California Bar Exam: Free Workshop!

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Hello all,

Thank you for following the Bar Exam Guru blog! We have now had over 960,000 views of the Bar Exam Guru Blog! I am humbled and grateful for your following!

If you are taking the February 2018 bar exam, you will not want to miss out on our upcoming free, “How to Pass the California Bar Exam” Workshop on November 20, 2017 from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm. This session will be held in Los Angeles.

Class fills up quickly, so be sure to reserve your space as soon as possible.

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, as time allows, we will discuss strategies for the new, 90 Minute Performance Test and the MBEs.

Come and learn how to develop a plan for succeeding on the February 2018 bar exam. Space is limited. Reserve your spot today!

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California Bar Exam Predictions – The Short List

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Hello all,

First of all I want to wish you all the very best of luck in your studies and I want to thank you for following my blog. I am truly humbled by the responses from examinees who have sent emails – thank you so much. If you would like to reach me directly, please feel free to send me an email at: barexamguru@yahoo.com

If you have been following my blog you will know that I do not really like to call my “predictions” predictions. I do not claim to be able to predict the bar exam. I have simply come up with what I call essay scenarios that I think might be worth considering.

Please understand that my students who pay to take my course do not appreciate it if I release our “predictions” weeks in advance to the world. They pay for the privilege of our insights – at least they see it that way. So it simply isn’t fair to give away part of what they pay for to everyone else for free. In past rounds I have not made this available outside of our course.

A bit about the “Predictions”

First of all, I do not claim (nor would I ever claim) that I could predict what is going to be tested on the bar exam. However, I do think it is worthwhile to think about some possible essay scenarios when studying in the coming days. I also think that it makes sense to spend some time on topics that we have not seen on the exam in some time. However, any topic could show up on the bar exam. And, you should expect to see some of the topics that were tested on the February 2017 bar exam, to repeat on the July 2017 bar exam. Typically two or even three subjects will repeat from one bar exam to the very next bar exam. Also, in the past, out of six essays you would expect to see testing of about 8 topics (this allowed for cross-over essays). With only five essays, I would still expect to see at least one or two (maybe even more) cross-over essays.

Note: if a topic does not make my list, that does NOT mean it is not going to show up on the bar exam. You need to be prepared for EVERY topic. My coverage below is simply a suggested emphasis and by no means should you interpret this to mean that something should be excluded from your studies. ALL subjects are testable and all subjects can repeat, back to back, from one bar round to the next. You can almost bet that if you decide to leave a subject alone, that it will appear on the exam.

Why should I review past exams today? Reviewing past exams – right before the actual exam – will improve your chances of spotting the correct issues. Anytime you review an essay (and study the answer) it is really is a substantive review. By reviewing 3 or 4 Civil Procedure essays in a row, you will have a much better understanding of how to approach the subject if it shows up on the exam.

By the way, I believe Civil Procedure is likely (see “Short List” below). Of course, it may or may not be there. But, if it is, it would probably be nice to know that this may be the beginning (finally) of a trend toward California Civil Procedure. If it is, Notice and Code Pleading create a nice federal and California distinction point. The issue of additur (where a judge increases a jury award) also creates a nice federal and California distinction point. In cases of additur, it is available in California but NOT in federal courts as it violates the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial.  Many things are “due” or “up”. All of this being said – no one can predict this exam. Nor should you direct your studies away from a topic because it isn’t on someone’s list of predicted topics. That would be very, very foolish.

So all of that being said, here are a few thoughts on what I think could be tested:

The old, 3-day exam versus the new, 2-day exam and what it potentially means in term of subject coverage: In the past, when there were 6 essays, the Bar Examiners historically tested 8 or 9 topics (spread out over the 6 essays). Now that there are only 5 essays, I think you can still expect to see 7 to 9 topics tested as the examiners frequently test cross-over exams.

SHORT LIST of possibles (see detail in next post):

Criminal Law (Murder) or Torts (If Criminal Law Murder – possibly alone or crossed with Criminal Procedure or Evidence. If Torts – most any area if possible – but longest ago in terms of testing are Negligence and Products Liability.

Constitutional Law (Possibly First Amendment or Dormant Commerce Clause)

Professional Responsibility (look out for attorney advertising or assisting a non-lawyer in the unlicensed practice of law, and ALWAYS duty to avoid conflict of interests and duty of loyalty, more details in the “Detail” post)

Civil Procedure (jurisdictional issues are most commonly tested, but Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel are a bit due. Also look out for: issues of remittitur/additur, pleading issues (like notice and code pleading), 7th Amendment right to a jury trial as these issues can come up as short answer, tack-on issues. The last time Civ Prop was tested (July 2016) California Civil Procedure came up for the very first time. This may be the beginning (finally) of a trend toward California Civil Procedure. If it is, Notice and Code Pleading create a nice federal and California distinction point. The issue of additur (where a judge increases a jury award) also creates a nice federal and California distinction point. In cases of additur, it is available in California but NOT in federal courts as it violates the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial.

Community Property (Possibly valuation of separate property business, personal injury award, time rule for determining community property interest of pension, retirement or reimbursement for education or license. Always be on look out for transmutation issue).

*Property or Contracts

If Property: (possibly landlord/tenant or landlord/tenant crossed with covenants and equitable servitudes). Property was last tested on the July 2016 bar exam. At that time, I was predicting either Easements (specifically in the land sale contract area) or Landlord/Tenant. Since the bar tested easements in the land-sale context that round, I am leaning more towards a Landlord/Tenant exam (if you see property at all on the essays) and possibly crossed over a non-assignment or non-sublease clause and covenants (for example, a covenant restricting what can be done on the land, a sublessee takes possession and starts breaching the covenant. Can the covenant be enforced against the sublessee? Is there another remedy available – perhaps enforcing the restriction as an equitable servitude? Don’t freak out. Just know that if there is a covenant on your exam that you should discuss both covenants and equitable servitudes as these most always go together. This is a scenario, in the landlord/tenant context that we have not seen tested in a while and as a result, it may be due.

If Contracts: While both of these topics are possible, I am leaning towards a possible: “either Property or Contracts” on this upcoming exam. Property and Contracts are a bit hard to predict for this bar round given the testing on the February 2017 exam. While neither Property or Contracts was really tested outright on the February 2017 exam essays, the bar examiners sort of tip-toed in the areas of both Property and Contracts (I am talking about the Tort/Remedies exam that tested Fraud and Misrep and Remedies).

Possible Repeat topics: (Remember – historically the California bar examiners repeat two or three topics from one bar round to the next. This includes the expected Professional Responsibility essay, which is rarely skipped).

Remedies as a possible repeat topic: Say what? Yes, it could repeat, anything can repeat. Remedies is on many bar exams back to back. What was not tested last bar round in Remedies: Injunction or Contract Remedies

Evidence as a possible repeat topic/crossover topic: Possibly as a cross-over with another topic – for example: Marital/Spousal Privilege, Attorney-Client Privilege or Hearsay issue crossed over with another subject. Be sure to know these privileges and rules and especially know the California/Federal distinctions in Marital and Spousal Privilege.

Professional Responsibility usually repeats (as listed above) Note: Per the California  State Bar Examiners own rules, PR will be on either the essay portion or on the performance test every bar round).

Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure possible repeat topic. Even though this subject made the main list of possibles, it really would be (if tested) a repeat. But, it has been so long since murder has been tested that I believe it is highly likely it will come up within the next year. It may be more likely to be on the February 2018 bar exam. BUT, if it were me taking the exam this July, I would most definitely be prepared for Criminal Law Murder or Criminal Law Murder with Criminal Procedure.

Keep in mind that anything can be tested. Do not dismiss any topic. First Amendment Speech was once tested three times back to back. Many other subjects have been tested three times in a row. Anything is possible. However, the above “predictions” are what I believe may be more probable essay scenarios for the July 2017 bar exam.

Remember that you can accomplish so much in these final hours. Tomorrow, you will be relying in part on short term memory, so make certain that you study well and review writing approaches. I am always stunned at how some examinees will say: “If I don’t already know it now, it is too late”. That could not be more untrue. It is NOT too late. Study essay approaches and read essays!

I wish all who are studying for this exam the very best of luck!

Sincerely,

Lisa Duncanson
Bar Exam Guru
Founder/Program Director
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session

Bar Exam Cram Session Live Streamed!

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Hello All,

With fewer than three weeks remaining to study for the bar exam, time is critical. What will you do to ensure success on the exam?

One of the main reasons examinees fail is not for lack of studying, but for lack of studying the right material. In order to navigate 6 1/2 hours of testing on day one and 6 hours of testing on day two, you need to have a strategy. For success on the essays it requires far more than rote memorization. Approaches (for the essays, the MBEs and for the performance test) are critical.  I will be writing more in the coming days about how to memorize and prepare in these final weeks leading up to the bar exam.

We still have a few spots left in the July 8 and 9 Bar Exam Cram Session (this weekend) in Los Angeles. If you can not attend in person, but do not want to miss out on this bar passing weekend, you can sign up for our live stream!

Students who attend this session receive our Digging Deeper into the Bar Exam Series (a weekly email support series) containing additional predictions, study advice and strategy as well as our method and strategies for improving your MBE score, sample essays and answers based upon the predictions and on the most commonly tested essay scenarios. Students will also receive (as part of the Digging Deeper into the Bar Exam Series) approaches and advice for the new, 90 minute Performance Test and selected videos covering study tips, exam predictions and approaches). In addition, Students will learn how to adapt (their studies, timing and strategy) to the new two-day format.

Past students have taken our Bar Exam Cram Session and improved their scaled score by over 200 points by utilizing the techniques and step-by-step essay approaches that are taught not only over the course of this weekend, but leading up through the bar exam. Each student receives a Ten Day Study Plan to utilize in the final days leading up to the bar exam as well as instruction on how to study over the few weeks. Don’t miss out, sign up today!

If you are not ready for this:

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Then sign up for this: The Bar Exam Cram Session 

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Note: Live streaming must be purchased by Thursday, July 6 to ensure your “seat” in the online program. For a limited time, use promotional code: BAREXAMGURU and receive $100.00 off the course fee.

For more information, contact Bar None Review at: 213-529-0990.

All the best in your studies!

Sincerely,

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

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

 

Bar Exam Cram Live Streamed!

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Hello All,

We still have a few spots left in the June 3 and 4 Bar Exam Cram Session (this weekend) in Los Angeles. If you can not attend in person, but do not want to miss out on this bar passing weekend, you can sign up for our live stream!

Students who attend this session receive our weekly Digging Deeper into the Bar Exam Series (a weekly email support series) containing additional predictions, study advice and strategy as well as our method and strategies for improving your MBE score, sample essays and answers based upon the predictions and on the most commonly tested essay scenarios. Students will also receive (as part of the Digging Deeper into the Bar Exam Series) approaches and advice for the new, 90 minute Performance Test and selected videos covering study tips, exam predictions and approaches). In addition, Students will learn how to adapt (their studies, timing and strategy) to the new two-day format.

Past students have taken our Bar Exam Cram Session and improved their scaled score by over 200 points by utilizing the techniques and step-by-step essay approaches that are taught not only over the course of this weekend, but leading up through the bar exam. Each student receives a Ten Day Study Plan to utilize in the final days leading up to the bar exam as well as instruction on how to study over the next six weeks. Don’t miss out, sign up today!

Note: Live streaming must be purchased by Thursday, June 1st to ensure your “seat” in the online program.

For more information, contact Bar None Review at: 213-529-0990.

All the best in your studies!

Sincerely,

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

Free How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop!

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Are you ready for this?

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If not, sign up for this!

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Hello all,

Thank you for following the Bar Exam Guru blog! We have now had over 931,000 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, May 24th from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm. This session will be held in Los Angeles.

As a bonus, I will be covering the new 90 minute Performance Test and will address some early predictions for the July 2017 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 2017 bar exam. Space is limited.

Yes, I Want to Pass the California Bar Exam, Sign Me Up!

We look forward to meeting you on Wednesday!

Thank you again for making this blog so popular, this is my tenth year writing it and I am always encouraged by the readership and those that attend our free course offerings!

All the best,

Lisa Duncanson
Founder/Program Director
Bar None Review
Bar Exam Cram Session
MBECram.com and MBECramCourse.com
213-529-0990

 

California Bar Results Continue to Decline

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We may have a lot of sunny days here in California but, it may not feel very sunny for a majority of those who just took (and failed) the California bar exam. The State Bar of California released preliminary statistics for the February 2017 California Bar Exam via press release this weekend and the numbers do not look good.

Out of 4,439 applicants who completed the exam, only 1,532 of applicants passed the General Bar Exam. That is a pass rate of only 34.5 percent. Another way of looking at it is that 65.5 percent who completed the February 2017 California bar exam failed it. While we have seen results this low in the past, it appears to be part of a bigger trend, nationally, toward lower and lower pass rates.

The Executive Director of the State Bar of California. Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker said, “Regrettably the pass rate shows a continuing decline, a trend happening nationally.” She went on to say that “the State Bar is committed to a better understanding of the problem to determine how to address it.”

It appears the first steps to addressing the problem of declining bar pass rates will involve a “series of studies” the first of which is to begin on Monday, May 15th.

This initial phase of the study will focus on examining what the California bar examiners refer to as the “cut score.”

Here are some of the preliminary statistics from the February 2017 General Bar Exam:

  • 4,439 applicants completed the exam (it is unclear how many showed up and did not complete, would be interesting to have those numbers)
  • 1,153 (26.0 percent) were first-time applicants
  • The pass rate for first-time applicants was 39.0 percent
  • 3,286 applicants were repeat applicants
  • The pass rate for repeat applicants was 33.0 percent

Here are additional statistics broken out by school type. As usual, graduates of ABA law schools enjoyed the highest pass rates, with a distinctly higher pass rate enjoyed by graduates of California ABA law schools versus out-of-state ABA law schools (source: the State Bar of California).

School Type First-Timers Repeaters
California ABA 45% 46%
Out-of-State ABA 39% 34%
California Accredited (but not ABA) 18% 15%
Unaccredited: Fixed-Facility 25% 2%
Unaccredited: Correspondence 26% 11%
Unaccredited Distance Learning 18% 7%

So what does all of this mean? How does this affect those who are taking the July 2017 bar exam? Will the “cut score” go up? Will it change at all for the July 2017 bar round?

It is not yet clear whether the cut score or grading will change at all for the July 2017 bar exam. But, what is clear is that the State Bar is acknowledging publicly, for the first time that I know of, that there is a problem with the bar pass rates. Given the heat from many law school deans in the past few years about declining pass rates, the State Bar may also be feeling some pressure to address what some have call an abysmal pass rate.

There are a few things about this press release that I think are worth noting – and that is what we do not know, what the preliminary numbers fail to show:

Attorney Takers Not Yet Included in the Preliminary Statistic
These preliminary statistics do not appear to include those taking the Attorney’s Exam (note that the statistics only refer to those sitting for the General Exam). In recent years, attorney takers have had a very low pass rate in comparison to those taking the General Exam. So it will be interesting to see if attorney takers did worse on the February 2017 bar round (compared with prior bar rounds).

Those Who Did Not Complete the Exam are Not Counted as Part of Pass/Fail Rate?
The State Bar press release refers only to the number of applicants “who completed the exam.” We know from the press release that this number was 4,439 and that out of that number, only 1,532 of applicants passed.

What we do not know is how many applicants may have shown up but, failed to complete all three days. I am not suggesting that the State Bar is hiding anything. These preliminary statistics are that: preliminary. However, I am not certain the State Bar will ever release the number of those who did not complete the exam. Given that the pass rates appear to be based only upon applicants who completed the exam, the actual pass rate (taking into account those that did not stick it out the full three days) could actually be worse than 34.5%.

Incidentally, the State Bar’s press release still refers to the California bar exam as a three day exam, consisting of “six essay questions, and two performance tests.” I am assuming this is a mistake, but it is not exactly comforting that they are still referring to the three day exam.

I am not a believer in conspiracy theories surrounding the bar exam. But, the pass rates are declining, that is clear. This is, as the Director of the State Bar pointed out, part of a “national trend.” The pass rates for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) are actually not much better than California’s bar pass rate. As of July 2017, twenty-seven states will have adopted the UBE for their state bar examination. With pass rates in the mid 40 percentile on the UBE, low pass rates are certainly not unique to California.

I do think it is a good thing that the State Bar has publicly announced that they are looking into the problem of declining pass rates. Whether this is about the test or about examinees being adequately prepared – is really the question, I think. Are people adequately prepared by their law schools? Are the entrance requirements to get into law schools – in an age of declining law school enrollment – perhaps lower? It has been known for some time that many California law schools (faced with low enrollment) are digging deeper into the applicant base, admitting students with lower LSAT scores and lower GPAs in order to make enrollment. If so, does this mean that law school admittees are less qualified (lower LSAT scores, for example)? And is the LSAT even the best way to determine whether someone should be admitted to law school? Some law schools have chosen to accept the GRE now in lieu of the LSAT for law school admissions.

Times are changing in California
What is clear is that times are definitely changing. The California bar exam (despite their press release still referring to the old, three-day exam) is now just two days. The performance test portion of the exam has been cut down from 6 hours of testing to only 90 minutes. These are significant changes. Still, I do not see anything from the bar examiners that suggest they will change the grading or the “cut score” in time for the July 2017 bar exam. But, time will tell.

In the meantime, what works in terms of passing the California bar exam is the same: becoming extremely adept at writing and taking MBEs. There are still five essays to write. So not much has changed there. But, the performance test (still worth two essays) is now only 90 minutes. Some might think this cut in time would make it easier. But, from the sample 90 minute performance test provided by the State Bar, it does not look easier. There is virtually the same amount of material to get through (in the old, 3-hour PT), but now far less time to do it in. This new 90 minute version will most definitely be easier for those who can think fast on their feet, which, quite frankly is a pretty good trait for a would be attorney.

What do you think about the low pass rates? What do you think about the new 2-day bar exam in California, do you think it will be easier or harder or the same?

I will address how I think examinees should prepare differently for the new, 2-day California bar exam in our upcoming, free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” There is still space available in this workshop. Click here to sign up!

Lisa Duncanson
Founder/Program Director
Bar None Review and Bar Exam Cram Session