Last Minute Advice for the Weekend

The bar is getting close – don’t panic!

It’s Wednesday night as I write this, so that means Thursday and Friday are your last “big” days. Do as many MBE and fully written out essays as possible. On Saturday, start to taper off, as if you are preparing for a marathon, because you are.

Sat, Sun and Mon you should still:
**Review the law, especially memorizing elements
**Outline essays
**Small chunks of MBE questions
**Review things you need to memorize, or are struggling to memorize “buzz words”
**Redo MBE questions you’ve gotten wrong in the past
**SLEEP (get 8 hours of sleep starting Sat to be optimal)
**Take care of yourself mentally and do something that will relax you.

The last thing seems counter intuitive, but you need to be fresh, well rested and relaxed on Tuesday. Or at least, as well rested and relaxed as is possible. Similar to a marathon, or any exhausting sporting event, if you do 100 MBE the night before, you will not be at your best on Tuesday. Over the weekend, take an hour or two to pamper yourself, to deal with stress. If you are exhausted and anxious on Tues and Wed, that extra 2 hours of studying over the weekend won’t help.

In addition, be confident and trust your gut. For the MBE, don’t second guess yourself. Read carefully and make sure you answer what is being asked, but don’t keep going back to change your answers. For the essays, EXPLAIN yourself!

I’ll see you on the other side!

Last Minute Advice

So, you have a bit over a week before the MBE, what can and should you be doing?

First, be sure to treat this as a marathon. This means no doing 100 MBE the night before. Relax this upcoming weekend, make sure you are refreshed going into a marathon of an exam on Wed. Make Thursday or Friday your last “BIG” days, do 50-100 MBE questions on those days and then taper off, doing 5-15 each day up until Wed. But over the weekend before the MBE, don’t exhaust yourself doing another full practice exam.

So, what CAN you do?

1) Memorize Con Law. Yep, all of it. The scrutinies, the burdens, what is a suspected class…..once you have all of this memorized, con law MBE questions become a matching game. In addition, know the difference between equal protection and due process, remember, above all else, equal protection is treating groups of people differently. Sounds easy enough, but if you do NOT have two distinct classes of people in the fact pattern, it is NOT equal protection. In addition, “for the general welfare” is NEVER the right answer unless attached to tax and spend. Also, remember for any con law questions, crim pro included, you absolutely NED government action. The above will get you at least half of the con law questions, if not more. (Also, you know that I normally hate the word “memorize”, so take this to heart. You NEED to know the exact wording for con law)

2) KNOW HOMICIDE. seriously. know it like the back of your hand. Know the difference between murder, manslaughter and the different defenses. Know when a defense or mistake has to be reasonable or just honest. Know that for attempt you need INTENT. Always. You can NOT accidentally attempt something. Also, know that VOLUNTARY means VOLUNTARY, or intentional, and INVOLUNTARY means an accident.

3) Know negligence. Know it cold. Don’t skip steps, even on an MBE question. Is there a duty, was there a breach, and did that breach cause the injury? Do not skip a single element, you can not assume anything.

4) Know what hearsay is and all of it’s exceptions. Also, as for evidence, start by making sure that the evidence that is being admitted is relevant, then check for hearsay issues, impeachment issues, competency issues, and 403 issues. But, above all else, memorize hearsay exceptions.

5) For property, get used to outlining. All you can do. Make little outlines, letting you know who conveyed what to who. Draw in the margins, no one will know.

6) Last but not least, for contracts remember to go in order – don’t skip straight to damages, start with what law applies, then whether a contract was formed, is it enforceable, what are the terms, is there an excuse and FINALLY breach and remedies. And remember, for remedies, when stumped think about where the person WOULD have been had the contract been formed and where they are now. The damages they are entitled to is the difference between the two.

Make flashcards for the above and memorize, memorize, memorize this week. However – one caveat. Don’t spend hours memorizing, do it in 5-10 minute spurts, since you memorize more effectively that way.

Good Luck!

Torts Tips for the Bar Exam!

I realize that if you are taking the bar, Torts might not seem like it’s your biggest hurdle. And it’s probably not. However, as it’s usually considered an “easy” bar topic, it is easy to become complacent and make mistakes.

So I present to you, some torts tips!

1) Issue Spotting: For many, the tricky part of torts is issue spotting. This applies to the MBE and Essays. Remember that most facts are in the hypo for a reason, so what I do to spot issues is line up important facts on one side, and then on the other side, write the tort. This way, you know you are not missing anything. Also, if you forget a tort, and this will happen, you don’t just disregard the facts. For instance, you see that Bob punched Jim, so you write that down in one column, but then you forget that hitting is usually battery. This way, you can at least mention that Bob punching Jim is a tort, even if you can’t articulate that it’s batter. You won’t get the full amount of points, but you will get some credit for knowing that the facts are important.

2) Intent v Negligence: An intentional tort can not be done negligently. Negligence can not have intent. There are no exceptions. Negligence is always an accident, that’s why we call it negligence. If there is any intent, it is an intentional tort. This might seem obvious, but it’s something that’s easy to overlook in a stressful situation like the bar.

3) Vicarious Liability: This is heavily tested on the bar, and it is very important to understand this concept, so important that I wrote an entire article on it! Go here

4) Torts before defenses: Think of your exam like going into court; you have to first establish the prima facie claim before bringing up any defense. So many people want to just state “Bob did not commit battery because there was self defense…”. You have to FIRST establish there was a battery, THEN establish a defense. It makes sense, if you are a defense attorney, why would you bring up a defense before the plaintiff made out a claim?

5) Bad things happen to good people: And sometimes no one is responsible. It’s so tempting to think that everything that goes wrong is automatically a tort. It isn’t. Not every car accident is a result of negligence. You need to meet all elements of the tort, and sometimes an accident does not meet the requirements of negligence. This is especially important to remember on the MBE – sometimes the little old injured lady has no recovery options, and it’s sad, but you have to move on to the next question!

6) Negligence, negligence, negligence: This will most likely be heavily tested. Remember that to prove a claim of negligence, the defendant has to have a duty (usually you can put in “duty to be a reasonable…whatever it is that they’re doing”), they have to breach that duty (remember, no breach, no negligence!), that breach has to cause an injury (both the actual and proximate cause) and there has to be an injury. Don’t make assumptions about any element.

7) Strict liability is rare: It only occurs in 3 ways – wild animals, products, ultra hazardous activities.

On top of all of that, just remember to always explain WHY on your essays. This is the most important part of any exam; do not just restate rules, but explain why those rules are applicable to the current fact pattern.


A Note on Essays

There is less than a month before the bar, so I thought I’d share a few brief tips on essays. There are certain mistakes that all of my students tend to make, and it matters not what state you are in!

The point of the bar, besides torturing you and taking away your summer, is to test whether you can be a lawyer. Not whether you know the law, that is what your Juris Doctorate signifies. (please note- you DO need to know the law, but that is only step 1) So how does one prove that you are capable of practicing law? First, issue spotting. The bar overseers want to ensure that when a client comes to you, telling you about their no good very bad day, you don’t skip over some of their problems. Your first job as a lawyer is to identify the claims, or legal problems, since your clients aren’t going to do it for you.

Next, lawyers analyze. Or, if you listen to lawyer jokes, we argue. Yes, you need a conclusion, but it’s not the most important part of your essay. Focus less on the conclusion, and more on how you get there. Look at it as a “it’s the journey not the destination” type of cliché! In addition, remember that we all have a different perspective, and we all might view facts differently, so explaining how you get to a certain conclusion is going to help you gain points. It also shows the examiners that you can advocate for a certain point of view, which is what they are looking for.

Last, don’t be afraid to write simply and use plain language. This isn’t a law review article, and you’re not going to win a Pulitzer. Ditch the flowery and overly verbose language. Think “how can I get my point across and move on”, especially since the graders are reading your essay VERY quickly. You want your essay to be easy to read, because that makes them happier! It also makes things easier on you. It’s ok to be repetitive, or to use a formula. I can assure you that if an English teacher would be horrified by your writing, you are likely on the right track!

And most importantly – PRACTICE! It’s the best way to master doing these essays in such a short period of time.

A word of advice….

So, it’s mid June, which means that you are in the midst of a stressful and overwhelming summer. You may feel like you can’t possibly check off everything on your list. So, a bit of advice on overall bar exam prep.

First things first, realize this summer will NOT be fun. This has probably already occurred to you, perhaps a few weeks ago. I don’t say that to scare you, but if you buckle down over the next couple months you will never have to do this again. Secondly, don’t pay attention to what your friends are doing. Everyone has a method that works for them. If you spend too much time looking over your shoulder at everyone else, you will just stress yourself out. The key is to do as much as you can do, so that you know you put in maximum effort, without worrying about anyone else.

Once we’ve gotten that out of the way, there are some things that can make the summer a bit less stressful, and make your chances of passing the bar a bit higher. Practice, for one. Yes, that seems a bit obvious – why wouldn’t you practice? But many students want to spend a ton of time reviewing your outlines, and memorizing black letter law. While you DO need to know the black letter law, simply reviewing it for months will not get you where you need to be. Don’t wait to practice, start right away! Learn from each MBE question you practice, this is key. The MBE won’t ask you to define battery. Instead, they will give you an odd ball fact pattern, and ask you what the plaintiff’s chances of success will hinge on. This means that you need to know MORE than the black letter law, and the only way to do this is to practice more and more MBE questions. Having said that, don’t JUST practice. If you aren’t learning something from EACH MBE question you do, you are wasting your time. I teach bar review, in fact, my whole life centers around the bar exam and even I can find better things to do than MBE questions just for fun.

As for your essays, again, you need to practice. I know, I’m not really coming up with a new and unique idea here, you’ve all been told to practice before. However, despite that, so many students fight me on practicing. Use your notes to practice essays – it’s better than writing wrong law! Take your time and practice technique! Don’t start testing yourself right away. The more essays you practice, and not just outline, the easier exam day will be.

Good luck!

How to Study Effectively for the Bar Exam

Or…….how not to become a hermit this summer.

Ok, to be fair, even studying effectively you probably are still living the hermit life. That’s ok, it’s only one summer. Say it with me, ONE summer – you can do this! Trust me. Would I lie to you?

Clearly, studying for the bar exam is not the most fun thing you can imagine doing. Though, if doing MBE questions just for kicks is your idea of a good time….who am I to judge? For those of you that don’t get your kicks from MBE questions, since I can’t make the studying more fun, at least I can tell you how to make it more effective.

Essays: Practice your essays with your notes, looking up rules of law. I know, this sounds like cheating, but I’m not suggesting you do it ON the day of the exam, I’m suggesting you do it during practice. Also, the bar exam is actually testing your ability to analyze, and looking up rules in your outline will not help you there. But, it WILL help you learn the correct rules, which is the first step. Plus, it is more effective then trying to memorize rules by reading outlines again and again, or even flashcards for that matter. If you look up rules as you write, you are actively applying facts to those rules, and practicing your writing, in addition to learning the rules, since you are copying them down. This is all active learning; the doing rather than just passively reading. When given the choice, active learning is always more effective.

Also, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE write out your practice essays. Thinking about them in your head, or just drafting outlines, will not help you. You’ve heard practice makes perfect? It’s a cliché for a reason, and now is the time to put that cliché to the test. Write out as many essays as you can in the next 5 weeks. Using your notes, of course.

MBE: As with the essays, you want to be actively learning from the MBE practice questions. If you do not learn from every MBE question you do, you are wasting your time, and just doing that MBE question for fun. As I said before, I won’t judge….but the general feeling is that MOST people have other things they like to do in their spare time. How does one learn from doing an MBE question? Do one at a time, check the answer, and then figure out what you did wrong.

You might have went wrong on substance; forgetting some element of the rule, or just being confused on the black letter law. In that case, now is the time to review our outlines/flashcards/charts, to brush up on the black letter law.

You might have had a reading comprehension problem, reading the call of the question or a certain fact the incorrect way. If that’s the case, take a mental note and be sure to read a bit more carefully in the future. Having said that, make sure you are consistently paying attention to the call of the question; variations such as “which is the least likely outcome” often throw students off course if they are not paying attention.

Perhaps you were torn between A and C, and don’t quite understand why C is the better answer, since they both seem ok to you. In that instance, read the explanation in the back of the book, re-read the question, consult with a tutor, do what you need to do to assess why one answer was the “best” out of all options. Sometimes the way to do this is to figure out why the other three options are incorrect. Remember an answer has to be both factually and legally correct, and never only a little bit legally correct.

What all of these things boil down to is learning from your mistakes, something your mother has been telling you to do since you were just a wee thing. The types of questions asked, as well as the rules tested, are often repeated, which means you are likely to see them again and again – so what better way to master them then to learn from each question? Remember merely tallying your score and shrugging, moving on to review an outline without knowing where your weaknesses are, will not help improve your score. You have to know where you went wrong. You have to learn FROM the questions, and I can not stress that enough.

In order to learn from MBE mistakes, I suggest doing three things.
1) When picking answer choices, THINK about why you are choosing or rejecting a particular choice. You can literally write “I reject A because” and “I accept B because”. Too many times students pick an answer because it looks good, without thinking through the legal reasoning.

2) TRACK. If you’ve had me in class this is a broken record, but it DOES help. You need to determine your strengths and weaknesses, WHY are you getting answers wrong, in what subtopics?

3) When getting questions incorrect, write out an IRAC answer. You are practicing writing skills, AND mastering that particular area of the law. Efficient!

And above all else, stay calm and focused. This IS possible!