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.
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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 corporation – Some 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,
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