Sunday, February 23, 2020

Moot Court and the Bar Exam

This weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year.  The NALSA Moot Court competition occurred at UC Berkley.  I love working with students in January and February to prepare for the competition.  Watching students get more and more comfortable with their arguments and the constant questioning is a joy.  The sense of fulfillment on student faces at the culmination of the event is fun to watch. 

The final round this year illustrated a skill many bar students need to hone.  I watched as the finals panel asked predictable questions.  All the students answered those questions with ease.  However, the finals participants illustrated the same ease with the not as predictable questions.  A few questions were tangentially related to the problem, but the students probably had not heard them before.  They still answered with principles they learned.  All the students also used general principles of Federal Indian law when they didn’t have a specific answer related to the facts.  The ease and comfort with all the areas demonstrated why those students were in the finals.

The ability to answer any question is critical to the bar exam.  Most exams have predictable questions.  Most students can answer the predictable questions.  They have pre-written answers or a structure ready.  However, the bar exam always includes questions or subparts of questions that are a little farther from the basic rules.  The ability to answers those questions with ease will make a huge difference in an examinee’s score.  General principles within the subject and well-reasoned arguments will score high points on the exam.  The goal is to use the principles within the subject area you know to answer the question the examiner asked.

The bar exam is a couple days away.  I hope all students see as many of the predictable questions as possible, but if something comes up you don’t know the specific rule for, channel your inner moot court competitor to score well on the exam.  Good luck to everyone on the bar!

(Steven Foster)

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