California Bar Exam Tips

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Good evening all,

As we learn of yet another tragic terrorist act in France, I can’t help but think of all the lives lost both in France and in our own country. My thoughts go out to all the victims, and to their family members and loved ones.

So how do you study for the bar exam with so much going on, especially when it is such sad news?

Focusing on the task at hand and recognizing that by doing well on the bar exam, you can do well for others too. It isn’t just your life that is affected by passing, it is everyone around you, and, in particular those that you will ultimately help once you become an attorney. Think about that now as a source of motivation (if you are struggling). And, if you are unaware of what I am talking about – then it means you have not been on social media, have not watched the news and have truly disconnected (as you should) for your bar studies.

If you have not disconnected, then now is a good time to do that (keep your cell phone off during the day when you are studying, stop checking email, stay off of twitter and Instagram and Facebook – these can be huge time wasters). Let family members and friends know that you are going into hibernation until the bar exam is over. It is critical that you hunker down right now and really focus. The bar exam is less than two weeks away. Do your best to put aside everything else in the next 11 days. If not now, when?

All the best in your studies!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson
The Bar Exam Guru
barnonereview.com
Bar None Review
barexamguru@yahoo.com
213-529-0990

 

Bar Exam Prep: So Many Rules, So Little Time

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Hello All,

First, I want to thank you for following this blog. To date, we have had over 800,000 views! I take great pleasure in being able to offer assistance to those who are struggling through the grind of bar studies. It is truly humbling to have your readership.

The bar exam is now less than a month away. This weekend is often one of the most critical weekends in a July bar examinee’s review period. Many are starting to realize the sheer weight of what has to be done and fear starts to creep in and even take over. Anxiety starts to run high, and if allowed to go unchecked, can be any bar examinee’s demise.

It is normal to experience some anxiety and fear during this time – especially when you think about how much you might still need to learn, let alone memorize. However, it is important that you put things into perspective. The bar exam, while now less than a month away, is not tomorrow. You have time to improve and to work on memorization. One of the best ways to eliminate anxiety is to start memorizing the material.

One of the most common questions I field every bar round is:

“How the heck am I going to memorize all of this material? There is so much to memorize!”

One of the challenges of the bar exam is that students often suffer from information overload. Sometimes, the more diligent a student is, the more they read outlines and the more they try to memorize volumes and volumes of material.

While it may seem like the right thing to do, I caution students against getting into a rut of reading extensive and lengthy outlines to the exclusion of other things that should be done (like: reviewing and study past essay exams and answers, practicing and studying past MBEs, writing practice exams under non-timed conditions and writing timed exams).

Reading outlines that are 1oo to 150 pages for each subject and trying to commit these to memory for 15 subjects is not only very difficult, but it can become counter-productive. Instead, start carving out time to review past exams and answers. By reviewing and learning from the actual past exams, you will help bridge the gap between being able to recite an outline and being able to write an actual essay answer.

SPEND TIME LEARNING BY STUDYING THE TEST

The only way to really know and understand the material, is to see it in the context of the exam. Will reading essays and completing MBEs alone be enough? Not likely, but without this kind of review, failure is almost certain. You need to not only put your knowledge to the test and practice the test, you need to learn from the test.

Here are some suggestions of what I think you should consider doing in the coming days leading up to the bar exam. If you do these things, it will make the job of memorizing the law much easier.

  1. It is imperative that you understand the law you are memorizing.

One of the biggest mistakes that examinees make is to fail to truly learn and understand the material. There is sometimes such a focus on memorization that examinees delay reviewing the actual test. This can prove to be disastrous. You do not want to wait until the bar exam to figure out if you actually understand how the issues arise. Rule statements are important, but being able to determine when something is at issue or not, will require that you understand the law and how it is tested. Being able to write rule statements from memory does not necessarily mean that you understand (when faced with a fact pattern) what the issues turn upon.

It is key that you are able to understand the material, and not just being able to recite the rules. So when you think about memorizing the material – think about first “understanding the law.”  This means: understanding what the terms mean, how the issues are generated and how the issues are tested. Once you understand the material, memorizing it will be much easier.

2. You need to see (and learn) the material in the context of the exam.

Again, being able to recite rule statements is something that most examinees strive to do and do so fairly effectively. The problem is that your job on exam day is not going to be to simply write out a Contracts outline or to write out a Torts outline. Yet, if you think about it, examinees often spend their time preparing for the exam as though the exam consists of simply reciting rules. While it is certainly a help, it is only part of what is needed to pass the exam. Successful examinees not only are able to recite rules, they know how the material is tested and understand the material in the context of the actual exam.

To do this, you should review past essays and answers. When reviewing essays, really study the answers and pay close attention to which issues were addressed in the answers and how these issues arose from the facts. Reading essays and studying the answers is critical to passing the California bar exam. There are simply ways that the material is tested that are not intuitive and will be lost on you unless you actually see it in the context of the actual exam.

For the MBEs it is critical that you learn how Torts is tested, how Constitutional Law is tested, Property, etc. This is key. The best way to accomplish this is to study past MBEs (I recommend that you work on NCBE drafted MBES ONLY). Three sources for NCBE released questions are: 1) The Strategies and Tactics for the MBE by Walton and Emanuel, 2) Adaptibar and 3) the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The reason you want to focus your attention and energy on the NCBE released MBEs is because it will be important for you to align yourself with what the National Conference of Bar Examiners is testing, how they are testing, as this is will be the closest approximation to the actual test. Think of it this way: you need to know what the NCBE think amounts to a taking by force such that a robbery occurred rather than what you think factually amounts to a taking by force or what your law professor thought was a taking by force. Focus on completing NCBE MBEs (timed as well as non-timed review of MBEs is important – more on this in a future post).

3. Work on memorizing a condensed version of the subjects after you have spent time reviewing past exams.

It will be so much easier to memorize material that you actually understand. As I suggest above, one of the best ways to gain an understanding of the material is to see how it is tested. Once you have studied how products liability is tested, you will have a much easier time memorizing what you need to know for Products Liability. What you actually have to memorize becomes less as it represents what you fully understand.

Products liability is a big topic with a lot of detail. However, to be able to successfully navigate a products liability exam you will need to be able to have an approach for, and a condensed version of, products liability memorized (and, of course, understood). For example, the following would be a good approach for Products Liability:

  1. Introductory statement: The plaintiff may recover under products liability for the following torts: 1) intentional tort (usually battery), 2) negligence, 3) strict products liability (for defective product) and 4) under the warranty theories (implied warranty and express
  2. Intentional Tort (here plaintiff may be able to prove the tort of battery if they can show the defendant knew with substantial certainty that a harmful or offensive result would occur – look for facts that state percentage rates of failure – this suggests the defendant knew with substantial certainty that _% of the time the product would cause a harmful or offensive result. This is always a quick discussion, but worth points by addressing it quickly – this is generally addressed in every released answer for products liability essays, yet many examinees miss this point).
  3. Negligence – all in the commercial chain owe a duty to plaintiff – reasonable manufacturer, reasonable retailer etc. Write a normal negligence discussion, but focus on drawing attention to the breach as being a failure to warn or negligent design as these will be easily referred to once you are in your strict products liability discussion.
  4. Strict Liability for Defective Product (unreasonably dangerous) – strict liability attaches by placing an unreasonably dangerous product in the market place. Your focus will be to prove that the product is a defective product. There are three ways to prove this: 1) manufacturing defect (rarely tested on the essays), 2) design defect (often tested) and 3) warning defect (often tested). Prove up one or more ways the product is defective, then briefly discuss causation (which you can refer back to your discussion of under your Negligence call – if you have already discussed negligence) and then conclude (of course discuss any appropriate defenses – i.e., assumption of the risk, learned intermediary, etc.)
  5. Warranty Theories 
    1. Implied Warranty of Merchantability – implied into every sale that goods are of fair and average quality and fit for the ordinary purpose. This is something you will typically address on EVERY products liability essay as it is always present.
    2. Implied Warranty of Fitness for Particular purpose – you may or may not need to discuss this warranty – it must be generated by the facts.
    3. Express Warranty – you may or may not need to discuss this type of warranty – it must be generated by the facts.

Note that you can condense this even further and ultimately turn it into a checklist/shorthand approach for products liability.

Getting a handle on how the substantive material plays out on the essay exams (as well as how it is tested on the MBEs) is critical to your success. The above is an example of how you should be viewing the material. How much easier would it be to write a products liability exam if you actually knew, going into the exam, what areas to write on and for how long? Studying past bar exam essays and answers will help you not only with your understanding of the law, but also with your memorization. Memorizing a step-by-step approach for each area will enable you to get to writing your answer more quickly because you will know how to start your exam. Your answer will look more organized, your issue coverage will be better and it will look like you know what you are doing because . . . you do.

I will write more in the coming days about how to make the best use of the time you have remaining and techniques for memorizing.

Until then, happy studies!

 

California Bar Exam: Free Workshop, Predictions & More

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Hello all,

Thank you for following the Bar Exam Guru blog! We have now had over 800,000 views. I am humbled and grateful for the followers.

Due to the high demand of our free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam” Workshop, I will be teaching a second workshop to be held this Wednesday, June 1st from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm. This session will be held in Orange County.

As a bonus, I will be covering the Performance Test and will address some early predictions for the July 2016 bar exam.

Class fills up quickly, so be sure to reserve your space early!

Students will receive a free copy of our Guide to Passing the California Bar Exam as well as free bar exam writing templates. The workshop will provide substantive coverage on how to successfully write for the California bar examiners. Get answers to when and where you should include California distinctions, how long is a typical passing essay answer, learn the proper form and structure of a solidly passing essay and performance test. And, as time allows, we will discuss strategies for the MBE.

Come and learn how to develop a plan for succeeding on the July 2016 bar exam. Space is limited. Reserve your space today!

BNR Classroom Image

What should I do if I just failed the bar exam?

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What should you do if you just failed the bar exam?

If you have failed the bar exam, keep in mind that you are in good company. The bar exam is not an IQ test. Many very bright and hardworking examinees fail the exam. As devastating as this experience is, it is important to start thinking about what you need to do next. Below are some tips and suggestions. Above all, don’t lose heart.

1) Get past being devastated as quickly as possible – I know this sounds really harsh, but the sooner you are able to get back on track and develop a plan for passing – and yes, start studying again – the better. Those that do, have the best chance of passing the next exam.

2) 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. When you get your scores, don’t panic and don’t make assumptions about any one section. You will receive raw scores and scaled scores. 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 – contact me (Lisa Duncanson) directly at: barexamguru@yahoo.com (Note: I offer this on a first come, first serve basis and for a limited time. To participate you must send a copy of your actual score sheet, including your name and a phone number where you can be reached).

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) Attend our free workshop –  I will be teaching a free, How to Pass the California Bar Exam workshop this Wednesday, May 18th in Los Angeles. Students will receive a free copy of our Guide to Passing the California Bar Exam as well as free bar exam writing templates. The workshop will provide substantive coverage on how to successfully write for the California bar examiners, how to develop a plan for succeeding on the July 2016 bar exam, tips for writing Performance Tests and strategies and tactics for success on the bar exam. Space is limited. Click here to reserve your space in the May 18, 2016 workshop.

5) 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. For tips on how to create a study plan, click here.

6) 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.

Best,

Lisa Duncanson

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

Good Luck on Bar Results Tonight!

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Hello all,

Bar results for the California bar exam will be released this evening at 6:00 pm.

Wishing everyone who is waiting for results all the best of luck tonight! And, for those of you who are about to begin studying for the July 2016 bar exam, check out our newly designed website at: BarNoneReview.com

Sincerely,

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

Bar Exam: First Recap

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Hello All,

Congratulations on completing one of the last three day bar exams in the country! (More on the upcoming changes to the California bar exam in another post).

CAVEAT: I have not seen the essays and so my comments here are based solely upon examinees’s reports. Still, the more I hear, the more I am able to piece together and I think it is certainly safe to say that if you took today’s exam, then you know that Contracts featured prominently.

In fact, the question of the day today was this: “Did I really just see two Contracts essays?” Well, yes, yes you did.

If you read my post on Tuesday, you may recall that I mentioned that you should not put any of the topics that were tested on Tuesday’s essays away. This is because the bar examiners have been known to test the same essay topic on more than one essay out of the six essays. Yes, two essays on the same topic – with some variations, sure – but still the same topic on two separate essays.

So, while I think that most were not expecting to see two Contracts essays on day three, Contracts has shown up on two out of the six essays before. (Incidentally, so too has Professional Responsibility and Evidence).  Still, today was not likely what most examinees were expecting. So, I wanted to weigh in tonight to simply put you at ease and confirm that yes, it appears that Contracts appeared on more than one of today’s three essays. One of the Contracts essays tested the Common Law of Contracts (among other issues) and the other tested the Uniform Commercial Code. Again, understand that I have not seen the exam and so I am relying solely upon reports from examinees. Remedies was also tested along with what appears to have been a fairly straightforward Evidence essay.

So, this guru’s “predictions” were six for six. I am pleased with that.

If you would like to provide more detail, you can do so by leaving a comment here on my blog or by emailing me at: barexamguru@yahoo.com

I am waiting on more reports about the exam before I say much more. I am also waiting for the exam to actually be over with – remember that some examinees have accommodations that allow for time and a half or double time. This means that for some examinees the exam goes on for six days. Since there are still examinees sitting for the bar exam through this Sunday, I will postpone any discussion of the performance test until next week out of respect for the exam and the process.

I did, however, want to simply say that yes, Contracts appears to have made an appearance on two of today’s three essays. And as was expected, Remedies and Evidence were also tested. I will write more after I hear more.

Congratulations again on completing the exam and all the best of luck to those who are still taking the exam over the next few days!

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

Performance Test: Last Minute Tips!

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Hello All,

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

Please refer to my two earlier “predictions” posts for advice on tomorrow’s essays. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I do not claim to be able to predict the essays. I did have some very good predictions for day one (as in it was pretty close to what showed up). But, obviously the bar examiners can test anything tomorrow. So please do not assume that since the predictions were very close on day one’s essays, that tomorrow’s essays will prove to be as much of a match up. I would take a look at my predictions for examples of essay scenarios that could come up and I would also review any area of law that feels uncomfortable for you or that you think you might not remember (regardless of whether it is something I have “predicted” or not).

I want to wish you all the very best of luck on tomorrow’s exam. If you are new to my blog, I suggest reviewing the “predictions” posts from February 17th and 18th as well as yesterday’s post.

And now some last minute 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 if you can. 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 tomorrow!

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