California Bar Exam: Last Minute Performance Test Tips

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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

July 2014 Bar Exam Predictions and Tips

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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.

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California Bar Exam Tips: Free How to Pass the Bar Exam Workshop

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Hello all,

Thank you for following the blog, thank you for taking the Bar Exam Guru past half a million views! I am grateful for the following and look forward to providing more tips!

Our next free, “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” will be held on Thursday, May 22, 2014 in Los Angeles. Stay tuned . . . I will post a link for examinees to sign up online.

Best,

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

February 2014 Bar Exam Predictions: Part Two

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Hello All,

I want to wish everyone who is taking the bar exam tomorrow all of the very best of luck!

Some additional thoughts on potential areas for testing on the essays:

Typically a few subjects repeat from one bar exam round to the next. And, sometimes a subject will repeat three times back to back. This means that really anything can be tested. If you have been following this blog, you will know this as it is a theme here – be prepared for anything, as anything is testable.

That being said, I do have some additional thoughts on what could potentially show up on the exam either Tuesday or Thursday.

Of the topics from the July bar exam that might be a bit more likely to repeat, I think that perhaps Wills or Constitutional Law are possibilities.

Possibly Wills: The reason I suggest Wills, is because it could easily be tested as a cross over with Trusts. This would bring in a new topic and repeat Wills. It makes sense, but of course there are no guarantees. If you were to see Trusts (either as a cross over with Wills or alone as a Trusts only essay) I am leaning towards the essay involving either a Spendthrift/Support/Discretionary Trust scenario (these three are typically tested together) or a Charitable Trust issue (requiring a discussion of the Doctrine of Cy Pres and Equitable Deviation). Another point worth making about Trusts is that the area of Testamentary Trusts has not come up in some time. It is worth noting that the last time Trusts was on the bar exam it was in the context (primarily) of Trust Remedies, specifically a constructive trust.

Possibly Constitutional Law: Another area to keep in mind for the essays is the possibility of Constitutional Law repeating. So why Constitutional Law? There are a few reasons: 1) subjects repeat back to back, and 2) there are several areas within Constitutional Law that were not tested on the July bar exam that could make up an entirely different Constitutional Law essay exam. For example, a First Amendment Speech issue could be tested (which was not tested on the July bar exam) or a Commerce Clause or Dormant Commerce Clause issue could come up. I think the latter is more likely than First Amendment Speech.

One possible scenario would involve a state statute that essentially taxes out of staters – in this type of scenario you are faced with balancing the state’s interest in the regulation and the burden that is placed on interstate commerce. I think this is a very likely area for testing. Should you see an exam like this, you will need to identify the power that the state has to act (those powers that are reserved to the states via the 10th Amendment: safety, health, welfare, education and morals of its citizens). You will also need to identify the state’s interest and ultimately determine whether upholding the regulation places an undue burden on interstate commerce.

Torts is not my first pick of topics to repeat. However, if it were to be tested, I think that Defamation is a real possibility. It could, someday, be tested as a cross-over with an anti-slapp motion (which has yet to be tested from California Civil Procedure). An anti-slapp motion is a type of responsive pleading available in California and could be an appropriate response to a suit for defamation. This has yet to show up on the California bar exam and I do think it will some day. Of course whether that is tomorrow is another thing.

I will be posting again tomorrow after I hear what was tested on the essays. I will not address the performance test tomorrow. The reason for this is because there are examinees with accommodations who will not be taking the performance test until Wednesday. As a result, I will not be posting anything here about tomorrow’s performance test until after Wednesday evening.

I want to thank you again for following my blog.

I wish you much success on the bar exam!

All the best,

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder (213) 529-0990
Bar None Review and The Bar Exam Cram Session (TM)

California Bar Exam Predictions: July 2013 Bar Exam – Part Two

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Hello All,

The test is five days away.  It is normal to have some anxiety right now (okay, it is normal to have a lot of anxiety right now).  But, there is still time to review, and still time to gain a better understanding of how areas are tested, and still time to continue to memorize the law. You need to believe that in order to make the best use of the remaining time. Actively work at remaining calm and maintaining a positive attitude – it will only lead to a better study period in these next few days.

If you would like to be added to our July 2013 Bar Exam Tips Email List, click here.

A bit about writing for the California Bar Examiners and how to prepare in the final days leading up to the exam:

I highly recommend that you review as many essays as you can. Of course, continuing to work on memorization is important. But, anyone who has reviewed past California bar exam released answers will tell you that the graders’ focus is not on perfect rule statements. The bar examiners know that you can go look up a rule.  A passing answer will evidence that you know what the issues are and that you know how to resolve the legal problems. This is key.

I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t strive to write perfect or near perfect rule statement. But, it is more important to evidence a true understanding of the legal issues presented by each fact pattern and to resolve these issues to your best ability. Your focus should be on issue coverage (identifying as many of the relevant issues as possible) and on the analysis (fully explaining why something is an issue and how it could be resolved). All too often examinees write towards the answer – by this I mean that many examinees first (before writing anything) try to figure out what the correct answer is and then write towards that conclusion. A better approach is to present all possible issues and to discuss all possible resolutions of those issues.

Okay, I promised more “predictions” . . . so here we go . . .

Property - Property is a possibility. I think that Constitutional Law, Evidence and Property are all about equal in terms of the chances of each subject showing up on your next bar exam (and that Criminal Law is a possible topic that might repeat – although I do not necessarily think you are likely to have four MBE topics – but it is possible). What is most likely for Property (if it were tested): Easements is very possible (either on its own or – in a possible land sale contract setting). I also think that Covenants and Equitable Servitudes are possible.

Also, 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, 2. Is the Easement affirmative or negative easement, 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? 4. 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 and potentially recording act statues and 2) a potential Warranty Deed discussion where you discuss the present and future covenants. **Incidentally, I think this is as likely an essay testing scenario in Property as a straight Covenants/Equitable Servitudes essay. Bear in mind that in Property, the favorite area of testing is the area of landlord tenant. While this was tested recently, it does not mean the examiners could not do it again. It is just not my first pick for what will come your way. However, be ready for it.

Community Property - most are “predicting” community property. I do think it is very likely. There is not a lot to community property (in terms of what the California bar examiners test). So, like all subjects, you simply need to know it. However, I would be certain to know the Accounting Methods for Value Enhanced Separate Property businesses (Van Camp and Pereira). Simply know this topic. Because there is not a lot to this subject, we typically see the same issues tested over and over from one testing round to the next (transmutations come up a lot, the fiduciary duty between husband and wife and rights to equal management and control also come up a lot). In addition, I would be mindful of the following scenario (this would just be one part of a Community Property Essay): husband sells diamonds to a third party way below market value. Wife wants the diamonds back. The issues that come up are: 1) equal management and control, 2) fiduciary duty (the duty owed between husband and wife is of the highest level), 3) whether the third party buyer is a “Super BFP” (a buyer who purchased for value without notice of the marriage). Keep in mind that if the buyer paid way below market value, then they probably are not a “purchaser for value” and so whether they knew of the marriage or not, will not likely matter. You could then potentially discuss remedies – the remedies available would likely be a constructive trust or tracing (if the buyer sold the diamonds for cash). Yes, remedies concepts can show up pretty much anywhere. The key is to simply use your common sense - don’t write your answers in a vacuum - rely on both your knowledge of the law and common sense and focus on resolving the legal issues at hand (this is something that applies to all subjects).

Professional Responsibility - Professional Responsibility is tested on the essay section of the bar exam on virtually every bar examination administration. In fact, the California bar examiners have only skipped Professional Responsibility from the essay portion of the exam twice since 1994. It will be tested on either the essays or the performance test (as that is what the bar tells us – from 1994 tested every bar round on the written portion – this can be either the essays or the performance tests or both). So, not a real surprise that I would be predicting this topic. However, there are some areas that are favorites (typically) and some areas that have not been tested as recently as others. Bear in mind, there is only so much to Professional Responsibility – so the same issues repeat frequently. Therefore, a review of any of the recent Professional Responsibility Essays would be appropriate.

Professional Responsibility in the context of a corporationSome are predicting that you might see PR in the context of a corporation. The scenario is often this: where the Lawyer is representing a corporation and then a lower level employee meets with Lawyer (perhaps offsite) and confides in Lawyer about a past or ongoing fraud on the part of the corporation). This is being predicted because it is a past favorite and we haven’t seen it for a while. In this scenario the Lawyer’s client was supposed to be the corporation and now the issue or problem that arises in the facts is that Lawyer – in meeting with the lower level employee – is also the lower level employee’s attorney – that an attorney-client relationship formed when Lawyer met with lower level employee. And, of course there is now a conflict of interest. You might also have the opportunity to discuss the rules about crimes that the client has committed, is committing or is about to commit and the rules with respect to what Lawyer may or must do. This area has been tested quite a bit historically, but not recently. Therefore, it is a very likely possibility. 

Other Professional Responsibility favorites are: 1) Mom hiring attorney for her son and 2) Lawyer engaging in a sexual relationship with his/her client. All of these areas present many of the same issues: breach of the duty of loyalty, breach of the duty to give candid advice, and especially – conflict of interests. Keep in mind that when dealing with conflict of interests in Professional Responsibility, the bar examiners embrace answers that discuss both potential conflicts and actual conflicts. 

Okay, that is it for today. Remember that these are just possible scenarios. I do not have a crystal ball.

Be positive, believe in yourself, and know that you CAN do this. The bar examiners are not looking for perfection. Simply do your best and trust that you are capable and that your best will be more than good enough.

All the best,

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

California Bar Exam: Day Two and “Predictions” for Day Three

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Hello All,

Right now you are most likely taking the AM section of the MBE . . . unless you are an attorney taker. And, in just an hour or so, you will be half way done with the California bar exam! Congratulations!

So, as promised, I will be posting about what I think might be possible for day three’s essays. I am taking into account what was covered in yesterday’s Performance Test A into my assessments of what I would expect you to possibly see for testing tomorrow.

First, some comments about yesterday’s essays:

1. Day One is over – do not rehash it, replay or worry about it. It is done and you can not go back and re-do it and there is nothing to be gained from going over it and over it again.

2. The above being said – I think there are some things that I can say that might help you put Day One’s essays to bed – so to speak. Aside from simply putting Day One behind you – perhaps this will help: Essay number three had many options as to what could have been discussed. This essay was very similar to Essay #2 from the July 2003 bar exam (something I have brought up on many, many occasions in my bar review course). I have used this essay (from the July 2003 bar exam) as an example of what would be considered an “oddball” essay. On the July 2003 bar exam, the fact pattern was very similar, but the call of the question in 2003 was different. It was different in that examinees were asked to discuss “trust remedies”. This confused many examinees. This bar round it was a different call (and quite frankly, in my opinion, easier to deal with because the calls lead you to certain issues that a call of ‘trust remedies’ might not have). The point of all of this is that I have used this past exam as an example of what I would refer to as an “oddball” essay exam in order to illustrate how various answers (very different responses) would be acceptable. In fact, the story that I relay to my students is this:

“On Day One of the July 2003 bar exam, several of my students called me to discuss essay number two – the essay that tested ‘trust remedies’. I remember two students in particular with whom I spoke to that night. One was a valedictorian from an ABA law school and the other was a repeat taker who had attended a non-accredited law school. Both called me and told me how they handled that ‘oddball’ essay. Each had a very different route to resolving the issues presented and doing their best to answer the call of the question. However, both had some overlap in their coverage. I was confident that both examinees had successfully answered that question. And, both ultimately passed that bar round.”

The reason I even tell this story is to underscore for my students (and now for you) the importance of simply focusing on doing your absolute best to resolve the legal problem(s) presented in the fact pattern. Sometimes we get so caught up in the rules and definitions that we have been attempting to memorize for months that we lose sight of some of our common sense and practical ability to problem solve.

So where does that leave you with yesterday’s essays? Day one is over. What I want to make clear regarding essay number three is that there were variations of answers that will all be correct. Some will have addressed some Contract issues while others perhaps more regarding Torts and specific Tort Remedies – I could give you a list of the two or three issues that I believe a passing answer for that essay absolutely had to have . . . but I will not do that right now – because it will NOT serve you well to think that you missed one or more of those issues. AND regardless of how you did yesterday – you are still in the game – you simply have to take that approach. If you feel badly about yesterday – LET IT GO. That is your choice – to take that approach – and I urge you to make that choice.

You can take on today and tomorrow and no matter what happened yesterday, you can still take this test and make it your last. Be positive and let yesterday go.

One last thing about yesterday’s essays – many have written in indicating that day one was really hard. So, all of you reading this should keep the test in perspective. Yesterday was not likely a walk in the park for anyone. It was simply what it was – and now it is behind you – relish in that. And, resolve and commit to the rest of the exam with as much vigor and confidence as you can possibly muster.

One of the messages I received yesterday was from an examinee who told me of some of the mistakes he felt he had made and asked me if I thought there was “still hope”. I actually receive that same email many times over from many examinees. And, my answer is this: of course there is still hope. You go for it and do not allow this test to get the best of you. Perform at your best today, let yesterday go and tomorrow – do the exact same thing.

“Predictions”

I will be posting again today with my “predictions” for tomorrow’s essays and some thoughts about the Performance Test.

Until then, put yesterday and this morning behind you. Stay positive and believe in yourself.

All the best to all who are taking the exam today!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
barnonereview.com

Bar Exam Tip: The Most Popular Question of the Day: “What Should I Study Today”

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Hello All,

I have been asked this question by many examinees and so I thought I would take a moment to answer it here for everyone to see.

Many people are writing in asking what subjects they should study today. I recognize that the reason these individuals are asking me this question is because they think that they should study today what is most likely to show up tomorrow . . . and they are asking me because I have had a reasonably good track record of “predicting” the essay topics. Well, that is risky business . . . studying around what anyone might say is going to be on the test. First of all, I do not claim to be able to predict what you will see on the exam. I spend time coming up with what I think are possible essay scenarios (incidentally, one of my competitors is now calling it that: “possible scenarios” . . . interesting . . . but, I digress). My point is that while it feels good to go into the exam with these potential essay scenarios and it will feel even better if you see even just one of these essay scenarios tested – you should study what is the weakest subject for you.

Now, that is assuming you are studying at all today. I did not study the day before the bar exam. I planned on it, but when I got to the day before the exam, I simply decided not to study anymore. I passed. I have friends that continued to study up into the evening prior to the exam and they too passed. You really have to do what feels right for you. I personally think that you should not stay up late studying.

And, with respect to predictions and how you should study today (assuming you do study today) you should take a look over the “predicted” possible essay scenarios. But, your time should be spent reviewing any subject you would be afraid to see tomorrow – that is where you should focus.

Remember, no one has a crystal ball with respect to this exam. Therefore, while I think it helps calm students down to have some areas of focus – you should really think about the following:

1) Do I need or want to study today? (really – it is okay not to study today – sometimes rest is the best thing and just a light review of topics or no review), and - If you are planning on studying today then:

2) Focus on an area that is one that you are hoping you will not see on the essay exam. You may not be able to resolve every aspect of that topic or subject in your favor – but at least you can go into the test knowing that you gave it some extra attention close in time to the actual exam.

Above all, do things today that are good for you. Do not panic. You might say: “Easy for you to say . . . you are not taking the test tomorrow”. You are right, I am not taking the test tomorrow. But, I have taken and passed two bar exams. Some degree of panic is normal. But, do not allow it to overwhelm you. Push it away. That is imperative and will do far more for your likelihood of success on the exam than virtually anything else you could do today.

All the best to all of you who are taking the exam tomorrow! Be positive, trust your instincts and remain as calm as possible.

Best of luck!