Monday, July 25, 2005
With only a few days until the July bar examination, it's not a bad idea to have a few ideas from a recent article about the value of the bar examination to pull out of your hat when you talk with a student facing the test who is grumbling and griping about the challenge ahead.
In a thoughtful article excerpted in the recent issue of The Bar Examiner, published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, Professor Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus writes an articulate and provocative piece about the value of the test to measure the basic skills required to practice law -a response to criticism of the bar examination.
Professor Darrow-Kleinhaus, author of the Nutshell on the Bar Exam, writes regularly about the bar examination and helping students to prepare.
She concludes that the bar exam, "appropriately serves its purpose. I have come to this conclusion after five years of working with candidates who had failed the bar exam multiple times and who passed after we worked together. They passed because they learned to read carefully and actively. They passed because they learned the rules with precision and specificity. They passed because they learned to write a well-reasoned argument based on an analysis of the relevant issue and an application of the law to the facts. They passed because they learned that there were no tricks to be applied, only the law."
So next time you're tempted to collude with your student about the bearish (no offense to bears) nature of the bar examination, it might be an opportunity to point out the value of improving their skills to become better practitioners. I recommend downloading the article and reading it. (els)
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
While the rise in the minimum bar examination score in New York has gained widespread attention, an interesting exploration is underway within the jurisdiction that could impact the certification process of new attorneys around the country.
A special committee will examine New York's system of bar admission, including the value of the test and possible alternatives to the bar examination as a measure of competence to practice law.
I, for one, am interested in keeping my eye on this issue. Like many directors of ASP Offices, my job also includes a charge of helping the 3Ls to improve their likelihood of passing the bar examination. (Yes, a small job).
While the issue of plummeting bar passage rates can be rife with finger pointing - pointing fingers at students for being unprepared, bar examiners for being unfair, and teachers for abrogating their responsibilities - an evaluation of the testing tool itself sounds like an important inquiry. (els)
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Looking for used bar exam questions? Here are a few ... including sample answers! Some of these may be useful for displaying to current students who are still trying to figure out what a good answer reads like.
Arkansas: The Arkansas Board has provided "top" answers. The disclaimer suggests that you ought to tinker with the answers before presenting them to students as models: "… many papers may have significant deficiencies in style, draftsmanship and organization. Indeed, some may fail to recognize issues and may have reached erroneous legal conclusions. ... These papers are not perfect papers but are examples of the better papers. They should be used merely as one of many guidelines in preparing for the examination."
Maryland: The Maryland Board presents similar advice. The "Representative Good Answers" included after each question are neither average passing answers nor are they necessarily answers which received a perfect score; they are responses which, in the Board’s view, illustrate successful answers. Maryland includes the State Board's "analysis." This consists of a discussion of the principal legal and factual issues raised by a question. The Board explains that its analysis is neither a model answer, nor does it include an exhaustive listing of all possible legal issues suggested by the facts of the question.
Minnesota: Interestingly, Minnesota's site does not include a similar disclaimer. The Board has posted questions and "representative good answers."
About disclaimers: I intend to adopt all the disclaimers I can find when presenting students with a list of issues or a sample answer. For a sample of an all-inclusive disclaimer, with tongue firmly pressing against the inside of the cheek, visit . (djt)
Friday, July 15, 2005
Curious about the numbers for the 2004 bar passage rates nationally? The May issue of The Bar Examiner contains a detailed report of the results in each jurisdiction in the country.
Results are broken down between February and July takers and first-time and second-time takers, among other details. You might want to check it out, if you're not already a subscriber to this National Conference of Bar Examiner publication. (els)
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Here's a quirky little item I ran across that was recently published by The New York Law Journal in a column entitled, "Advice to the Lawlorn," by Ann Isreal.
Scenario: Law grad accepts offer at Boston law firm, fails bar twice and is let go pursuant to firm policy, despite the fact that grad was extremely well liked. She moves to New York and the subject of why she left Boston arises, not, unfortunately, at the outset of the interview, but rather, in a way that leaves the question of what else she might be concealing.....
Employment consultant Ann Isreal gives some key advice worth reading, or, for me, worth filing away for the next time a student asks for some insight on how to tell an employer he or she previously failed a bar. (els)
Friday, July 8, 2005
The cost of taking the California Bar Exam will rocket up about 14 percent on January 1, 2006, reports Mike McKee in an article published by The Recorder.
The current applicant fee of $464 will rise to $529. Laptop users will pay $119, up from the current fee of $104.
The fee for the character and fitness determination will rise from $378 to $431. Registration fees will also rise. (els)
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
The NY Court of Appeals has decided to put the brakes on the graduated rise in the minimum passing score for the NY Bar Examination, an apparent response to criticism of the change.
The New York Law Journal reports today that New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said in a letter to two Senate committees, "We are distressed by the deep divisions that the subject has generated among the law schools, the Bar Association and the Bar Examiners...You have the Court's assurance that we will devote ourselves to repairing the rifts, beginning with efforts to work with the newly formed State Bar Association Special Committee."
While the minimum score will rise by 15 points with the upcoming July test, the effect of the score hike will be studied before the imposition of further increases in the minimum passing score. Incremental minimum score increases were scheduled for the following two summers, July 2006, July 2007. (els)(Thanks to my sharp RA, Meredith Strobridge, who found this moments, I believe, after it was posted).
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Students studying for the NY Bar Examination this July will likely feel a heavier load. The minimum passing score just rose by fifteen points.
Criticism of the point change continues from the president of the New York Bar Association. A 13-member committee, including members of the bar association, law school deans, and bar examiners has been created to evaluate the relevance of the examination.
Read an article on the controversial change that appeared in The National Law Journal. (els) (Thanks to my research assistant MS for bringing this article to my attention).
They really had nowhere to go but up.
California State Bar Officials recently announced that the pass rate for the February examination rose 4.7 percent over the previous year. The rate was still, gulp, 40 percent, or 1,810 of the 4,520 applicants who took the bar examination.
First-time applicants passed at a rate of 54.4 percent, which translated into 1,281 of the test takers.
Bar examiners are mystified, according to the story reported by The Recorder and available on law.com, "We're very happy that the pass rate went up...Whether this is a trend of not, I don't know," according to Jerome Braun, the State Bar's director of admissions.
(Thanks to my crack research assistant, Meredith Strobridge, for bringing this story to my attention)(els).
Friday, May 6, 2005
If you're looking for ways to improve the MPT workshop that you already offer for students preparing to take the bar examination or looking to devise one this summer, consider reviewing a primer on the topic. Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus, Assistant Professor of Legal Methods and Director of Academic Support Programs at Tuoro Law School, offers her suggestions for strategies to master the practical test in her article entitled, "Incorporating Bar Pass Strategies into Routine Teaching Practices," 37 Gonz. L. Rev. 17 (2001/2002). Professor Darrow-Kleinhaus identifies the skills tested on the MPT and offers some thoughtful suggestions for how students can complete the required task of writing a coherent analysis of a legal problem under the pressures of time. By clearly identifying the importance of reading directions, organizing the materials, writing clearly and with the proper tone, and following directions students can prepare themselves effectively by working through the myriad of examinations released by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and available for no charge on their website. Professor Darrow-Kleinhaus is the author of The Bar Exam in a Nutshell. (els)
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
Complaint alleges prep courses perpetrated illegal acts
According to a recent "lawschool.com" press release, a complaint filed last week against BAR/BRI bar review, West Publishing Corporation, and Kaplan, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California alleges that more than 300,000 lawyers and law students were each charged an estimated $1,000 extra for bar review courses.
The story was also carried by "dBusiness News," an online daily business news service.
The complaint reportedly alleges that "executives of BAR/BRI and Kaplan secretly agreed to a per se illegal market division," according to the lawschool.com story. (djt)
Sunday, March 27, 2005
University of Dayton School of Law's Professor Vernellia Randall directs the school's Academic Excellence Program. Professor Randall's web pages (there must be hundreds of separate pages) are filled with information that is not just helpful, but critically important to law students and those who teach them.
On the series of pages beginning with "Passing the Bar," Professor Randall includes an array of links we ought to become familiar with. "This Site," she explains, "provides advice to law students and recent law school graduates on preparing for the bar including advice on how to take bar essay exams and multiple choice exams." That, my friends, is a very modest summary.
For example, under the heading "Other Bar Passage Resources," Professor Randall links to fourteen, other "resources." One link I found very helpful - not only for its California Bar information, but for the nationally applicable advice - is Attorney Travis A. Wise's well-designed California Bar Exam Primer site. A 2000 Santa Clara graduate, Mr. Wise provides an abundance of explanations and advice (including what the letters "PMBR" stand for).
If you find other bar prep web sites that would help our students and those who prepare them for bar examinations, please send them to Vernellia Randall to add to her growing list on the web site (if you include a "cc" to me, I may include the links on this Blog). Also, if you find Professor's Randall's pages and bar links to be a valuable resource, let her know. (djt)