Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Gerald Bamberger, a former adjunct assistant professor at the University at Buffalo Law School, has recently launched a new website that provides free video explanations of answers to simulated MBE questions. It is in its initial stages, but Professor Bamberger plans to continually add new simulated questions and accompanying explanations. You can check out his website at http://www.profbamberger.com/. (Dan Weddle)
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I am always amazed this time of year by how many graduating law students fail to prepare intensely for the bar exam that looms just ahead. Most take the exam very seriously, but a few each year apparently seem to think the exam a fairly easy hurdle. I don't get it. After all of the expense, work, and stress of law school, how can anyone let up for the bar exam?
Perhaps they look at the pass rates and decide that there is no way they can end up in the bottom twenty percent of the takers. I remember the story of a student who graduated first in his class at a good school, obtained a prestigious judicial clerkship, only to fail the exam and lose the clerkship. I have always suspected that he became wrapped up in his clerkship duties and thought to himself, "How can I possibly fail the bar exam after graduating first in my class?" I was in law school at the time, and the story scared the socks off me.
I suppose it is understandable that students who have been far from the bottom twenty percent in law school would assume that they can avoid the bottom twenty percent of bar takers without much work; but that assumption overlooks the nature of the exam. The exam tests concepts many takers have not encountered since the first semester of law school. What makes them think that material that old can be recalled and applied with a half-hearted review, especially when the material required so much preparation for the final exam when the material was fresh?
Some, I am sure, fail to prepare properly because they do not believe they can afford the fee for a bar prep course. Again, however, I find it amazing that anyone who has invested three years of tuition, budget-breaking book purchases, and lost wages chooses the bar exam as the best opportunity to save money. Too much is riding on the exam to spare expense at this point. Anything spent on preparing for the exam will be more than offset by a year in practice, and no amount saved can justify gambling that year on recalling three years of legal rules without an intense review.
Perhaps some students take review courses but never devote significant time to further study outside the review classes . Again, the choice is amazing, given what law school exams require. How many students actually get through law school by reading through their class notes once before finals? What could possibly lead them to believe that the bar exam requires little study beyond sitting through a series of lectures in the weeks leading up to the exam?
Nevertheless, every year brings tales of top students around the country failing the bar. Aside from the cases of extreme test anxiety, lack of test preparation is the only thing that explains the failures. They may be saving money, becoming too involved in newly acquired employment, or merely underestimating the exam; but they are rolling the dice on the most important high-stakes test of their legal careers.
Throughout law school, they have had to prepare intensely in order to succeed on finals, and this final is the biggest one they have faced, covering vastly more material than any other they have taken. Should it be a surprise that it requires substantially more preparation?
The bar exam itself should not frighten students; but under-preparation should scare them to death. We need not terrify our students about taking the exam, but we should go out of our way to terrify them about failing to prepare. The exam is grueling, but ultimately no real threat for those who have spent the two months ahead of it preparing intensely, both in the review classes and on their own time.
No one who has worked as hard as our students have worked to get through law school should trip over the last hurdle. As their coaches, we need to make sure they keep running hard to the end of the race and that they not treat the final lap to the bar as a cool down lap. (dbw)
Sunday, February 26, 2006
The most recent (March 2006) issue of the ABA publication Student Lawyer includes (see page 34) a conference notice of interest. Quoting from the magazine ...
"The ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law ... in conjunction with ABA president Michael Greco and the EEOC, is sponsoring a National Conference on Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities. Participants will discuss ways to further the employment opportunities for and promote the hiring of recent law graduates and young lawyers with disabilities."
The conference is on May 22 and May 23. "The conference," the notice continues, "encourages law students to attend the conference. To support student participation, the commission will offer a reduced registration fee as well as scholarships to students demonstrating need."
Encouraging news: "With proper accommodations and open lines of communication, lawyers with disabilities have proven themselves to be as successful as their peers without disabilities."
In the academic support field, most of us work with students manifesting a variety of disabilities (visible and invisible); and many of us contend with comments by students, faculty and lawyers along these lines, "Why is she even going to law school? Who is going to hire a lawyer with (fill in the blank)?" Oh, that gets to me. Between your school's Career Services office and its Academic Support office ... somewhere ... we need to be able to provide accurate, up-to-date answers to these inquiries ... not only for those who ask the questions above, but, more importantly, for those who ask this question: "Will I ever get a job if they find out about my _________?"
For detailed conference information, visit the commission's web page. (djt)
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
I know I have been away awhile. In part, this is due to preparations for our Law School's sabbatical inspection coming up in a few weeks. In part, this is due to preoccupation with my daughter's college application process. And, in part, this is due to dealing with a recent moderately unpleasant medical diagnosis.
However, as I have been reviewing more and more practice exams of students preparing for the Bar Exam, I have been struck by a common problem: the tendency to approach a subject by talking about everything on the laundry list of topics, rather than exercising discretion on what topics are truly raised by the facts.
As an example, I gave a Civil Procedure question with two calls. One called explicitly for a discussion of defendant's motion to dismiss for failure of the plaintiff to join a particular person. Rather than immediately begin a discussion of Compulsory Joinder and structure the answer along the lines of FRCP 19, most students began by discussing personal jurisdiction, then subject matter jurisdiction, then venue, and finally, after using most of their time, students got to the first of three sub-issues raised in a Rule 19 analysis.
This tendency should be of great concern to us in our training of lawyers. As Dennis Tonsing has written, and as we all recognize, there are analogs between what we ask students to do in Law School and what they are asked to do in the professional practice of law. Selecting and divining the right issues, and only the right issues, for discussion on an exam has its analog in narrowing and selecting the right issues to research and prepare for when a client walks in the door, because clients have neither the time nor the money to pay for unnecessary research.
We therefore need to caution students that, while it makes great sense to go into an exam with a mental checklist of possible issues, they should not answer a question by automatically writing everything on the checklist. They must learn to critically consider which issues are raised, and which are not. This facility is part of "thinking like a lawyer." (mwm)
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Denise Riebe is a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke University School of Law, an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, a mediator, and author. Any day now, you will find Pass the Bar!—a Carolina Academic Press publication by Professor Riebe and co-author Michael Hunter Schwartz (Professor at Charleston School of Law)—on bookstore shelves.
Professor Riebe has begun research about what type of bar preparation programs schools are offering—one of the hot topics of 2005 that promises to be hot in 2006, too. Specifically, she's interested in what schools have done in the past, whether law school programs are effective, and how law schools are responding to the new ABA Interpretation authorizing for-credit law school bar preparation courses.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
For those of you involved in bar exam preparation, have you ever wondered about the putative standard for passing the bar? The standard is, allegedly, “minimum competence to practice law.” As states continue to raise their “cut scores” and lower their pass rates, the meaning of “minimum competence” becomes ever more murky.
I have some data and thoughts on this, which you can find at What_is_minimum_competence? I address these ideas: Pass rates and the “cut score”; the effect of the MBE; the “disconnect” between the standard of “minimum competence to practice law” and the means used to test meeting that standard, both on the Bar Exam and in Law School; and the widening divide between law professors and bar examiners on the meaning of minimum competence to practice law, as evidenced by the declining bar passage rates.
I also think it is time to consider possible means to test the validity of the hypothesis that adherence to the “minimum competence to practice law” standard requires ever increasing cut scores and lower bar passage rates. If you are interested, take a look at my short discussion at the above-referenced link, and let me know what you think. (mwm)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
And on the topic of the bar exam, there's one jurisdiction that is looking at discarding it altogether.
New Hampshire, the state with the "Live Free of Die" motto on its license plate, and the state where I hold a license (which I obtained through sitting for the bar examination) is starting a pilot program with this year's incoming class at the State's only law school.
A select group of 25 students at Franklin Pierce Law Center will have the opportunity to earn their law licenses in New Hampshire without taking the traditional two-day rite of passage after graduation.
Students will, however, undergo rigorous evaluation of their work.
The students will demonstrate their mastery of the fundamental skills of lawyering through the Webster's Scholars Program, run by a veteran lawyer and long-standing Franklin Pierce adjunct faculty member, John Garvey, who recently left private practice after a more than two-decade-long career.
I look forward to watching this story unfold. As the updates come to my attention, I'll pass them along to you, the blog readers.
Thank you to my Lexis-Nexis rep., Attorney John Harding, for bringing the link to this article to my attention. (els)