How to Pass the California Bar Exam: Part Two

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Hello All,

First, I want to thank you for following this blog. To date, we have had over 935, 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 week is often one of the most critical weeks 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, t.he more anxiety, and the less sure an examinee is of anything – let alone successfully taking the exam on July 25 and 26.

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

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 is 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 (as in the ACTUAL TEST)

This is true for all aspects of the exam (essay portion, performance test and MBE section). 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 (as well as for the essays) it is critical that you learn how each subject is tested. For example, you need to 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 6th edition (and no, it is not too late to take advantage of this excellent book), 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 and 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. It is important to work on MBEs under both timed as well as completing non-timed review of MBEs.

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 once you actually understand it, understand how it is applied and how it is tested. 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 will ultimately have to memorize will be less when it represents what you fully understand.

Let’s look at an example in Torts, specifically Products Liability. Products liability is a big topic with a lot of detail. When tested on the essay portion, it is a “race-horse” style exam. When tested on the MBE, you will need to have a solid understanding of all of the aspects of Products Liability in order to make successful distinctions between strict products liability, warranty theories, negligence and all of the defenses that may or may not be available. To successfully navigate a products liability essay exam you will need 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 (usually both #2 and #3 above), then briefly discuss causation (you can refer back to your discussion of causation 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.

We still have room in our upcoming Bar Exam Cram Session on July 8th and 9th. This will be offered both in person and via live stream. Click here for more information and to register.

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 shorthand coverage of Products Liability 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.

This also will help you master the MBEs as well. Often examinees struggle with their MBEs because they do not have an approach for topics within a subject. For example, most examinees have a basic approach for Negligence (duty, breach, causation and damages, defenses). But, few realize that the California bar examiners actually expect quite a bit more than this in terms of what is discussed, head-noted and identified as an issue on essay exam. Having a clear approach for all topics will not only help you to navigate an essay exam, but will also help you to select the correct answer choice on the MBEs.

Our next topic for the blog will include:

How do I get started on each essay – what do I write? How do I start each essay topic? What should my first sentence be? What should my headings be? How do I know how to interpret the call of the question(s)?

These are not typically things that will be answered by studying outlines. And, you must know how to start each topic, you must know what to write and what your approach is going to be for each area. This is key to success on both the essays and the MBEs because you can not afford to burn up valuable test taking time with trying to synthesize or sort these things out on exam day! And, all too often, this is what examinees do – find themselves trying to figure all of this out on exam day. I believe this is one of the most common reasons examinees fail the exam. It isn’t as often about not knowing enough law, it is more about not knowing how to apply it, how to organize it and how to write it. There is a form, and order and an embraced approach for every topic. You need to get to this point, and not simply be a machine that spouts out definitions. You are more than that, much more, you need to be able to show the examiners that you are able to (and do) think like a lawyer. That is the topic of my next post.

Until then, happy studies!

All the best,

Lisa Duncanson
Bar Exam Guru
Founder/Program Director
Bar None Review & Bar Exam Cram Session & MBEcram.com
213-529-0990
barexamguru@yahoo.com

 

California Bar Exam: Day 1 Essays

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Hello All,

By now, those of you who are taking the California bar exam have either finished or are about to finish day one’s essays! As soon as I hear from students as to what was tested on today’s essays, I will start working on updated predictions for Thursday’s essays.

I will not address or write about the performance test until after everyone has completed the entire bar exam. There are examinees who have accommodations that will be taking the bar exam over a six day period. Some examinees with accommodations will be taking the performance test next weekend. As a result, I will not discuss this portion of the test, or write about it, until after everyone has taken it.

However, the essays are fair game as everyone takes these on the same days. So, if you have a moment to send an email with what was tested on the essays today, please do so at: barexamguru@yahoo.com

Obviously, do what YOU need to do on your lunch break. I put no onus on my students to report in. But, some will, as will many of my blog followers. I greatly appreciate this as I am able to then provide some additional tips. Of course, there is no way to predict what will be tested on the essays or PTs. But, considering some possible essay scenarios is never a bad thing and simply gets you thinking.

Wishing you all the best,

Lisa Duncanson

Good luck on the bar exam tomorrow!

4 Comments

Hello Everyone,

Thank you again for following the blog. I mentioned earlier 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. And, if you were studying for the bar at any time in the past couple of years, then you will know that many have been predicting a murder exam for some time.

The following is from an earlier post that I wrote covering the basic murder approach that we have seen traditionally embraced by the California bar examiners. You may have come across this post earlier if you have been searching through older posts. If so, this will be familiar to you – either way it is a good refresher.

If you haven’t already, be sure to join our July 2016 Bar Exam Tips List!

Incidentally, if murder were to show up on the exam on day one or day three of the July 2016 bar exam, then I would not be surprised if it were crossed over with some of the lesser tested areas of Criminal Procedure. We have not seen any 8th Amendment issues in some time (see the “Free Stuff” page for a free download of an exam template for this area) and we also have not seen much testing of the 6th Amendment areas of void dire (peremptory challenges, right to an impartial jury, etc.). So these areas could easily be tested this bar round. Evidence is also an area that can repeat and sometimes we see it as a cross-over with Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure (and if you read my post from a few days ago – we have seen it tested with Wills and Community Property as a cross over with marital and spousal privileges).

It is this simple – as I have always maintained over the many years of writing this blog – the bar examiners can test anything on any bar exam round. I do not say this to send you into a panic. It is simply true. As a result, there will be topics that you are hoping for and there will probably be a few you hope not to get – that is the nature of the bar exam. But, you can do it, do NOT give up no matter what you see on the exam –  write your heart out tomorrow.

Did you know that many topics show up back to back (from one bar round to the next) sometimes even three times in a row? Therefore, all bets are simply off on presuming something is not likely to come up.

My main focus in writing during the bar exam days is to simply provide you with something to hang onto, some peace of mind and hopefully even a little bit of sanity.  

I know how demanding and draining and how seemingly impossible taking this exam can sometimes feel like to examinees. But, it doesn’t have to be that way – sometimes a few words of encouragement – or a quick review of an approach – like the approach below 🙂 – can be all a person needs to make that little bit of difference between passing and failing. That is why I write here. I tell you this as a source of encouragement: it is completely normal to be a little bit freaked out about tomorrow (assuming you are awake – like most, and are thinking about the exam). This is normal. It is also normal to feel somewhat calm – we are all different. There is no one size fits all approach to this exam. Ideally you would get a good nights sleep before the bar exam. Some do. I never did – and yet I passed. So wherever you are at (asleep early or awake still and reading this post) you can do it!

OKAY – WHAT TO DO IF YOU WERE TO GET A CRIMINAL LAW MURDER ESSAY TOMORROW (OR THURSDAY)?

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. (Note: if you have a slightly different definition for malice aforethought, that is okay, there are variations of this language. Go with what you know and have memorized – as long as it is correct).

(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). Another note about malice aforethought – years ago, I would advise my students to only prove up one of the four ways to show malice aforethought and then move on. But, in more recent years, the examiners have embraced answers that address more than one of the ways to prove up malice aforethought. So, that is what I would recommend you do – write on two or three ways to prove it up – if the facts lend to a discussion of more than one way to prove up malice aforethought.

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”). Note: Most exam answers embraced by the California bar examiners handle second degree murder this way. However, if the call of the question asks you specifically about second degree murder, then you should use the definition of second degree murder instead and discuss it.

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 four 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 work 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, utilizing the facts as much as possible.

If you were to get a murder essay, I am thinking it could be in the context of Criminal Procedure (possible in the context of the 8th Amendment and/or 6th Amendment). If, however, you are tested on Criminal Law murder alone, then you will likely have issues with either the inchoate crimes (Solicitation, Attempt and Conspiracy) and/or accomplice liability. The reason for this is that it makes for a better one hour essay to include additional areas outside of the Criminal Law murder approach.

Focus on the call(s) of the question:

Finally, one of the things that can be challenging with any essay exam is simply understanding the call of the question. For murder exams, the California bar examiners often state the call as follows: “Can D be convicted of murder or any lessor included offense?” If this is your call, then you will follow the approach I have addressed above, with little variance.

However, sometimes, the examiners ask you multiple calls on a murder exam. For example, call number one might be: “What defenses can D assert?” Call number two might be: “Can D be convicted of voluntary manslaughter?” And, then you may have a third and fourth call that are from Criminal Procedure.

If you end up with an essay that is broken out into these separate calls, you need to do your best to address the calls in the order asked and to respond to the calls. This means that you will need to address the defenses to murder (most likely, it will be defenses to murder) in the first call without even having discussed murder yet. This might feel uncomfortable to you – to write on the defenses before writing on the crime that the defenses are for, but it is something you just have to do.

Next, under the second call, typically you would need to address common law murder, first degree murder and second degree murder before you could determine whether the killing should be mitigated down from some type of murder to voluntary manslaughter. Many will focus simply on the heat of passion killing without getting credit for going through common law murder, malice aforethought, first degree and second degree. But, you will want to show your breadth of knowledge and show the examiners that you have a good grasp on the approach.

This is just an example of how the material can be tested and how it may require you to go a bit out of order. Just do it. Don’t let it bother you, just focus on the task at hand and answer what has been asked of you. Always focus on the call or calls of the question.

Okay, that is it for now. I wish everyone who is taking the bar exam tomorrow, the very best of luck!

Remember, if you have a chance to email me with your thoughts on what was tested on day one of the essays, that will help me in my reworking of the predictions for Thursday’s essays. You can email me at: barexamguru@yahoo.com

Stay tuned, as I will post here during the days of the bar exam.

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

 

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!

 

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

February 2015 California Bar Exam: What to Study for Day Three?

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Hello all,

Congratulations, you only have one more day! You are the very first group of bar examinees to ever take Civil Procedure MBEs. And, this time tomorrow night you will be done with the bar exam!  I know that many of you are anxious about what might show up on tomorrow’s essays and performance test. Hopefully this post will help ease some anxiety. That is my hope. If you feel you need more, be sure to sign up for our tips list (you can sign up below).

I promised I would provide an additional update to the “predictions” that I made earlier. So here we go:

If you have been following my blog  you may know that I will not discuss the performance test until next week as there will still be examinees taking the Performance Test this Saturday and Sunday (those examinees that are on a six day exam due to accommodations).  However, knowing what I do know about Performance Test A from day one, does not change any of my predictions that I made prior to the exam.

So, here is what I recommend you do this evening. Study . . . some. I really do think it makes a difference to do some studying the night before. Of course, this is up to you. But, I do believe that reviewing material the night before is helpful and I do think that you can still learn new material (although I hope you do not need to learn new material tonight).

Now what should you study?

1) Study any area that you fear seeing on the exam tomorrow. You do not want to walk into the exam tomorrow morning hoping that you do not see a particular topic. Also, don’t be so fearful – review that topic for a little bit and then put it away. Be confident that you will be able to figure it out well enough tomorrow should you see it tested on the essays.

2) Review the “predicted” areas (see earlier posts) and remember there is no way to predict what is going to show up tomorrow, I do not claim that I can do that at all nor do I recommend that examinees study around predictions. But, at this point, the night before the bar exam – it can not hurt to entertain some of the possible essay scenarios that could show up and give these a little thought.

Here are some of the areas I would likely consider for tomorrow:

Professional Responsibility could show up tomorrow as either an essay or on the Performance Test or both. My thoughts are it could be absent from the essays – occasionally the bar examiners skip it from the essays altogether. This is generally not the case, however, so I would prepare as though Professional Responsibility is going to be on one of the essays tomorrow.

Constitutional Law (possibly Dormant Commerce Clause) could come up – please read earlier posts for details. Review my earlier posts and  review the handout we provided (through Bar Exam Tips Emails) for approaching the Constitutionality of a state or federal statute. There is a particular approach for this that the bar examiners embrace – and – it is different depending upon whether you are asked to evaluate a state law or a federal law. Keep in mind that in addition to your typically required State Action and Case or Controversy requirements (standing, ripeness, mootness, and must not involve a political question) that when evaluating a state statute you need to address whether the state (or subdivision of the state – county, city, etc.) has the power to act. The power for the state to act would need to stem from those reserved to the state via the Tenth Amendment (states can regulate on behalf of the morals, health, welfare, education or safety of its citizens). There are several remaining steps depending upon the type of regulation that is at issue – assuming you end up facing a Constitutional Law essay tomorrow – it would be a good idea to be prepared for how to approach these areas. If you would like a free copy of our handout for Evaluating the Constitutionality of a State or Federal Law, just add our tips list below and we will send it out. Incidentally, this handout/approach covers how to handle a dormant commerce clause essay – since that IS a state law that is affecting interstate commerce in such a way that might place an undue burden on interstate commerce (that is the issue that comes up in the even that you have a dormant commerce clause exam).

Wills – either alone or crossed over with something else (Trusts, Community Property for example). I think Wills is very possible. Of course, there is NO WAY to predict what will show up on tomorrow’s essays or performance test. If, however, you were to see a Wills essay, the areas of integration, incorporation by reference and acts of independent legal significance are frequently tested (and often – believe it or not – come up together depending upon the essay fact pattern). Also commonly tested in Wills are issues with respect to an omitted or pretermitted heir. Ademption by extinction is also a frequent flyer. Be sure to know these rules so you are comfortable dealing with these areas.

If you do see Wills on the bar exam tomorrow, you may or may not be faced with determining the validity of a will – but if you are – and there is a prior will – then you need to address Dependent Relative Revocation (regardless of whether it will effectively revive a prior will or not – if it is ineffective – then address it and explain why DRR will not work – this is the stuff that passing (and better than passing essays are made of).

What if Criminal Law Murder shows up on an essay tomorrow? If it were me taking the exam tomorrow, I would make sure I reviewed the tests for Insanity Defenses – past bar exam answers instruct us that perfection with respect to the rule statements is not the most important thing and that your ability instead it is 1) your ability to correctly identify the issues and 2) your ability to have a thorough discussion and detailed analysis that is paramount. But, obviously, you will be most comfortable writing in any area if you have a really good grasp of the rules. The tests for insanity have not been tested in several years – so I would give that a quick review and do your best to make sure that you can discuss all four should it be presented on tomorrow’s exam.

What if you were to be tested on Torts again (it was on the July bar exam) – then I would not be surprise if Torts came up as either a cross over with Remedies or if you were to see Defamation or perhaps some of the miscellaneous tort issues (again – review my prior posts from this week – and understand – Torts is not on my list of “most likelies” – just understand that you should be prepared for anything).

Don’t forget that subjects repeat – so far Contract Remedies repeated from July 2014 to February 2015 – anything else from July 2014 can still repeat (read my prior posts about this – even Contract Remedies from day one could repeat). Torts from the last bar round (which was Negligence) could repeat – take a look at Torts, do not dismiss it or assume it can not be tested.

For other possible topic areas for testing, review my prior posts from earlier this week.

3) if you haven’t already, sign up for our tips list and I will send out our predictions and revised predictions to you via email. We will continue to send this out through this evening as long as possible).

You can sign up for our revised predictions and tips list here:

What else should I do?

Do your best to relax. You have just been through two very long and intense days. You need to have your wits about you for tomorrow. Focus on things that will help you and avoid things that will be counterproductive. What would be counterproductive? Dwelling on how you did (or did not do) on day one’s essays or performance test, talking about what you wrote on day one . . . this will not help, and it generally only leads to more anxiety which is not helpful.

Try to get some decent sleep.

If you can get a decent night’s sleep tonight that would obviously be great. But, recognize it may not be possible and simply be okay with that. Don’t dwell on the fact that you can’t sleep, just try your best to rest. At all times, be positive and keep a good frame of mind. You will do better for it tomorrow.

Don’t give up.

Absolutely do not give up. This test is often as much about perseverance as it is about your studies. And, let’s face it, to study well over a protracted period of time definitely requires perseverance. You graduated from law school For some, perhaps a few, that is relatively easy. But, for most, it takes a lot of dedication and perseverance. So you have this skill, use it tomorrow. Don’t let the test get to you.

Be positive.

This is so important. Tell yourself you are going to succeed. Actively work at being positive. Choose to be positive. Only you can make this choice, I highly recommend it.

Use Headings!

Your exam answer should be attractive and look organized. This should not be news to you, but if it is, be sure to use headings on your exams tomorrow. Let your headings to the heavy lifting for you! Make your exam answer easy to follow.

Write your heart out tomorrow!

The exam graders can not grade or give you points for what never makes it to the page. Whether you are using a laptop or handwriting, be sure to write as much as possible. Be sure to explain your reasoning. If you are dismissing an issue, I recommend that you dismiss it on your answer rather than leaving it off of your exam because you dismissed it in your head. Remember, the grader won’t know if you left an issue off because you chose to dismiss it or because you simply forgot.

I will continue to update this blog tomorrow, so stay tuned if you wish.

All the best of luck tomorrow!

Lisa Duncanson

Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review
(213) 529-0990
http://www.barexamcramsession.com and http://www.barnonereview.com

Congratulations on finishing the July 2014 California Bar Exam!

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dowhatulove

 

Congratulations on completing the July 2014 bar exam! You should be proud.

So by the time you are reading this post you will have finished the last performance test (and at some point soon I will hear from students and blog followers about what was on today’s performance test). I will not be writing about either Performance Test A or B until next week. But, I will come back here to comment a bit about it and share with you some of the feedback I receive about the Performance Tests.

Since I have not posted on it yet – today’s essays were in the following areas:

Essay 4 – Criminal Procedure and a little bit of Professional Responsibility* (I am SO happy that Criminal Procedure was tested – I really try hard to be selective in what I give out in the hopes that what I release is actually on the test. This year was pretty good that way).

Essay 5 – Trusts (with some Community Property and Wills)*

Essay 6 – Torts Negligence

*Remember, I have not seen the essays, I am relying on reports from examinees. I do my very best to report responsibly. If you do not recall seeing anything other than Trusts on essay #5, please do not freak out. If you did not see an ethics/Professional Responsibility issue on essay #4, please do not panic. We will only know for certain what was tested once the essays are released. And, regardless of what was actually tested – as long as you focused on resolving the legal problems, you should be fine. If you would like to add anything about what was tested, or if you have any questions, or would simply like a little reassurance, feel free to contact me at: barexamguru@yahoo.com. I respond to all emails personally.

Thank you for following this blog. I am grateful for the following on this blog, it means a lot to me. I love teaching and I love helping people. My career path has enabled me to do just that. When I am asked what I do for a living sometimes the response is something like this: “Oh, great, you help make more lawyers, super . . . ” (insert sarcastic tone). But, I am proud of what I do. And I know that lawyers make a real difference in the world. Justice and equality are more than just concepts to lawyers and lawyers are often the champions of those who are most in need of championing.

I hope that you have found this blog helpful to you in your studies and especially during these most challenging of days while you are taking the bar exam. If you have found my blog helpful, please spread the word. And, if you feel so inclined, I happily accept donations to help host this blog. Like you, during the bar exam, I sacrifice time with family and friends. But, I do it knowing that I am helping people and that is something I truly enjoy.

I founded, and run, a commercial bar review company and I love my enrolled students. But, I also really love providing free help here. There is a need for free support. So many examinees fail on their first attempt (who might not if they just had a little bit better direction and a little encouragement). When examinees fail, they are often left with little to go on in their studies. I try to help fill this void a bit. If you find this blog helpful and would like to make a donation, you can do so here:

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Thank you for following this blog and please let others know about it if you think they can benefit!

All the best to you on results day!  And, I do hope you go forward into a career that you love!

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