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). I will write more on that possible scenario soon.

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

July Bar Exam Predictions: Possibly Civil Procedure, Evidence

Hello all,

If you are studying for the July 2014 bar exam, you have just under 40 days to prepare. This may not seem like a lot of time to study, but it really is – especially if you commit right now to make the very best use of the time remaining.

How will you ensure that you are ready for the bar exam this July? That is a question that many examinees fail to ask themselves. One of the most important things you can do right now is to take control over your studying. Think about what you will have to do on day one of the bar exam and think about what you need to do to be ready to do it. Are you ready to handle any essay topic that comes your way? Will you know what to write and how to start your essay if you were tested on say products liability or what if you see an Evidence Transcript Style essay – would you know how to approach it? These are questions you should be asking yourself right now and not waiting until a week before the bar exam to think about.

Incidentally, the odds of your seeing an Evidence essay on this bar exam are pretty high in my opinion. That being the case, what are you doing right now to prepare for that possibility? Most examinees are reviewing outlines and watching video tapes about now. I don’t recommend this as a sound approach. While reading outlines should have a place in your studies, far too many examinees never leave their outlines and end up completely at a loss when it comes to writing their essays on exam day. It is critical that you get out of your outlines, turn off the videos, and review past California bar exam essays and answers. One of the very best ways to prepare for an Evidence essay (or any essay) is to simply study past essays. Learning the material in the context of the test will not only be a valuable substantive review, it will also enable you to see how the issues come up so that on exam day you will have a better likelihood of addressing the correct issues.

A bit about the predictions and what to expect:

I will be posting more predictions as it gets closer to the bar exam (I know, it is close already, but I do promise this material to my enrolled students first). Until then, read this post and then take a look at last February’s predictions – anything that did not show up on the last bar exam that I was leaning towards as possibilities for February, are even more likely now (at least that is my opinion). And, remember, it never makes sense to study around what is being predicted. Anything could be tested – so your goal is to be ready for whatever comes your way.

Side note: In February the bar examiners tested in the area of subjacent and lateral support. Prior to the February 2014 bar exam, one of the last times the bar examiners had tested subjacent and lateral support was in 1989. We provided this 1989 essay to our students. Every bar round I look the exam and think about areas that have not come up in many years and look for examples of those issues in past exams and I provide these exams to my students. As you can imagine, it is quite something to be on exam day and see an exam that you have just read and studied because someone drew it to your attention. It provides a huge boost of confidence. And, more importantly, you actually know how to handle the answer because you have actually seen it before.

Predictions:

Evidence: I have already mentioned Evidence as a possibility for this bar round. Remember that anything could come up on the essays and so you need to be prepared for anything. That being said, Evidence has not been tested on the essay portion for the past two bar rounds. It did show up heavily on Performance Test B on the February 2014 bar exam. However, I do think it is likely to show up on the essay this July. See my earlier post to join our email tips list and to receive a free Evidence handout. This hand out is a simple overview type of approach for writing Evidence Essays. If you are struggling with Evidence, or any topic, we have two more Bar Exam Cram Sessions prior to the July 2014 bar exam. For more information on our upcoming dates, click here.  I will provide more about Evidence and what I think is likely to be tested in the coming days.

Civil Procedure is a likely repeat. You may not want to hear this, but I think Civil Procedure will be on July bar exam. I know, it was just tested. But, you should know that the bar exam repeats essay topics every bar round and sometimes topics are repeated back to back three times in a row. If Civil Procedure is tested, I think that Collateral Estoppel and Res Judicata are likely to show up. If so, this provides a nice opportunity for testing in California Civil Procedure because you would likely need to address the California (and minority) Primary Rights view. If you do not know what this is, look it up (and/or stay tuned, I will provide a sample essay to those who join our tips list). It is not that hard, but if you have never seen it, well, it might as well be a foreign language. It is important to see and to know how these areas are tested, how these issues come up on an essay exam. The best way to do that it to review past exams. Reading an outline will not help much when it comes to figuring out how issues arise on a fact pattern. It is critical that you read past exams and answers so that you can start making these connections in time for exam day!

The bar examiners are fair.

You may disagree, but I truly believe that the bar exam is very fair. This is not to say that the bar exam is not hard. It is a very difficult test. But, it is also very doable. The problem is that far too many examinees do not actually do anything more than read and memorize the law. This is simply not enough. The bar exam requires you to think and to apply the law to factual situations. This is something that you need to practice. One of the best ways to prepare is to review past essay exams and to work through MBE questions. This will provide the best connection between how particular facts and issues are connected. And, it one of the best ways to learn and truly understand the law.

I will post more in the coming days and weeks.

If you find this blog helpful, please spread the word. And, don’t forget to join our bar exam tips list, see preceding post to join.

Remember to stay positive and to believe in yourself. You CAN do this! Stay tuned for more predictions. Wishing you all the very best in your studies!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review and BarExamCramSession.com
(213) 529-0990

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.

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

Bar Exam Tips: #1 Reason Why People Fail the California Bar Exam

February 2014 Bar Exam Cram Session – 4 Seats Left!

Hello All,

I don’t usually put advertisements on my blog. But, I do have students who only find out about our classes after they have already taken and failed the bar exam and they tell me that they wish I had put up more information about our course offerings. So, here goes . . .


TO LEARN MORE OR REGISTER

PREDICTIONS AND TIPS: I will be posting predictions as it gets closer to the bar exam (I know, it is close already, but I do promise this material to my enrolled students first). Also, take a look at last July’s predictions – anything that did not show up on the last bar exam that I was leaning towards as possibilities then are even more likely now (at least that is my opinion). And, remember, it never makes sense to study around what is being predicted. Anything could be tested – so your goal is to be ready for whatever comes your way.

Also, if you find this blog helpful, please spread the word. And, don’t forget to join our bar exam tips list (see my earlier post here, to sign up).

Remember to stay positive and to believe in yourself. You CAN do this! Stay tuned for predictions. Wishing you all the very best in your studies!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review and BarExamCramSession.com
(213) 529-0990

California Bar Exam: Free How to Pass the February Bar Exam Workshop!

Free “How to Pass the February 2014 Bar Exam” Workshop

How to Pass the February 2014 California Bar Exam Workshop” – Thursday, December 12th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Los Angeles, California

Back by popular demand, our next “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” will be held on Thursday, December 12, 2013. Our workshops fill up quickly. Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis. This workshop is free and includes free bar exam templates and our “How to Write for the California Bar Examiners” Handout. Space is limited. Click here to make your reservation.

Sign up here! photo

 

California Bar Exam: Free How To Pass The California Bar Exam Workshop on December 5, 2013

Hello, we are offering a second free, “How To Pass The California Bar Exam” Workshop on Thursday, December 5, 2013.

“How to Pass the February 2014 California Bar Exam Workshop” – THURSDAY, December 5th from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm. Orange, California

Learn how to write for the California bar examiners in our popular free workshop! Students will receive free exam writing templates, an MBE approach handout and instruction on how to write for the California Bar Examiners (applicable to both essays and the performance test). If you would like to reserve a space in this workshop, click on the registration link below. Please understand that space is limited. Our last workshop filled up very quickly. Reservations will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis.

We look forward to helping you pass the California bar exam!

 Click here to make your reservation

California Bar Exam Tips: Free Workshops and Free Score Review

Hello All,

If you failed the February 2013 bar exam, you should know that you are not alone. The complete statistics will be available on the California bar website soon. Each year, pass rates for the February bar exams are usually lower than the pass rates for July. Typically, the February bar exam pass rates range between 39% and 50%. So, if you did not pass, you know that you are among a significant number of people who are in the very same position.

What do I do now?

So what do you do now? Do you take another bar review course? Do you hire a private tutor? Do you study on your own? The answers to those questions will be different for everyone. First, you need to properly evaluate why it is that you failed. Second, consider attending one of our free bar exam workshops.

Free Bar Exam Workshops

Our next free “How To Pass The California Bar Exam Workshop” will be held on May 22nd. We will host additional workshops, but we always suggest that you attend as soon as possible to allow yourself the greatest opportunity to benefit from the strategies and techniques covered in our workshops. Here are the details for next week’s workshop:

Los Angeles County Workshop
“How to Pass the California Bar Exam”
Date: Wednesday, May 22nd from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm
Instructor: Professor Duncanson
Location: Los Angeles, California (adjacent to the 405 freeway, parking is free)

Workshop attendees will receive handouts (including free bar exam writing templates and MBE handouts), instruction on how to write for the California bar examiners, test taking strategies and techniques, how to simply make sense of failing and move forward as well has have an opportunity to meet with our course instructor. This workshop will be taught by Professor Duncanson (Bar None Review Bar Review course founder and author of The Bar Exam Guru Blog).

Space is limited. To make a reservation for this workshop, please contact us via email at: pass@barnonereview.com or you may call us at: (213) 529-0990 or (949) 891-8831.

Free Bar Exam Score Review

We provide, for a limited period of time (as our classes and private tutoring obligations begin and then we are just not available to provide this service) a free review of your past bar scores. In order to participate in this program, you will need to send your scores to pass@barnonereview.com. We only accept scanned in score sheets or faxed scores sheets at this time (we do not accept your typed in scores in an email). We have to be sure that we are dealing with you. In addition, provide a phone number where you can be reached (all score reviews and evaluations are conducted via phone). If you would like to send your score sheet to us via fax, simply send us an email and we will provide you our fax number.

Why should I have my scores reviewed?

As a repeat bar examinee, the first step to passing the next bar exam is to review your bar exam score sheet. This can be a very confusing piece of paper. Partly because it is simply just painful to look at. Here you are, you have just received the terrible news that you have failed the bar exam and now you have to make sense of the scores. In my experience, examinees very often do not understand how the scaling works or what equals a passing “raw” score. So hopefully, what follows below will be of help to you.

Because the scoring of the California Bar Exam is scaled, it is not easy to understand what a given raw score means nor is it clear where you will need to focus from numbers alone. For example, if an examinee scores consistently the same scores on their essays (i.e., all sixties or three fifty-fives and three sixties) it will indicate a different problem than an examinee whose scores have a greater range (i.e., one 45, one 75, two 65s and two 60s etc.).

What is a passing raw score for an essay or performance test?

First of all, the raw score that is passing for the essays, performance tests and the MBEs varies from bar exam to bar exam. Most examinees incorrectly believe that a 70 is always required to pass an essay. However, this is simply not the case. In the past several bar rounds, a passing raw score on the essay has been as low as a 61 and as high as a 63 – not a 70. Of course, a 70 is a much better score to receive and better yet, 80s are really what you should be shooting for – this is the score we do our best to teach our students to be able to achieve consistently.

What is a passing raw score for the MBE?

The passing raw score for the MBE in the past few years has gone down dramatically. Several years ago, to pass the MBE portion of the exam you really needed to achieve at least 70% correct (a raw score of 140). However, in the past couple of years, the raw passing score has been between 62% – 66% (a raw score of 124 to 133). However, your practice scores should be much, much higher to ensure that you will do well enough on the MBE portion on the actual exam day.

Once the California bar releases the full statistics, some of these numbers will become more clear. However, what is most important is where you are – how far away from passing were you really? Most examinees that I speak with are quite off base when they call in to discuss their scores. There is a lot of misinformation out there. I have been following message boards and I am shocked at how little examinees know about how the test is scored. This is the fault of both law schools and bar preparation courses. It can be incredibly helpful to have someone who is knowledgeable about it to help you interpret your scores. This is really the first step in figuring out what you need or don’t need.

Free Downloads & Further Assistance

Also, be sure to visit our bar review course website free downloads of some of our Bar Exam Writing Templates as well as advice for those who are repeating the bar exam. Click here for additional Repeat Taker Information and click here for free downloads of some of The Exam Writing Templates.

Good luck to you and do not give up, this exam is do-able!

Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment here on my blog or to email me directly at: pass@barnonereview.com

Good luck in your studies!

Sincerely,

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

February Bar Exam: How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop

Hello All,

Mark your calendars – we will offer another workshop next week! Space is limited, please email us at: pass@barnonereview.com or call (213) 529-0990 or (949) 891-8831 for more details and to make a reservation.

Los Angeles County Workshop
“How to Pass the California Bar Exam”
Date: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm
Instructor: Professor Duncanson
Location: Los Angeles, California (adjacent to the 405 freeway, parking is free)

Workshop attendees will receive handouts (including free bar exam writing templates and MBE handouts), instruction on how to write for the California bar examiners, test taking strategies and techniques as well as have the opportunity to meet with our course instructor. The above workshops will be taught by Professor Duncanson (Bar None Review Bar Review course founder and author of The Bar Exam Guru Blog). More details to follow!

Space is limited. To make a reservation for this workshop, please contact us via email at: pass@barnonereview.com or you may call us at: (213) 529-0990 or (949) 891-8831.

Bar None Review

(213) 529-0990

(949) 891-8831

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