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So now you have the July 2015 bar exam behind you (congratulations) and hopefully you have been able to enjoy some of your summer. Bar results are still months away and probably one of the most common questions I receive at this time of the year is: Should I study while I am waiting for my results?
The answer to that question depends upon a lot of variables. Each examinee’s situation is different and so whether you should continue your studies while you wait for your bar results really depends upon your own unique circumstances.
I don’t recommend it to everyone to study while waiting for results. However, there are some good reasons why you might want to consider opening up those books while you wait.
1. If you feel as though you did poorly on the bar exam. If you feel you did poorly on the exam, then studying some now while you wait for results, is a good idea. If nothing more, it is a little bar review insurance. If you find out that you passed the bar exam, I doubt you will regret the fact that you put in some time studying that apparently wasn’t needed.
2. If you are working full time. If you currently have a full time job, will you be able to take time off from that job to study if you do not pass the July 2015 bar exam? No one plans on failing the bar exam. However, too few examinees give much thought to a game plan in the event that they do not receive passing results. Something you can do now is to spend a few hours each week until bar results come out in November (see, you have a lot of time). This way, if you do fail, you will have already made some headway with the material and the task ahead of you will be less daunting. In addition, you won’t be trying to juggle quite as much in the event that you are unable to secure time off from work to study full time again. And, if you are fortunate enough to receive passing results, then no harm, no foul. You won’t regret it.
3. If you did not finish a portion of the test. if you were unable to finish one of the essays or perhaps were unable to finish one of the performance tests, you may very well want to start studying again just to be on the safe side. While failing to finish an essay or even a PT does not mean you have failed, it is an indication that things did not go as planned. If it were me, under these circumstances, I would start putting in some study time early.
The bottom line is only you know how you feel about your performance on the July 2015 bar exam. As the test is designed to be difficult, it is normal for it it feel very difficult. Most examinees (pass or fail) do not walk out of the California bar exam feeling like they aced it. So try to keep it in perspective. But if you have serious doubts as to whether you passed the exam, then I recommend putting in a little time now on a weekly basis. It simply can’t hurt.
All the best to those who are waiting for bar results!!!
Lisa Duncanson, The Bar Exam Guru
Founder/Program Director Bar None Review and The Bar Exam Cram Session
Congratulations on completing day one and day two of the California bar exam!
So far all of the topics that were tested on day one (on the essays) were on my list of predictions. As a result, I do not have real changes to the predictions since nothing tested on day one was off my list. However, I do have a few final thoughts and a few downloads for you that may assist you in the event that you see either Evidence or Constitutional Law tomorrow.
If you have not seen my predictions yet, see my blog post from a few days ago with a list of predictions here
Beware of cross-overs! Typically each bar round there are 8 topics tested on the essays – meaning two of the essays are cross-over essays. Since Day One did not seem to have cross-overs (and remember I have not seen the actual exam yet, so I am going completely off of examinee reports) I would expect to see at least one essay that is a cross-over essay. In the past, the California bar has tested a cross-over essay with Community Property, Wills and Evidence. It happens and when it does the calls of the question usually refer to each of the separate topics. In other words, you will likely be told what to write on if you have a cross-over that contains three subjects. It is not as common as seeing Criminal Law crossed with Criminal Procedure, but it happens. And since I still think murder (see below) could be on the exam, perhaps it could show up with Evidence, just a thought.
Thank you for following my blog. We have had thousands of views each day this week. I am grateful for the following and glad that I can be of service. As it comes down to these final days before the bar exam, examinees feel more and more anxious about the test. This is normal. One of the ways that can help with easing up on that anxiety is to have a few areas to focus on in terms of the essays.
About the “Predictions”
While it is not possible to be able to predict what will be tested on the bar exam, I think it can not hurt to be made aware of certain essay scenarios that may be more likely to appear on this upcoming exam simply because these areas either have not been tested in a very long time, or because these areas/topics happen to be frequent flyers (favorite areas for testing) on the California bar exam.
So it is with that in mind, that I will be sharing some of my predictions. While there is no guarantee that these topics will appear on the July bar exam, it can not hurt to review these areas. Also, it gives you something else to focus on other than the constant memorization of long outlines (not something I think is especially productive) and should any of these topics appear on your bar exam, you will feel great for having studied these areas a little extra in the days leading up to the exam.
Another note about the “predictions” and release times
I write this blog to provide help to bar examinees who are all too often struggling and without guidance from their own bar prep providers. I do however, owe my first loyalty to my enrolled students who pay for the privilege of my predictions and other insights. As a result, my students get this information first. So please understand, that while I do release predictions on my blog, out of respect for my enrolled students, I release these only after I have provided this information to my enrolled students.
Professional Responsibility – Professional Responsibility is almost always tested on the essay portion of the California bar exam. As of 1994 the California bar examiners committed to tested Professional Responsibility on every bar exam on the written portion. This means that it it is on ever bar round on either the essays (most typical) or on the performance test or on both the essays and the performance test. Professional Responsibility was not tested on the essay portion of the February 2015 bar exam. Since it was skipped last bar round, my thoughts are that it is coming back. It is rare for Professional Responsibility not to show up on the essays. Assuming it is tested, what areas might come up? Generally you can always expect to discuss breach of the duty of loyalty – as this is the most common duty breach on a professional responsibility essay. The bar examiners can test anything and in Professional Responsibility since there are only so many areas for testing, these areas tend to repeat and are harder to predict. That being said, there are a few areas that have not been tested in a while – the area of attorney advertising has not shown up in a while. In addition, you always want to look at favorite areas of testing when trying to prepare for what is most likely. Favorite testing areas for Professional Responsibility are: when an attorney has a sexual relationship with their client, fee agreements and a fact pattern where you have a corporation as a client. These are favorite areas for testing. Above all, be ready for Professional Responsibility.
Thank you for following my blog. If you are about to take the July 2015 bar exam then you are undoubtedly getting at least a little nervous. This is completely normal. As it gets closer and closer to the bar exam and you are down to a matter of days, it is increasingly important that you control your focus and that you have a plan. If you have been following this blog you will know that I do not believe that memorizing 150 page outlines for 15 subjects is an effective or realistic way of preparing for the bar exam. You need to have your material that you are memorizing condensed down to what you actually need to know and what you can actually use on the bar exam when writing an essay or analyzing an MBE. The shorter and more concise definitions and rule statements you can have memorized – the better.
Think about it this way – if you are trying to analyze an MBE from a one paragraph definition or rule (and this is what many – if not most – bar prep courses provide) it will be very difficult to do. The same goes for writing a passing or above passing essay. You simply do not have time to include long, unwieldy rule statements. You need to be succinct, to the point and clear. One of the most effective ways to achieve this on the essays is to use what I call “working definitions” – these are definitions that are complete, but are not longer than necessary and as a result are clear, do not confuse the grader, do not take a long time to write down and are effective because your point is clear. If you are using clear and succinct definitions, your analysis will become more clear and concise as well. This is really critical.
The next really important thing to focus on in the coming days (and I mean laser focus) is how you are going to approach each essay topic. Do you have an approach for Defamation, for example? Do you have an approach for Products Liability? Do you have an approach for a Contracts formation problem? These are the things that you should be thinking about and working on in the coming days so that you are prepared for how to attack and write a passing answer for any essay topic.
Memorizing long, unwieldy outlines at this point is not a good plan. Your MBEs should be in shape (or come into shape) by your simply doing MBEs and memorizing shorter rule statements. Your success on the essays will be dependent upon your ability to identify the issues and whether you have an approach for each topic (sub topics like defamation and products liability – as opposed to an approach to all of Torts). This information is not to send you in a panic. You can start creating shorthand approaches for each topic now and be ready in a week – truly. But, remember that you need to prepare for the actual test – you will not be writing out a contracts outline on exam day – you might be asked to write a Contracts essay – but not an outline. So keep this in mind in the coming days as you prepare and work on memorization.
And, if you are at a loss for these things, we still have room in our final Bar Exam Cram Session. We address all of these things, provide you with working definitions and approaches that reflect what the California bar examiners have historically embraced on the essays. These same definitions and approaches make navigating the MBEs easier as well because you are working from a more succinct and concise version. Our students credit their passing to this two day course. We also provide you with a study plan that tells you what to do every day leading up to the bar exam so that you maximize your study time. To register or for more information, visit our site: BarExamCramSession.com
Thank you again for reading the blog and all the best to everyone who is studying for the July 2015 bar exam!
It is that time of year again. The July bar exam is is drawing near and at the same time, most bar review courses start to wind down and your study time becomes mostly your own. It can be a time where many examinees feel lost. So to help you feel a little less lost, each year I send out tips to those who want to sign up for our tips list. And, of course I continue to write posts here on the blog.
Join the Bar Exam Tips List!
If you are taking the July 2015 bar exam and would like to join our July 2015 Bar Exam Tips List, and receive a free copy of our Constitutional Law Handout on how to evaluate the constitutionality of a state or federal statute, you can do so by completing the form below.
*Your information is safe; I do not release your contact information to anyone.
Incidentally, I do think that Constitutional Law is very possible – in particular, I think that the chances of your getting an exam testing a state statute that potentially places an undue burden on interstate commerce is very likely if you were to see Constitutional Law. This area of Constitutional Law has not been tested in several years and as a result is due. However, favorite areas for testing in Constitutional Law include: Privacy and First Amendment Speech. Still, if you were to see Constitutional Law, I am leaning more towards your seeing a state statute where your job essentially is to determine whether or not the state statute places an undue burden on interstate commerce. I will provide more detail on how to address this (approach and the typical issues to include) along with a sample essay testing this area. This will be provided as part of my July 2015 Bar Exam Tips.
All the best to you in your studies in the coming weeks!
Thank you again for following the blog. We are almost at 700,00 site visits, so thank you!
I have not yet released my predictions publicly, but I will. Please understand that my enrolled students get access to the predictions first. Our last Bar Exam Cram Session on July 18th and 19th will be the last time we release predictions in our classroom setting. At that point all of our students will have my predictions. Once our students have had an opportunity to have the predictions, I will begin releasing these publicly on the site. It will likely be (as always) the week before the bar exam. For more information about our last Bar Exam Cram Session, click here, we still have some spots left.
In the meantime, however, I wanted to post an approach for Criminal Law Murder. I personally think that Criminal Law Murder is due. While Criminal Law has been tested several times in recent years (including showing up back to back on two consecutive bar rounds), the bar examiners have not tested Criminal Law Murder in several years. So, I think it is safe to say that it is coming soon.
First, a few words about my “predictions” . . .
I can not predict what will be on the bar exam. I have had a lot of luck in making the predictions that I make. I am glad of that. I spend a great deal of time reviewing several years of past exams and put in a lot of effort to come up with these predictions. However, no one can predict the bar exam. And, whatever you hear about predictions, you should NOT study based upon predictions. That being said, I think it is helpful to think about possible essay scenarios that might be a bit more likely to show up on the bar exam because these areas have not been tested in some time.
Also, understand – my theory and philosophy towards the bar exam is to be ready for anything – I firmly believe that is the best way to prepare. So, whether or not Criminal Law Murder shows up on the bar exam this July 2015, you want to walk into the bar exam prepared to write a Criminal Law Murder Essay. That is how you want to prepare for the bar exam.
The following is from an earlier post that I wrote covering the basic murder approach that we have seen traditionally embraced by the California bar examiners. You may have come across this post earlier if you have been searching through older posts. If so, this will be familiar to you – either way it is a good refresher.
Incidentally, if murder were to show up on the exam on day one or day three of the July 2015 bar exam, then I would not be surprised if it were crossed over with some of the lesser tested areas of Criminal Procedure. We have not seen any 8th Amendment issues in some time (see the “Free Stuff” page for a free download of an exam template for this area) and we also have not seen much testing of the 6th Amendment areas of void dire (peremptory challenges, right to an impartial jury, etc.). So these areas could easily be tested this bar round. Evidence is also an area that can repeat and sometimes we see it as a cross-over with Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure (and if you read my post from a few days ago – we have seen it tested with Wills and Community Property as a cross over with marital and spousal privileges).
It is this simple – as I have always maintained over the many years of writing this blog – the bar examiners can test anything on any bar exam round. I do not say this to send you into a panic. It is simply true. As a result, there will be topics that you are hoping for and there will probably be a few you hope not to get – that is the nature of the bar exam. But, you can do it, do NOT give up no matter what you see on the exam. And, remember, you have time to prepare adequately.
The bar exam is still weeks away. I know it does not seem like much time. But, if you use it effectively, then you can absolutely prepare in time. Our students in our last Bar Exam Cram Session generally come in without any approaches to the bar exam and yet, they are able to take the approaches we provide in class and memorize these and write the bar exam using these approaches. So, you have time now to start working on these things. I had to come up with my own approaches to the essays because the commercial bar prep companies at that time were not providing essay approaches. In fact, they still don’t. If I can come up with my own, you can too. Take control over your own bar studies and make certain you prepare from here on forward in such a way that you will know how to write any essay that you face. And, remember you should prepare for every topic, because any topic could come up.
YOU NEED TO HAVE AN APPROACH FOR EACH TOPIC
As a bar taker you will undoubtedly walk into the bar exam and have a very good grasp of the rules for Murder. However, it is very important that you are able to make your way through all of the necessary points efficiently and in a manner that the grader will recognize as a passing or above passing answer. This requires an essay approach. You should walk into the bar exam with approaches to every topic (each bar subject has either one approach or several. For example, Contracts really only has one approach – the approach for Contracts is essentially the same regardless of the Contracts essay, the only differences being whether you write on the Common Law of Contracts only or if you have a UCC exam. On the other hand, Torts has several approaches – a defamation approach, a products liability approach, a negligence approach a torts/remedies approach and a miscellaneous torts approach. I will do my best to write more on these topics as I have time).
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO START WRITING AN ESSAY
My point is that there is a lot you can do to effectively prepare for the bar exam now so that on exam day you know exactly what to do, what to write, how to start your essay, etc.. You should NOT be trying to figure this out on exam day. If you are in that position, you are likely to fail. So please take it upon yourself to prepare NOW for these situations. You know that you are going to have to write essays – so figure out ahead of time how you will start each topic.
Here is a quick, basic essay approach for murder. (Note that you should use a lot of headings and have a physical structure that evidences your approach – this will give the graders a sense that you actually know what you are talking about and it will make your essay far more appealing to read, it will appear organized and it will make it easier for you to write your answer because you have an approach).
APPROACH FOR HANDLING A CRIMINAL LAW MURDER QUESTION
First address: Common Law Murder – Common Law Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is proven four ways: 1) intent to kill, 2) intent to inflict great bodily injury, 3) depraved heart killings, and 4) felony murder.
(Address the above and then if you have a felony murder issue, prove up the underlying felony (BARRKS – Burglary, Arson, Robbery, Rape, Kidnapping or Sodomy – incidentally, if this area is tested, the examiners may not test one of the above common law inherently dangerous felonies – watch out for a dangerous felony like drug trafficking or another dangerous (but not enumerated as a FMR felony) felony – it forces you to reach a bit and explain that the prosecutor could charge the defendant for felony murder on the basis that it was an inherently dangerous felony, but not a common law enumerated (BARRKS) felony)
Then move onto:
Statutory Degrees of Murder
First Degree Murder: First degree murder is the intentional killing with malice aforethought, premeditation and deliberation. (here do not spend all day on defining or explaining premeditation or deliberation – it either was premeditated and deliberate (lying in wait, planned, thought out etc.) or it wasn’t – address the issue and conclude and move on).
Second Degree Murder (here is the quick way: “all murders that are not first degree are second degree unless mitigated down to some form of manslaughter”).
There are two types of manslaughter (Voluntary and Involuntary). If you know right away that the facts support a heat of passion killing, then address that first under Manslaughter as: Voluntary Manslaughter. (By the way, anytime there is a fight that results in a death – you should address heat of passion/voluntary manslaughter)
Voluntary Manslaughter: is a killing that would be murder but for the existence of adequate provocation and insufficient cooling time. (there are elements here that you could develop, but, the reality is that if you have a cross over exam and it involves a full murder discussion – from common law murder to manslaughter, then you simply do not have a lot of time. So spend your time focusing on whether what happened would arouse the passions of reasonable person to kill AND whether or not the person did not have time to cool).
Involuntary Manslaughter: A killing is involuntary manslaughter if it was committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of an unlawful act.
There is also the concept of Misdemeanor Manslaughter Rule – it is simply an accidental killing that occurs while the defendant is engaged in a non-dangerous felony or misdemeanor.
Obviously there are defenses like: Intoxication, Insanity (know the four tests as best you can – this has not been tested in years), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all work to either relieve the defendant of liability for common law murder and reduce the crime down to some form of manslaughter. Keep in mind the above is a basic approach. But, sometimes that is really the best thing to have in your head on the day of the exam. You should have a framework or basic approach and then allow yourself the freedom to write your answer based on the particular fact pattern you face.
Thank you again for following the blog!