Thursday, January 4, 2018
I've already fallen. Chocolate got me. I tried, super-hard; but try as I might, chocolate just has a magical grip on me.
That raises an interesting question.
Are there any New Year's resolutions that I actually might keep so that they become part of my life?
Well, I've got a resolution that both you and me (whether you are a teacher or a student) can bank on for making a meaningful difference in your law school experience.
In short, do less studying..and more learning.
That's right, less studying. You see, studiers study. They read and re-read, they highlight and re-highlight, they underline and re-underline their class readings, notes, and outlines. But, unfortunately, the data shows that these common study techniques are poor ways to learn. Don't believe me? Check this article out by Dr. John Dunlosky, entitled: "Strengthening the Student Toolbox: Study Strategies to Boost Learning," in which Dr. Dunlosly surveys the learning science behind what works best for learning: https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/dunlosky.pdf
Now, before we throw away our highlighters, please note that Dr. Dunlosky acknowledges that highlighting is "fine"...provided that we recognize that highlighting is just "the beginning of the learning journey." In other words, to go from a studier to a learner involves moving beyond re-reading, highlighting, and underlining to become one that actually experiences, reflects, and acts upon the content. That sounds hard. And, it might be. But, it is not impossible, at all. Indeed, Dr. Dunlosky focuses on a handful of low-cost, readily-available learning strategies that can meaningfully improve your learning. Here's just a few of them:
First, engage in retrieval practice. Rather than re-reading a case, for example, close the casebook and ask yourself what was the case all about, why did I read it, what did it hold, what did I learn from it, etc.
Second, engage in lots of exercise with practice tests and problems. It's never too early to start.
Third, as you engage in learning through practice tests, aim to distribute the practice experiences rather than massing them in condensed, concentrated cramming sessions. You see, what we learn through distributed practice sticks. What we learn through cramming, well, we just don't really learn because it quickly disappears from our grasp.
Fourth, as you engage in learning through practice exercises, try to interleave your practice with a mix of problem types and even subjects. In other words, rather than just focusing on negligence problems in mass, for example, work a negligence hypothetical followed by an intentional tort problem and then a strict liability problem and finally back to a negligence problem. Far better yet, interleave torts problems with contracts hypotheticals, etc.
Fifth, as you engage in learning, try to elaborate why the rule applies...or...explain to yourself what steps were needed to solve the problems that you were analyzing...or...figure out what facts served as clues that you should have discussed certain issues.
That's just a few learning strategies that you can implement right away, as sort of a New Year's resolution to you, to help you do less studying this new year...but far more learning. So, here's to a new academic term of learning! (Scott Johns).
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
In this two-part series, I hope to provide you with the information you'll need to make an informed decision when you select which commercial company (or companies) you'll use to prepare for the bar exam. In Part 1, I introduced you to both full-service courses and supplemental specialty options. Now, in Part 2, I'll offer some tips and suggestions on how to make your final decision and how to get the best price.
Tip 1: Try Before You Buy
All of the full-service companies offer a free MPRE course. You should sign-up for all of the MPRE courses so that you can take a "test drive" of each company's software, digital platform, and print materials. You may find that you really like one company's website or print materials more than the others. For the specialty supplements, ask your academic support or bar support professor if they have any sample materials for you to review. Most professors get free sample copies of bar preparation materials, like the Critical Pass flashcards and Rigos outline books. And, if your professor doesn't have a copy to show you, check the law school library.
Tip 2: Haggle for Discounts
Most would agree that if you pay sticker price for a car or any product at Bed, Bath & Beyond (20% off coupons!), then you're a fool. The same is true for bar review courses. You can always get some sort of discount, if you're willing to put in a little bit of effort.
First, register for the MPRE course. In addition to the benefit of the test-drive mentioned above, you'll likely get a coupon for a few dollars off their full-review course. The emailed coupon will say something like, "Did you like the MPRE course? If so, buy our comprehensive bar review course. Here's a $50 coupon if you sign-up before the deadline." You'll also get alerted to any flash-sales that the company might be offering. (Getting too many promotional emails? Every email comes with an "opt out" or "unsubscribe" link at the bottom, so you can choose to stop receiving the promotional emails at any time.)
Second, ask the salesperson if you qualify for any special discounts. Students with a public interest law affiliation, bar association membership, or demonstrated financial hardship typically qualify for a discounted rate. These discounts may not be advertised; instead, you'll need to affirmatively ask about them.
Third, ask if the company is willing to price match. Some companies will match (or even beat) your best written offer, much like a car dealership or major retail store.
Fourth, ask for an interest-free payment plan, if you can't afford the upfront cost. Your financial aid office may also be able to re-structure your financial aid package during your last year of law school to help you with bar-exam related costs.
Tip 3: Consider Bidding for a Course
Most students will purchase their bar review course directly from the company. But each year a handful of students get a great deal on a course through some third-party source, such as a law school's public interest auction, student organization raffle, or scholarship program. Before putting down any non-refundable deposit, you should investigate whether your school will be offering an opportunity to bid on a course or apply for a scholarship program.
Tip 4: Read the Contract
Treat the bar review course buying experience like a major financial transaction. Read all of the paperwork that is presented to you. Negotiate. Don't sign anything that you don't understand or agree with. Remember, you actually have a lot of power in this buyer-seller relationship because there a lot of companies all vying for the same, small target audience (namely: you). If you need help with the process, ask you academic support or bar support professor for guidance.
Tip 5: Wait Until, at least, 2L Year to Commit
There is very little benefit to putting down a non-refundable deposit with a company during your first-year of law school. Just wait. Shop around and get to know the lay-of-the-land before committing to a $1,500-$2,500 deal. During that time you can investigate your third-party options and get quotes from all of the vendors. You may also make a new friend or join a study group during law school. If so, you may want to buy the same course as your study buddy to better enable you to study together during bar prep season. In short, you really don't need to have everything ironed until the start of your final semester of school.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
In this two-part series, I hope to provide you with the information you'll need to make an informed decision when you select which commercial company (or companies) you'll use to prepare for the bar exam. In Part 1, I'll introduce you to both full-service review courses and specialty supplemental options. Then, in Part 2, I'll offer some tips on how to make your final decision and how to get the best price.
The three most popular companies offering comprehensive, full service bar review preparation programs are Barbri, Kaplan, and Themis.
Barbri is the oldest and most popular choice, and also tends to be the most expensive, with programs currently starting at $2,895. Barbri offers live lectures at select cities nationwide and pre-recorded online lectures for those students studying in cities without live lectures. According to a Barbri representative, "For nearly 50 years, BARBRI has helped over 1.2 million law school graduates pass the bar exam across all 50 states, in all jurisdictions. Our courses include access to cutting-edge learning technology like our Personal Study Plan, Essay Architect, and LawMaster Study Keys. With BARBRI, you’ll have the ability to complete the course completely online or attend a lecture in a classroom setting – we’ve got all your bases covered! When it comes to your bar exam, don’t leave it up to chance and go with the most experienced and tested course!"
Kaplan began decades ago as a multiple-choice focused company (then-called PMBR), and now offers a full-service package starting at $1,599. According to a Kaplan representative, Kaplan Bar Review offers a comprehensive bar review course that is tailored to each student, and includes: (a) over 4,000 practice MBE questions; (b) unlimited essay grading with over 200 practice essays, each graded by barred attorneys; (c) two full-length MBE practice tests and one full-length practice bar exam under timed conditions; (d) a personalized final study plan tailored to each student’s unique strengths and weaknesses; and (e) a money-back guarantee. Kaplan offers both live lectures in select cities and pre-recorded online lectures. In addition, Kaplan has a Price Match Guarantee, pledging to offer their course for $100 less than the price of any other company’s course.
Themis, is the newest of the three companies, and has quickly made a name for itself, with comprehensive on-demand courses starting at $1,845, before applicable discounts. Unlike its competitors, Themis does not offer any live lectures; all the lectures are pre-recorded. Themis representatives boast that "Themis is built around learning science to help you study for the bar more efficiently and effectively. Themis is the only company that releases their pass rates, which are almost always better than students who choose to take another course. And with Themis, the course schedule adapts as you fall behind or work ahead, helping to keep you focused on what you need for exam day. Also, Themis lectures are broken up into manageable chunks, allowing students to spend more or less time with a particular topic as needed."
In addition to the three juggernauts, numerous other companies offer a variety of a la carte services.
Adaptibar focuses exclusively on the multiple-choice component of the bar exam, offering 1,745 practice questions, most of which were obtained through a licensing agreement with the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The MBE course cost $395.
AmeriBar is lesser-known than some of it's full-service competitors, but offers a full course starting at $1,365. AmeriBar also sells each exam component separately (e.g. $695 for the multi-state section), for those who want to create their own study package. According to their website, AmeriBar's full review program includes "3,000+ pages of hard copy books; 1,000+ learning questions; 1,400+ actual released MBE questions; and 200+ essay questions."
Critical Pass sells pre-printed flashcards covering the multiple-choice subjects. The 380 cards are color-coded, cross-referenced, and organized by subject and sub-topic, including indexes for each subject. Currently retailing for $149, the price includes free shipping and access to a companion mobile app.
Strategies & Tactics for the MBE, part of the Emanuel Bar Review, offers advice on how to analyze multiple-choice questions, including details on how to handle each MBE subject, step-by-step strategies for analyzing different question types, tips about how subtle differences in wording can completely change the meaning of an answer, and strategies for "rewording" questions in your mind to make them easier to analyze. The 6th edition of this workbook currently retails on Amazon for $75.
Rigos offers several different packages ranging from outline books ($400 for the set of 5) to a full UBE course ($2,495). Rigos is perhaps most popular for its creation of acronyms and mnemonics to help you easily memorize elements covering frequently asked legal concepts. Rigos also offers a free MPRE course and a free 30-question multiple-choice assessment.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
'Tis the season, they say.
But, for many law school graduates, the month of December seems like a herculean challenge because a number of graduates are preparing to retake the bar exam next February...after receiving devastating news that they did not pass.
So, let me write directly to you...to those of you who did not pass the bar exam this past summer.
First, you do not have to be a repeater. Repeaters repeat, with the same outcome likely to result. Instead, it's time to take advantage of the information and the experience that you had and turn it into a "fresh start." You see, you have "inside information," so to speak, that first-time takers lack. You know what it's like to sit for the exam, and, in most states, you have concrete information about what you did that was great along with inside scoop about where you can improve.
But, where is this inside info?
It's in the scores that you received along with your answers. The first step on your "fresh start" journey takes incredible courage but is key...grab hold of your exam questions and answers and work through them, one by one, reading the questions, outlining answers, writing solutions, and reflecting on what you learned through re-writing the exam. In the process, you'll be able to see firsthand where you can improve. That's important information that is not available to first-time takers. So, take advantage of it.
Second, don't focus on studying but on learning. You see, success this time around on the bar exam is not a matter of working harder but rather working differently. [That's why I’m always reluctant to call it studying because the focus should be on learning.]. From a big picture viewpoint, as Dr. Maryellen Weimer, Professor Emerita of Teaching and Learning at Penn State University describes, learning involves three overlapping activities focused on (1) content; (2) experiences; and, (3) reflection.
Let me be frank about the content phase of learning. We often feel so overwhelmed by the content, particularly because it comes to us from bar review companies in the form of massive detailed lectures and equally massive detailed outlines, that we never move beyond the content. In short, we don't feel like we know enough to practice. Consequently, we tend to be immobilized (i.e., stuck in) in the content stage. Instead of experiencing problem-solving first hand, we tend to re-read outlines, re-watch lectures, and in general create gigantic study tools before we have had sufficient experiences with the content to know what is really important in the big scheme of things.
And, in my experience, most often when people don’t pass the bar exam on the first time around, it is almost always NOT because they didn’t know enough law but rather because they wrote answers that didn’t match up with the questions asked. They were stuck in the content stage, spending too much time learning answers rather than experiencing questions. As mentioned above, that's because we are so naturally focused on trying to learn and memorize the law. But, I can’t EVER recall someone not passing because they didn’t know sufficient law. It’s almost as though we know too much law that the law becomes a barrier...because we write all of the law that we know in our answers...even if it is not relevant.
That’s why the second stage is so important – experiencing the content through active open book practice.
And, the third stage is critical too – reflection – because that is where we dig in to see patterns in the bar exam questions over time.
With that background in mind, let me offer a few suggestions so that you are not a repeater but a "fresh start" taker on your bar exam next February.
1. Avoid the Lectures! I would not redo the bar review commercial lectures. At the most, if you feel like you must, feel free to listen via podcasts while exercising, etc. In other words, just get them over and done with so that you can move quickly into the experiencing stage using the content of actual practice problems to solve problems for yourself. In other words, the least important thing in successfully passing the bar exam on the second go is listening to the lectures or reading outlines. Rather, as you work through practice problems, take the time to dig in and understand whether you really understood what was going one...that's the sort of experience in practicing along with the sort of reflection that makes a huge difference.
2. Daily Exercise! Establish a schedule so that you exercise consistent learning every day. The key is to be on a daily regimented schedule because it’s in your daily actions of experiencing and reflecting through actual bar exam problems that leads to big rises in bar exam scores.
3. Practice Makes Passing Possible! Right from the "get go," take advantage of every practice exam you can. Most of your days, from the very beginning of your studies, should be engaged in practicing actual bar exam problems and reflecting on what you learned. Don't try to learn the material through reading the outlines. Dig in and use the outlines to solve practice problems.
4. Reach Out To Your Law School! Meet once per week, on a schedule, with someone at your law school to talk out your work. Bring one of your written answers or a set of MBE question that you have done or a performance test problem that you just solved. You see, according to the learning scientists, when we explain to someone the steps that we took to solve a problem, it sticks with us. So, take advantage of your local ASP professionals on your law school campus.
5. Make Your Learning Work Count! Skip the commercial bar review online homework and drills. If the problems presented by your commercial course are not formatted like actual bar exam problems (essays, MBE questions, or performance test problems), don't do them. Period. That's because the bar examiners don't test whether you did the drills or the online homework; rather, they test whether you can communicate and solve hypothetical bar exam fact pattern problems. So, focus your work on the prize. Only do bar exam questions.
6. Two-Thousand! Okay...here's a number to remember. According to a recent successful "fresh start" taker, the number is 2000. That's right. A recent taker said that she/he did just about 2000 MBE questions. That's really experiencing the content. You see, it’s important to work through lots and lots of bar exam problems because that helps you to see fact patterns that trigger similar issues over and over. And, if you do that many questions, you don’t really have time for commercial bar review online homework or making gigantic study tools or re-watching the lectures over and over. Instead, you’ll be using your time...wisely...for what is really important, learning by doing. In particular, focus your learning (not studying!) on probing, pondering, and reflecting through every available essay and MBE question that you can. Unfortunately, we often hear of people slowing down in the practice arena during the last two weeks to make big study tools and to work on memorization. But, memorization doesn’t work without content...and content doesn't work with out experiencing lots and lots and lots of practice problems. In other words, by practicing every possible problem that you can get your hands on you are actually memorizing without even knowing it.
7. The Final Two Weeks! In the last two weeks, while you are still spending the bulk of your time practicing problems, for an hour or two a day, start to run through flashcards, or your old study tools, or posters, or your subject matter outlines. But, do so in a flash. It doesn’t matter whether you use commercial flash cards, your own note cards, or your own short subject matter outlines, etc., just pick something and use it to reflect on your learning. Here’s a suggestion: The learning science experts say that it is important to “elaborate,” i.e., to explain and talk through what you are learning and ask why it is important, etc. In other words, as you run through your study tools, put them into your own words, e.g., vocalize them, sing them out if you’d like, or even dance with them or put some “jazz” into them. In short, make your study tools live! However, always remember that the best way to make your study tools come to life is to use them to work through lots of bar exam problems throughout the last two weeks of bar prep.
8. Be Kind-Hearted To Yourself! Realize its okay to have melt-downs. Note, I said meltdowns not just a meltdown. Everyone has them, and they happen more than once. That's being human. So, be kind to yourself. Feel free to take time off for short adventures. The important thing is to take some time to rest and to rejuvenate, in whatever form works for you. My favorite is ice cream followed by a close second with hiking and even watching Andy Griffith shows (you’re too young to know what that is!).
Well, with that learning background as a foundation and these steps in mind, I wish you well as you prepare for success on your upcoming bar exam! (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
As bar results from various jurisdictions continue to trickle in, July 2017 bar takers are either filled with excitement and relief or are sorely disappointed and devastated. As those who were unsuccessful on the exam sort through their emotions and decide what to do next, they cope with the results in different ways. There are those who know they did not put forth the effort necessary and are therefore disappointed with the result and even mad at themselves as they see friends elated to have passed the bar exam. On the other end of the spectrum are those who put forth every effort but did not yield the expected result. These individuals are distraught, directionless, overwhelmed and apprehensive about embarking on the bar study journey all over again. As individuals who were unsuccessful on the bar exam regroup, some will sulk in their emotions, sadness, and fear of failing the bar exam again. The reality is that some will continuously be haunted by the fear of failure throughout their bar preparation period. Others will be motivated to succeed by the fear of failure and make significant strides toward passing the bar exam.
The most challenging aspect for bar support professionals is working with students who were unsuccessful on the bar exam but their entire ‘friend group” passed the bar exam. It is even more difficult when the unsuccessful individual overwhelmingly put in their best possible effort and was the very source of encouragement and support for the entire group of friends who passed. It is also difficult in an era when everyone posts every life event on social media so one is constantly faced with the successes of others and one’s perceived failure. Where then do we even start?
As a bar support professional, we have a general idea about the probability of success on the bar exam for those law students we have regularly engaged with throughout law school. Of course, students defy the odds and my goal is to ensure that students beat the odds against them each and every time. When one has worked with a student who struggled throughout law school, helped that student build the mental fortitude to overcome defeats in small battles throughout law school, seen the student master various skills and work diligently during bar studies, it is difficult to see the student not attain their goal of passing the bar exam. How do you uplift the encourager?
My approach to working with any student who was unsuccessful on the bar exam is twofold. First, address the mental coping mechanisms then second, address the practical aspects of preparing for the bar exam. Individuals usually want to avoid discussing how they feel about the bar exam, how it is impacting their day to day life, and how it will affect their bar preparation process but these are conversations bar preparation professionals should never shy away from. It might involve tears and maybe even require a break but strategizing about how to manage interactions with former classmates, professors, family, and employers, just to mention a few, are all very important. Also realizing that they are not alone in having these emotions and that others who were also unsuccessful feel the same way and may have coping mechanisms that might be helpful to adopt. This is also a time to build a relationship with the bar studier which might encourage them to have the conversations with you about their fears and moments of doubt and concern throughout the bar preparation process. However, there might be situations when we might need to encourage students to obtain other professional help.
Although we aim to adequately address the practical aspects of preparing for the bar exam, it is the mental fears that typically make this process daunting. The voice students hear ringing in their ears, “you are going to fail the bar exam again” or the frustration of not immediately getting all questions correct might awaken the fears that all of their hard work may not yield the result they long for. Students can learn how to write better essays and performance tests with strategies and individualized and consistent feedback. Students get better at multiple choice with strategy, practice, and specific techniques to critique their process. Students can build time management skills with progressive time management drills. Students can build knowledge and memory by developing techniques to study and retain material and adequately applying those techniques. The one thing we cannot do is get into the minds of our bar takers to block all of the negativity they might tell themselves.
To those who had a practice run and are going to get back on the bar study schedule, LET’S DO THIS!!! You CAN do it. You are not the first and you are not alone. Your bar support professionals are there to support you with this round. Be courageous! (Goldie Pritchard)
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Hat tip to Professor Mainero at Chapman...
In a recent new release from the California Supreme Court, the Court set out its reasons for not adjusting that state's current minimum passing bar exam score of 144 (1440 or 72 percent):
In the release, the Court discusses the following major points.
- The California Bar Exam has seen wide fluctuations in first-time pass rates since the state first begin using the current cut score of 144 (1440 or 72 percent) in 1987, and that more recent bar exam pass rate declines mirror bar exam pass rate declines across the nation based on published NCBE research findings.
- The Court acknowledged that the current cut score was "not established through a standard setting study," i.e., whether the bar exam's cut score measures minimum competency, and that most if not many states similarly lack such research studies.
- Thus, using July 2016 answers and scores with a panel of court-appointed subject matter experts, an independent psychometrician largely concluded that the a score of 139 (1390) [69.5%] was the baseline value for measuring minimum competency (though the study was questioned by two independent researchers and by many in the legal education community).
- Based on largely on the lack of data, the Court at this point in time is not convinced that the cut score needs adjustment based on either the independent psychometrician's research nor based on the numerous amicus letters the Court received.
- The Court will revisit the issue based on any "appropriate recommendation."
For those of us in the ASP community, we were hopeful. But, even though at least for now the Court did not amend the cut score, perhaps there is still a glimmer of sun shining through this news release right into our domain of expertise.
That's because the Court then goes on to "encourage the State Bar and all California law schools to work cooperatively together and with others in examining (1) whether student metrics, law school curricula and teaching techniques, and other factors might account for the recent decline in bar exam pass rates; (2) how such data might inform efforts to improve academic instruction for the benefit of law students preparing for licensure and practice; and (3) whether and to what extent changes implemented for the first time during administration of the July 2017 exam — that is, adoption of a two-day exam and equal weighting of the written and multiple choice portions of the exam — might bear on possible adjustment of the pass score.
Speaking plainly, the Court is reaching out to each of us in the field to provide the evidence as to what have actually been the factors in the most recent declines in bar pass rates (and how to improve legal education and the licensure exam). At least based on our own research study, it's not due to LSAT declines. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2842415. That's because we have seen dramatic swings in bar passage rates with very little fluctuation in LSAT scores at the 25 percentile and the mean. In other words, it seems like LSAT scores have, at least in our case, played very little (to no) role. If not LSAT, then what?
Well, here's a possible list of some of the factors:
- Increases in student debt loads.
- Increases in the numbers of bar takers studying largely or solely through online bar review learning platforms despite years of experience primarily as classroom learners.
- Changes in the bar exam subjects matter scope or format.
- Changes in the way(s) that we teach students to learn (and perhaps changes in the way students learn).
That's just a few possible other factors. But, without evidence, at this point in time the California Supreme Court will not adjust its bar exam cut score.
So, the time is ripe (or, to use a bit of contrast law terminology, "time is of the essence") in providing the Court, legal educators, the bar, and the public with what might be the appropriate cut score to measure minimum competency and whether the bar exam itself is actually up to the task. So, make your voice known today; share your thoughts and inspirations. Put it down perhaps in a draft SSRN article or essay or your own blog. But, make a record of what you know because what you know might make a real difference down the line in empowering people to succeed on the bar exam and as professional attorneys too! Simply put, there's no time to waste. (Scott Johns)
Friday, September 29, 2017
Allie Robbins, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at CUNY School of Law, started a blog last summer for graduates studying for the bar exam. Many helpful tips are included in the posts. Allie will be adding new posts specifically for February bar studiers, so keep this blog in mind. The link to The Activist Guide to Passing the Bar is found here. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
“This is my last first day of school ever!” This statement sums up the comments made by many of my 3L students as they stopped by to say hello and told me about their summer adventures. They are so elated and their excitement is infectious. We reminisce about their journeys, how far they have come, all they have overcome, and their current achievements and growth. It is important to keep things in perspective so I remind them that they are equipped to face the next challenge that lies ahead; they made it this far.
“I never thought this day would come when I was a 1L and a 2L!” This also sums up statements made by my 3L students who struggled a little more than others throughout their law school career. This is usually a perfect point in time to remind them of how they overcame challenges they deemed insurmountable and felt defeated by the law school process but somehow persevered. Many of these students accessed opportunities, that on paper they did not qualify for, but they were afforded these opportunities through their work ethic and personality. I do not want them to forget challenges they have overcome because I know the bar exam lies ahead and I want them to conquer this seemingly impossible beast.
“I can’t wait until my picture is on your wall next year!” In February, I wrote about a “Wall of Inspiration” which is a display board filled with pictures from commencement and swearing-in ceremonies to inspire current students and remind them of why they are in the building. Most individuals who enter my office take some time to admire the pictures and comment, especially when they notice someone they know. I had no idea that it was a goal of my students to get their commencement and/or swearing-in pictures on my board. While I hoped that I would inspire them, I had no idea that I actually did.
While students expressed many positive things about their 3L year, they also expressed the fact that they are mentally checked-out, unmotivated, ready to be done, and simply over the law school experience. My most studious students have difficulty reading for classes and even attending classes. They do not want to own the fact that they have senioritis although everything seems to indicate it. I recognize the telltale sign of indifference that has overshadowed the usual excitement some of my students have for classes. Investment in established law school friendships has weaned and students are generally grumpy. I am concerned! However, I know that some students are burnt-out and exhausted from being in school, some for almost their entire lives. Also, the stress of finding a job, the anxiety of preparing for and taking the bar exam, and the realities of “adulting” for the first time weigh heavy on them. Therefore, I am working on how to actively re-energize and re-engage these students.
"I cannot fail the bar exam!" On the other extreme of the spectrum are 3Ls in panic mode. These students are excited and embrace the fast approaching end to their law school career but are equally terrified about the bar exam, to the point of paralysis. They are paranoid about failing the bar exam and adamant about starting to study for the bar exam now, forgetting vital things they need to accomplish prior to studying such as completing the bar application. Additionally, they are concerned with preserving their GPAs, finding a fulfilling job, and managing their finances. I encourage this group to develop a plan, take one thing at a time, and move forward.
Whether our 3Ls are checked-out or in a complete panic, our main goal is to bring them somewhere in the middle, remind them of what they must do and what they have yet to do, all while underscoring the fact that they still have time. (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Before the start of each new semester, I send an email to each colleague who will be teaching a bar exam tested subject that semester. I offer some general information about the bar exam and some targeted information about how their particular subject matter is tested on the bar exam—based on a compilation of details gleaned from NCBE outlines and a comprehensive MEE indexing project (Download MEE Pathfinder) performed by our dedicated library staff. Although the list is far from perfect, my colleagues have reported that they find the information useful as they prepare syllabi and select topics to cover within the course. Below is my email template. Feel free to use it, if you find it helpful.
Your subject matter [is / is not] tested on the multiple-choice section of the bar exam.
Generally speaking, the multiple-choice section consists of 200 multiple-choice questions: 175 scored questions and 25 unscored pretest questions. The 175 scored questions on the MBE are distributed evenly, with 25 questions from each of the seven subject areas: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. Students have 6 hours to complete this section of the exam (i.e. about 1.8 minutes per question).
With regard to your course, [add the specifics for the multiple-choice topic from the master list below.]
Your subject matter [is / is not] tested on the essay section of the bar exam.
Generally speaking, the essay section consists of six 30-minute questions. Areas of law that may be covered on the essay section include the following: Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates, and Sales & Secured Transactions. Some questions may include issues in more than one area of law, and the particular areas covered vary from exam to exam. The [local jurisdiction does / does not] test state-specific rules on the essays.
With regard to your course, [add the specifics for the essay topic from the master list below.]
Master Subject List
The five most commonly tested subtopics on Business Association essays are: identifying which business association would suit the client’s needs, the requirements for formation of a partnership, liability to third parties, the fiduciary duties of officers/directors within a corporations, and agency issues.
Conflict of Laws
Conflict of Laws issues are embedded in the other essay topic areas. They do not appear as stand-alone questions. Historically, conflict of laws questions are most frequently paired with family law issues, especially child custody issues.
Approximately two-thirds of the civil procedure multiple-choice questions are based on jurisdiction, venue, pretrial procedures, and motions practice. Other subtopics— such as conflict of laws, jury trials, verdicts, judgements, and the appeals process—account for the remaining one-third of questions.
With regard to Federal Civil Procedure essays, the examiners ask questions about jurisdiction substantially more than they ask questions about the actual rules. The four most common Civil Procedure topics are personal jurisdiction long arm / minimum contacts statutes, federal question jurisdiction, diversity jurisdiction (especially the amount in controversy), and joinder of parties.
Approximately half of the constitutional law multiple-choice questions are based on individual rights. The other half are based on judicial review, separation of powers, and federalism.
The most commonly tested subtopic on the Constitutional Law essays is freedom of speech, followed closely by the equal protection clause.
Contracts & Sales
Approximately half of the contracts questions are based on contract formation and performance / breach. The other half of the questions are based on defenses, parol evidence, remedies, and third party rights. Of the 25 total questions, one-quarter are based on Article 2.
The four most commonly tested subtopics on Contracts / Sales essays are: offer and acceptance, statute of frauds, accord and satisfaction, and anticipatory repudiation.
Criminal Law & Procedure
Approximately half of the questions will be based on criminal procedure and half will be based on criminal law. Within criminal law, the examiners tend to distribute the questions equally across four categories: homicide, all other crimes, inchoate offenses, and general principles.
The examiners rarely ask criminal law essay questions and only occasionally ask criminal procedure questions. The five most common topics are inchoate offenses, homicide, fourth amendment, Miranda, and the exclusionary rule.
Evidence multiple-choice questions are typically divided up as follows:
Presentation of the evidence: 25%
Privileges & Writings: 9%
The three most commonly tested subtopics on the Evidence essays are: relevance, character evidence, and use of prior inconsistent statements.
The four most commonly tested subtopics on Family Law essays are: how to get divorced, property division, “best interests of the child” standard, and child support obligations.
The examiners divide the questions up equally among five categories: ownership interests, rights in real property, real estate contracts, mortgages, and titles.
The four most commonly tested suptopics on the Real Property essays are: recording statutes (race, race-notice), easements, deed warranties, and landlord-tenant leases.
The five most common subtopics on the Secured Transactions essays are: collateral classification, purchase money security interests, debtor/creditor rights of attachment, perfection, and priorities.
Half of the multiple-choice questions will be based on negligence. Intentional torts, strict liability, and “other” torts account for the other half of the questions.
The most common subtopic on the Torts essays is negligence (duty, breach, and causation), followed by the doctrine of respondeat superior / vicarious liability.
Trusts & Estates
The six most commonly tested subtopics on the Trusts & Estates essays are: benefits of creating a trust/will, how to create a trust, modification of a trust, future interests / remainders in trusts, validity of a will, and intestate distribution.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
For those of you that just tackled the bar exam this week, here's a few words of congratulations and a couple of tips as you wait for results from this summer's bar exam.
First, let me speak to you straight from the heart!
Bravo! Magnificent! Herculean!
Those are just some of the words that come to mind…words that you should be rightly speaking to yourself…because…they are true of you to the core!
But, for most of us right now, we just don’t quite feel super-human about the bar exam. Such accolades of self-talk are, frankly, just difficult to do. Rather, most of us just feel relief – plain and simple relief – that the bar exam is finally over and we have somehow survived.
That’s because very few of us, upon completion of the bar exam, feel like we have passed the bar exam. Most of us just don’t know. So now, the long “waiting” period begins with results not due out for most of us for a number of months.
So, here’s the conundrum about the “waiting” period:
Lot’s of well-meaning people will tell you that you have nothing to worry about; that they are sure that you passed the bar exam; and that the bar exam wasn’t that hard…really.
Not that hard?
You know that I passed?
There’s nothing for me to worry about?
Let me give you a concrete real life example. Like you, I took the bar exam. And, like most of you, I had no idea at all whether I passed the bar exam. I was just so glad that it was finally over.
But all of my friends, my legal employer (a judge), my former law professors, and my family kept telling me that I had absolutely nothing to be worried about; that I passed the bar exam; that I worked hard; that they knew that I could do it.
But, they didn’t know something secret about my bar exam. They didn’t know about my lunch on the first day of the bar exam.
At the risk of revealing a closely held secret, my first day of the bar exam actually started out on the right foot, so to speak. I was on time for the exam. In fact, I got to the convention center early enough that I got a prime parking spot. Moreover, in preparation for my next big break (lunch), I had already cased out the nearest handy-dandy fast food restaurants for grabbing a quick bite to eat before the afternoon portion of the bar exam so that I would not miss the start of the afternoon session of the bar exam.
So, when lunch came, I was so excited to eat that I went straight to Burger King. I really wanted that “crown,” perhaps because I really didn’t understand many of the essay problems from the morning exam. But as I approached Burger King, the line was far out of the door. Impossibly out of the door. And, it didn’t get any better at McDonalds next door. I then faced the same conundrum at Wendy’s and then at Taco Bell.
Finally, I had to face up to cold hard facts. I could either eat lunch or I could take the afternoon portion of the bar exam. But, I couldn’t do both. The lines were just too long. So, I was about to give up - as I had exhausted all of the local fast food outlets surrounding the convention center - when I luckily caught a glimpse of a possible solution to both lunch and making it back to the bar exam in time for the afternoon session – a liquor store. There was no line. Not a soul. I had the place to myself. So, I ran into the liquor store to grab my bar exam lunch: two Snicker’s bars. With plenty of time to now spare, I then leisurely made my way back to the bar exam on time for the start of the afternoon session.
But, here’s the rub:
All of my friends and family members (and even the judge that I was clerking for throughout the waiting period) were adamant that I had passed the bar exam. They just knew it!
But, they didn’t know that I ate lunch at the liquor store.
So when several months later the bar results were publicly available on the Internet, I went to work for my judge wondering what the judge might do when the truth came out – that I didn’t pass the bar exam because I didn’t pack a lunch to eat at the bar exam.
To be honest, I was completely stick to my stomach. But, I was stuck; I was at work and everyone believed in me. Then, later that morning while still at my work computer, the results came out. My heart raced, but my name just didn’t seem to be listed at all. No Scott Johns. And then, I realized that my official attorney name begins with William. I was looking at the wrong section of the Johns and Johnsons. My name was there! I had passed! I never told the judge my secret about my “snicker bar” lunch. I was just plain relieved that the bar exam “wait” was finally over.
That’s the problem with all of the helpful advice from our friends, employers, law professors, and family members during this waiting period. For all of us (or at least most of us), there was something unusual that happened during our bar exam. It didn’t seem to go perfectly. Quite frankly, we just don’t know if we indeed passed the bar exam.
So, here’s a few suggestions for your time right now with your friends, employers, law professors, and family members.
1. First, just let them know how you are feeling. Be open and frank. Share your thoughts with them along with your hopes and fears.
2. Second, give them a hearty thank you for all of their enriching support, encouragement, and steadfast faithfulness that they have shared with you as walked your way through law school and through this week’s bar exam. Perhaps send them a personal notecard. Or, make a quick phone call of thanks. Or send a snap chat of thankful appreciation. Regardless of your particular method of communication, reach out to let them know out of the bottom of your heart that their support has been invaluable to you. That’s a great way to spend your time as you wait - over the course of the next several months - for the bar exam results.
3. Finally, celebrate yourself, your achievement, and your true grit....by taking time out - right now - to appreciate the momentous accomplishment of undertaking a legal education, graduating from law school, and tackling your bar exam. You've done something great, and, more importantly, something mightily significant. (Scott Johns).
Monday, July 24, 2017
This last week, I attended and participated in a diversity and inclusion conference hosted by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The three-day conference was engaging and timely. And it included a thought provoking and informative plenary presentation on stereotype threat and implicit bias by fellow-ASPer, Russell McClain. Having seen Russell present before at various ASP conferences, I knew he would be a charming and enlightening presenter—and he certainly was! Congratulations, Russell! I know the ALWD attendees were impressed by your interactive presentation, and I am sure many of them will be reaching out to you in the future for additional ways to address stereotype threat and implicit bias.
I plan to write some more about the ALWD conference and its theme “Acknowledging Lines: Talking About What Unites and Divides Us” at a later date. But, for now, I wanted to spend a little time talking about what is likely on the minds of most academic success professionals and all the recent law school graduates—the bar exam.
Exam takers: We all know you have been working hard, and we believe in you. The next few days will be beyond tough and tiring. But, you have trained your mind and body for it.
Yes. You will likely second-guess yourself. Yes. You will likely face questions that you might not feel good about. But, you are also going to see and work with a lot of information that you do understand and have encountered many times during your bar preparation. Trust yourself. Read the questions carefully. Organize your essays. And don’t let those few questions that you might not know the answers to bring you down. You don’t need to get that A+ to pass. If you spend too much time focusing on the information that you don’t know or can’t remember, you may not leave yourself enough time or energy to show the bar graders what you do know. And you do know. A lot.
A few more things . . . remember to breathe and it’ll be over soon.
We look forward to welcoming you into the profession. (OJ Salinas)
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Yearly, I ask former students who successfully passed the bar exam to share last minute advice with bar exam studiers gearing-up to sit for the bar exam. I look to individuals who have recently successfully passed the bar exam because I know that at this point, my current bar studiers “listen to me but do not hear me.” I know however that they will “listen to” and “hear” individuals who are closer to the bar exam experience than me. This is a great opportunity for me to seek out alums who are excited to share advice because they know I value their opinions and will share their opinions with others. Alums also add tidbits about their own challenges and triumphs throughout this preparatory process. Below are a few of the suggestions from my alums that a bar exam taker can implement at their own risk.
Pause from studying
“Stop studying by 12(noon) the day before the exam. 3 PM max. There is nothing that you can cram into your head past 3 PM the day before the bar exam.”
“Get your full hours sleep the night before the bar exam.”
“You should not be cramming the evening before day 2 either… light review only.”
Know your surroundings
“Get to know the area where the bar exam is scheduled to be taken, if you have time, so you’ll know where you need to be and about how long it’s going to take to get there”
“Eat a good breakfast that day.”
“Eat! But don’t eat too heavy for lunch- a good salad will do. We don’t want to be sleepy during the test.”
“You can’t do your best tired and hungry.”
“Ear plugs… [Writing day] can be pretty noisy with everyone typing.”
“Trust your instincts! Do not second-guess yourself. Move on if you’re unsure and come back to it later. Don’t waste time!”
“I started with the question I felt I knew well- it helped to build my confidence as I progressed to more challenging questions. What I couldn’t remember eventually came back to me (weird lol).”
“Sometimes you have to warm up to the exam. Meaning, if you are not sure about on the first essay topic, move on and start with one you know. For me, I got better and more confident as I answered more essays. So, do not get stumped on the first essay if you are not sure about it.”
“[After each session], don’t discuss your responses with anyone.”
“Monitor your fluid intake before and during the exam or you might make several trips to the bathroom…Please stay hydrated of course.”
“For questions you are not sure about, eliminate the choices you know are wrong and then come back later and choose between the close calls- or choose one and put a star next to it and come back later to review.”
“If you are unsure about a question, make your best guess and keep moving. This is to ensure that you have a response that can be graded and you are not losing time or points. The correct answer might come to you later on in the exam or you might have made the correct guess.”
Regroup & focus
“If you mess up or something happens, take 30 seconds to be upset, and then move on. (My first essay was deleted by [the exam software] and I had to redo it within the time between essays. I started to cry but realized crying was taking too much time.)”
“Relax- nothing good happens when you are nervous.”
“Don’t panic. However, if you do panic- stop, take 5 seconds to recompose and get your bearings and get back to the task.”
“… Trust yourself and be confident. You got this!”
See the light at the end of the tunnel
“Smile because that terrible summer will be over in about 16 hours!”
“Be confident! You made it through undergrad, LSAT, Law School, exams, etc.….”
“Pray, and don’t panic. You know what you know.”
In sum, everyone has an opinion and advice but your voice and your needs should be paramount. You know what you need, you studied hard, and you know how to take tests. You can do it! Cheers! (Goldie Pritchard)
Thursday, July 13, 2017
With a big hat tip to one of our bar takers this summer, here's a website -- The Visual Law Library -- that has some cool colorful cartoons to help brighten up your daily memorization studies.
On the website, cartoonist and attorney Margaret Hagan has created cartoons for the following subjects that are tested on most bar exams: Civil Procedure, Con Law, Contracts, Corporations, Criminal Law, Evidence, Family Law, Property Law, and Torts.
It's a rich resource to allow you to "see" some of the major rules in a colorful way. So, feel free to take a break by scoping out a few cartoons that might help you better remember some of the major rules for upcoming bar exam. (Scott Johns).
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
July is in full swing, the bar exam is fast approaching, and panic has set in yet again for some bar exam studiers. Others are ready to face the beast that is the bar exam so they can become "human beings" again. What do you do with the time you have remaining to maximize your preparation? Below are a few last minute suggestions from former bar exam studiers.
Last Two Weeks
Create a plan; make a schedule for the days leading up to the exam. What, specifically, are you going to do on each day? What materials do you need to put together for test days? What materials are not permitted in the exam room? Plan to be awake and study during the times you need to be awake and alert on exam day. Consider whether you need to regulate your fluid intake. Adopt a plan and stick to it.
Inspirational Music, Movies, or Videos
Music, movies, or videos that “pick you up” or “pump you up” can motivate you to dig up that last bit of energy you know is within you when you feel depleted. These can also create a positive mindset about your ability to tackle the exam or to reenergize after perceived poor performance. You can create a playlist leading up to the exam, for each morning of the exam, or after the exam. Alex Ruskell, one of our former contributors, wrote an entry last year with musical selections for various tastes. Click here: Get Pumped for the Bar Exam!
As a bar exam studier, you want to mentally prepare for the exam ahead and the best way to do this is to mimic the circumstances surrounding the bar exam. Practicing on the days and at the time of your exam a week before your bar exam is ideal. You may have only practiced one session (3 hours) of essays, performance tests, or MBE. You may have practiced a full day (6 hours) of MBE or a writing day practice but you may not have done it in the same sequence as the bar exam. The goal of this exercise is to see how you maintain your stamina, how you engage with the material at the times you need to, and how you manage two or three days of consecutive testing. It will likely be an exhausting process so plan to be unable to do anything else each night. The focus of this exercise is not on assessing whether you will pass the exam based on your performance. Bar exam studiers focus on the score rather than on time management, energy, and the like. Adrenaline keeps you going on exam day but you are fighting fatigue from the past few months and you want to train your brain to engage when you need it to. This is also an opportunity to practice following the policies of your testing center and jurisdiction.
Create a list of individuals who will cheer you on at various points and support you in different ways. Ensure that you have a mix of individuals who understand the bar exam process and some who are completely removed. You can have a call schedule or ask them to check-in with you on various days and at various times. There are some individuals who are great at getting you pumped up for a day of testing and others to whom you can confide all of your fears prior to or after the exam. There are also individuals who can run errands for you, cook for you, bring you lunch in between test sessions and keep your company. It is vital to consider what you need and the people who can cater to those needs in the days to come.
All the very best July 2017 bar takers! (Goldie Pritchard)
Monday, July 10, 2017
We are just a few weeks away from the bar exam. And for many students studying for the bar, that means questions. No. I don’t mean the hundreds, if not thousands, of MBE questions that the students have taken and, perhaps, retaken. And I don’t mean questions on any practice exams. I mean questions running through our students’ heads: questions of doubt, commitment, and normalcy.
Most students studying for the bar have had to live in somewhat of a “Bar Exam Prep Bubble” for the last few months. They celebrated law school graduation in May. But, it wasn’t really a full-on celebration because they knew there was still something more to do. It’s something huge and overwhelming. And it’s something that dictates one’s true entrance into the legal profession.
The bar exam is huge and overwhelming and, in many respects, it does dictate one’s true entrance into the legal profession. This monumental exam has a way of playing mind games with our students—especially at this point in the bar prep season.
We are at a point in the bar prep season where students will start second-guessing themselves. Will I pass? Have I really done all that I should have done over the last few months? What if I freak out and can’t remember anything? Why have I put myself through this?
Despite all the work that our students have put into preparing for the exam, they will think they still have more work to do. Despite the objective results that their bar companies provide to them of their performance so far in the bar prep season, they will wonder and worry about how well they will perform on the ‘big day(s).’
As we prepare ourselves for the last few weeks of bar prep season, let’s remember that anxiety and doubt are normal for this big event. But, they don’t equal failure. Anxiety and doubt don’t mean that our students are unable to succeed. And they don’t mean that our students have not put in the necessary work to succeed.
If we get an anxious and doubting student in our offices, let’s remember our anxieties and doubts about our bar exams. Let’s remember how we may have felt overwhelmed with the amount of material. And let’s remember that we, and every other licensed attorney out there, passed the exam.
The bar exam is challenging. But, it is doable. We are all proof that it is doable. With the right frame of mind and support from family, friends, and ASP professionals, we were all able to overcome the mind games. Our students can, too. (OJ Salinas)
Thursday, July 6, 2017
Straight from a recent law graduate and licensed attorney Sarah Myers, here's some exciting news that you can "sing" about as you prepare for your bar exam this summer. But first, a bit of background....
Ms. Myers serves as the clinical director of the Colorado Lawyer's Assistance Program, a confidential program for law students and practitioners alike implemented by the Colorado Supreme Court. As the clinical director, Ms. Myers successful passed the bar exam in February 2016, holds a master's degree in somatic counseling education, and is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed addiction counselor.
In other words, Ms. Myers knows all about the stress and strains of life, particularly in relationship to the study of law and preparing for the bar exam.
So, Ms. Myers put together a very handy survey of the research on the surprising benefits of music -- benefits that you can put to good use this summer as you prepare for the bar exam.
To cut to the chase, here's key language from Ms. Myer's summary:
"Research shows that the many benefits of listening to music, playing an instrument, dancing, or singing include:
Improved visual & verbal skills;
Increased endorphins that improve mood;
Improved cardiovascular system, including strengthening the heart, decreasing blood
pressure, and reducing pulse rates;
Better sleep patterns and more restful sleep;
Boosted immune system and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol;
Reduction in anxiety and overall stress;
Improved sound-processing ability, improved hearing.
Increased levels of oxytocin, resulting in reduced pain and improved mood;
Improved memory across lifespan; and
Increased serotonin levels that reduce depression."
So, take heart and lift up your voices, your instruments, and your heels and start singing, humming, whistling, jamming, and just overall having fun making music. And, the best music to make is that which is made with others. So, why not get a group jam session going, especially this week, to help you start getting the benefits of music within your life. And, if you just can't help yourself by taking a singing break, don't worry. You can always just make up a song or two for some of your most difficult bar exam rules. That way you'll reduce your stress and learn something valuable too! (Scott Johns)
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
We often find individuals thanking others for the opportunity to do this or that but does it mean anything for a person who will sit for the bar exam in a few weeks? Maybe or maybe not. Current bar exam studiers are focused on the tasks at hand and rarely consider that they were of the few selected to attend law school and that they completed their degrees while some others were academically dismissed or otherwise forced to end their law school journey. All of the bar exam studiers' hard work, perseverance, efforts, and abilities granted them “the opportunity” to sit for the bar exam.
This blog entry was inspired by a small cohort of recent graduates who are serving as support for one another during this bar exam preparation period. I have worked with these students most of their law school career but this bar exam study period was very revealing about their character. I understand that one member of the cohort shared a bar meditation book with each member of the group, one makes motivational videos, and they collectively support each other with regular check-ins and sharing resources. This may not be unique as cohorts of friends typically do the same. What stood out for me was what a member of this cohort said to another. She said that it was “an opportunity” to sit for the bar exam so they should all treat it as such and not squander any opportunity to put forth their best effort. This “opportunity mindset” helps motivate some. An awareness and recognition of basic things that we have taken for granted create that opportunity mindset. If you are able to move and are of sound mind (just to list a few), you are able to accomplish quite a bit in a shorter amount of time to succeed in your bar studies than someone who does not possess those abilities. Even through her own struggles and challenges; this bar exam studier was able to recognize her opportunity to achieve her dream and has used it to encourage others.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “opportunity” as:
1. “a favorable juncture of circumstances”
2. “a good chance for advancement or progress”
I like both definitions for different reasons. In the first, I see all conditions being right leading to positive possibilities for success. For bar exam studiers, it simply means that everything they achieved thus far, led them to this point in time which allows them to sit for the bar exam. They would have never been afforded the opportunity to sit for the bar exam had every requirement not been met. In the second definition, given everything they have accomplished thus far, there are positive odds on their side for this next endeavor. Current bar exam studiers have good odds of successfully passing the bar exam.
As Academic Support professionals, it is our job to remind students of their achievements and ability. Defeatist attitudes and perceived inability to complete all tasks and to be successful on the bar exam are inevitable during bar study. Bar exam studiers forget all of the challenges they have overcome since May and are focused on the immediate feedback, the number (the number of MBEs and Essays they have completed and more importantly their scores on each). The number has different significance for each bar exam studier; it might show progress, achievement, or probability of success. While some are not meeting all their goals, bar exam studiers may have improved their speed and are getting more answers correct. The real question is how close are they to the target goal of putting themselves in a position to pass the bar exam on the first try and whether there is enough time to reach that goal?
The 4 min inspirational video found here aligns well with some of what was discussed above. Be excited about the opportunity bar exam studiers! (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Do you remember the game show “Supermarket Sweep”? (If not, click here for a short video.) The concept was simple: contestants had a short period of time to spend as much money as possible in a grocery store. The team with the highest total at the cash register won. Although the contestants were permitted to navigate the aisles in any manner they wished, the winning teams all tended to follow a predictable pattern to success. To win, contestants had to (1) pick-up numerous big ticket items, (2) grab a few specialty items, and (3) use their time efficiently.
Bar studiers can follow a similar strategy for success in July.
- Big Ticket Items
Whole hams, check. Super-sized tubs of condiments, check. Putting the “heavy lifting” items in the game show cart typically resulted in a good total at the cash register—but maybe not enough to win. Rather the contestants needed these big ticket items just to stay competitive. Likewise, bar studiers have to master certain subtopics, if they want to be competitive on game day. What’s the bar exam equivalent of a half-dozen fifty-pound bags of dog food? Answer: civil procedure jurisdiction, individual constitutional rights, contract formation, criminal homicide, evidentiary relevance, hearsay, and tortious negligence. According to the NCBE’s Subject Matter Outline, these big ticket items account for roughly one-quarter of the 200 MBE questions. Therefore, bar studiers are wise to pick-up these topics before moving on to the more nuanced specialty items.
- Specialty Items
If you watched the video link, you might have asked yourself: “Why is everyone buying bottles of Lysol cleaner?” After all, Lysol retails for less than $10.00. Well, on that particular episode, Lysol was a specialty bonus item—an item that could result in a larger than expected payoff at the cash register (provided the contestant could find the small bottle in the vast store). The bar exam is full of specialty items too. Bar studiers must identify select, discrete subrules and exceptions that they can master very quickly, resulting in a positive return-on-investment. A bar studier is not going to be able to acquire every unique subrule or exception. Rather the bar studier must be strategic about spotting those particular rules that they can “put in their shopping cart” with just a small amount of targeted effort. For example, spending an hour to learn the difference between spousal immunity and confidential marital communication is time well spent. Conversely, spending three days spinning your wheels on that same question is not. After all, the clock is ticking.
- Time Management
With only a few minutes to shop, contestants must use their time wisely. Similarly, bar studiers have to maximize their study time in July. Developing a detailed plan of attack for July tends to be the step most bar studiers skip; bar studiers mistakenly believe that all study hours are created equal. To ensure maximum time efficiency, bar studiers should use the results of their midterm exam to develop a day-by-day plan of attack for July. Bar studiers should start by deciding which topics will be tackled each day by identifying which topics will result in the biggest gains. A solid plan will surely include sufficient time to acquire any big tickets items that are not already in the bar studier’s cart and also include time to not only identify, but also learn select specialty rules. The plan should also incorporate a mix of non-negotiable language (“No matter what, I am going to …”) and some contingencies (“If time permits, I will…” or “I need X or Y, but would love both.”). I’ve attached a Download Calendar - Bar Exam July 2017 to help the bar studier start crafting his/her individualized plan for success. Once the plan is complete, the only thing left to do is execute with game-show-winning precision.
P.S. Happy Fourth of July! (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, July 3, 2017
We are less than a month away from the bar exam. Law graduates throughout the country have been working long hours trying to digest a huge amount of information. They try to stay focused and positive so that they can overcome this enormous hurdle that is only offered twice a year. But what happens when unexpected life events happen that impact a student’s focus and positivity? What happens when our students face a rough patch of water as they are sailing through their bar preparation?
I was on a vacation with my family in the Outer Banks of North Carolina a few weeks ago. After six years of living in North Carolina, we still had not made it out to this beautiful and most Eastern part of the state. The beaches, food, and lighthouses were all great. Here's a pic of one of the lighthouses:
So, we were at a seafood restaurant getting ready to drive back to Chapel Hill after a wonderful time in the Outer Banks. I was about to pay our bill when I got a short and unexpected text message. A close family member had been in a car accident.
Many of us have likely received similar messages. You feel like you should do something, but you are so far away that you cannot do much. So, you try calling family members. But, no one answers. The text message did not include much detail. So, you call again. You text. And you wait. And the anxiety and the unknown take over until someone responds to your text or answers your phone call. And you hope so mightily that the response or phone call is a positive one.
Fortunately, despite a pretty scary car accident, no one was seriously hurt. My family member, who took the brunt of the accident, was able to thankfully walk away. Thoughts start circulating through your head. Soreness and bruises will subside. Vehicles can be repaired or replaced. Life is precious.
Things soon began to settle down as best they could. But, as many folks have likely experienced, it was difficult not to think about how things could have been worse. This got me thinking about what our students experience if a similar, or even worse, unexpected life event happens while they are preparing for the bar exam. How do we help them? Can we help them?
The answers to these questions are difficult, and they should be. Law school and passing the bar exam are large parts of our students’ lives. But, they are not the only parts of our students’ lives. How a student deals with an unexpected life event obviously depends on what this life event is. It may also depend on what type of support system this student has in place or can put into place. It may also depend on how much time a student has left to prepare—physically and mentally—for the exam, and whether or not the student wishes to try to persevere through this life event or wait until the next test date for the bar exam.
As academic success professionals, we know that we are likely part of the support system for our students. We know that we can offer a listening ear to our students and refer our students to additional resources when needed. Our listening ears are particularly helpful and appreciated during difficult times for our students. Sometimes, just talking about a challenge can be therapeutic and provide some assistance. We can also try to empathize and understand what our students may be going through. And we can, in a nonjudgmental way, try to have honest conversations with our students about their goals, bar preparation, and ability to maintain focus and some positivity.
Bar prep companies often place some extra time in their planning calendars for our students. But, this extra time may or may not be enough for our students. Are they on schedule with the suggested bar preparation calendar? How are their practice results so far? Can they afford another several months before they are licensed attorneys? How are they simply feeling right now? And how do they think they will be feeling in a week or two?
These are all questions that we might have with any of our students. These questions become even more significant for students who have experienced some unexpected life event. I lost some focus and positivity during that short time that I was unable to find out what was happening with my family member. As we enter the last stretch of bar preparation, let’s try to remember that unexpected life events often happen, and we may need to be there to help our students plan and persevere. (OJ Salinas)
Thursday, June 29, 2017
With just under a month to go for many bar takers (and after numerous weeks of intensive studying), let's face the facts:
We are plain downright exhausted. And, we should be. But, given what seems like the insurmountable pressures to learn so much material for the bar exam, it just seems like we can't let up with our daily grinding regiment of bar studies. There's no time for a day off. There's too much to learn.
However, let me offer you a way to "let up" so that you can feel mighty good about taking a real day off. A whole day. A day of rest and relaxation to boot. In fact, please feel free to live it up. And, there's no better time to take a day off from your studies than on a national day of celebration - this upcoming July 4th holiday.
I find that Independence Day is one of the best days of the year to see bar exam problems in living color.
That box of fireworks bought at a big top tent stand. That was procured through negotiation by you (or one of your friends) of a UCC contract for the sale of goods (and the seller most certainly had a secured transaction agreement in order to bring the goods to sale to your area).
That box of fireworks that didn't work as advertised. Well, that might just blossom into a breach of contracts claim or even a tort claim for misrepresentation.
That box of fireworks that were lit off in the city limits. In most cities, that's a strict liability crime, plain and simple.
You see, even when we take a day off from studies, we live in a world of bar exam problems. In fact, we are surrounded by bar exam problems because the bar exam tests legal situations that are constantly arising among us. So, it's a good thing to get our heads of the books occasionally to see what's happening around.
That means that you can completely feel free to relax and celebrate on this upcoming national holiday. Take the day off - the whole day off! Go have some fun! Celebrate...because even while taking a day off you will still be learning lots about the law from just living in the world. You can't help yourself but to see legal problems everywhere...because...you have be trained as a professional problem-solving attorney.
So, rest assured that in the midsts of your celebrations you'll be learning helpful legal principles that you can bank on preparation for success on your upcoming bar exam. And, as a bonus, you'll get some mighty needed rest to recharge your heart and mind too! So, enjoy your day off; you've earned it! (Scott Johns).