Archive for June, 2010

Essay Writing for the Bar Exam: Organization and Analysis

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2010 by barprofs

In order to write a successful essay answer you must learn to organize your answer as your analyze the fact pattern.

Once you read the fact pattern, you will organize your essay, then you must analyze.

This is where you make the outline looking for issues. Look back to the fact pattern for facts which should be used for applying the law and then you can apply the facts to the law.

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Strategies for the California Performance Test and the Multistate Performance Tests

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 by barprofs

The California Performance Test and the Multistate Performance Test (the MPT) is designed to test your proficiency in the basic skills you’ve developed in the course of your legal education and not just your ability to memorize.  The goal of the MPT is to test an applicant’s ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation.  It seeks to evaluate your ability to complete a task which a beginning lawyer should be able to accomplish.

In most jurisdictions, you’ll have 90 minutes to read through 15 to 25 pages, analyze the problem, outline an answer, and write a response.  In California, you’ll see one long MPT for 3 hours.  Thus, the MPT is a test of your ability to work within time constraints and remain focused and organized.

The MPT tests the following:

1)      Reading Comprehension

You must read proactively, with a critical eye toward solving a specific problem rather than answering a professor’s questions in class.  You must read carefully and quickly, while you search for useful information and answers to the particular issue you’ve been asked to resolve.

2)      Organizational Skills

You must organize your time and the materials effectively to complete the required task in the time allowed.  The MPT is extremely time-sensitive.  You must analyze an assortment of unfamiliar materials and compose either a memorandum of law, a letter to a client, a persuasive brief, a contract provision, a will, a settlement proposal, a discovery plan, or a closing argument, to list but a few of the possibilities.

3)      Communication Skills

You must write concisely, coherently, and in  a tone and manner consistent with the nature of the assignment.  You must demonstrate your mastery of the language of the law and convince the bar examination that you “sound” like an attorney ready to begin the practice of law.

4)      Ability to Follow Directions

The MPT is task-specific.  You must perform the task identified to receive credit.   If you are instructed to write a letter to the client, do that.  Do not do a brief or a memo; write the letter.  Show the bar examiners that you can read and follow directions.

The Performance Test: California and Multistate PTs

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2010 by barprofs

The California Performance Test and the Multistate Performance Test simulates the experiences of a new attorney. 

You’ll be given a client “File” and asked to complete what would be considered a typical assignment for a first year associate.  Most likely, you’ll be asked to write a legal memorandum or persuasive brief, although it is possible to be asked to draft interrogatories, a will provision or a closing argument.  Although you may not have performed all of these types of tasks during law school, the bar examiners expect you to be able to follow their instruction memo and rely on your basic legal training to complete the assignment.

Each task is designed to test your legal skills such as fact analysis, fact gathering, legal analysis and reasoning, problem solving and ethical issue problems.

The Components of the CPT and the MPT

The File

Here you’ll find the factual information about your case in the form of:

  • Excerpts from deposition testimony
  • Client correspondence
  • Police reports and medical records
  • Invoices and purchase orders
  • Witness interviews
  • Contract provisions, a lease, or a will.

While the File contains all the facts you need to know about your problem, it also contains irrelevant information just as in real life where your client will volunteer much more information than you actually need.  The File will include irrelevant or ambiguous information, unreliable and conflicting witness testimony and inconsistent statements.

The “Task” Memo

This is the first memorandum in the File and the single most important piece of paper in the File.  It introduces your problem and identifies your task.  Your job is to answer the questions presented in the memo and perform the assigned task as precisely as possible.

The Instruction Memo

If the bar examiners think you need guidance in completing your task, they’ll include a second memo in the File.  This memo will tell you exactly what to include in your answer.  Sometimes the examiners tell you what not to include in your answer.

The Library

The Library contains all the legal authorities you’ll need to complete the assigned task.  They are the only legal authorities you may use to solve the problem.  The Library may consist of: 

  • Statues, codes and commentaries
  • Constitutional provisions and regulations
  • Rules of professional conduct
  • Cases
  • Secondary sources such as Reinstatement provisions

The cases may be actual cases, modified cases, or cases written specifically for the exam.  The rules also may be actual rules or rules written specifically for the exam.  Even if you think you are familiar with a rule or a case from law school, you must still read all the material in the Library.  You cannot assume that the material has not been modified.

Your Study Plan for the Bar

Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2010 by barprofs

In addition to putting in the study time, you need to learn how to maximize your study time.   How do you go about getting the biggest bang out of your study time? 

First, build a good, solid foundation of the black letter law.  In order to have a good foundation, you must review each bar exam subject.  Go through each subject, one by one and absorb each subject as best you can.  As you go through the subject, make sure you understand the basic law before you move on.

To build a foundation of the law, you need to break the subject areas into more manageable components.  Break your subject into topics. And go through the elements of the topics of each subject.

What I mean by that is to take a subject, like Torts.  Then break the Tort subject down to topics, i.e. Negligence.   Do you know all the elements of negligence?  Do you know the elements of battery?  You can outline it and/or make sure you know it by heart before you move on.  You can do that memorization by reciting it or writing it down without looking at your notes or outlines.

Once you feel you know that topic, do a few essay questions and some MBE on that topic just so you know you have it.   

Don’t scatter-shoot your studying.  Learn the topic thoroughly before you move on to your next topic in the subject area.  Don’t go through the topics of the subject areas all at once, i.e. don’t go through battery, assault, false imprisonment and not know each one by heart.  Stop at battery, recite it, do some MBE and then move to assault, and false imprisonment and the other topics of Torts.  Do this for every topic in every subject.  You do not want to read your subject outlines like a novel. 

Read, learn, recite, memorize, test yourself and move on.