Sunday, May 31, 2020

Will MBE Scores Be Artificially Low in July?

COVID-19 continues to cause problems throughout the US.  I don't want to minimize others' struggles, but the effect on the bar exam is still yet to be determined.  Some states' postponement until September should help social distancing to keep students safe, but will it decrease MBE scores for July takers?

The MBE is scaled based on anchor questions.  Anchor questions are questions that are used across multiple tests.  The NCBE won't state how many anchor questions are on the 200 question test, even when directly asked at their conference for law schools.  My best estimate is between 50 and 60 questions are anchor questions.  Anchor questions help produce scaled MBE scores.  Scaling attempts to ensure a score in one year is equivalent to the same score in other years.  A basic explanation of scaling is the NCBE compares the scores of current takers as a whole on the anchor questions to previous years.  They then conclude whether the group of takers is stronger or weaker than previous years.  The MBE is then graded as a whole considering how the takers as a whole did on the full exam compared to previous years.  The process determines the difficulty of the test and produces the scale. 

The scaling process makes assumptions about the candidate pool based on scores on the anchor questions.  With numerous bar exams postponed to September, the question becomes whether the different candidate pool will change the assumption about the quality of takers.

I think the clear answer is yes, scores will be effected, and the scores will be lower.  9 out of the top 11 and 21 of the top 31 US News Ranked Law Schools are located in states postponing the bar exam.  I will acknowledge that US News Rankings are a poor way to rate schools.  However, the reliance on the LSAT has relevance here.  The NCBE states the LSAT correlates to MBE scores (they gave the precise relationship at the aforementioned conference for law schools).  If students with the highest LSAT scores are not taking the exam until September, the July takers will appear to be weaker than previous years.  Even if those same postponing states include students with low scores (ie - California with non-ABA school takers), the pool itself will not have the outlier high MBE scores.  The risk is significant that scores will be effected merely by the applicant pool.  

The NCBE may correct for this phenomenon.  They could wait until after the September exam to score the test.  They could have information that those states would not affect the general average of the pool.  However, the NCBE is so opaque that we have no idea what they plan to do to correct for the potential problem.  They could have supported any number of alternatives to the bar exam and MBE this summer.  They chose to stand by the current bar exam in a pandemic when even the most basic understanding of scaling raises serious concerns about scores on the July exam.  I would call on examinees to demand answers, but I witnessed numerous student groups around the country be completely ignored by state bars.  Now is the time for Supreme Courts to begin understanding the mechanics of the bar and demand more from the NCBE.  As of now, I truly believe some July takers will be unsuccessful solely based on NCBE practices and not competency to practice law.

(Steven Foster)

May 31, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Serve on an AASE Committee

Committees are integral to the growth and development of AASE. Please consider joining a committee. It is through your work through committees that we are able to achieve so much from year to year. The process of signing up for an AASE committee generally occurs at the AASE conference, and without a conference this year, we must adapt. Some of you signed up for committees as you registered and paid dues. 


For those of you who did not sign up for a committee or are interested in signing up for a different committee, please sign up using this link. For a description of the committees and the tasks they undertook this year, please see the end of the year report presented by AASE Past President Antonia Miceli.

May 30, 2020 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hidden in Plain Sight

That might be an overreach.  But not by much.  I only witnessed - at the most - 3 different flowers along the nearby hiking trail.  Another hiker, who I met along the way, exploded with joy that she had spotted 44 different flowers along the same identical path, many of which were rarely seen during the short Colorado spring season.  Same path; different eyes.

That experience left me wondering what else I am missing in this journey of life.  Much, I suspect.  Especially in these times with much of my face hidden behind a bandana.  You see, I had a different purpose in mind on the hiking trail. And that resulted in a different pace and a much different outcome.

My fellow hiker's words hit home with respect to bar prep.  Much of the colloquial wisdom is to practice testing yourself, constantly, as you prepare for your bar exam.  Watch the clock, and my oh my, certainly don't take a timeout to research a bit of law when you are stumped.  But, if in your bar prep you are driven by working the clock, you'll miss much.  And what you miss is the opportunity to learn to improve critical reading and problem-solving skills because developing those skills takes lots of time and concentration - just like my fellow hiker spotting 44 flowers in beautiful bloom along the trail.

Let me share a secret.  Rare is it that people run out of time on the bar exam.  Oh it happens.  But it's not because they didn't practice with the clock.  Rather, it's often because the gambled with proven strategies to tackle their bar exams.  They grabbed hold of the essays and then spent precious time looking for their favorites. Or, they hit the multiple-choice bubbling along the way while leaving many answer choices blank, with a long list of questions that they'd like to come back to, in the event that they have more time left at the end.  On the bar exam, you don't have time to look at questions twice (or even more).  Rather, just solve them one-at-a-time as they appear in the materials.

I know, you're saying, "Well, how am I going to get faster if I don't practice with the clock?"  I'm not saying never practice with the clock, but the time to do so is much later, mostly only with mock bar exams, and mostly only in the last two weeks or so.  In my experience, if you work on getting faster, you'll be super-fast but also often super-wrong because you haven't worked on seeing the patterns and observing the commas, the phrases, and the many nuances that are the heart of doing well on the bar exams.

Let me make it concrete.  I have never seen a person fail the bar exam because they didn't know enough law or weren't really speedy enough.  Rather, when people do not pass the bar exam, they tend to write about issues that weren't asked by the problems.  That's because they worked mostly for speed through as many problems with goal of constantly testing themselves.  "Am I passing yet?  Is that good enough? I've got to get up that trail, so to speak, as fast as possible."

Instead, let go of the clock.  Spend time in the midst of the problems.  Question the questions.  Puzzle over them.  Ponder and probe the language, the phraseology, the paragraph breaks, and the format of the questions.  In short, for the first six weeks of bar prep, practicing problems to learn with just an occasional check-in mock bar exam to see how you are doing.  That way you'll be sure to see what's hidden in plain sight. And, that's the key to doing well on the bar exam.  To locate and expose, what one of my recent students brilliantly called the "undertones" of the problems...that are really in plain sight...if only we take the time to learn to see.  

(Scott Johns - University of Denver).


May 28, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Introducing the 2020-2021 AASE Board

It is with great pleasure that we introduce the new Association of Academic Support Educators' Executive Board.

2020-2021 AASE Executive Board

President: DeShun Harris, The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphrey's School of Law


DeShun Harris joined the law faculty at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2018 as Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Bar Preparation. She has been teaching academic support and bar support since 2011. Her research and teaching interests include educational psychology, assessment, and critical race theory.

Fun facts:

  • DeShun's number one bucket list item is to visit every city with an NBA team
  • She still sends postcards in the mail
  • She's a foodie

President-Elect: Melissa Hale, Loyola University Chicago School of Law


Melissa Hale is the Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Melissa oversees seven courses related to bar programming (teaching 2 of them), as well as overseeing academic tutors, and planning various bar related programming for the school.

Melissa is currently a contributor to the academic support blog, a Law School and Bar Exam Study Skills CALI fellow, and is writing a guide to the UBE with Past President Antonia Miceli.

In the past, Professor Hale has served as vice president of LawTutors, LLC, where she provided individual and group bar exam tutoring, trained other instructors, and created and edited bar preparation materials, including Aspen Publisher’s What Not to Write series, and Blond's Multistate Bar Exam. She has also served as an instructor for Emanuel Bar Review and Themis Bar Review. Before becoming a teacher, she worked in private practice in Massachusetts, specializing in small businesses and workers’ compensation.  

Melissa graduated with a Bachelors of Science in political science and psychology from Central Michigan University, and earned her juris doctorate from New England School of Law in Boston. She resides in Chicago with her husband their 2 cats, Iggy and Lemmy.

Fun Facts:

  • Melissa  used to be a fairly serious ballet dancer
  • She once worked for the Brazilian Ice Sport Federation (It's a thing)
  • Her first job was as "donut girl" at a cider mill

Past President: Antonia Miceli, Saint Louis University School of Law


Antonia Miceli, JD, MPH, is a Professor at St. Louis University, where she serves as the Director of Academic Support and Bar Exam Preparation.  In this role, she has developed and taught Introduction to Legal StudiesLegal MethodsAdvanced Legal Methodology, and Advanced Legal Analysis and Strategies.  She also developed and conducts SLU LAW’s Early Bird Bar Prep Workshop Series for graduating 3Ls and SLU LAW’s Bar Prep Essay Workshop Series for alumni preparing for the February and July bar exams.  Prof. Miceli currently serves as the Past President of the Association of Academic Support Educators and serves on the Editorial Board of the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI).  She is a member of the California, Missouri, Illinois, and District of Columbia Bars, and is also admitted to practice before the United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri.  Most recently, Prof. Miceli completed her MPH in Epidemiology from St. Louis University School of Public Health and Social Justice and is Certified in Public Health.

Fun Facts:

  • Toni is surrounded by boys; her husband, her two sons, and her dog
  • She loves to cook and bake, particularly with her older son who has become obsessed with cake decorating

Vice President of Diversity: Yolonda Sewell, Western Michigan University - Cooley Law School


Professor Sewell joined the WMU-Cooley Law School law faculty in January 2020 as a Visiting Professor. Professor Sewell teaches Introduction to Law, directs the Dean’s Fellows teaching academy, and oversees the Tampa Bay bar exam coaching program. She currently serves as the secretary of the Law School Admissions Council Minority Network.

Prior to joining WMU-Cooley, Professor Sewell served as the Assistant Director of Academic Support & Bar Services at Texas A&M University School of Law. There, she taught Preparing for the Bar Exam, directed a comprehensive peer education teaching assistant program, and facilitated the bar preparation program for both J.D. and LL.M students. Professor Sewell served as a standing member of the Diversity Council and created a Young Scholars program for local high school students interested in pursuing legal education.

Professor Sewell received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Psychology from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She obtained her juris doctorate from Texas Tech University School of Law.

Fun Facts:

  • Yolonda loves breakfast food. She can eat breakfast ANYTIME of the day.
  • She loves, loves, loves puzzles – crosswords, jigsaw, and sudoku.
  • She enjoys traveling.
  • She speaks French though her fluency is waning from being in Texas for so long.

Treasurer: Twinette Johnson, University of District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law


Professor Johnson is a Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC LAW).  She also directs the School of Law’s Academic Success program.

Prior to joining the UDC LAW faculty in 2017, Professor Johnson was an Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Academic Success Program at Southern Illinois University School of Law.  There, she taught Agency and Partnership, Introduction to Commercial Law, Higher Education and Democracy (a writing seminar), Lawyering Skills, Advanced Legal Analysis and Strategies (a bar exam readiness course) and Professionalism and the Law.

Professor Johnson’s previous professional experience includes a clerkship on the Missouri Supreme Court with Judge W. Duane Benton. She also held a position as an associate attorney with Shearman and Sterling, LLP, a New York based law firm. There, she practiced in the Bank Finance group where she represented financial institutions and corporations in investment grade and noninvestment grade financing transactions.

Professor Johnson’s research interests include higher education access policy and learning theory models in legal education.

Professor Johnson earned her Ph.D. in Public and Social Policy from Saint Louis University, her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law and her B.A. in English Literature from Saint Louis University. 

Treasurer-Elect: Laura Mott, CUNY School of Law


Laura is the Director of Academic Support for the 1L Evening Program at CUNY School of Law. Laura teaches Skills, 1L Lawyering, and has served as a bar mentor in CUNY’s Bar Support program since 2012. She has also taught legal writing and academic skills courses in the New York State Court System’s Legal Education Opportunity (LEO) Program, a summer program designed to prepare incoming law students from underserved communities for their first semester of law school. She has presented on best practices in designing academic support programs for part-time and evening students, and on issues related to associated general evening curriculum design and execution.

Laura is interested in how varying chronobiological levels on both individual and group levels affect short- and long-term doctrinal absorption and analytic dexterity in law school learning contexts. Her developing environmental research uses various social justice lenses to propose better public participation and consultation processes for national and international environmental decision-making.

Prior to teaching, Laura worked at the New York Environmental Law & Justice Project, at the Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti, and was a Fellow in the New York City Environmental Law Leadership Institute. Laura also represented tenants facing eviction in NYC housing courts, and managed large discovery projects for complex civil litigation matters in the areas of antitrust, patent, securities, insurance, and M & A.

Laura holds a B.A. from Rutgers University, Douglass College, a J.D. from CUNY School of Law, and an LL.M cum laude in Environmental Law from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. During law school, she co-founded the student Environmental Law Society and served on the executive board of the New York City Law Review. Prior to law school, she worked in archaeology and cultural resource management. Laura is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and the Environmental Law Section of the NYSBA.

Fun facts:

  • Laura’s first job was in a pumpkin patch
  • Laura really likes to play basketball
  • Laura has yet to decide whether she is a dog or cat person!

Secretary: Goldie Pritchard, Michigan State University College of Law

Pritchard TNX Color Photo (1)

Goldie Pritchard, JD, M.Ed., currently serves as Director of the Academic Success Program and Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University College of Law. Pritchard founded the current Academic Success Program in 2009. Since 2009, she has supported law students as they navigate their academic careers and prepare for the bar exam by developing and implementing several programs, courses, and one-on-one interactions. She embraces the challenge of deciphering how to best support individual students as they prepare to become academically successful and succeed on the bar exam.

Pritchard has served the academic support community over the years by participating in and taking on leadership roles with AASE and AALS Section on Academic Support. Pritchard earned a BA from the University of California Davis, a JD from Seattle University School of Law, and a MEd in Higher Education with an emphasis on College Student Affairs Leadership from Grand Valley State University.

Fun Facts:

  • Goldie has lived in 4 African countries
  • She enjoys changing her hair a few times a year, so she is not offended when not recognized at first
  • She dislikes taking pictures but will take pictures of others

Host School Representative: Joni Wiredu, American University Washington College of Law


Joni Wiredu currently serves as Director of the Office of Academic Excellence and Adjunct Faculty at American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) in Washington, D.C. As Director of Academic Excellence, at the sixth largest law school in the country, Ms. Wiredu leads an office supporting the academic achievement and bar exam preparation for over 1200 law students, sitting for bar exams in more than 20 jurisdictions. At AUWCL, Ms. Wiredu is responsible for spearheading strategic and innovative programing related to academic advising, academic planning, and increasing students’ bar exam preparedness. She regularly counsels students on best academic practices in law school and provides targeted planning assistance to improve students’ educational outcomes. In July 2018, less than two years after its inception, Ms. Wiredu’s office earned AUWCL’s ‘Outstanding Teamwork and Creativity Award’ for the office that contributed to AUWCL in the most creative and exceptionally effective manner. Ms. Wiredu is a widely respected lecturer on essay writing and bar exam study skills. She teaches Advanced Legal Analysis, a 3L course designed to increase bar exam readiness. Additionally, she serves on AUWCL’s Committee on Academic Excellence, which is responsible for implementing and supervising academic training and coursework at AUWCL. Prior to her appointment at AUWCL, Ms. Wiredu served as senior director at a major bar review company, where she amassed 14 years of experience - training hundreds of students on best practices for studying for the bar exam and crafting appropriate strategies for bar examination success. She earned a BA from Dartmouth College and a JD from William & Mary Law School. She resides in Maryland with her husband and teenage daughter. ​

Host School Representative-Elect: Zoe Niesel, St. Mary’s University School of Law


Zoe Niesel joined the law faculty at St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2016 as an Assistant Professor of Law.  She currently serves as the Director of Statistics and Assessment. In that capacity, she spends her time preparing St. Mary’s students for the challenges of law school and the bar exam by utilizing data to pinpoint best practices and drive success. In addition, she teaches Civil Procedure, Administrative Law, Bar Prep for Credit, and a writing seminar on stolen art.

Fun Facts:

    • Zoe has 3 cats – Darwin, Lego, and Smokey!
    • She is a  passionate gluten free home baker
    • She loves hiking the trails of the Texas hill country

May 27, 2020 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Ask an Expert

Ordinary greatness. You’ll find it in places you never imagined and, when you do, higher performance and increased productivity are not far away. – Barbara Pagano

Last fall, a presenter at a workshop that I attended referred to the audience members as SMEs (pronounced smēz). She readily explained that SME = subject matter expert, and that those in attendance, based on our training and experience, were SMEs. As you can tell, I was tickled by the title. Before that workshop, I had not yet recognized my experience as expertise. During the workshop, and many times since, I told my imposter syndrome to kick rocks, and came to realize that the presenter was right.

Weekly, I write to and about the subject matter experts in every law school, whose expertise is designing and delivering academic enhancement and bar support programming. As my thoughts turn to this group of specialized experts, I ponder the number of meetings held, decisions made, funding resolutions, and curricular adjustments approved without any input or involvement from an ASP expert. Too often ASP expertise is overlooked, or called upon only in reaction to a problem that could have been proactively addressed, like fluctuating bar pass rates, and serving at-risk students.

In the turmoil of a global pandemic, plans for the fall semester are uncertain. The July bar exam is a hot mess topic right now. Deans, students, faculty members, examiners, and bar administrators are not sure of what the summer and fall will bring or what their next move will be. While ASP professors can’t solve any of the problems that COVID-19 has wrought, we most likely have greater insight into the learning needs of law students. Implementing decisions that affect the delivery of the program of legal education without consulting those with subject matter expertise in educational delivery, is like buying a house without a realtor. It can be done, but rarely without regret.

If we were to survey U.S. law schools, I wonder which would have ASP professors serving on or consulting with admissions committees that screen applicants to identify those most likely to successfully complete the academic program and pass a bar exam. How many law schools have a member of the ASP team on the curriculum committee where decisions that affect bar preparedness are made?

While student success is the primary concern of academic support programs, a well-structured ASP team will also complement a faculty of doctrinal experts and provide helpful teaching resources and opportunities for collaboration. It might surprise those outside of ASP to learn that experts in ASP are typically the first to know which students are struggling academically. Many students will seek out academic support assistance when they feel lost. Some, but certainly not all, professors may not become aware of a struggling student until after the one summative assessment is graded. Deans, directors, chairs, and coordinators who want to identify areas and sources of underperformance in the first-year and required curriculum could save time and resources by asking their in-house ASP experts first.

(Marsha Griggs)

May 25, 2020 in Miscellany, Program Evaluation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Learning Curve is Out

The Learning Curve released the Spring 2020 issue.  It has a number of great articles that will help us all teaching next semester.  Kevin Sherrill posted it on the Google Group.

As a reminder, they are also seeking submissions for the next issue.  This installment will focus on the issues we all face going forward this summer and fall in this very challenging time.  Many discussions have begun on this listserv and in various webinars on these issues, so the foundations for many useful articles are out there already.  

They hope to have this issue published by mid-June so that it can hopefully serve as a useful resource for everyone. Therefore the submission deadline will be May 31.  They will accept articles on a rolling basis and begin editing as soon as we accept in order to move this along.  Please send your submissions to [email protected]

May 24, 2020 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Director of Bar Success at University of Baltimore

Director of Bar Success - Click Here

School of Law

Vacancy Number 301065

Position Type: Faculty position with benefits package
Opens: 05/18/20     Closes: Open Until Filled

Salary: Commensurate with qualifications

Position is open until filled, and applications submitted by June 8, 2020 will receive priority consideration.

The Director of Bar Success will hold the non-tenured faculty rank of Professor of the Practice. In this 12-month position, s/he will both teach courses aimed at bar exam readiness and perform key administrative functions that support student success in the profession and on the bar exam. 

We look forward to receiving your required electronic application with a cover letter and resume and learning about your interest in and qualifications for our vacancy.  Please save your required cover letter and resume as one document and attach it in the resume location.

Primary responsibilities will include:

• Plan, coordinate, and teach bar exam support courses, workshops, and additional programming as needed, such as peer tutoring and mentoring programs, and including the 3L Essential Skills for the Bar Exam course.

• Advise and assist students with the bar application process and on bar readiness.

• Plan, coordinate, staff, teach workshops, and work directly with recent graduates as part of summer bar exam support programming.

• In connection with other law school faculty and staff members, gather and analyze data on all aspects of academic success and bar support programs to help inform and develop them, with a continuing goal of improving students’ success in law school and on the bar exam.  

• Stay abreast and regularly inform the deans and faculty of best practices and trends in law school academic success and bar support programs, and perform other activities in service to the law school, such as committee and task force work related to student academic success.

Key Responsibilities 

Design and teach courses to support bar exam readiness.

• Plan, coordinate, and teach upper-division bar preparation courses, including the 3L Essential Skills for the Bar Exam course in the fall and spring semesters.

• Collaborate with appropriate faculty committees to propose revisions to existing courses and propose new courses as necessary to address bar passage issues.

Develop and implement other bar readiness workshops and programming and counsel students. 

• Plan, coordinate, staff, teach workshops, and work directly with recent graduates as part of summer bar exam support programming.

• Centralize communication with students about bar exam preparation and the requirements for admission to the bar.

• Offer resources to faculty members regarding teaching techniques and assessments that support bar exam preparation.

• Advise and assist students with the bar application process and on bar readiness.

• Assist repeat bar examinees.

Collect data and stay current on best practices in academic success and bar readiness.

• In connection with other law school faculty and staff members, gather and analyze data on all aspects of bar support programs to help inform and develop them, with a continuing goal of improving students’ success in law school and on the bar exam.  

• Stay abreast and regularly inform the deans and faculty of best practices and trends in law school academic success and bar support programs, and perform other activities in service to the law school, such as committee and task force work related to bar exam and student academic success. 

• Attend national conferences and participate in the greater community of experts in the field of academic support and bar readiness.

• Draft reports, as necessary, regarding student performance, bar support effectiveness, and other relevant aspects of bar exam outcomes.

Support activities in the Office of Academic Affairs such as:

• Exam administration

• Student advising

• Orientation programs for entering students

• Other duties as assigned.

Required Education and Experience

Education:  Juris Doctor from an ABA accredited law school

Experience:  A minimum of three years’ experience teaching or providing academic support to students at an ABA-accredited law school.

Admission to the Bar of any state

Preferred Experience

• Experience in academic support, legal writing, or other law school teaching

• Scholarship in learning theory and academic support 

• A minimum of two years’ experience in law practice.

Required Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

• Knowledge of law school curriculum and best practices for law teaching. 

• Familiar with ABA regulations and bar admission requirements, including all aspect of the Uniform Bar Exam. 

• Ability to work independently and collaboratively with students, adjunct and full-time faculty, and administrators.  

• Creative approach to problem-solving and excellent written, oral, and interpersonal skills.

The University of Baltimore ("UB" or "University") does not discriminate on the basis of sex, gender, race, religion, age, disability, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other legally protected characteristics in its programs, activities or employment practices. UB is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action/ADA Compliant Employer & Title IX Institution.

May 23, 2020 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Nevada Turns to Online Open Book July 2020 Bar Exam

On May 20, 2020, in a 5 to 2 ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court decided - in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic - to approve remote online testing for the July 2020 bar exam with exceptions for hand-writers and testing accommodations.  

Nevada now joins Indiana and Michigan as the other states thus far to move to online July 2020 bar exams:

In its order, the majority stated that proceeding with an online remote exam in July 2020 will provide "stability to applicants during uncertain times," that the remote exam format will enhance the safety of bar takers and exam administrator in light of on-going social-distancing requirements, and that the use of a psychometrician will "ensure reliable grading" for the online written exam in determining minimum competency.

In its decision, the Supreme Court rejected the idea of diploma licensure, believing that such a provision would not adequately protect the public.  

In addition, the Court rejected the idea of postponing the bar exam, indicating that there were "insufficient" assurances that an actual in-person bar exam could take place with a two-month delay until September 2020. 

As indicated in the appendix attached to the Supreme Court's order, the remote online exam will be open book.

For the details, please see the order and the appendix to the order available at the following link:

P.S. In a blog entitled "Umasked," I previously wrote to encourage regulators and Supreme Court jurists to consider moving to online open book exams:

Now, let me add a word about the potential benefits of utilizing online open book written bar exams this summer.

First, online open book written bar exams would refocus preparation efforts in a dramatically helpful direction because, rather than spending much of one's efforts conquering multiple-choice strategies, which are plainly irrelevant to the practice of law, bar takers will spend the bulk of their preparation efforts in refining critical reading skills, issue spotting skills, organization skills, and written communication skills through countless practice of essays and performance tests.

Second, online open book written bar exams would help bar takers better appreciate the benefits of their post-graduate bar preparation experiences, even if they bristle at the thought of taking a bar exam often due to fear, because they are more likely to recognize through the process that their reading, thinking, and critical writing skills are improving, which will benefit their future clients.

Third, online open open book written bar exams will better support bar applicants, administrators and examiners, and the public because; first, the bar exam need not be postponed, perhaps indefinitely; second, because it would better protect the safety of all involved in light of the continuing pandemic; third, became it would provide some direction and stability in the midst of these difficult times; and forth, because it will ensure an ongoing supply of new attorneys to better serve the public.

In sum, yes, it's a difficult task to move to an online open book written bar exam.  But sometimes the best things in life come about only as we - we all - push forward in the midst of difficulties.  

Let me put it plainly. 

To rest on past laurels, as the NCBE and many bar examiners seem to advocate with the retention of a traditional bar exam, is to let the moment pass us by, with no progress towards the future.  It's not to meet the challenge head on.  Laurels of the past become dry and brittle.  As such, they aren't meant to serve the future.  Rather, it's up to each of us to learn from the past and then to spring boldly into the future - a future filled with challenges, obligations, and promises.  This is our moment to act - united together - in courage.

(Scott Johns). 

May 21, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Final Friday Webinars!

The AALS Section on Academic Support is pleased to announce a 2020 “Final Fridays” Summer Webinar Series.  The webinars will be held on the final Friday of May, June, and July.  The first webinar—to be held on Friday, May 29—is titled “Supporting Bar Exam Takers.”  On June 26 we will discuss “Supporting Each Other and Ourselves.”  Then, on July 31, we will turn our attention to “Supporting our New and Returning Students this Fall.”

Registration is free and open to all. The webinars will also be available for on-demand viewing later, via the members-only section of the AALS Section on Academic Support webpage.  The benefit of participating live is the ability to ask questions of our panelists and to engage in the breakout sessions.

On Friday, May 29 at 1:00 EST, panelists Antonia Miceli (Saint Louis), Britany Raposa (Roger Williams), and Joni Wiredu (American) will provide suggestions on how ASP’ers can support both July and September studiers simultaneously this summer.  Kirsha Trychta (West Virginia) will moderate.  In addition to multiple exam dates, the pandemic has created several other unique and novel challenges for bar takers this year.  Following the 60-minute panel presentation, attendees will have the option to participate in one of three breakout sessions:

  1. Social distancing measures during the bar exam, including mandatory quarantines
  2. Limited seating and priority seating concerns
  3. Limited licensure and diploma privilege options

Each breakout session will be a roundtable discussion engaging all session attendees.  To attend the May panel presentation and/or breakout sessions, follow the Zoom invitations below Additional invitations for June and July will be sent later.


The AALS Section on Academic Support Executive Board

Chair Jamie A. Kleppetsch, DePaul University College of Law

Chair-Elect Melissa Hale, Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Secretary Kirsha Weyandt Trychta, West Virginia University College of Law

Treasurer Joe Buffington, Albany Law School

Committee Member Afton R. Cavanaugh, St. Mary's University of San Antonio School of Law

Committee Member Maryann Herman, Duquesne University School of Law

Committee Member Zoe E. Niesel, St. Mary's University of San Antonio School of Law

Committee Member Herbert N. Ramy, Suffolk University Law School


AALS Webinar Series Zoom Invitations

“Supporting Bar Exam Takers on Multiple Timelines”

May 29, 2020

1:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST


Join Panel Presentation

Meeting ID: 928 8533 0059

Password: AALS-ASP-1

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May 20, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Bar Prep Begins . . . Sort of

In a normal year, my students would all have begun their bar preparation yesterday, coasting on their post-graduation-ceremony momentum right into a seat in front of the first of many lecturers.  But in New York, and more than a third of all U.S. jurisdictions (in which -- again, in a normal year -- more than half of all July examinees would be sitting for the exam), the date of the bar examination has been postponed for six weeks or more, leaving bar students in those jurisdictions with the gift they hate most of all: uncertainty.

What is to be done with all this extra time?  Bar preparation companies cannot agree: some are simply administering their typical ten-week program, just starting it six weeks later than usual, while others have reworked their program schedule, starting it earlier and drawing it out over a longer period, but with shorter study days.  Employers, many contending with their own virus-induced crises, have added variables to the new graduates' calculations, some allowing their new employees to start early and then take time off, others expecting hirees to adhere to their original early-August start dates, and still others unnervingly withdrawing their employment offers indefinitely.  Even we bar support specialists can only make well-educated guesses about how to make use of six extra weeks.  We have no data, no direct experience of how a delay like this will affect individual students or the testing cohort as a whole.  How much more study can a student put in without burning out?  Should the extra time be spread across all aspects of bar study, or should certain skills or subjects receive more attention?  Will MBE scores increase overall for those who take the test in September?  Decrease?  Will the bell curve spread out?  Will this hurt or help examinees?

Sensibly, 43 more days of prep time should be seen as a boon.  In a normal year for bar study, isn't time the most precious resource of all?  In my discussions with students, I have suggested they think of this extra time the way they might think of an unexpected financial windfall.  You don't have to spend it all in one place.  You might devote a large chunk of it to bar study -- that is, after all, the primary focus of the summer -- but how you specifically budget it depends on your own circumstances.  An examinee facing financial pressures might choose to work for a few weeks, then begin studying a few weeks early.  Someone eager to get started studying might begin this week, but set aside a week or two, at strategically placed spots on the calendar, to put study aside, connect with family and friends, or do whatever else helps them refill their gas tank.  It's important not to let the time slip by unnoticed -- it would be bad to turn off the TV one night near the end of June and realize you had not done any bar study -- and that's why it's important to budget the time and actually create a schedule.  And that, for some, is what seems to turn this temporal windfall into a vexation.  In order to budget, you have to make choices.

No one wants their bar prep period to feel like playing endless rounds of "The Lady or the Tiger?"  At every step: choose the right path, and you will be rewarded with contented knowledge and testing skills; choose the wrong path, and you will be mauled by a ravenous UBE with MPT fangs and MBE claws.  In a normal year, examinees only have to be certain that the regimented bar study course they have chosen, which has worked for thousands of examinees before them, will continue to reliably work for them.  This summer, though, because so much is unregimented, some examinees are anxious about being uncertain about so much more.  Am I studying enough?  Am I studying too much?  Am I studying too early?  Am I studying the right things, in the right way, for the right amount of time?

Two propositions can help people in such a tizzy of uncertainty.  First, assure them that they are not feeling this uncertainty because of some character flaw that prevents them from making definitive choices.  They are not losing their heads while all about them are keeping theirs.  This is an inherently uncertain situation -- we can't even be assured the exam will actually be administered in September! -- and so there is no single "correct" choice.  The best they can do is what they've been training to do for the past three years: exercise good judgment based on competent authority and relevant facts.  As long as they are not just guessing, as long as they are talking to us and their mentors and their instructors and applying what they learn to what they already know about themselves and the task before them, they can at least make a good choice.

Second, help them subdue the perception that they are overwhelmed by uncertainty by reminding them of what is certain.  The content and structure of the bar examination remains the same (well, except in Indiana), as do generally those of the reputable bar courses designed to prepare examinees for the test.  They still have their law degrees, and the skill, intelligence, and diligence that helped them earn those degrees.  They have a community of classmates, instructors, and mentors who they can rely on to share perspective and feedback on the decisions they do make.  They have a certain task, they have certain abilities, and they have certain resources.  In the face of uncertainty, those are best certainties to have.

[Bill MacDonald]

May 19, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Bar Prep Begins

For those taking the bar at the end of July, bar prep starts Monday morning!  The Bar Exam is a tough test.  Even if your bar prep schedule starts later in the week, I suggest starting prep today to get ahead of the MBE.  However, don’t forget this is a marathon not a sprint.  Pace yourself so you keep your energy up throughout bar prep. 

Everyone will start doing MBE questions early.  Here are a few tips:

  1. Practice using the method you learned in law school or that is being taught in your prep course.  Follow the method on every question.  You can't implement the answering method at the end.  You need to practice it regularly.
  2. Avoid NCBE tricks by answering the question before you ever read the answer choices.  This is key to not being distracted.
  3. While doing questions on your own, complete 17 questions in 30 minutes.  Make sure to time yourself.  When you complete the questions, grade them.  For all the questions you answered incorrectly, write out the rule in a notebook.

Remember, you graduated law school.  Earning a J.D. is an amazing accomplishment.  You have the ability to pass the bar exam.  Get into a good routine to succeed.

(Steven Foster)

May 17, 2020 in Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Listserv Problems

In the middle of last week, I realized the ASP listserv wasn't working.  I am sure it was going on well before that, but I was busy enough not to notice.  Chelsea Baldwin created a temporary solution so we could all still communicate.  She created a google group for us to join.  You can email her at Texas Tech or me ([email protected]) to get an invitation.  This will hopefully only be temporary.

(Steven Foster)

May 16, 2020 in Professionalism | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 14, 2020


It's in the moments of fiery crises that heroism is revealed.  

I think of our students, heroes everyone of them, finding within the resiliency and creativity to successfully adapt to online learning.  I think of the academic support community and law school faculty and staff, springing into action, resolutely empowering novel ways to encourage vibrant learning despite the difficulties.  I think of the many workers - across all walks of life - giving of themselves, in the front lines all of them.  

It's in these hard spots of life, the difficulties and trials, in which our true beings are revealed, unmasked so to speak.  

But there's more unmasking to be done.  And quickly too.  That's because many of our students have just finished their law school studies and are ready to graduate.  Ready to move onto the next step.  Ready to serve and contribute to the world.  

Yet many states are postponing bar exams with no certainty that latter dates will be any better - health-wise - for holding in-person bar exams.  

However that's not the situation that's just been decided by the Indiana Supreme Court.  Indiana is moving forward this July 2020 with a one-day online bar exam. And it looks like Nevada might be joining the movement to an online exam too. And one state, Utah, has taken an even bolder approach in implementing an emergency diploma privilege.

Nevertheless, back in April in a white paper, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) brushed aside the possibility of online exams or diploma privilege, arguing that online exams were unworkable and that the diploma privilege was not beneficial to the public good.  

When I applied to law school (and for the bar exam), there were no online applications.  It just couldn't be done.  But oh how times change, if only we are willing, courageous, and creative.  Now, I doubt one can apply for law school save through an online application.  The same goes, I suspect, for most bar exam applications.  It's all online now.  Except for the bar exam itself.

The only thing that limits us to the present is us.  

It's not too late for New York, or California, or any other jurisdiction to implement a one-day online bar exam this July.  

But that takes removing the masks that so often keep us living in the present, forever failing to see the future.  And, to be honest, living in the present, when the present of the past no longer exists due to COVID-19, is not really living in the present.  It's living behind the mask of the past.  

The next step is for you - state supreme courts and jurists.  We would like join with you, and local and state bar associations and practitioners, to move forward thus summer, whether that's with an online bar exam or with diploma privilege.  The choice is yours. (Scott Johns).

May 14, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Message from AASE Regarding ABA Rule 316

Hello everyone, I was asked to share the letter below with you all. it's from AASE, regarding Standard 316. A pdf copy will also be on the AASE website soon. 

Re: Association of Academic Support Educators Position on ABA Standard 316

Respected Members of the Council:

On behalf of the Association of Academic Support Educators (“AASE”), we are writing to join
the Society for American Law Teachers (“SALT”) in requesting that the Council suspend
enforcement of ABA Standard 316 (concerning ultimate bar passage). AASE is a non-profit
organization made up of nearly 300 academic support professionals from more than 180 law
schools in the United States and Canada. Our mission is to foster and promote the professional
development of our members and to encourage research-based teaching methods so our
members can help law students reach their full potential—including graduating, passing the bar
exam, and practicing law.

For the reasons stated below, we believe the Council should suspend temporarily the
enforcement of ABA Standard 316. ABA Standard 316 requires “at least 75 percent of a law
school’s graduates in a calendar year who sat for a bar examination must have passed a bar
examination administered within two years of their date of graduation.” As a graduate’s bar
passage from any state applies towards that school’s ultimate bar passage rate, Standard 316
presumes and relies upon stable, predictable, and regular administrations of the bar exam in all
jurisdictions. And it presumes, at the very least, that law graduates will have prepared for the
bar exam under stable, predictable, and normal study conditions. Due to the advent of the
COVID-19 global health crisis, these presumptions could be no further from reality.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thoroughly disrupted and destabilized the established semiannual
administration of the bar exam throughout the United States. Many, if not most,
jurisdictions already have conceded that regular administration of the July 2020 exam is no
longer possible and have delayed administration of the exam. Moreover, given the uncertainties
surrounding recovery from this health crisis, normal administration of the September 2020
(rescheduled), February 2021, and even the July 2021 exams may be equally unlikely.

In addition to the cancellation or rescheduling of 2020 exam administrations, some states also
have adopted rules that will prioritize who may and may not take the exam, using geographic
location of the candidate’s law school or their state of residency. A few states allow examinees
to select one of two available dates, other states will divide their bar applicants into two
disparate settings spaced five weeks apart. These first-come first-served rules, or lottery-style
selection processes, adds to the growing uncertainty and anxiety that has become associated
with July 2020 bar exam. In addition to the anxiety this creates, the timelines also may present
financial hardship to many recent law graduates, making it even more difficult for at-risk
graduates to pass the bar exam. The Council should take into account that the constantlyshifting
bar exam landscape—this force majeure—will make it difficult for students to prepare
and perform as effectively as they otherwise might. So much of a graduate’s bar exam
performance is out of their control. The same is true for law schools.

AASE’s members, who have dedicated themselves to assist law students and recent law school
graduates in preparing for the bar exam, likewise are struggling to advise students in light of the
mounting uncertainty. We cannot advise students when to begin bar preparations because
neither we nor our students knows decisively whether they will sit for an exam in July or
September. We cannot advise our students how to prepare for the bar exam because some states
will offer the exam in a shortened or online format that we have not seen. Some states have
advised only that the exam will be held in September online but have not provided any
guidance on what that exam will entail. Due to the lottery-style bar rules, many graduates may
not even know where they are taking the exam. And most concerning, we cannot advise our
students as to what they can do to mitigate the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus during
an in-person exam administration.

In light of these concerns, the most reasonable approach is for the Council to suspend Standard
316 to account for this unprecedented situation that adversely impacts every planned 2020 bar
taker as well as the faculty members and academic support professionals who support them.
While we respect the Council’s desire to ensure that law schools are in fact producing graduates
capable of passing a bar exam, it is unreasonable to impose the same standard for bar passage in
an environment completely unlike any seen in our lifetimes.

We endorse SALT’s position that law graduates will have faced unprecedented challenges in
the months leading up to the exam and that, in this climate, overall bar passage rates will bear
little relation to the quality of the graduates or their respective law schools. Instead, bar passage
rates will reflect the impact that COVID-19 disruptions had on the bar takers individually and in
the aggregate. For example, while the impact will be widespread, it is likely to be more acute
for particular geographic regions hit hardest by the virus, including California, Illinois,
Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, states with disproportionately high numbers of law
schools and prospective bar takers. In addition, early data seem to show that the virus has a
greater impact on people of color. Law schools with higher percentages of graduates
disproportionately affected for whatever reason would be unfairly measured by Standard 316
without a suspension of the rule.

We also find compelling SALT’s proposition that temporary suspension of Standard 316 is
consistent with the determination made by many law school faculties throughout the country
that adjusted their traditional grading rules this Spring 2020 due to the pandemic. (As you
know, many law schools moved to pass/fail grades or significantly more lenient grading

As academic support educators, we take seriously the calling to produce law school graduates
capable of passing a bar exam. It is core to our professional mission. As lawyers, parents,
grandparents, grandchildren, and global citizens we also recognize the serious threat that, under
the current circumstances, bar passage scores for 2020 will not measure accurately the quality
of bar takers or their academic institutions.

For these reasons, we call upon the Council to suspend enforcement of Standard 316 through
the 2022 reporting period.

Submitted on behalf of the Association of Academic Support Educators by
Antonia Miceli     Marsha Griggs
President Bar Advocacy Chair
DeShun Harris, President-Elect
Russell McClain, Past President
Marla Dickerson, Vice President of Diversity
Jeff Minneti, Treasurer
Twinette Johnson, Treasurer-Elect
Danielle Kocal, Secretary
Joni Wiredu, Host School Representative
Zoe Niesel, Host School Representative-Elect
cc: William E. Adams, Managing Director

May 13, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

AASE Listserv Down/AASE Elections

Hello everyone!

The AASE Listserv is currently down. However, we are working on finding solutions.

In the meantime, please make sure your AASE membership is up to date.


Elections will be held soon, and you need to be paid and registered to vote. Plus, we are working on making sure the member's only section continually gets updated with resources. 

(Melissa Hale)

May 13, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Bar Exams CAN Be Administered Online

In response to the mounting uncertainty about the administration of the July 2020 bar exam, Indiana has moved its exam online.

By order of the Indiana Supreme Court published May 7, 2020, Indiana will offer a one-day online exam in late July. According to “that makes Indiana the first jurisdiction to commit to an online July exam, and the first to say it is creating its own version of the licensing test.” Indiana was one of the last states to adopt the Multistate Bar Exam, and had, for years, given a purely “state-made” exam. Today, the Indiana exam includes multistate content and state specific essays, so the bar examiners likely have an arsenal of potential test content. Other states, like California and Massachusetts, have made nods towards an online exam, but have not publicly defined what their exam would look like or when it would be administered. Both California and Massachusetts have postponed their July exam until September.

Indiana may soon have company. The Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court filed a petition recommending a temporary modification of its July 2020 bar exam to an online format. The petition is based on a recommendation from the Nevada Board of Law Examiners (BLE). The Nevada BLE proposed to administer a two-day, fully online, exam consisting of eight essays and one Nevada performance test. The Nevada proposal excludes multiple-choice questions. If accepted, Nevada will join California and Pennsylvania in administering its own performance test. The Nevada proposal is open for public comment. Anyone wishing to support (or oppose) the proposal should email the Clerk of the Nevada Supreme Court. Like Indiana, Nevada uses both multistate content and administers a state law essay exam. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has added new layers of stress to the already hectic workloads of the academic support community. ASPers are affected by the pandemic in ways that our doctrinal colleagues are not. Traditionally, we are the ones from whom students seek counsel and clarity about the bar exam and how to prepare for it. Our ability to respond to those questions has been upended by proposed delays and the looming threat that a face-to-face exam cannot be administered in either July or September. All we know now is that we really don't know what will happen or how our students should best prepare. Added to the worry about whether there can be a bar exam at all, is how our students will fare on the exam and what our pass rates will look like.

The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) called for suspension of ABA Standard 316 mandating that law schools maintain a 75% bar passage rate to remain in compliance. We can reasonably anticipate that bar pass rates will be lower in 2020 than in recent prior years. Students are under extreme stress dealing with pandemic related adjustments, fear of contracting the virus, and fear of spreading it to loved ones. Summer bar takers lack of access to law schools, public libraries, and quiet coffee shops for bar study, because they are not open to the public. Some may be battling illness themselves. Moreover, the administration of three separate exams with comparative and wholistic grading will also likely skew the exam outcomes and lead to a higher number of bar failures than would have occurred had all candidates taken the exam in the same administration. The Bar Advocacy Committee supports the SALT position and will present a letter to the Executive Board of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) for signature, delivery, and public posting. 

In the past, New York has been the state to follow, in terms of bar exam policy and development. Not so, anymore, as the limited seating debacle has cast a cloud of embarrassment and incompetence over the empire state. Who knew that we would see such progressive and compassionate bar policy leadership coming from Utah, Indiana, and now, hopefully, Nevada! It just goes to show that good ideas aren’t tied to population or politics—good ideas stem from compassionate effective leadership. And there is still room for more leaders with regard to the July 2020 exam.

(Marsha Griggs)

May 11, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Practice in Exam-like Conditions

First, I want to Congratulate all law students for finishing this semester.  I know some still have finals this week, but you all endured a complete change in educational environment.  You worked hard through the disruption, and your resiliency will pay off preparing for the bar exam and the practice of law.  I pray that you all stayed healthy and safe.

For 3Ls, you are moving from difficult end of the semester to even more difficult bar prep.  Many of you will be worried and overwhelmed.  Those feelings are understandable in a normal year.  Some of you must wait to take the exam, while others will still take it at the end of July.  The feelings and planning will cause some people to overlook the small details.  I want to reiterate a common piece of advice that may be even more important this year.  Practice tests should simulate exam conditions.

The advice seems obvious, but this year is different.  I tell students to set a timer or put a clock on the wall similar to the bar exam.  The numbers counting down cause adrenaline spikes, and I want students to feel that while practicing.  This year, the exam may have other precautions.  Some states will social distance with people spread far apart.  That will be hard to simulate with schools closed, so if you can, have loved ones, kids, or people within the house sit 8 feet away.  They can be unintentionally fidgety for the duration of the test.  Make them take a silly test of their own.  Some states may require masks during the exam.  You don't want the first time taking a test with a mask on to be the day of the bar exam.  Some masks are comfortable for the grocery store, but remember, you will be wearing the mask for 8-10 hours 2 days in a row.  The elastic band mask may not be comfortable for that long.  You may want a mask that ties or one of the plastic S hooks for masks.  I suggest wearing one while answering practice questions.  At first, you will be annoyed.  After a while, it won't bother you.  This is similar to don't practice until you get it right, practice until you can't get it wrong.  Keep wearing the mask until you don't really know it is there.  

This has been difficult.  I hope all of your conditions permit quality studying for the bar.  Good luck to all bar takers in both July and September.  

(Steven Foster)

May 10, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 8, 2020

Request for Online Teaching Summit

Last week, the Legal Skills Prof Blog highlighted a request from Dean Daniel Rodriguez from Northwestern to hold a virtual summit on how to provide online legal education.  You can read the Legal Skills' post here.  Dean Rodriguez's original post is here.

The desire for the online summit is great.  I agree that we should increase training to deliver quality legal education online.  I also want to point out that AASE and leaders within the ASP community started doing that in March, and we haven't stopped.  Maybe they weren't the grand summit requested, but they did provide tips to help everyone navigate the new normal.  I encourage others to promote the online summit, but I want to take a short moment to also give credit to those who already stepped up.  You all were forward thinking and ahead of the curve.  Great job!

(Steven Foster)

May 8, 2020 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Less Might Be More -- For Success on the Bar Exam (and in Life)

I once had a teacher tell me to never read good books. Never ever. And why not?

Because if I spent my time reading good books (or doing good things), then I wouldn't have time left to read the really great books (or do the really great things of life).  

That's a lesson that has never left my side.

In bar prep, I'm convinced that too many are trying to do too much, and, in the process of doing good tasks, they aren't doing the great things that are really important for success on the bar exam.  Let me be frank. You don't have time in bar prep to do good things.  But, you have plenty of time to do the really great things, the things that produce fruitful learning.

With that in mind, here's a few tips:

  • Do less reading and more pondering the law, how it works or doesn't, and what it means to you as a person.
  • Do less note-taking and more puzzling through problems to learn the law.
  • Do less testing and more practicing, feeling free to work problems over slowly, reading them out loud if you'd like, as you develop confidence and competence in your own voice as an expert problem-solver.

That's just a few suggestions.  

But, rather than hear it from me, a teacher, I thought I'd share the wisdom of a recent successful bar-taker in that person's own words.  After all, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words (but the wise words from the heart & mind of a recent bar taker -- who wants to share with YOU what she/he learned through re-taking the bar exam -- is worth a priceless fortune).

Advice for First-Time Bar Takers:

  • Practice way more than you think! If you are wondering whether you should watch a lecture or do a practice question, do the practice question.
  • Let go of memorizing everything. It is impossible. Learn what your weak areas are and spend more time with those subjects.
  • You will feel like you know nothing until approximately the last week of bar prep. Somehow, magically, it does come together. I promise.
  • Do all the bar prep practice tests.
  • Think really hard about who you want to study with. This is not the time to do something different from how you handled law school.
  • Come up with a plan and stick to it. The bar prep calendar is really helpful for this. Decide how many practice questions you want to do everyday and do it. But if you are starting to burn out, be OK with taking breaks. It's a marathon!

Advice for Fresh Start Re-Takers:

  • First, I am so sorry that you have been dealt this card. There is no question that it hurts. Take care of yourself and do things that make you happy.
  • As you begin planning your next round of bar prep, make sure to work with the law school to identify the weak aspects of your exam answers. This will help define ways you can “work smarter” instead of “work harder.”
  • Also work with the law school to identify new ways to study. It might be changing up your study tool or how you review your answers. For me, studying ALONE the second round vastly improved my scores. I think studying alone boosted my confidence because it required me to look up answers to my own mistakes. I also stopped comparing myself to friends.  
  • Ditch the bar prep lectures. Use that time to practice WAY MORE MBE and MEE practice questions. I probably tripled the amount of practice questions I did during my second round of bar prep.
  • Log your progress. I was way more intentional about compiling lists of rules I kept missing on MBE questions. This helped me to keep track of weak areas so I could spend more time learning the law in specific subjects.
  • Spend timing thinking about any testing anxiety you might have. Adding mindfulness meditations to my study plan helped a ton!

That brings me back to the start of this little essay.  How do you know what are the really great books to read (or the great things to do)?  That's were wisdom comes in.  Reach out to a person you trust, on your faculty or staff or from a colleague or mentor who knows you as a person from head to toe.  The advice that I've shared in this blog is from such a person, who, although he/she doesn't know you, knows you, because she/he has cared enough to share with you the lessons learned through the process.  So, you have a friend who is rooting for you (and that includes me too!).

(Scott Johns)

May 7, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

A Fun Look at Bar Exam History

The Bar Exam is in the front of everyone's mind right now. When will it happen? Should we change the exam? Does the exam actually measure competence as lawyers? Should we be using diploma privilege instead?

All of these are excellent questions, and handled in much more serious papers, usually by our very own Marsha Griggs!

However, I wanted to take a bit of a fun look at the history of the Bar Exam. I have been reading Robert M. Jarvis' An Anecdotal History of the Bar Exam (9 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 359 (1996)) and wanted to share some highlights.

  • Massachusetts became the first state to offer a written exam in 1855. Prior to this, states would issue oral exams, often with a Judge in the district that the lawyer wished to be admitted, or with a lawyer already admitted to that bar. Massachusetts began the written portion for those that couldn't take the oral portion, but in 1876 Suffolk County (the county that Boston, MA sits in) began requiring lawyers to pass a written examination in order to be licensed. In 1877 New York introduced a written exam in addition  to the oral exam.


  • The oral exam seems like it was less stressful and rigorous than what applicants go through today. Huey P Long – former Gov of LA - passed his oral examination easily. When asked by George Terriberry, an admiralty practitioner, what he knew about admiralty, Long replied” Nothing." When further asked about how he would handle an admiralty matter, long answered “I’d associate Mr. Terriberry with me and divide the fee with him.” Long passed. 


  • Abraham Lincoln was a bar examiner, and judged to be a very lenient one. According to Len Y. Smith, in Abraham Lincoln as a Bar Examiner, B. Examiner, Aug. 1982 (An article I'm currently trying to find), Jonathan Birch of Bloomington relays his experience with Lincoln. Lincoln essentially asked him "how long have you been studying?" with Birch responding "Almost two years."  According to Birch, Lincoln's response was "By this time, it seems to me," he laughed, "you ought to be able to determine whether you have the kind of stuff out of which a good lawyer can be made."  Then Lincoln asked for a definition of a contract, and then sat on the edge of the bed and began to entertain Birch with stories. Then, took him to the clerk, and gave the clerk a note saying "My dear Judge:- The bearer of this is a young man who thinks he can be a lawyer. Examine him if you want to. I have done so and am satisfied. He's a good deal smarter than he looks to be. Yours, Lincoln." I am certain almost all of my students would pass either of these oral exams. I have also heard that Lincoln once examined an applicant from his bath tub. I love this story, but have yet to be able to find a reliable source, so take that with a grain of salt.


  • Before you think that all oral examinations were easy, and most were just a mere formality, they were not easy for everyone. Clara Foltz, the first woman admitted to the CA bar, was administered a 3 hour oral exam. In addition, this "mere formality" was usually a way to find out the applicant was likable, or meshed well with the current bar. You can imagine how this created inequity at the bar.


  • 7 states allow you to “read” the law – California, Maine, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming – this means aspiring lawyers study to be a lawyer and take the bar without attending law school. This is what Kim Kardashian is currently aspiring to do. I can tell you, it isn't easy!


  • It used to be that 32 states allowed for diploma privilege. Currently only WI allows this. It was abolished in CA in 1917, and most recently, Mississippi in 1981,  Montana and South Daktoa in 1983, and West Virginia in 1988.


  • New Hampshire was the first state to use a permanent board of law examiners. This occurred in 1872


  • KY and  VA used to have strict dress codes of business attire. While they still have dress codes, they are not as strict as they once were, which required women to wear skirts and nylons.

  • In 1985 Laura Beth Lamb, a lawyer with the securities and exchange commission, dressed up like her husband, Morgan Lamb, to take the California Bar Exam for him. She was 7 months pregnant, and diabetic, and passed the bar with the 9th highest score on the exam. However, when she was found out she was disbarred, so please don’t try this one. (Also, on a sad note, she claimed he forced her to sit for him after he failed the bar, and threatened and abused her.)

  • In July 1985 hundreds of bar exams from the New York State bar disappeared without an explanation.

  • Prior to the 1980s, it was more common for states to use geographical exclusions to limit bar admissions, but a series of cases in 1980 struck down suck exclusions.

I hope this gives you a bit of a fun break from the craziness that is the current bar exam!

(Melissa Hale)

May 6, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)