California Bar Exam: Last Minute Performance Test Tips

Hello All,

Congratulations, you are now done with the essays! You are one performance test away from being done with the California Bar Exam!

Here are some tips for the performance test:

1. Follow the instructions carefully! Exam pressure can lead to missing things and to misreading instructions – so slow it down enough to make sure you are not missing something in the instructions. You are going to base your whole answer on your interpretation of the senior partner memo (the letter to you from your would be boss) – so make certain you read it very carefully and more than once! (See more on following instructions, and evidencing that you have followed instructions, in # 2 below).

With respect to following instructions, do so to a T. If the senior partner memo tells you not to write a statement of facts, then do not write a statement of facts. Pay close attention to the instructions you are provided. Failure to adhere closely to these instructions will cost you dearly – so be careful!  Examinees are often in a rush to get through the materials quickly and end up missing something in the instructions, failing to pick up some of the easier points. So make sure you read through the senior partner memo a few times and be certain about what you are being asked to do.

 2. Make your answer look like it is an answer to that particular performance test. Whatever you are asked to do on the performance test, make sure that you create a document that looks like what you were asked to produce. There will typically be two places from which to obtain your format and instructions for the document you are asked to prepare. The first source is the from the senior partner memo (the letter to you from your would be boss). The second source is also in the case file portion of your performance test and it is a firm wide memo (usually with the title: “To all associates . . .”) that provides instructions on how to write an appellate brief or a memorandum (or whatever it is that you are being asked to write). It is critical that you refer to both of these sources to make certain that you include all sections that you are supposed to include (assuming there are sections, i.e., statement of facts, or point headings, etc.) in your document.

These two sources will also help you to format and organize your document – for example, if you are asked to write a memorandum about the the Constitutionality of a proposed ordinance, then a) you need to make sure that your document is identified as a “memorandum” and b) you need to make certain that your document visually makes it clear that you are in fact addressing the constitutionality of a proposed ordinance. This may seem obvious and it may seem less important than figuring out what the cases mean, but the reality is that many examinees simply fail to do some of these very basic things and end up losing points. So, make certain that you do not forget to make your performance test answer look like it is the very document that you have been asked to produce.

3. How do I know which cases to use? Use them all. Seriously. Really. Do not be afraid. Try to find a use for each case. That is it.

4. What part of the statutes should I include? Assuming you have statutes (not all performance tests do) then look to see which parts of the statutes are referred to in the cases. It is a pretty safe bet that you should also use the sections that the cases refer to as well.

5. Use headings. (first make sure you follow any format that you are instructed to follow). Always err on the side of following instructions. Some of your formatting will likely come from the instructions (either from the senior partner memo and/or potentially from a firm wide, memo to “all associates” in the case file). Remember that your performance test answer (whether it is a memorandum, a points and authorities, an appellate brief, a letter to a client, a closing or opening argument) it is still an exam answer. It will be graded by a human being and you need to be cognizant of that – make it easy to read and easy to follow. Use headings.

6. What if I don’t finish my answer? This is not an option. You need to make certain that you do finish your answer. Just do it. I take my job very seriously and I work hard, I go the distance, I do whatever it takes to get whatever I need done. Why am I telling you this? Because you should too – you should work your butt off and I don’t just mean in your preparation for the bar exam – but I mean right now, right now on this test, today. Suck it up and get through it. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but if you want to pass this thing then go after it, especially in these last hours. Insist on finishing today’s performance test – because you can and because you need to.

7. Okay, but what if I don’t finish my answer? Sigh. Okay, if you see that you are not going to finish what you had planned on writing, then adapt and do so quickly. The clock may not be your friend, but it does not have to be your enemy either. Watch it, keep track of your time. Don’t wait for the proctor to provide a time warning for you to know how much time you have left to finish. Keep track of your time and speed things up as you need to in order to finish your answer. And, if you are really up against the wall, then make it look like you have finished. If it is appropriate for the document that you are writing, then add a heading for “conclusion” and have a few sentences or a paragraph summarizing as best you can what you have written. And, you can even pre-write a conclusion if you think it will help (this is really only helpful to laptop examinees).

8. Be POSITIVE! (I know, how nice of me to yell at you to be positive :)) Seriously though, please do not be miserable – it will only hurt your performance. No one forced you to go to law school (well, I hope not). You presumedly wanted to do this, you want to be a lawyer. Therefore, today is about doing what you want to be doing – taking and passing the bar exam. Be proud of all the hard work you put in to get to where you are right now. So many people say things like: “I was going to go to law school” or “I always wanted to go to law school” . . . well you did go to law school. Be proud of that and don’t let the struggle of the bar exam take any of that away from you. Now go kick the bar exam’s butt!

All the best of luck this afternoon!

Please let me know if this blog helped you, I would love to hear from you: barexamguru@yahoo.com

Lisa Duncanson

Founder/Program Director
Bar Exam Cram Session and Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendment Approaches

Hello All,

This may be my last post this evening. I noticed that several people were searching this blog for Criminal Procedure. In the past, I have given away several excerpts from our Criminal Procedure Bar Exam Writing Templates. These are still available on this blog, but you would have to search for it. So, I thought I would post links to our 4th, 5th and 8th Amendment Exam Writing Templates. You can download each below:

Fourth Amendment Exam Writing Template/Approach

Fifth Amendment Exam Writing Template/Approach

Eighth Amendment Exam Writing Template/Approach

Wishing you all the best of luck tomorrow!

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

Bar Exam: Criminal Law Murder Approach

Hello Everyone,

I mentioned that murder might be on the exam. It has been absent for some time and would seem to be due. Of course, anything is possible. But, since murder has not been tested in a very long time. it would be a good idea to be prepared for it. As a bar taker you undoubtedly 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.

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 murder question:

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”).

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), self defense, defense of others etc. that can all word 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.

If you were to get a murder essay, I am thinking it could be in the context of Criminal Procedure (specifically in the context of the 8th Amendment and/or 6th Amendment).

Best of luck to you all!

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

California Bar Exam: Good Luck on the MBEs today!

Good morning all,

Hopefully you are having something healthy for breakfast and are ready to take on day two of the bar exam. Last night I met with a group of my students who are taking the bar exam in Ontario. A few blog followers joined us as well. I had the opportunity to speak with my students individually about their performance and provide them some encouragement. I am really proud of my students and very happy to be able to meet with them in person after their first day of the bar. Incidentally, if you want to say hello, I will be at the Starbucks near the test center in Ontario during the lunch break today.

I wanted to write a quick post to wish you all the very best of luck and to give you a few tips for today.

First, expect the MBEs to be hard. Today is going to be a long day, and it may feel like you are not passing the exam even if you are doing well. How is that? Well, passing raw scores on the MBE have ranged from as low as 129 to as high as the 140s. The passing raw score for the past several years has hovered around 133. A 133 is 66.5% . . . that is a D in regular grading, right? So why should you care about this? Well, if you are getting a D, it may feel like you are getting a D. What I mean is that even if you are scoring well enough to pass on the MBEs, it may not feel like you are passing. You may have scored 70% or 80% on practice MBEs during your bar studies. If so, then you know what scoring 70% or 80% feels like . . . and it feels a lot better than scoring 66.5%. But, on the last several bar exams, 66.5% was all you needed to pass . . . so just keep that in mind today when you are taking the MBEs. Today may feel a lot harder than you practice MBEs. And that is okay.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you should know that a significant amount of what it takes to pass the California bar exam is simply keeping your head above water, staying mentally above it all and not letting the test get to you. This is a choice, by the way. The bar exam is meant to be hard. And sometimes, no offense, but sometimes when students tell me the test was “so hard” I feel like saying: “And? . . . ” And I mean no disrespect. The California Bar Exam is hard.

I think one of the biggest challenges that examinees face on the days of the exam is not whether they can remember enough (which is everyone’s biggest fear) but it is instead simply keeping it together, not losing it, staying calm and remembering that it is supposed to be hard, it will be hard, but that you CAN do it.

This is all of your choosing – you can choose to not let this test get to you. You can choose to put yesterdays essays and performance test behind you and completely focus on doing your absolute best on what is still in front of you. You, and only you, can choose to be positive.

And remember that when you are passing the bar exam it doesn’t necessarily feel like you are passing it – it still feels hard (because it is hard), it sill feels very challenging (because it is very challenging), it still might be hard to finish an essay or a performance test (and, in fact you may not finish everything and still pass).

So choose to be positive, see everything about your performance in the best light and stay out of your own way, be your own cheerleader and kick butt! Yes, I just said that . . .

I will continue to post and will continue to send out emails. It is not too late to join our Bar Exam Tips List, see my earlier posts to sign up.

All the best to you today and tomorrow.

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

July 2014 Bar Exam Predictions: More Final Thoughts and Best of Luck to You!

Hello All,

All the best to everyone taking the bar exam tomorrow! Remember to stay positive and focus on doing your best, you can do it!

There is still time to join our July 2014 Bar Exam Tips List:

Each bar round I pick a test location and meet up with my students after day one of the bar exam. During this meeting I go over my revised essay predictions for day three (based upon what was tested on day one’s essay) and provide tips on where to focus your studies for day three of the exam.

I also provide an email version of this that I make available to my enrolled students who are at other test locations. This year, I will also make this available to blog followers. If you would like to receive this information, you can join our list here:

Please be sure to select “yes” or “no” in the drop down menus below and click on the “submit” button at the bottom of the form to be added to our list. Be sure to see more exam tips below this form.

Ontario Test Location Bar Exam Meetup:

If you would like to attend our Ontario Bar Exam Meet Up, we have a few spaces available. Send an email to me at: barexamguru@yahoo.com and we will get back to you on a first come, first served basis.  

Okay, and now a few more exam tips list: Areas that I have not mentioned outside of my class sessions include: the tracing rules (from Remedies – First in, First Out, Lowest Intermediate Balance Rule, Replenishment Theory) and Fifth Amendment Takings (specifically what is known as a “Regulatory Taking”). These two areas have not shown up in some time on the bar exam.

If you were to have the tracing rules tested, you would have an essay with a commingled bank account. If you were to be tested in the area of Regulatory Takings you would have a regulation that took away (limited, decreased, etc.) some use of the land. Past exams have included: an ordinance that provided the public the right to picket on private property and also statutes that limited land development due to a need to protect the habitat of an endangered species. If you were to see something like this, you would need to address the Fifth Amendment Taking issue and explain that while the statute or ordinance does not amount to an “actual physical taking”, the landowner may have a claim under a regulatory taking theory (this still allows for “just compensation”).

A little more on Property . . .

Property – As I mentioned in an earlier post, Property could repeat on the July 2014 bar exam (it was tested on the February 2014 bar exam). So if Property is tested tomorrow or on Thursday, what might likely show up? Well, Landlord/Tenant is one of the most commonly tested areas of Property. So, that is always fair game. However, Easements (it has not been tested in quite some time) is very possible (either alone or in a possible land sale contract setting or even with Landlord/Tenant). And as I mentioned in an earlier post, Covenants and Equitable Servitudes are possible.

If you were to get an essay on Easements and it was in the land sale context – the scenario could go like this: Betty is granted an easement by Grant for a 20-foot road. She receives this easement by express grant, but never records. Betty uses the road and ultimately paves a thirty-foot wide road and begins using it for part residential and part commercial use. Grant sells his land (the servient tenement, the land that is burdened by the easement) to Buyer. The issues become 1) Does Betty have a valid Easement, 2) Does Buyer take the land subject to Betty’s easement etc.The above scenario generates many discussable points.

To determine whether Betty has a valid easement you should follow the Easements approach:

1. Is the easement appurtenant or in gross? (this should be a very short discussion)

2. Is the Easement affirmative or negative easement? (this should be a very short discussion)

3. Creation – how was the easement created (PING)?

4. Scope – what is the scope of the easement and was the scope exceeded – or was the easement overburdened?

5. Was the easement terminated?

With respect to whether Buyer takes the land subject to Betty’s easement will likely require a few discussions: 1) a discussion of notice (actual notice, inquiry notice and constructive notice) and potentially recording act statutes and 2) a potential Warranty Deed discussion where you discuss the present and future covenants (six total).

**Incidentally, I think that an essay involving an Easement is just as likely an essay testing scenario in Property as is a straight Covenants/Equitable Servitudes essay.

Further Predictions for day three: I will continue posting on my blog through the bar exam (but, to get the complete inside view, please sign up for our tips list). After I know what was tested on day one, I will provide my suggestions of areas to focus on for day three’s essays (revised predictions for day three’s essays). However in order for me to do so, since I am not sitting for the test, I need to hear from examinees as to what was actually tested. My students will contact me, but, the more examinees I hear from, the more I will know and the more focused I can be about making suggestions for areas to study on day three.

Help me help you: So, if you have a moment, please feel free to email me on Tuesday during your break with your thoughts on what was tested. The more I know, the more I can offer to you. I can be reached via email at: barexamguru@yahoo.com

Hang in there, I know these last hours can be tough, but, be positive and believe in yourself!

Best of luck to all who are taking the bar exam! Thank you for the following and for your positive feedback via email – it is greatly appreciated, I love hearing from you!

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

July 2014 Bar Exam Predictions and Tips

Hello All,

If you would like to be added to our July 2014 Bar Exam Tips and Predictions Email List and/or receive a free copy of our Evidence Handout, complete the form below and we will send the handout to you via email and add you to our Bar Exam Tips & Predictions Email List.

Be sure to select “yes” or “no” in the drop down menus below and click on the “submit” button at the bottom of the form to be added to our list.

Please understand that the bar exam predictions are released as it gets closer to the bar exam – my enrolled students are promised that they have early access to my predictions – so while I will provide predictions to those who join our email list, it is released later than what I release to my students in my classes. Incidentally, it is not too late to join our next Bar Exam Cram Session. We have three spots left in tomorrow’s Two Day Bar Exam Cram Session. To register for tomorrow’s session, click here.

Good luck in your studies!

Note: This handout will be available until July 31, 2014.

Your contact information is safe – we do not share, or sell your information.

Free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam” Workshop for the July 2014 Bar Exam

We are having one more free, “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” for the July 2014 Bar Exam.

When: Tuesday, June 3rd from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm

Where: Los Angeles, California*

Our workshops fill up quickly. Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis. This workshop is free and includes free bar exam templates. Space is limited.

Click here to make your reservation

All the best to everyone studying for the July 2014 bar exam!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990

February 2014 Bar Exam Results – Score Maximizer Program

And, now the reason why I do what I do . . . because as much as I love helping examinees pass on their first attempt, there is something that is especially rewarding to be able to assist examinees who, for whatever reason, passing the bar exam has not happened on their first (or second, or third or fourth attempts, or . . . you get my point). When an examinee comes to me having taken the bar exam previously, it requires a different approach. Often examinees tell me that “this is there last time” they will take the bar exam. That is some pressure – to know that after several attempts a student has chosen to give it one more try and has decided to place their trust in me to help them. It is something that I take very seriously. February was a particularly rewarding bar round.

Here is a testimonial from one of our February 2014 Score Maximizer students:

“Dear Lisa,

Well, you did it!! With your guidance, I finally passed the California bar exam. I owe such a debt of gratitude to you and your invaluable instruction! I am utterly convinced there is no method of bar prep like yours out there — it is not only uniquely effective, it is also based on the soundest of principles and practices. In short, it is nothing short of brilliant.

All my academic life — since high school and through three graduate degrees — I have had enormous trouble with standardized tests. While my grades were very good, and I attended excellent schools (including Yale), I kept underperforming on standardized tests. I went to many people for help, and tried many different things, from a variety of disciplines. But nothing did the trick. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the material, it was that i was a terrible test-taker. But amazingly enough, you did the impossible: with your tutelage, I passed the bar!!

By the time I found Bar None Review, I had looked into, or taken courses from, more than a few bar prep providers. I can say with confidence that your methodology is unique. While so many bar prep courses offer unfounded speculation, flawed materials or recondite methods that don’t work, yours is the only one grounded in research and a 100% rational and pragmatic approach to giving the bar examiners what they want. What you’re doing makes so much sense it hardly seems right to even compare it to other bar prep companies. Plus, the ongoing guidance — up to and even through the actual bar exam — was a lifeline, pure and simple. Since I have taught at major universities including Yale, UCLA and UCSD, I know a bit about what it takes to teach, and you have that special gift. Your curriculum, approach and presentation is as solid as it gets.

No question, the best choice I made in the past year was to sign up for your full program, the Score Maximizer Program. You gave me a fresh approach for all parts of the exam, including the Performance Tests, and it was as though the proverbial lightbulb went off. I would not hesitate to recommend you to anyone needing to retake the bar, or to attorney takers. You were the perfect teacher for me, and that’s no small thing.

After 20 years as a journalist with the LA Times, as well as many years working in the entertainment industry, I will now be working full-time for a law firm — starting Monday! I will be forever in your debt. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

All the best,
Jan Breslauer, MA, MFA, JD

California Bar Exam Results: How to Get Your Name on the Pass List

Hello all,

In the coming days I will be posting specific tips on how to ensure success on the July 2014 bar exam. We still have availability in our Score Maximizer Program and we have opened up another Bar Exam Cram Session to accommodate those who were unsuccessful on the February 2014 bar.

If you are about to take the bar exam, and especially if you are a repeat taker, please consider attending our free “How to Pass the Bar Exam” workshop this coming Thursday as well as our Bar Exam Cram Session on May 31st and June 1st enter promo code: GURU for a $50.00 discount!

Here is another testimonial from one of our February 2014 bar exam students!

“Dear Lisa,

Honestly I do not know where to begin. I have dreamt of this day for a while now. When I put my information in yesterday evening and saw that magic phrase, “the name above matches a name on the pass list,” only one thing came to mind; LISA!!! If it wasn’t for you, I would not be sitting here today. Law school came very easy to me and gave be a very big head. The first time around taking Barbri was difficult, frustrating, and over whelming.

Barbri just kept saying do what you did in law school you can do this. So I did what I in law school. That certainly worked in law school but the California Bar just sat there and laughed! My soul and spirit was crushed first time around and not knowing what to do. I have never failed at anything and you came to my rescue! I owe this all to you and bar none review! Your teaching gave me the opportunity to attack the California Bar like no-one else! On every essay there was something that I can remember you teaching us. It is not just about the information…everyone in your room knew what to talk about for every essay, you taught me how to say it in a way that showed the graders that I deserved to be a lawyer. Look at me now, because of you and Bar None Review, I am an associate attorney at one of the biggest law firms in the state of California!!!! Thank you so much, I owe you everything.”

Brett S. Sachs, Esq.

California Bar Exam Results: February 2014

Hello all,

Congratulations to all who passed the February 2014 California bar exam! So proud of testimonials like this that have been coming in since last night! We are so happy for our students and look forward to helping more student pass the July 2014 bar exam!

There is still room in our free “How to Pass the Bar Exam” workshop this coming Thursday as well as our Bar Exam Cram Session on May 31st and June 1st enter promo code: GURU for a $50.00 discount!

“To Lisa & the rest of the Bar None Review Staff:

WE did it! You have helped, yet again, countless people pass the California Bar Exam. Congratulations!

I would like to truly thank you for everything you have done and all the efforts you put forth to help me through this hectic process. After being unsuccessful after my first attempt at the CA bar, I honestly did not know where to turn or what to do to improve my performance. After spending money and dedicating my life to one of the “big-box courses,” I felt defeated. And then, I found you.

From our first meeting at your free workshop, you made me believe that I could do this, and that the bar is not something to be feared, just something you need to understand to pass.

During the course of our studies, you continued to make me feel like I could pass the exam and gave me every tool necessary to do so. Most days, I was even excited to open your materials and get started. I learned more than I ever thought I could and even felt semi-confident during the exam. Ok, afterwards I was a wreck, but who isn’t!

When I saw those green letters appear on the screen last night, that my name appeared on the pass list, I couldn’t have been happier. I have been waiting for this day for years and owe it to you.

From my heart, I thank you, Lisa.”

Chelsee Montgomery, Esq.

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