Bill solicits Professor to enter business with him to invent and sell DNA test kits. At issue in this fact pattern is Professor's termination without notice and ownership of the patent for the DNA test kit. The call of the essay question asked you to discuss Professor’s rights and responsibilities to University, Bill, and the DNA test kit patent.
The first issue to discuss is whether either contract is valid and enforceable.
Professor v. University
Professor was hired by a private university for a term of five years to teach and conduct research. Crucial to the analysis are two pieces of information: (1) the university owns any patents developed during the 5 years, and (2) Professor’s contract cannot be terminated except for cause with 90 days’ notice.
What law applies? UCC or common law
Common law - This is a services agreement.
We are told in the fact patten's second sentence that University offers Professor a job which "she agrees" to. Now, it is not 100% clear whether "she agrees" is equivalent to "she accepts" the agreement. For the sake of brevity, we will assume that Professor and University entered into a valid contract. However, we do not know from the facts whether Professor signed an employment contract that included all of the language in the press release or whether in fact, the signed press release is being presented as the contract. I will analyze as if the signed press release is the complete terms of the agreement.
Nevertheless, doing the analysis, we get something like this:
For a contract to be valid, there must be an offer, acceptance, consideration, and no valid defenses to contract formation.
Professor is offered a job at University where she will teach surgical procedures for artificial limbs and conduct research in that area, with the University owning any patents she develops during this time. Professor is to be paid $250,000 a year for five years and cannot be terminated except for cause upon 90 days' notice.
Professor signs a copy of the press release and delivers it to the University's President on her first day of work.
Yes, $250,000 per year for 5 years in return for teaching and research.
Statute of Frauds - This agreement cannot be performed within 1 year. As such, the agreement needed to be in writing and signed by the person to be charged.
Due Process - Professor's agreement required a 90 day notice for termination for cause. You can waste valuable time here arguing whether University had cause to terminate (definitely possible) but the real issue is she was terminated without notice. You could write a nice paragraph about how the termination was a Due Process violation.
Expectation damages - Professor could collect 4 years of salary at $250,000 annually for a total of $1,000,000, reduced by the salary from Professor's new job producing DNA test kits (Duty to mitigate).
University will contend that if they are liable to pay Professor the remaining balance of salary on the 5 year contract, then the provision granting University ownership of any patents developed by Professor during this time period should also be enforced.
Professor will counter that she signed an agreement she understood gave University ownership of any artificial limb patents developed during the duration of the contract. Since the development of the DNA test kit is not a result of her teaching and research as part of her University duties, she will contend that she owns the patent for the DNA test kit.
Professor v. Bill
Professor received a written proposal by businessman Bill to produce and sell DNA test kits created by Professor. The proposal also included a licensing agreement providing that: (1) Bill has exclusive rights to DNA test kits developed by Professor, (2) Bill will pay Professor $5,000 for each kit produced, and (3) Professor receives a 25% interest in the company if an item is produced in the next five years. Further attached to the letter is a schedule of infomercials for Professor to tape and a non-compete clause.
What law applies? UCC or common law
Was there a valid contract between Professor and Bill?
Letter, licensing agreement, schedule, and non-compete form.
Professor signs letter and writes, “We’ll see how it goes.”
She changes $5,000 fee to $75,000. Is this a counteroffer? Accepted by Bill?
Mailbox Rule - Professor's acceptance effective when she mails documents back to Bill
Professor is to develop DNA test kits. Bill will pay Professor $5,000 for each idea that is produced. Professor will receive a 25% interest in the company if any item is produced in the next five years.
Statute of Frauds - not applicable
Valid acceptance? Changing the compensation on the licensing agreement from $5000 to $75000 is materially significant.
Modification/ Accord and Satisfaction - If Professor's alterations to the licensing agreement are viewed by the court as a modification, Bill would contend that Professor cashing the second check for $10,000 created an accord and satisfaction.
Does Professor never taping infomercials matter? It appears that the company made its' fortune as a result of Bill's controversial ads.
Non-Compete clause - A 10 year non-compete agreement in an employment contract will generally not be upheld by the court.
Promissory Estoppel - Would Professor, Bill, or University be unfairly compensated?
However you argued for or against valid contracts, I would conclude with the likelihood of Professor owning her DNA test kit patent as well as compensation that might be owed to University and Bill.
What do you think about this essay?
Greetings everyone! We've been moving and traveling all over the United States. Anyhow, we're back to business.
The July 2017 California bar exam tested the following subjects:
The subject of discussion by nearly everyone was the California civil procedure essay where a case was filed in a California state court.
What were your thoughts on the California essays?
With only 3 days until the July 2016 bar exam, PaulLaw Books is pleased to announce that we are now taking pre-orders for the 2017 books. For a limited time (until September 1st), you can save 20% on all of our products. As always, we ship to you via USPS Priority Mail.
Currently, PaulLaw Books is in the process of moving our offices and updating the outlines to reflect changes for 2017. Specifically, the scope of Real Property coverage on the MBE will change beginning with the February 2017 MBE.
Now, the MBE will include the following Real Property topics:
Additionally, outlines will be updated to reflect changes happening in your jurisdiction.
We anticipate pre-orders will ship at the end of August 2016. Order now and save!
Yesterday, I saw a Twitter post by a reputable bar review company that caters to repeat takers, especially those who are older with families. The tweet basically said that what you need to do the last two weeks before the bar exam is practice, practice, practice. In another tweet yesterday, they stated that by now, you should have memorized as much law as you can. But what if this is not the case?
Now, I'm not advocating that for the remaining twelve days you never do another MBE practice question or essay. However, you have a finite amount of time left to study and your preparations could be better spent memorizing and retaining as much black letter law as you can fit in your brain.
I see very little benefit from the last two weeks being spent on typing out practice essay answers or doing practice MBE questions. Chances are that these exercises will not optimize your limited study time. How many Rule Against Perpetuities questions do you really think you're going to see on the actual MBE?
For bar takers, especially those who are repeaters or burdened with jobs and families, the biggest challenge is to memorize enough law to think and write like a lawyer on the bar exam. If you've taken and failed a bar exam, you know the experience of writing an answer to a performance test or essay. However, you may not have a mental game plan for answering a contracts or trusts essay. That is why I disagree with a bar prep course's strategy to practice, practice, practice for the final two weeks.
Something I like to call "deep learning" will give you time to think about subjects and every nuance you must address to achieve a passing essay score. In 2013, I made some essay strategy materials for the Florida bar exam to give bar takers a roadmap for frequently tested subjects. I posted them on this blog (search for the June 2013 posts). Use these as a starting point for your own final deep memorization of bar exam subjects.
If you've only done 500 MBE practice questions at this point, it is very unlikely that practicing 500 more over the next twelve days will significantly improve your score. However, you can spend quality time memorizing and truly absorbing black letter law and its' exceptions. I'm not referring to a quick run through outlines. Rather, I'm talking about deep understanding of the material in your possession. Your comprehension should be so thorough that you could teach the subject to your mother. It's kind of like mindfulness for bar takers.
Good luck and study hard!
I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July tomorrow. Celebrate, but remember that it is very easy to get derailed celebrating the 4th of July on a Monday. Try to do 25 MBE questions or spend a couple of hours studying outlines. Whatever you do, make it productive. Do not party harder than you study over the next 3 weeks. Good luck!
If you're in southern California or traveling to southern California from another place to take the bar exam, chances are, you're spending three or more days in Ontario, California. It's not as bad as it sounds though. I am here to give you some practical advice for making the most of your time in the Inland Empire.
Fortunately, there are plenty of lodging options near the convention center easily within walking distance of your bar exam. I like the Holiday Inn for it's price, proximity, and shuttle that took me to and from the airport. There are tons of options here and you've probably already reserved a room so there's no need to belabor here.
I would say that depending on your diet, the food options near the convention center are limited. You can walk to a Marie Callendars, Denny's, In-and-Out, and Wendy's. There is a Stater Bros. supermarket that will probably require you to use transportation to get to. Nearby is a cool Mexican market called Cardenas.
The Ontario convention center is a huge place to take the bar exam. If you are typing your exam, you will be grouped in a very large hall that can hold thousands of examinees. I am told the room for writers is large as well. If commotion and noise are a problem for you, then I strongly implore you to seek out the best earplugs you can find because the sound of over one thousand people typing in this cavernous space can be distracting. The hall can also get cold so dress in layers.
The biggest issue I noticed in the convention center was the layout of power strips for the bar exam. Be prepared for days one and three by having an extension cord that works and is long enough to reach the power strips. Additionally, I would recommend having a good battery in your laptop. There are countless stories of examinees not having proper access to electricity in this room.
During my bar exam, someone at the table in front of me kicked a power strip, causing it to detach from the main extension cord. Although I was fine without power due to my relatively new Macbook Pro's long-lasting battery, my table mate's laptop ran out of power and shutoff during the last essay of the first day. Clearly, distressed, she had to flag down a proctor and handwrite the rest of her answer. The proctor was slow to respond to her and obviously, she wasted valuable time. Keep in mind that nobody noticed that this person in front of me did this to the power strip until it happened. Nevertheless, it was a huge distraction to my table mate as well as everyone around her.
There are bathrooms located at the front of the hall though I must warn you that there are occasional lines to use them. I would advise you to use the bathrooms outside your room before entering. If you are seated upfront near the bathrooms, I hope you have earplugs. I've heard people vomiting in the bathrooms during the exam and I've also seen people faint during testing, only to be removed on a stretcher. The pressures of the bar exam can overwhelm some people so do not be surprised if you see people becoming violently ill due to stress and illness.
The lunchtime breaks during the bar exam are best spent in your hotel room, especially if you are within walking distance to your room. Some hotels allow you to order room service in advance so you have a meal waiting for you when you get back to your room. The scene around the convention center during lunch is the opposite of relaxing. I've seen lots of conversations discussing issues missed on essays or MBE questions that were difficult. These social interactions only increase anxiety and I advise people to avoid them by returning to their room to have some alone time.
Remember to procure a working analog watch for the exam. You will not be allowed to bring in a digital watch. Be prepared with a good timepiece because unlike Florida, there is no clock on the wall to rely on during the exam.
Undoubtedly, the last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of July in Ontario, California will be an experience you will never forget. If you've put in the work and prepared accordingly, you will never have to experience it again.
It is very likely that you are devoting a significant amount of time these days to memorizing law in anticipation of the July bar exam. If you are struggling to retain this knowledge, you might want to try exercising four hours after studying.
Why four hours? Well, a study published in the journal Current Biology found that physical exercise after learning improves memory and memory traces, but only if you exercise four hours after learning. The scientists discovered that those who exercised four hours after their learning session retained the information better two days later than those who exercised either immediately or not at all. It is still unclear why the delayed exercise has such an effect on memory.
If you are struggling to memorize the elements of crimes or torts, you might want to go for a run or hit the gym four hours after studying. It couldn't hurt to try.
With the Florida bar exam a mere 30 days away, now is the time to really memorize law. Every year I receive e-mails asking me what subjects do I think are going to be tested on the Florida bar exam. There is no responsible way for me to respond because my prognostications are never 100% accurate. I always tell students to study like EVERYTHING is going to be tested on the Florida bar exam. That way, you won't be disappointed with me when the test is over.
However, there is one area of law that I can guarantee will appear on the Florida bar exam essays. I am referring to ethics or as the 2016 Florida Bar Review refers to this topic - Florida Professional Responsibility and Florida Professionalism. In other words, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners wants to see from your essay answers if you possess the ability to not only think like a lawyer but behave like one as well.
If you review recent essay questions from Florida bar exams, you will see how frequently ethics is tested. The February 2016 bar exam asked you to discuss ethical considerations in essay questions 1 and 3. The July 2015 Florida bar exam had an attorney ethics component in all 3 essay questions.
I know that the last month of studying for an important exam such as the Florida bar exam can be stressful and overwhelming. There is so much information being thrown at you by commercial bar courses. It can be daunting to reach a point where you feel prepared for this test. This is a natural emotion to have.
Attorneys must self regulate their behavior and the Florida Board of Bar Examiners expects you to know when an action is ethical or unethical. Understanding your responsibilities as a lawyer to your client, court, and society is imperative. Take the time to focus on professional ethics in your bar studies and that work will pay off for you on the exam.
My 1L year in law school was a harsh, brutal learning experience. Admittedly, I struggled to ascertain how to write law school exam essay answers that earned "A"s rather than the "B"s and "B+"s I was receiving. Whereas I was surrounded by classmates who had parents or significant others who were attorneys or judges, I knew no one in the legal profession. I was clueless as to how to think like a lawyer.
During the summer after my 1L year in law school, I took a class with Richard Michael Fischl. He suggested that I read his book, Getting to Maybe to improve my essay writing skills. I sought out a copy on Amazon and when it arrived, I spent the better part of a week reading and absorbing the book's wisdom. This book helped me improve my GPA by almost one letter grade. If you are struggling with writing passing essays on the bar exam, then you might want to get this book.
So many bar exam essay questions are open-ended, asking the examinee to analyze the problem whilst considering the potential of multiple outcomes based on the fact pattern. Yet, so many bar examinees only write about one "fork" of the problem, leaving others unmentioned. This is a surefire way to achieve a failing score on an essay.
Let me provide you with a basic example of how stress and time constraints, coupled with inadequate preparation, can cause an examinee to miss certain points to discuss on a bar exam essay. Say for example you encounter a criminal law/criminal procedure/evidence crossover essay question concerning the admissibility of a gun used during the commission of a crime. It would be inadvisable to only write an answer containing analysis and a conclusion that the gun is inadmissible because of the exclusionary rule. The better essay answer would argue both sides of whether the gun is admissible, discussing limitations on the exclusionary rule, the 4th Amendment, and any other pertinent law. This is how you demonstrate your ability to think like a lawyer.
My entire first year of law school consisted of me writing "binary" answers on law school exam essays. I always wrote about whether something was admissible or not. I never discussed both possibilities in my answers and I paid dearly for this foolishness. Professor Fischl's book trained me to think about the "forks" in law school exam fact patterns and how to write my answer accordingly.
Of course, not every bar exam essay requires you to think like this. If you encounter a contracts essay question concerning the sale of widgets, you would be wasting valuable time spending 10 minutes on why the common law might apply. Furthermore, it might not be prudent to pick up Getting to Maybe with the bar exam only a month away. However, if you are feeling unsure about your writing habits, this book might be worth your effort to skim for helpful tips. I know it helped me immensely.
Hi everyone. Due to recent events in my neighborhood of Orlando, the blog has been quiet. The last seven days have been tough for Orlando. Just last night, a two year-old lost his life not ten minutes from my office - to an alligator!
In the coming days, there will be several blog posts addressing the Florida and California bar exams. Thank you for your patience and pray for Orlando.
I receive so many questions about how to prepare for the Florida bar exam's 100 multiple-choice questions on the first day. They make taking this exam somewhat challenging. Yes, Texas has the Procedure and Evidence questions and New York has the New York Law Exam. However, neither can induce the same type of headache produced by these Florida questions.
The Florida multiple-choice questions are a very important component of the exam and they should not be overlooked during your studies. Countless students have told me over the years how they barely studied for this part of the test, deciding to concentrate solely on the Florida essays and the MBE. This is foolish and I do not recommend this strategy.
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners explicitly state in their study guide multiple-choice examination instructions that the three afternoon segments count the same as the morning ones. Therefore, why would anyone only prepare for one-half of a day of testing? That's exam suicide! I recommend that examinees explore all of the study guides found here to fully understand what they might encounter over day 1 of the Florida bar exam.
The Florida multiple-choice questions has 3 segments. Segment 1 ALWAYS test the Florida Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure. ALWAYS. If you don't like surprises on exams, then you should feel relieved to know that you can expect approximately 33 questions on these subjects. Segments 2 and 3 can be any combination of the following 3 subjects: (1) Business Entities, (2) Evidence, and (3) Wills and Administrations of Estates. To complicate things further, a particular testing might include a majority of questions under a subject focusing on a specific area such as partnerships or hearsay.
The Florida study guide contains two important sentences telling you what kinds of questions you might encounter on this portion of the exam: "Some of the multiple-choice items on the Florida prepared portion of the examination will include a performance component. Applicants will be required to read and apply a portion of actual Florida rules of procedure, statutes and/or court opinions that will be included in the text of the question." This performance component of some questions is what can add to the afternoon fatigue caused by the multiple-choice questions.
Making your brain spin further is that many of the questions are not entirely straightforward with the correct answers. For example, you may have studied Florida civil procedure from your commercial bar review outlines and then encounter a multiple-choice question on the first day where both a plaintiff and defendant enter motions for summary judgment after the closing of pleadings. The question asks you to select the "correct statement" followed by several choices that might look appealing to you, especially if you are not 100% confident in your knowledge of Florida civil procedure. You will, in some cases, have to organize bar outline knowledge in your head to select the correct answer. This is not unlike the skills you must refine to answer some questions on the MBE.
In some instances, the Florida multiple-choice exam will ask you to make a decision on one question that affects your answer on another question, For example, a question might test a Florida/FRE distinction on former testimony. Should you answer incorrectly on one question, the odds are you will get the second question wrong as well. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you master the distinctions between the FRE and Florida rules in Evidence, as well as distinctions unique to Florida civil and criminal procedure.
People often ask me what is the best resource for practicing Florida multiple-choice questions. Other than the Florida Board of Examiner's study guides, I recommend procuring Barbri's Florida Testing Volume I & II. These two books can be found used on Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist. They contain great practice questions for each subject and it is worth your time to do every question for each subject. I have not review the Kaplan or Themis Florida multiple-choice questions but I have had some examinees tell me that they liked the Kaplan questions as well.
Barbri's questions are particularly useful for practicing the difference between per stirpes and per capita distributions in a Wills and Administrations of Estates question. Ultimately, even Barbri's questions cannot properly simulate everything you will see on this part of the Florida bar exam. Some of the actual questions are quite challenging and I have never encountered a commercial bar review that properly simulated their style and level of difficulty. So what can you do to maximize your preparations?
I tell students that the most simple way to prepare is to memorize "numbers and lists." For example, when conceptualizing deadlines in Florida civil procedure, memorize the number of days for timeliness of service or waiver or service. I made flashcards for this purpose and I was not surprised to see some of these numbers tested on the actual exam. Same for lists - memorize things like the permitted endings for Limited Liability Partnerships.
Lastly, mastering the material in your outlines will help you to raise your scores on the multiple-choice segments. I always tell students that the Florida multiple-choice is about damage control. You want to avoid missing those questions that should be "gimmes." PaulLaw's 2016 Florida Bar Exam Review does a good job of distinguishing between Florida and federal law where applicable in critical subjects such as Evidence.
Overall, the material you need to master to do well on the Florida multiple-choice questions is not mysterious. Anyone can obtain a passing knowledge, but in many instances, you will have to manipulate this information and commit to proper application to correctly answer questions. Just as some MBE questions lack straightforward "obvious" answers, the Florida multiple-choice questions demand that examinees use their lawyerly reasoning skills to choose the correct answer. You can be successful on this exam with good outlines and a decent selection of practice questions.
Good luck in your studies!
Continuing my discussion of health and bar exam study, I offer the following suggestion: if you are thinking of quitting a habit during your bar exam studies, don't do it. While I do not condone bad habits such as smoking, you have too much at stake during these crucial months to undertake such a huge lifestyle change.
I think it was Richard Freer in a Barbri lecture that commented if you smoke pot, do not decide to quit leading up to the bar exam. You will not be focused on the task of studying for the bar exam. You will be thinking about how you miss smoking marijuana.
Likewise, the months leading up to the bar exam are not the time to enter into a new relationship with a significant other or break up from someone. A positive mental state is important during this period.
A singular focus on passing the bar exam is imperative. If smoking cigarettes help you to concentrate on lectures or study outlines, then continue to smoke. You can concentrate on kicking the habit after the bar exam. You can make a stronger effort to quit after you take and pass one of the most stressful exams you will ever take.
Undoubtedly, some of you spent your law school years getting much less than 8 hours of sleep nightly. Between the homework and social activities, law school can teach anyone how to survive on little sleep. However, this routine is not recommended during your bar preparations, and definitely not for the week of the actual test.
Researchers in Germany found that students who slept seven hours a night during exams scored nearly 10 percent higher on tests than those students who got less sleep. You can read their findings here.
Researchers have also discovered that optimal performance on exams means finding a sleeping pattern that has you waking up around test time every day for a week or so in advance, thereby allowing your biological clock to acclimate to the test day schedule. This is especially important if, for example, you live in Washington D.C., but you are taking the California bar exam. You should devote at least a week before the exam waking up three hours earlier to align your biological clock to your new time zone.
Most importantly, good sleep and deep learning are crucial in the months leading up to the actual bar exam. Do not decide that you're going to cram learning the intricacies of the Statute of Frauds the night before the MBE. Deep learning requires an intensive commitment to learning material well before the exam, This way, you can review the night before the test and still achieve a proper night's rest.
Over the past 10 years, I've heard it all - examinees tell me about how they stayed up all night studying, too nervous or lacking in knowledge or confidence to submit to sleep. In almost every case, they failed the bar exam. The same goes for the night before the MBE. People tell me how they did 100 questions the night before the test, leaving them exhausted for the 200 question marathon the next day.
Folks, if you do not know a particular area of law tested on the bar exam the night before the exam, review your materials and force yourself to sleep seven to eight hours. There will be plenty of legal concepts that seem tenuous in your mind the day of the exam - this is natural for most people. Your best strategy is to let it go, understand you've done everything you could to prepare, and make it your goal to get a good night's sleep.
On Friday, May 13, the State Bar of California released the results for the February 2016
bar exam. 35.7 percent of the applicants passed the February 2016 General Bar Exam.
This is actually a lower pass rate than February 2015. in fact, you have to go back to
February 2010 to find a lower percentage passing. What's really disconcerting is that
the total number of examinees taking the February 2016 General Bar Exam was lower
than in February 2015.
43.1 percent of those taking the February 2016 Attorney's Exam passed. This is a few
percentage points lower than last February but once again, there were less attorneys
taking the exam this past February.
Fortunately for you first-timers, the July testing consistently produces higher pass rates. However, don't expect 60%+ passing. The last time that happened was in July 2008 during the infamous earthquake bar exam where scores were adjusted in some cases due to an earthquake that shook Southern California on day one of the bar exam.
When you're fresh out of law school and saddled with student loan debt, money can be tight; especially when you're not working.
For most, opting to pay for a commercial bar review course is a no-brainer. They've paid their deposit on the course since their 1L year.
However, if you've decided to forego paying thousands of dollars to a commercial bar review company, there are some things you can do to study smart for little or no money.
Fortunately, there is one inexpensive way to prepare for bar exam essays. Chances are, your state bar's website publishes past essays and model answers. There are enormous benefits to reviewing these materials.
If you are taking the California bar exam, past essays and performance tests can be found here. The Florida bar has an extensive collection of past essays dating to July 2003 that can be found here. Texas questions and answers can be found here.
The usefulness of past essays and performance tests is obvious - you can see exactly what a jurisdiction tested on a prior exam. In many cases, you will see patterns develop as to what topics are touched upon in essays. For example, if you encounter a past California community property essay, there is a good chance (although not a certainty) that you will have to discuss Van Camp and Pereira. There was actually a California community property essay a few years back where a spouse started a business during the marriage so Van Camp and Pereira did not apply (see February 2003 Essay #6).
Likewise, past Florida essays focused on topics that reoccur rather frequently on exams. For example, a Florida Constitutional Law essay might beg you to discuss the Homestead property exemption. Once you read enough of these essays, you begin to see patterns form in terms of what material is tested.
However, the usefulness of model answers from past essays is less clear. In California, the model essays might be intimidating. Some of them are rather long and you might ask yourself as you read them, "How did anyone find the time to type all of this?" Contrast this with Florida's model answers where you can find numerous misstatements of black letter law. So how should the average person preparing for the bar exam use these model answers?
For the California bar exam, model answers can serve as motivational tools for how to write a passing essay. Beyond their length, you will see that the answers selected to be printed are rather complete in their discussion of the essay subject. Where there is an ambiguity, multiple outcomes are discussed. In a jurisdiction such as California where bar graders value analysis in essay answers, you can benefit from reading two examples per essay of what good analysis looks like.
California model answers can also help you improve your issue spotting skills. It is very helpful to read past essay questions, then write or type out your answers to them before reviewing the model answers. Afterwards, you can see if you missed discussing Lucas and Anti-Lucas on a particular community property essay or a purchase money resulting trust on a trusts essay. Passing performance on the California bar exam's essays involves discussing a myriad of topics in a given subject and if you miss one or two of these in your answer, you could be looking at failure. Therefore, use the model essay answers to hone your issue spotting when it matters.
Florida model answers are great for issue spotting. The benefit to reading many model essay answers in preparation for the Florida bar exam is that you can really refine your issue spotting capabilities. I still remember spending hours with a group of friends going over all of the past Florida essays to practice spotting issues. The Florida model answers can also be of value for their analysis but you have to be aware that the Florida bar does not edit these essays so some of them contain typos and incorrect statements of law.
I truly believe that there is immense value in taking the time to review past essays on bar exams. American Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke at length about the necessity to grasp the past as a guide to the future. If you can develop an understanding of what your state's bar exam has tested, then you will be better prepared for your own experience in July. And besides, it costs nothing but your time to gain this insight.
There are so many pearls of wisdom about the different ways that people prepare for success on the Multistate Bar Exam. I thought it might be appropriate to discuss some of them. As I always state, people learn differently and a method that works for you might not be appropriate for someone else. Let's examine the different ways, shall we?
How To Read The Question
Although I cannot remember how the big commercial bar review courses suggest that you read each question, I've had countless discussions with lawyers about the most appropriate method. I'll discuss a few of them here.
The most obvious way to handle MBE questions is by reading the fact pattern and then choosing from the answers. For many people, this method will work just fine. However, there are some reasons for using another method - you may read slowly, carelessly, etc.. In those cases, you might consider reading the answer choices first.
Reading the answer choices first has several advantages. Most importantly, reading through the answer choices will give you invaluable insight as to the subject of the question. I cannot tell you how many times I started reading a lengthy MBE fact pattern and inferred from the first few sentences that the question was a criminal law or real property question and then the call of the question asked me about constitutional law. Had I known what subject I needed to filter the fact pattern through, I might not have wasted time by re-reading a fact pattern.
Another advantage to reading the call of the question and answer choices first is that you can cherry pick pertinent language in the fact pattern to focus on. For example, if you know that a question is about evidentiary privileges, you can read the fact pattern and determine which spousal privilege applies (the communications privilege or the testimonial privilege) and select the appropriate answer. Often times, the MBE will test your knowledge of distinctions and there will be two questions on that distinction on either the AM or PM session so that if you make the wrong choice on one, you've actually gotten two incorrect questions. If you have a tendency to do this, you might consider not only fortifying your knowledge of black letter law but also reading questions differently.
Some examinees read the fact pattern, then read the call of the question, then read the fact pattern again. If you are a fast reader and feel that a second read is necessary, this strategy might be for you. Other people read the call of the question, then the fact pattern, and then the call and answer choices. There is merit to this method as well because you really get a sense of what the NCBE is looking for in this question.
Whatever your reading method is, decide early enough in your studies so that it sticks with you in July. You do not want to experiment with how you read an MBE question in the middle of July. Find what works for you now and refine the technique.
To Mark Up A Fact Pattern Or Not?
Some people swear that underlying pertinent words in a fact pattern helps them to make answer choices. There is some merit to this technique, especially if you find yourself constantly getting tricked on MBE questions or you simply do not read as carefully as you should.
Underlining allows your mind to slow down for a few seconds to process what the fact pattern is implying you to solve. Ask yourself, "Why is this word or set of words in this fact pattern?" There might be a word that clarifies whether a person is a licensee or invitee in a torts question. The NCBE is not in the business of creating MBE questions with multiple correct answers. Therefore, it is your job to determine what is the best answer. If this means you need to underline specific words or sentences to make the correct choice, then by all means do so.
The Bubble Problem
If you've taken multiple choice tests long enough, you probably know someone who mis-bubbled their answers on a Scantron causing them to fail the exam. This happens on the MBE more than most people would like to admit. When you are in a pressure-filled situation in a room with hundreds of stressed, nervous people, you can make this kind of mistake.
It has been advocated that to avoid the bubble problem, you should circle your answers in the booklet and then transfer them at the end of the exam. However, there are some obvious pitfalls to this strategy which deserve mentioning.
For starters, if you are slow on the MBE and you find yourself running out of time, you will not have time to bubble in your answers on the answer sheet. This would be a mistake that would almost certainly seal your failure on the bar exam. A potential work-around to this problem would be to bubble in your answers every 20-50 questions. I personally decided early on to read and answer 50 questions each sessions, circling the answers in my booklet. Then, after approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, I would stop and carefully transfer my answers to the answer sheet. Although my process is not for everyone, it worked for me. I never mis-bubbled an answer sheet.
Gauging The Questions
It is difficult to gauge your performance in the moment during one of the most stressful exams of your life. However, I did develop a system of annotation in my test booklets based on advice from bar tutors that allowed me to identify, revisit, and revise MBE questions before committing to bubbling the answers on the answer sheet.
When I circled answers in my test booklets before transferring them, I marked questions in my booklet with a "?" where I was not certain of the correct answer. Additionally, I circled two answers in my booklet where I was uncertain of the correct choice but whittled down the correct answer to one of two choices. Then, during my review before transferring, I would make a final decision on what I thought was the correct answer. Doing this provided with me data and perspective as to how I performed on the MBE.
As a general rule for me, I view MBE questions as belonging to one of four categories. Out of 200 questions, 10 are experimental questions. The remaining 190 questions are roughly distributed in 3 categories: 33% are gimme questions, 33% are 50-50 questions, and 33% are wtf questions.
A gimme question is an MBE question that your average examinee should know the correct answer to without much deliberation. It is difficult for me to describe a gimme question other than by saying that you'll know it when you see it.
The 50-50 questions are those MBE questions where two answers look really good to you. This may be because you don't know a legal distinction as well as you should or the question is really asking you to select the best answer and two answers look good. There are a myriad of reasons as to why someone might focus on two answers and I will address them in another post. However, for now, you need to be aware of the 50-50 question.
Lastly, the wtf question is an MBE question that makes your head spin. It might test some obscure part of the Fair Housing Act in a constitutional law fact pattern. It might be some real property issue your bar outlines completely omitted. Whatever the case, you see this question and no answers stand out to you.
Your percentage of correct answers on gimme questions, 50-50s, and wtfs will depend on your knowledge of the law, your multiple choice test skills, and various other factors. Whatever your situation, you should be able to recognize an obviously easy gimme question versus one that you have whittled the answer down to two options.
How To Treat Practice MBE Questions
All of the big commercial bar review courses have their own MBE practice questions. And each of these companies' questions have their strengths and weaknesses. Whatever questions you use to study, how do you use them in your studies?
If you're like me, you do 50-100 practice questions, then review the answers, paying particular attention to the ones you missed. However, there is a competing theory that rather than devoting an inordinate amount of time on the questions you missed, you should focus on WHY you got a question correct.
The ideal review of practice MBE questions would focus on all of the questions, wrong and right. However, with study time at a premium, often this is not possible. Understanding why you got a question wrong is important because it will inform you what areas of law you are weak in. Reviewing your correct answers can eliminate the need to do more practice questions in a given area, thereby saving you some study time.
Whatever your study habits and skill set, you have to figure out the techniques that work for you. The goal is to pass the bar exam so you need to determine what MBE score will permit you do achieve this. Every reputable bar review course will provide you with this information so that you can set numerical goals during your studies.
There are so many different ways to approach the MBE. Some people are confident, bordering cocky in their studies. For them, a 160 or 170 scaled is a mere formality. For most people, a combination of doing 50 to 7o practice questions daily on top of rigorous study of the law is necessary. This blog post is merely a conversation starter to get you thinking about what is the best way for you to succeed in July. I sincerely wish you the best in your MBE studies!
If then end of law school is near, you are most likely finished or nearing completion of your law school exams. Looking past cocktail parties, family obligations, and graduation ceremonies, in less than a month, many of you will receive a huge box in the mail from Barbri or Kaplan or Themis with lots of books for your summer bar studies. This can be intimidating and over the years, I've fielded my fair share of nervous requests for advice on how to proceed.
When I was a 3L in law school, I studied nothing but tax. I arranged my courseload during my second year so that I could pursue an LL.M. in tax during my third year. My 3L second semester was brutal - filled with time-consuming classes such as inbound and outbound taxation, consolidation returns, and international tax treaties. After I graduated in May, I was stuck in a funk. My whole life was focused on tax. I could not recalibrate to study torts, contracts, constitutional law, criminal law, property, and especially evidence. If you are anything like I was, your 3L endeavors might make it difficult to revisit concepts from your first year of law school.
My biggest piece of advice for those new to studying for a bar exam is to treat it like a job. After graduation and the family leaves to return home, you need to begin studying for your exam. Aim for 8 hour days, especially if you are preparing for the California or Florida bar exams. Of course, there will be those who will say that you can get by studying 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week. While this is certainly true in a limited number of cases, if this turns out to not be true for your individual circumstances, you will be back in a large room typing away in February with everybody else who failed in July. The point is: don't let overconfidence or laziness prevent you from achieving your goal.
There are some with personal situations that make 8 hours of study per day prohibitive. These people may have small children or jobs or another situation which takes a significant chunk of their time. If this is you, then you need to study when you can apportion time. If the baby is asleep, study. If you're at work on a break, bust out your Conviser and read it. Never regret downtime that you didn't use wisely to study for the bar exam.
If you had a robust social life in law school, then you probably want to curtail it during the summer. If you want a good example of what could happen, watch A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar. There is a UCLA law grad in this documentary who foregoes her studying to socialize. Furthermore, she is arrogant in regards to her knowledge of law on the California bar exam. Needless to say, she re-takes (and passed) the California bar exam.
Lastly, if you've paid thousands of dollars for a commercial bar review course, then get the most out of it. This means, listening to the lectures, doing the exercises, and write the essays to be graded. Having feedback from professionals during your summer will give you a way to gauge your progress.
I wish everyone a productive summer. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.