California Bar Results Continue to Decline

6 Comments

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 11.15.28 AM

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

 

 

 

Free California Bar Exam Workshop!

2 Comments

Hello All,

Thank you for following the Bar Exam Guru blog! For those of you waiting on results for the February 2017 bar exam, our staff at Bar None Review is working hard to provide issue analysis for the February 2017 essays. To receive issue analysis and free tips, sign up here: Sign me up for tips! Check our “Free Stuff” page for free downloads and issue analysis.

If you are getting ready to take the July 2017 bar exam, you will not want to miss out on our free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam” Workshop.

In this free workshop, I will address the upcoming changes to the California bar exam, how to best prepare for these changes and how to prepare for the new 90 minute performance test as well as give a preview of bar exam predictions for the July 2017 exam. The test is changing, the scoring is changing and the weighting of each section is changing. Are you ready for these changes? Don’t worry, because we are! Space is limited. Click the link below to reserve your seat!

YES, I want to PASS, sign me up!

April_25_Workshop_Image(4).jpg

Reserve your spot today!

California Bar Exam: Do you need a new strategy for passing the bar?

Leave a comment

Hello all,

Do you need a new strategy for passing the California bar exam? Due to high demand, we are offering a second, free, “How to Pass the California Bar Exam” Workshop on December 14, 2016 from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm.

I will be teaching this workshop. This will be the last free workshop I will teach prior to the February 2017 bar exam. As a bonus, I will address some preliminary predictions for the February 2017 bar exam. I hope to see you there!

Students will receive a free copy of our Guide to Passing the California Bar Exam as well as free bar exam writing templates. In addition to addressing what you should do differently to pass the California bar exam, this workshop will provide substantive coverage on how to successfully write for the California bar examiners, study strategies and specific techniques for improving your MBE scores as well as the proper form and structure of a solidly passing essay.

Come and learn how to develop a plan for passing California bar exam. Space is limited. Reserve your space today!

BNR Classroom Image

Free How to Pass the CA Bar Exam Workshop!

2 Comments

Hello all,

 

It is that time of year again and we are offering our free “How to Pass the California Bar Exam Workshop” to be held on November 22, 2016 from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm.

This free workshop covers how to write for the California bar examiners as well as strategies and techniques for the MBE portion of the exam. Attendees receive a free copy of our Guide to Passing the California Bar Exam as well as bar exam writing templates for selected topics, free MBE handouts, and will have the opportunity to meet with the Bar Exam Guru (that’s me)! I will be teaching this workshop. As time permits, I will also address the Performance Test portion of the bar exam as well as a preview of some of my predictions for the February 2017 bar exam!

Space is limited. Click here to register now. I look forward to meeting you!

All the best to those of you who are waiting for July 2016 bar results! Good luck on November 18th!

Sincerely,

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

California Bar Exam: Congratulations on Completing Day 3!

Leave a comment

Hello All,

By the time you read this, you will be done with the California bar exam! It is such an accomplishment. I know that all the weight is given to passing this beast of a test but, you really should be proud of yourself for the accomplishment of completing one of the hardest bar exams in the country!

SHHHHH people are still taking the test . . . 

Much has been said about day one’s essays – and a bit about the performance test. As there are examinees with testing accommodations that will be taking the bar exam through Sunday, I will not be discussing the performance test at all until after all examinees have completed the bar exam.

However, I am happy to entertain questions about the essays and will continue to update the blog as I hear more about today’s essays in the coming days. Please subscribe to the blog if you would like to be notified when I post next.

So far, from what I hear was tested, everything was pretty much as expected. Constitutional Law, Community Property and Professional Responsibility showed up today. No surprises here. I did not expect to see both Constitutional Law and Criminal Law on day three (I thought it would be one or the other) because of the heavy emphasis on day one of MBE topics. Still, I thought one more MBE topic was in your future on today’s essays. So, again, no real surprises.

I have not heard much yet about the actual fact patterns from today’s essay exams. However, I thought I would include a few of the brief breakdowns that I received during the lunch break today via email and text. Understand that I have not seen the exam – but, that you have – so – if you feel something else was tested – then trust your own interpretation of the the fact patterns and recognize that there are often multiple ways to both interpret the facts and to resolve the legal issues. In other words, do not freak out over what you read here!

Here you go!

A blog follower who emailed in during the lunch break, had this to say:

“Question 1 (Constitutional Law)
Procedural due process, Standing, 11th Amendment

Question 2 (Community Property)
Validity of prenuptial agreement, Property purchased with SP in H name only, Commingled savings account, W purchased rental property from commingle account in her name only, medical bill after permanent separation but before divorce

Question 3 (Professional responsibility)
Duty of loyalty, Conflict of interest, duty of diligence, duty of confidentiality vs duty of candor”

Here are a few text messaged reports from the lunch break today (as you can see, no facts or recaps of the actual fact patterns – yet):

SM Text Essays Day Three

And another who reported in via text:

Text Essays Day Three

And another who reported in via text (starting with a little encouragement from me yesterday):

Text Day Three Essays PY

Please continue to write in with your breakdown of what you saw on the essays as the more examinees that I hear from – the better picture I will be able to piece together of what was actually tested on today’s exams.

I will continue to post here in the coming days (although, do not be surprised if I take a day or two off this weekend – you should do the same too)! Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you will get a notification when I post next.

Get some rest & do something nice for yourself and those who have supported you . . .

I am sure you are all glad to have this test behind you. I know that I am. I always tell my students that they should be at least as tired from studying as I am from prepping my students. It has been a great bar round and truly a pleasure to work with all of the wonderful students I had the good fortune to work with – thank you to everyone who enrolled in one of our programs and to everyone following my blog. Get some rest in the coming days and do something nice for yourself (and for your family – for putting up with you – nothing like being married to someone studying for the bar exam, or a girlfriend or boyfriend studying for the bar exam, or a parent housing a son or daughter studying for the bar exam – you get what I mean – show a little gratitude for their support and do something nice for them too) 🙂

If you have questions, please feel free to send me an email at: barexamguru@yahoo.com or you can comment on the blog and I will reply to you here.

All the best,

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

California Bar Exam: Congratulations on Finishing Day One!

Leave a comment

Hello All,

Congratulations on completing day one of the California bar exam! And, thank you for following my blog! Nearly 847,000 views to date (thousands of which occurred just over the past 24 hours). It is very humbling, to say the least. Thank you! And, thank you to all who sent in reports from today’s essays. Please continue to send these in as it always helps me to complete a better picture of what was tested on the essays. You can email me at: barexamguru@yahoo.com While my enrolled students come first, I do try to respond to all emails and am happy to answer questions as I can.

So, what a way to start the day: Yes, the Civil Procedure essay was challenging! Anytime the bar examiners test areas for the first time it is a challenge for examinees as there are no points of reference from prior exams – there is no exact example of what was tested on today’s Civil Procedure essay because it has not been tested exactly like that before. So, if it felt challenging, well, that is because it WAS, but don’t let it get you down. You are not alone . . . which essay do you think I heard the most about today?

Which essay seemed to trouble the most examinees from the set of three? (I receive a LOT of emails after each day of the bar exam – and try to answer each personally). You guessed it – the Civil Procedure question. Four calls, lots to figure out and the very first time that California Civil Procedure was ever brought into play on the California bar exam! (Finally)! Whatever you wrote on that question – let it go and put it behind you. There are five additional essays and two performance tests in the balance for you, so don’t worry about it. I will write more about this essay from the reports I have seen. But, truly, you need to move on from it and perform tomorrow and Thursday. Still, I get that many want to hear more about the essays and what was likely tested as it kind of helps put it to bed in a way.

As you undoubtedly know by now, essay two was Property (Easements – as expected, in the context of a land-sale contract that likely generated issues regarding notice and warranty deed covenants – as expected). Not much to say about this one as it was pretty much straight out of the predictions/essay scenarios. This area has been overdue for some time, so no real surprise here.

Finally, essay three was (most likely, from what I have heard): Contract Remedies. The idea that Contracts and Remedies could repeat from the February 2016 exam is no surprise. And, the bar examiners could easily have more “repeats” up their sleeve for Thursday’s essays (more on that in my next post).

I know I said “Contract Remedies” – but, understand, that I have not seen the exam, so keep this in mind. I can not say with any certainty what was tested today – as I have not seen the exam. You have seen it, so you know better than I do what the fact patterns were like. I mention this here because this question (essay three) actually presented the most divide in terms of what I have heard from examinees today. By this I mean that I have heard varying reports of what was tested on essay number three. Just so you know. This means there are probably multiple ways that the exam could be handled and still be passing. For example, one examinee might spend more time on certain areas than another and still – both examinees can pass the essay. Again, whatever you wrote – put it behind you!

So, I promised that I would provide revised “predictions.” However, so far, the topics tested on the essay were subjects on my list of predicted/expected areas. As a result, I do not have any major changes to my predictions. But, I do have a few thoughts based upon the topics that were tested today. I will be putting this together in a separate post, a bit later this evening. In the meantime, keep staying positive and don’t let this test get you down!

Also, for more tips and insights, be sure to sign up for my Bar Exam Tips List, below!

 

And . . . Put today behind you!
Whatever you did today, however you felt about your performance today, it is over, history. There is no point in dwelling on it and there is no point in rehashing it. Do your best to put it out of your mind. We are often our own worst critics. If you have your doubts about today’s performance, I encourage you to put that behind you. You likely did better than you think. And, thinking that you did not do well is not going to improve your chances of doing well tomorrow or Thursday. So Put today behind you!

Congratulations again on your completion of day one of the bar exam! I will be posting additional thoughts on what might be more likely on Thursday’s essays a bit later this evening. But, you should be reviewing (if you are reviewing at all) for tomorrow’s MBEs. Whatever you do, keep it light – you need to be in good condition to get through the rigors of tomorrow’s 200 MBEs!

All the best,

Lisa Duncanson
Bar None Review
213-529-0990

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