What to do if you fail the California bar exam

Leave a comment

November 18, 2007

Hello Everyone,

The following post is a reprint of “What to do if you fail the California bar exam”. Given that this is a timely topic for many, I am re-posting it here.

Good luck to all of you who are re-taking the bar exam!

If you have failed the bar exam, keep in mind that you are in good company. Also, realize that the bar exam is not an IQ test. Many very bright and hardworking examinees fail the exam. If you have failed, you will need to do the following:

1) Get past being devastated as quickly as possible – as harsh as this sounds, you really do just need to get back to work as soon as you can. Those that do, have the best chance of passing the next exam. Start by doing MBEs.

2) This is going to hurt, but – find out why you failed – this starts by getting your scores back from the bar. The bar will automatically mail score sheets to all examinees who failed the bar. This usually takes 1 – 3 days after bar results come out (so, for July 2007 examinees who fail, it could be as soon as November 17th). When you get your scores, don’t panic and don’t make assumptions about any one section. You will receive both a raw score and a scaled score. Take the time to read the materials that come with your score sheet that explain the raw and scaled scores. See also, other posts on this blog about making it to re-read and interpreting bar scores. And, if you need help interpreting your scores, you can get it free through Bar None Review barnonereview.com

3) Commit to taking and passing the next exam – in almost every case, I would recommend taking the very next bar exam. Obviously there are sometimes reasons to sit out a bar exam administration – but in most cases, the best advice is to take the very next exam. Think about it, the material seems like it has fallen out of your head right now – just think how hard it will be to put it all back together if you wait another six months – that would be a whole year since your last review – not a good plan.

4) Develop a plan of attack – Your plan might include taking another bar review course, hiring a tutor, or continuing your studies on your own. There are many courses available (assuming you already tried barbri) that cater to different needs – small classes, private tutorials. Do your research and due diligence before enrolling in a course. Ask for references, ask to see the course materials before enrolling, make sure the bar review provider is a good fit for your needs. And, don’t abandon your common sense – if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is. But, whatever you do (take a course or study on your own) make a plan – figure out how many hours you will study each day, where you will study, how long will you have to review each topic, how many essays you will write each week, how many MBEs you will do each day, how many PTs you will write – figure it out, map it out and develop a plan.

5) Work hard – no matter how hard you worked the first time, you are going to have to work just that hard again. And, if in your honest assessment of your prior bar studies you conclude that you did not work hard enough – well then you are going to have to work harder. There simply is no magic bullet.

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review

California Bar Exam: Model Answer Criminal Law/First Amendment Essay


November 18, 2007

Here is a model answer for Question 4 from the July 2007 bar exam.

Please note, the following exam answer is published by Bar None Review. You may not re-publish this model answer without written permission from Bar None Review.

1. May Dan be found guilty of the crime of murder or any lesser-included offense?

A homicide is an unlawful killing of another. Here, Dan’s actions (setting a copy of the Declaration of Independence on fire) caused the death of a pedestrian. Therefore, Dan committed a homicide.

Under the Common Law, a murder is the unlawful killing of another with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is prove in the following ways:

1. Intent to kill;
2. Intent to inflict serious bodily injury;
3. Wantonness or reckless disregard for human life; or
4. FMR (when a killing occurs during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony)

Here, Dan did not intend to kill anyone. Instead, he intended to burn a copy of the U.S. Constitution. The facts state that Dan “involuntarily” let the burning document go when the flames began to burn his hand. This does not evidence any intent on Dan’s part to kill.

However, the government might argue that Dan acted with a reckless disregard for human life since he was burning parchment in a public place where pedestrians are likely to be. The State may further argue that Dan was reckless in burning paper near a construction site. Construction sites are known to have scrap pieces of wood and other items that could be highly flammable. In this case, the construction site had an open drum of flammable liquid. While it may seem unlikely that a construction company would leave flammable liquids in an open drum, it is certainly likely that a construction site could have flammable items on site. Therefore, the State might succeed on this argument.

The State could try to prove that Dan is guilty of felony murder. A felony murder is a killing that occurs during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony. The inherently dangerous felonies include: burglary, arson, robbery, rape, kidnapping and sodomy. Here, the only viable basis for felony murder would be that Dan somehow committed arson. Under the Common Law, arson is the malicious burning of the dwelling house of another. Modernly, however, any structure (four walls and a ceiling) will suffice. The problem here is that the facts make no mention of any structure. While there is a drum – it is an “open drum” and therefore could not be construed as a structure under the modern definition of arson.

Therefore the only way that Dan could be found guilty of murder is if the State can prove that Dan’s conduct of burning the document in a public place, near a construction site and pedestrians, amounts to a reckless disregard for hum life. If so, then Dan will be guilty of murder.


First-degree murder is any murder that is committed with premeditation and deliberation. Most jurisdictions classify felony murder as a first-degree offense. However, here Dan did not premeditate or deliberate. He “involuntarily” dropped the burning document. In addition, unless the killing was committed during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony, Dan will not be convicted of first-degree murder.

All murders that are not first degree, are second-degree murder unless mitigated down to some form of manslaughter.

There are two types of manslaughter – voluntary and involuntary. If the death results from criminal negligence then the killing is considered involuntary manslaughter. Here, the State may successfully argue that it was criminally negligent to light a document on fire on a windy day near a construction site and where pedestrians are likely to be nearby. If the State meets its burden, then Dan could be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

State may also successfully argue that since the killing occurred during the commission of a misdemeanor, that Dan is guilty of misdemeanor manslaughter.

CRIME OF ATTEMPT (attempt to burn copy of U.S. Constitution)
Here, Dan thought that he was burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution. Instead he actually burned a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Dan will argue mistake of fact. However, a mistake of fact will only work as a defense to criminal guilt if the mistake of fact negates the state of mind required for the crime. Attempt crimes required specific intent (in this case, the specific intent to burn a copy of the U.S. Constitution). The state of mind required is the intent to burn a copy of the U.S. Constitution. Here, Dan “believed” that he was burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution. Even though he did not actually burn a copy of the U.S. Constitution, the fact that he was mistaken, does not negate the state of mind that is required. Therefore, Dan may be convicted (subject to the constitutionality of the regulation – discussed infra.) of an attempted misdemeanor (attempted burning of a copy of the U.S. Constitution).

2. How should the court rule on each ground of Dan’s motion to dismiss?

2a. MISTAKE OF FACT – Here, Dan will argue that he cannot be found guilty of attempt to burn the U.S. Constitution because the document he actually burned was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. However, Dan “believed” that the document he was burning was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Mistake of fact will be a defense only when the mistake of fact negates the state of mind required for the crime. Here, Dan intended to burn a copy of the U.S. Constitution. The fact that he did not actually burn a copy of the U.S. Constitution will not relieve him of criminal liability for the attempt crime because the mistake of fact does not negate the required state of mind.

Therefore, the court should deny the first ground for Dan’s motion to dismiss.

2b. FIRST AMENDMENT VIOLATION – Here, Dan will argue that the statute violates his First Amendment Right of speech and of assembly.

The First Amendment states in part, “that Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” This right is incorporated to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment.

The government may regulate conduct but not beliefs. Symbolic speech – like burning a flag in political protest – is First Amendment protected speech. (Texas v. Johnson) Here, Dan will argue that he burned the document as an expression of political protest and that the act of burning what he believed to be a copy of the U.S. Constitution is symbolic speech. Dan set fire to what he believed was a copy of the U.S. Constitution while saying: “ . . . they can take your constitutional rights away just as fast as I can destroy this copy of the U.S. Constitution.” Dan did not simply intend to burn a piece of paper. Instead, Dan intended to burn the U.S. Constitution as an expression of an idea. This symbolic speech is protected under the First Amendment.

CONTENT-BASED RESTRICTION – Dan will argue that the regulation constitutes a content-based restriction on his speech and is therefore presumptively invalid. Content-based restrictions are subject to strict scrutiny. Under the strict scrutiny standard, the government bears the burden to prove that the regulation is necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest. Here, the government is regulating based upon content (by criminalizing the burning of copies of the U.S. Constitution) and as such must meet the strict scrutiny standard. There is no compelling governmental interest in preventing citizens from burning “copies of the U.S. Constitution”. Therefore, Dan will likely succeed in his First Amendment claim.

The state will argue that the regulation neutral as to content and is simply a regulation of conduct (burning) that is intended to protect the public from the dangers of fire. Assuming the State can overcome Dan’s argument that this is a content-based regulation (which is doubtful given that the regulation specifically criminalizes burning copies of the U.S. Constitution) then the state would then need to prove that the regulation is narrowly tailored to a significant government interest and that the regulation leaves open ample alternative channels of communication.

The significant government interest at stake would be public safety. In addition, the government has a significant interest in being able to carry out important government business at a state capitol building. Burning of documents in front of the state capitol while persons are attempting to enter the building could interrupt this important business and could put citizens in danger.

Here the regulation does not leave open ample alternative channels for this kind of communication because it makes burning a copy of the U.S. Constitution illegal anywhere. Therefore, the State will likely lose.

There appear to be no issues with respect to vagueness and over breadth.

A prior restraint exists where the government must approve of the speech before it occurs. Prior restraints are presumptively invalid due to their chilling effects on speech. In order to stand, prior restraints must pass strict scrutiny. Here, by criminalizing conduct that amounts to symbolic speech, the regulation is a prior restraint on speech. As discussed above, there is no compelling governmental issue at stake. Therefore, the regulation is unconstitutional.

Here, Dan may try to argue that the regulation violates his First Amendment right of assembly. The First Amendment protects not only the basic rights to communicate, but it also protects the right to join with others in exercising these rights. This protection is incorporated to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment. Here, Dan was speaking to “half a dozen people entering the front doors” of the capitol. His argument here is weak because the regulation does not prevent him from assembling with others, but merely prevents him from burning the U.S. Constitution.

Copyright 2007 Bar None Review. All rights reserved.

Free Bar Exam Writing Workshops

Leave a comment

November 18, 2007

Hello Everyone,

Bar None Review will be conducting free bar exam writing workshops during the month of November. Students will receive free Bar Exam Writing Templates and instruction on how to write for the California bar examiners.
Regardless of which bar review program you choose, our workshops will provide you with a great head start towards writing successfully for the California bar examiners. For a complete listing of upcoming workshop dates, please visit: Bar None Review and select: Upcoming Workshops from the menu tab on the left.

If you would like to reserve a space or would like more information, please contact our office at (562) 799-5581 to reserve your space or simply send an email to pass@barnonereview.com

We look forward to being of assistance.


Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(562) 799-5581

Congratulations to everyone who took the July bar exam

Leave a comment

Yes, congratulations to everyone. I know that if you failed, it doesn’t feel like much of an accomplishment or something to be congratulated for . . . but, you did stick it out and you are closer to your goal – if only one more bar administration away from your goal. I know that may sound awful, but don’t discount what you have already accomplished. You got through the three days (the study that preceded it) and the waiting . . . and while it is painful that you did not get passing results – you survived it and life will go on. Take stock in what you have achieved and also what you still need to do (areas of improvement) in order to pass. You will receive your bar exam scores in a few days (you might even already have your score sheet from the bar). Once you receive your scores, you will be able to begin to sort out where you need to improve.

For example, generally anything less than 75% on the MBEs is quite risky. 75% equates to a raw score of 150. Nevermind the scaling aspect here (at least for now). Instead, look at your raw number and the individual raw scores for each topic. Which topic is your lowest MBE score and which topic is your highest MBE score? What is your total raw score? If it is under a 110, you’ve got a ways to go. But, there is hope and it is possible to fix a score of even a 101 (that’s less than 51%) in one bar round. I know, I have worked with students who had scores of 100, 101, 102 and who had only 6 weeks before the bar exam to fix it – and guess what, they were able to do it. (Not without a lot of hard, focused work on the MBEs and not without the right MBEs – you have got to use the released questions to get better at the real MBEs on the bar exam).

Keep in mind that the hard work that you have already put in will definitely be a part of why you pass the next exam. Yes, it will take a little time to get that material back in your head. But, you will be able to do it. And, before you know it, you will have the law back at your fingertips.

Also, don’t forget what you have gained from your first experience with the bar exam. You learned that you can survive the three days. Perhaps you learned that you ran out of time on some of the essays (therfore, you will need to do more timed practice this round), you learned what it was like to do 2oo MBE questions under real exam conditions. Think back on your experience – what felt right about it, what felt like it wasn’t working? Think hard about how you prepared – did you write practice exams? Did you get exam feedback in a timely fashion? Was the feedback valuable? Did you find that you studied better in the morning or the afternoon? What would you do differently this time?

Regardless of what you might do differently the next time, one key thing to remember is that you need to practice. In my experience, most examinees fail from a lack of practice . . . a lack of MBE practice, a lack of essay writing practice and a lack of performance test practice. It is understandable because so many bar review courses down play the need to write exams and to do MBEs. And, even if your bar review course did not under emphasize exam practice, the schedule that most bar reviews put you on leaves little time for practice. However, you need to do it. So be sure to carve out time throughout each week to write exams and to complete MBEs on a daily basis.

Students need to spend most of their practice on the MBEs and the Essays. While it is important to practice the Performance Test section as well, the most important part of the written portion to practice is the essay section. This is because essays repeat and so once you master how to write a defamation exam then you will be able to write most any defamation exam. Once you have mastered a contracts formation exam, then you will be able to write any contracts formation exam well. The language and approach just doesn’t change.

Get back to studying right away. The longer you delay, the harder it will be to get going and make progress. Most repeat examinees get started too late. Look at the pass rates for repeat bar examinees – it is very low. You can take yourself right out of that low statistic by hitting those MBEs right away. It is the best first step you can take. Do it now. Do it by Thanksgiving – seriously! Start out with 25, then do 50 a day. If you have to work, then make it 15 a day (do 15 mbes before you go to work). This sends the message that YOUR bar studies are important and you are making it a priority. It is a good thing to do and it will help you break away from that low statistic. The sooner you start, the bigger the advantage you have over those who delay.

Well, hang in there. You can do it. The first step towards doing it is simply opening up your books again and working through those MBEs. See barnonereview.com for free bar exam writing templates and to learn more about a free bar exam score review.

Good luck to everyone!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(562) 799-5581

Bar Results – 11 Days Away!

Leave a comment

Well, I will never forget my wait for bar results – it seemed to take forever. I was doing pretty well until those final ten days or so (right about where you are now). Suddenly I could no longer sleep, I began to be plagued by visions of having to re-take the exam and I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

There’s nothing you can do but wait (I know, “gee, thanks, that is soooo helpful . . . “). But, you can distract yourself while you wait – – go see a bunch of movies (I highly recommend Dan in Real Life), go to see some live comedy, stay active and stay away from people who constantly say this to you: “Oh, don’t worry, I am sure you passed.” (no one is sure you passed – not even you, and you were the one who actually took the test), try to get some sleep (yeah, right) and just do whatever it takes to not think about it.

Also, try not to make failing seem like the end of the world. Yes, it would really be awful to have to take the bar again. But, it would not be the end of your world. So try to keep it in perspective (easier said than done, but just try).

Hang in there!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(562) 799-5581

July 2007 Bar Exam Results

Leave a comment

Hello Everyone!

Good luck to everyone who is waiting for bar results! As you know, the results will be available on Friday, November 16th at 6:00 pm via the California bar exam’s website: calbar.org. Results will only be available to examinees who have their exam number and password. The bar results will become available to the public on Sunday, November 18, 2007.

Hang in there and the best of luck to you!

Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(562) 799-5581