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)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Reliance Interests

One thing that most of us probably don't full appreciate until we miss it is degree to which we rely on predictability.  When things are going well, it is often largely because so many things are doing just what we expect them to do, without us having to think about it.  When every paycheck is direct deposited, when every mocha latte tastes just like you like it, when your spouse kisses you every morning and your favorite TV show is on every evening, it's all part of one grand comfortable life.  It is not simply or even primarily the easy and convenience that makes it comfortable.  It's the reassurance that comes with knowing that, and understanding how, cause leads to effect.  Things happen because we make them happen, or if not, at least we expected them to happen, and all that generates confidence and a sense of efficacy.

Suddenly we enter an alternative universe in which supermarkets run out of the most basic, boring staples, like flour; in which basic medical precautions like hand washing might be useless because you were unknowingly infected two weeks ago; in which jobs and income just disappear for even the most conscientious employees; in which graduating with a degree, even with honors, from a decent law school may not even be enough to permit you to take a bar examination, let alone begin earning a living.  All of these are aggravating, and some have potentially dire consequences.  But taken as a whole, their greatest effect on us may be that they are contradicting our assumptions about how the world reliably runs.  

Trust is like a vitamin.  When we haven't got a minimum daily requirement -- when there are too many things in our lives that we can't rely on -- it's like a psychic scurvy.  Instead of bruising easily and losing our teeth, we panic easily and lose our self-confidence.  The cortisol levels in our bloodstreams shoot up, because in an unpredictable world we always have to be prepared to fight or flee.  We can't concentrate, we are easily rattled, we might even suffer illness because of it.  It's hard.  We need to be able to rely on some things to perform well.

This is one of the reasons that humans invented lawyers in the first place.  We needed more people we could trust to rely on.  We needed people who could develop frameworks of predictable rules so that we would not feel that conflicts were resolved arbitrarily.  Lawyers are a testament to the human craving for reliability.

And in order to make lawyers that clients can rely on, we need to teach students to rely on themselves, on their own capabilities and judgment.  And this does not happen overnight.  First we teach them that they can rely on others -- on their professors to teach them how the law works and on mentors to show them the ropes -- then that they can rely on systems, like legislatures and administrative bodies, and then ultimately on themselves.  You know these rules and how to apply them.  You understand how to navigate bureaucracy, at least enough to find your way through any new one you encounter.  You know how to come up with solutions, how to suggest them to other interested parties, how to negotiate a compromise.  You're a cause that has effect, because you are a lawyer.

Even with everything going well in law school, though -- and it may not be, at least not for every student, given the range of burdens that they are shouldering -- when the rest of the world is telling you that you can't eat in your favorite restaurant, that the only available toilet paper is the Want Ads section of your local paper, and it may be more than a year before you can begin working, it can be really easy to spend all your time on edge, trembling at the unclear implications of every announcement from the school or your state bar examiners.  And when it is easy to be that anxious, it is usually hard to study, focus, work efficiently, and present yourself to the world as a new lawyer.

So, lately, I've been thinking of how Academic Support professionals are kind of like psychic vitamin supplements.  In a world in which everybody feels that so many things are less reliable now, we are telling our students, "Look, you can trust us.  We'll explain the right answer; we'll send you feedback on your writing; we will find and share information you might not be able to access yourselves.  But we will also teach you that you can trust yourselves.  You're learning the rules you need to learn.  You're developing the writing and analytical and persuasive skills you need as tools to cause the effects you want.  You're going to develop the judgment that makes a good counselor, and some day other people will come to rely on you."

All of that messaging is what we do on a good day.  Lately, I feel like I have had to up my game to extra strength multivitamin levels.  Making myself available for conferences more frequently; responding to emails super-promptly, before students can feel ignored; finding additional resources for students in increasingly dire straits because of the current crisis.  Maybe this is really the core of what Academic Support does best at times like these: by actions that show our students that they can rely on us, we help them see they can rely on their professors, on the law, on the system, so that they can better learn to rely on themselves.  

[Bill MacDonald]

May 5, 2020 in Academic Support Spotlight, Bar Exam Issues, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Imbroglio

Imbroglio: A complicated situation; a sequence of events so absurd, complicated, and uncommon as to be unbelievable.

Merriam-Webster might as well add a footnote to the July 2020 bar exam administration as an example of the term “imbroglio.” No other term can accurately describe the debacle that surrounds the upcoming bar exam. Blog, essays, and the exasperated cries of bar candidates—summed up in one word. One word with an applicability of meaning that has become self-evident.

A complicated situation – Our nation has become embattled by a contagion that shows no sign of relenting. Across the country, stay at home orders are in place to mitigate the spread of the deadly coronavirus. In states with large numbers of bar takers, there is no safe way to administer the bar exam in the traditional format. Yet, bar examiners and the American Bar Association insist on a bar exam as screening tool for entry into the practice of law.[1]

A sequence of events so absurd Some states postponed the July exam. Some states canceled it altogether. Some states propose to offer a bar exam in early September; others in late September; others have postponed the exam “indefinitely.” No matter what the states propose, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (“NCBE”) will let us know on May 5, 2020 whether there will be any multistate or uniform exams released in July. States that have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam  (“UBE”) are powerless to administer any exam in July if the NCBE won’t provide the questions, because UBE states don’t write their own bar exams anymore.

Complicated – Epidemiologists tell us that the virus comes in waves. Even with proposed and announced dates for the bar exam, COVID-19 may make it impossible or unwise to administer it in the late summer or early fall. But bar takers cannot afford to wait until there is certainty to begin studying. Many will begin bar study this month, for an exam that may or may not take place. They will study in places that are not libraries or law schools, because those places are closed.

Uncommon – COVID-19 presents an unprecedented situation that will impact the flow of new attorneys into the profession at a time when there will be an increased need for legal services. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, like emergency diploma privilege. Utah adopted a sensible emergency diploma privilege, but the ABA and the NCBE discourage other states from following suit.

Unbelievable – Just when we thought things could not possibly get any worse, the New York Board of Law Examiners announced that it may not have enough room to allow bar applicants from out of state law schools to sit for the exam that it hopes to administer on September 30 – October 1. In that same announcement, and with hold-my-beer momentum, the New York bar officials strongly encouraged candidates “to consider sitting for the UBE in other jurisdictions.” That this advice was given without regard for the COVID precautions of other states, and at a time when very few other states were still accepting applications, defies comprehension.

I won’t ask, “what could happen next?”

(©Marsha Griggs)  

 

[1] ABA STANDING COMMITEEE ON BAR ACTIVITIES AND SERVICES LAW STUDENT DIVISION RESOLUTION [sic] (04/07/020) “the Resolution does not . . . modify or limit the historic and longstanding policy of the ABA supporting the use of a bar examination as an important criterion for admission to the bar.”

May 4, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 27, 2020

Will the Bar Exam Go the Way of the 8-Track Tape?

For the times they are a-changin’. -Bob Dylan

The times certainly have changed. Almost overnight, every facet of daily life has transitioned to online delivery. Telehealth and telemedicine are becoming the primary source for doctor-patient interaction during the pandemic. Law school classes are online. College classes are online. K-12 primary education is online. Church and religious services have moved to online formats. My grocery and organic farm-to-table products —gone online. Court hearings, also online. I can buy a car, entirely online. I can have legal documents notarized online.

But I cannot take the bar exam online. At least not yet.

The COVID pandemic has tested our resolve and our ability to utilize available technology. Almost every aspect of the legal profession, from court proceedings and probate administration, to law enforcement and legal education, has mobilized for remote administration. Bar examiners at the state and national levels should hang their heads in shame for not harnessing the available technology to deliver the existing exam remotely. It is an embarrassment of epic proportions that those at the helm of legal licensure are so behind the times that the pipeline for entry to the legal profession could be closed until further notice.

Relentlessly tethered to tradition, those insistent that 2020 law grads take an exam that may not be offered until early 2021 have either dropped the ball or are hiding it. It is fundamentally unfair to require an exam for licensure and at the same time withhold that exam from licensure candidates. The cries for diploma privilege and supervised practice options have sounded around the world. To which bar examiners and high courts have responded with either feigned indifference or a proposed solution that is no more than a band-aid for a gaping wound.

To become attorneys, bar candidates should not have to risk their health or the health of their vulnerable loved ones to the spread of the coronavirus. Even today, there are still more unanswered questions than answers. The majority of U.S. jurisdictions have made no announcement as to whether they will offer an exam in July or not. A number of states have canceled the July exam, but still have not announced definitive information about the date or form of the replacement exam. Candidates across the country remain in the dark as the bar exam becomes an archaic qualifier for competence. If the bar examiners hold fast to the pencil and scantron method of testing, we can expect to see it go the way of the pay phone, the answering machine, and the 8-track tape.

Two states, California and Massachusetts, have alluded to an online exam, but with little detail. It remains unknown what role the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), who produces the multistate exams used in all states except Louisiana, will play in the online exam. If the NCBE can provide an online exam for two states, why not do so for all UBE jurisdictions? And why make candidates in other states suffer the risk of exposure to COVID or career delays by withholding the online exam?  

If the NCBE has not developed an online exam, we must ask “why not” and "where has it been for the last two decades?" And we must not accept “test security concerns” as a viable response. Test security is no less of a concern to law school faculty, and to those who administer admissions exams. Yet all law school exams and the LSAT will be offered online in May 2020. The MPRE (another NCBE exam) and other professional licensing exams are already online.

Whether the bar exam effectively assesses one’s competency to practice law is a reoccurring question that will continue to resurface.  At a time when virtually every state, except maybe Utah and Wisconsin, is under fire for indecisiveness and poor communication regarding the fate of would-be July 2020 bar takers, bar examiners are justifiably under scrutiny. As is the bar exam. The future of the exam is in the examiners’ hands. We’ve only to watch and see if they’ll respond like Blockbuster or Netflix.

(Marsha Griggs© 2020)

April 27, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Theory, News, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Is the Bar Exam Necessary?

Nearly every lawyer has a bar exam story.  For some, it was sleepless nights studying.  Others experienced trauma during the preparation period.  I walked under the wrong bird on my way into the exam.  Ask any lawyer, and they will tell a story.  Is the collective experience enough for continued administering the current bar?  The current crisis necessitates asking whether the current bar exam is an appropriate assessment tool.  Brian Tannebaum published this week that the answer is no.  He said the bar should be cancelled forever. (hat tip to James McGrath)

The bar exam debate reached the boiling point this year due to COVID-19.  The 2015 addition of Civil Procedure to the MBE and subsequent crash in national MBE scores raised red flags about the test.  In front of over 100 experts in learning and student achievement, a NCBE representative (current president) ignored and ungracefully punted when questioned about cognitive load theory.  The continued decline in scores caused numerous questions about the MBE.  Now, the COVID-19 crisis could prevent safely administering the bar exam, and state bars must answer the question whether bar exams are necessary for licensure.

The NCBE obviously says the bar exam is critical to licensure.  In a white paper some would describe as insensitive during the current crisis, the NCBE promoted the virtues of the bar exam.  The exam protects the public by ensuring a level of competence by everyone licensed.  You can read their white paper here. 

I am skeptical of the white paper arguments though.  Aside from the obvious financial bias, the white paper conflates bar exams protecting the public with their version of the bar exam protecting the public.  They espouse the MBE's greatness through reliability and validity.  Their argument is an objective MBE is fair, and thus the best assessment.  The argument is persuasive if fairness also related to the practice of law, but unfortunately, I believe the MBE only tangentially relates to competence to practice law. 

For a paper I want to publish, I contacted over a thousand former students and attorneys in OKC to take a simulated MBE provided by a bar review company.  Approximately 20 agreed to take the exam.  The practice experience ranged from 1 year to over 15 years.  Unsurprisingly, 0 (zero) people passed the simulated MBE according to the Oklahoma MBE cut score at the time (135).  A litigator passed the Evidence section, but no one else passed the subject they practiced the most.  ADAs and PDs failed the Crim Law section.  Transaction attorneys failed Contracts.  As attorneys' experience increased, MBE scores decreased.  I had Superlawyers, local award winners, and Superlawyer Rising Stars take the test.  The results were the same for everyone.

The argument the bar exam protects the public assumes the exams tests what a lawyer does for the public.  Unfortunately, the MBE fails to test minimum competency to practice law, which is the threshold for licensure in virtually every state.  It tests competency to answer MBE questions which allude to legal concepts within the questions.  I know the criticisms of my research.  It isn't statistically significant and the test isn't a real MBE.  Finding lawyers to voluntarily take a bar exam isn't an easy task.  However, I fully believe the result would occur on a larger scale.  I encourage bar examiners, Supreme Courts, and anyone advocating for the MBE (including lawyers at the NCBE) to take a simulated MBE.  I encourage the NCBE to make a real version of the MBE available for the test and independent score verification.  If a large majority of participants pass, then the MBE tests minimum competence to practice law.  However, if they don't, then maybe the wisdom from learning experts about cognitive load, spaced repetition/the forgetting curve, and other learning science can be used to create a test that truly assesses the minimum competence to practice law.     

COVID-19 is accelerating an ongoing feud over the bar exam, especially the MBE.  This debate will continue, so I encourage everyone to evaluate the information related to the bar.  We can use this time to either modify or solidify the current licensure process.  Previous generations' experience should not be our guiding principle for an exam.  Even if I am wrong, now is the time for boards, Supreme Courts, and the NCBE to evaluate the way we license attorneys.  Confidence in what we are doing actually protects the public should be paramount.

(Steven Foster)

April 26, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Cost of Certitude - Might be Preventing the Future

There's a line in the book Moon Dust, regarding people who fervently believe that the Apollo moon landings did not take place, that reads: "The only thing I feel sure of [with respect to a moon landing skeptic] is that he wants to believe this story...." A. Smith, Moon Dust, Harper Perennial (2005).  In other words, no matter the evidence, the unbeliever will not believe. Sometimes I feel like that with the bar exam uncertainties and postponements.  

As Professor Marsha Griggs points out, law schools (and most of the rest of education) flipped on a dime to online learning.  Let me tell you about online learning.  I was a skeptic.  And, I was afraid, mighty afraid, because I didn't think I could do it.  But guess what?  I just finished my last class of the semester, online, with smiles and in celebration with my online students.  It's too early to tell, but it seems to have worked. I think I'm now a believer.

That brings me to my first point... 

Prior to online teaching, I just didn't believe that it could be done, at least not well.  I was like the moon landing skeptics. I had heard that some had succeeded in online environments but I didn't really believe the stories.  Not at all.  But I'm no longer a skeptic because I've experienced online learning for myself.  It's not quite a moon landing, but somehow I navigated through the ether of the internet space to make contact with my students, for them to connect with me, for all of us to connect with each other.  Here's what I've learned.  I was stuck in the past due to confirmation bias.  To put it plainly, I lived in the rut of traditional classroom teaching because that was all I knew.  And, because that was all I knew, I couldn't see that there might be other ways to deliver high quality legal education.  That is until I had to teach online.

So that brings me to my final point - the bar exam... 

If law schools can successfully switch to online learning in just a few weeks or two, it sure seems like bar examiners can switch to online bar exams with a few months of lead time.  Yes, that would mean open book bar exams.  Yes, that might mean reducing the bar exam to a one-day multiple-choice MBE exam.  Yes, that might mean some lack of security.  But, is there any real reason to hold onto the past model in light of the future pressing down upon us with some much uncertainty?  I think not.

It's time for the bar exam to move past tradition and into a future that might be much better for all of us - for bar examiners, bar exam takers, and the public too.  I know. Sometimes it's hard to give up what we know.  However, if we only ever keep our hands gripped tightly around the present, we'll miss the wonderful chances that are all around us to improve the future of our world.  The choice is ours, all of ours.  (Scott Johns).

April 23, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Law School Transparency: Vision 2025 Report

Law School Transparency has put out a new report on its Vision for 2025. LST is a nonprofit dedicated to making the legal profession more transparent, affordable, and fair. The report identifies LST’s priorities, recommendations, and efforts to create more accessible, affordable, and innovative law schools—all with an eye to creating a more diverse law student body and, by extension, a more diverse practicing bar. (The report was funded by the Iowa State Bar Association—kudos to that organization and its leaders for its financial support of LST and its advocacy!)

I’m on LST’s board of directors, so I knew this report was coming, but I’m blown away by its depth and thoroughness. There’s a useful executive summary on pages 5-11. Some highlights:

    1.  Taking on US News: David and Goliath

The first half of the report addresses the wrongheadedness of our national reliance on Goliath: the US News rankings. As LST’s Executive Director, Kyle McEntee, said to me recently, “Ordinal rankings—one, two, three—convey authority because of their simplicity. They convey that one is better than two, and two is better than twenty.” But of course law schools have many dimensions of strengths and weaknesses, and prospective law students have a diversity of priorities, so ordinal rankings don’t address prospective students’ actual interests.

In response, LST is in the process of developing its own, more nuanced, rating system for law schools. Called the LST Index, it will evaluate schools based on a better set of criteria than US News’s clunky proxies. The exact criteria are still in development—LST will draft a list of approximately 50 criteria for consideration, then refine those criteria through an extensive public engagement period. Each criterion will be measurable, document-able, and provable. (LST has already workshopped some proposed criteria with D&I experts, deans, law students, and practicing lawyers at University of South Carolina and Boston College.) Then, the entire system will be improved through an iterative review process—does the Index measure the things law schools and law students value? More information about the LST Index is available at pages 31-39 of the report.

Meanwhile, as LST is developing an alternative to the US News rankings, it’s also lobbying US News to modify its existing ranking algorithm. I think it’s really practical for LST to address the problem on both fronts—loading its slingshot with the LST Index while also working with Goliath to be smarter about things. LST’s specific suggestion here is that US News replace its current “expenditures” data point with an “efficiency” metric. That is, instead of taking into account how much a school spends per student, a figure that will always make private schools look better than public ones, LST is suggesting that US News give credit to schools who provide more bang for their buck. An efficiency metric would consist of the ratio of tuition revenue to high-quality jobs (e.g., long-term, full-time JD-required or JD-advantage jobs) after graduation. More information about the proposed efficiency metric is available on pages 40-50 of the report.

    2.  Adjustments to the Law School Accreditation Process

The second half of LST’s report addressed law schools’ accreditation. LST has specific critiques of which accreditation metrics the ABA should ease up on and which it should tighten. These are more interesting to law faculty than to prospective students, but they’ll still be important adjustments that can make a big cumulative difference. In particular, LST is lobbying the ABA to allow more flexibility in how law schools deliver learning outcomes, review what full-time faculty members do to provide high-quality legal education, liberalize distance education standards (oh, how timely!), examine the diversity of valuable ways in which libraries contribute to legal education, and refine the variance system. On the other hand, as a matter of consumer protection, LST argues that the ABA should ask tough questions about why different students—particularly students of color and women—in a law school class are paying different amounts of tuition, and frankly, why legal education is so freaking expensive in the first place. LST has always been a proponent of transparency (it’s right there in the organization’s name: Law School Transparency), and the report makes compelling arguments for law schools to make more disclosures about law student borrowing, tuition discounting, and diversity. More information about accreditation changes can be found in Part II of the report, pages 51-84.

Lastly, a plug for assistance.  If you want to help LST develop the LST Index or lobby for different accreditation standards, check out ways to help here.

(Cassie Christopher - Guest Blogger)

April 19, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Current Affairs, Guest Column | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 13, 2020

Unanswered Questions

Hat tip to Sara Berman who shared an op ed that made it to my inbox this morning. The article: When Will Life Be Normal Again? We Just Don’t Know, by Charlie Warzel, an opinion editor for the New York Times. Warzel’s article consists of 46, mostly single-sentence, paragraphs of pandemic related questions that we simply do not have answers to. Those unanswered questions are flanked by only and exactly eight sentences of text, that bring home the point that as we enter a month or more of shelter in place lockdown, “we have more questions than answers.”

Today, like so many days before, I ended the day with more questions than I started with. And not one of my questions has found a definitive answer. I’ve read and written articles, blogs, exposés, papers, and proposals, but I’ve found no catchall answers for those tasked to assist the incoming class of attorneys with bar readiness. As I ponder my own questions, my thoughts shift seamlessly to the meritorious and unanswered questions of law students and future bar takers:

If there is a bar exam, will masks be included on the list of permitted items? If not, will the examiners provide masks at the test sites?

How will bar examiners ensure the safety of examinees during the exam administration? Will there be on-site coronavirus testing?

What recourse do we have if we contract the virus during an exam administration?

Should we have to risk our health and the safety of our loved ones to take the bar exam? 

If it's not safe to go to school, attend church services, or have dinner in a restaurant, how is it safe to sit in a room with others for six hours to take an exam?

What supervised practice options are available to students who plan to enter solo practice or practice in rural areas without other attorneys?

What arrangements will there be for students who receive test accommodations? 

When did administration of the bar exam become tied to the number of people taking it? 

If there is a bar exam given in July in State A, will students in State A also have the option to take the exam in September instead of July? 

If a student who has registered to take the July exam does not feel safe taking the exam in July or September, can that student receive a refund of their examination fee?

Are you listening to the students in your state or are you listening to some outside entity tell you what is best for us? 

Could you study [effectively] for a two-day bar exam under these conditions? Has anyone ever had to prepare for and take a bar exam under these conditions? 

Do you wonder why the number of people interested in going to law school has dropped?

If an emergency is not a time to make a change, when is?

Why are folks in a diploma privilege state so opposed to diploma privilege?

What is it about diploma privilege that scares you? 

Isn't diploma privilege a bigger threat to those who sell and profit from the exam than it is to the public? 

What good is ABA approval if examiners and the ABA don’t trust our law schools to educate us and prepare us for practice? 

What does the bar exam test that three years of law school did not teach us? 

Why do you have more confidence in an exam than in us?

I claim no originality for this week’s blog. I credit a writer whom I’ve never met for the concept, and I credit the questions to the voices of law students that I have and will continue to listen to.

(Marsha Griggs)

April 13, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 6, 2020

The (Emergency) Return of Diploma Privilege

For decades Wisconsin has stood alone in its court-adopted diploma privilege for graduates of law schools within its state borders. However, Wisconsin is not the first state to enact diploma privilege as a means of licensing attorneys. At one point, diploma privilege was the norm, not the exception. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia utilized diploma privilege as the principal means of licensing law school graduates until the early 1900’s.[1] When the American Bar Association denounced diploma privilege, states began to move toward examination as the gateway to licensure.[2] Many could have been left to believe that the time of diploma privilege was a bygone era. But maybe not so.

New Jersey has emerged as a leader by offering what most should consider a reasoned and compassionate compromise to address the frustratingly uncertain predicament that would-be July 2020 bar takers face. Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court entered an Order cancelling the July exam and postponing to a date uncertain in the fall. State courts in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York, had done the same thing days earlier. But unlike its northeast neighbors, New Jersey has granted an expanded ability to temporarily practice law under the supervision of an attorney[3] to 2020 graduates of any ABA accredited law schools who have not previously taken a bar examination. The order temporarily authorizes 2020 graduates to enter appearances, draft legal documents and pleadings, provide legal services to clients, engage in negotiations and settlement discussions, and provide other counsel consistent with the practice of law. The temporary license terminates on the date the next bar exam is given in the state of New Jersey.

Critics may point to shortcomings of the Order. To such criticism bar admission policy reform advocates will likely respond today's order was not perfect, but it was an excellent start. “At this challenging time, the public has a continuing and growing need for legal services in many critical areas,” Chief Justice Rabner stated in the order. “Newly admitted lawyers can help meet that need. The Court also recognizes that, without a means to pass the bar and obtain a law license, qualified students who expect to graduate this spring may lose job offers, be unable to find legal work, and otherwise suffer financial hardship.” Thank you, New Jersey. Thank. You.

Who's got next?

(Marsha Griggs)

 

[1] Beverly Moran, The Wisconsin Diploma Privilege: Try It, You'll Like It, 2000 Wis. L. Rev. 645, 646 (2000).

[2] Paul C. Huddle, Raising the Bar: How the Seventh Circuit Nearly Struck Down the Diploma Privilege Under the Dormant Commerce Clause, 5 Seventh Circuit Rev. 38, 40 (2009).

[3] The supervising attorney must be in good standing and have been licensed to practice law in New Jersey state courts or at least three years.

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

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Fall Bar Exam Date Possibilities

The NCBE released an update yesterday on the fall bar exam dates.  You can read the update below.  You can also click here to go to their COVID-19 updates page.

 

Last updated April 3, 2020, 4:48 pm (CDT)

NCBE continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely. The health and safety of bar applicants and of our employees and volunteers are of paramount importance to us. We will update this page as new information becomes available.

Click below to see which jurisdictions have made announcements about the July 2020 bar exam. 

 July 2020 Bar Exam: Jurisdiction Information

For answers to frequently asked questions, see the FAQs below this statement.


At NCBE, we understand the anxiety and frustrations that law students and graduates have regarding the uncertainty surrounding administration of the July bar exam. The bar admissions process, like everything else, is being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

NCBE’s mission is to promote fairness, integrity, and best practices in admission to the legal profession for the benefit and protection of the public. That mission is more important than ever at a time when there is such great need for a competent and ethical legal profession to serve the public. It is with that aim in mind that we are seeking to ensure that the bar exam can be administered to as many candidates as possible in 2020.

To provide needed flexibility for jurisdictions and candidates, in addition to preparing materials for a July bar exam, NCBE will make bar exam materials available for two fall administrations in 2020: September 9-10 and September 30-October 1. Each jurisdiction will determine whether to offer the exam in July, in early September, or in late September. 

We don’t yet know what the months ahead will hold. NCBE is being proactive and continuing to explore solutions for as many scenarios as we can anticipate. We are consulting with outside testing, technology, and exam security experts to consider various options and alternative methods of testing if the traditional group setting must be canceled or modified.

But no matter what happens, we are committed to ensuring that law students have every opportunity to become licensed so that they can put their legal education to work in helping those affected by this crisis.

 

(Steven Foster)

April 4, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

An Open Syllogism to Bar Exam Regulators

I sometimes wonder which is a bigger issue when it comes to attorney malpractice.  Ethical problems or doctrinal issues?  

As best I can tell, there are few disciplinary actions based on the elements of a negligence claim or the standard for a preliminary injunction or the elements of a common law marriage.  Rather, it seems like most disciplinary actions are based on failing to abide by the rules of professional conduct, often due to time-management issues or substance abuse problems or client fund issues, etc. - all significant concerns that greatly impact the public good.  Nevertheless, most states test ethical rules by using a one-day computer-based multiple-choice test -- the MPRE.  

Consequently, if a multiple-choice exam suffices to assess ethical rules, why not use a mutiple-choice exam for assessing substantive doctrinal law too, especially in light of the concerns about administering a bar exam this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

So here goes a possible syllogism:

Issue:

The issue is whether bar examiners ought to consider using a one-day computer-based multiple-choice exam to assess doctrinal legal knowledge and application.

Major Premise:

Like situations can be treated alike.

Minor Premise:

Here, with respect to the bar exam, assessing knowledge about ethical rules for professional competency, which is assessed by most states using a one-day online multiple-choice exam, involves the same sorts of problem-solving analytical skills as assessing knowledge about substantive doctrinal laws.

Conclusion:

Therefore, bar regulators ought to consider using a one-day online multiple-choice MBE exam, delivered similar to the computer-based MPRE, to substitute for the current two-day in-person exam.

If my syllogism holds true, then there's no logical reason why states should delay the bar exam this summer because bar examiners can instead reformat the exam as a multiple-choice MBE exam to determine knowledge and application of substantive doctrinal law.  

And, there's more great news.  There's no reason why bar examiners can't permit law students to take the MBE prior to graduation just like the MPRE...so that law graduates are really practice-ready...at graduation.  Wouldn't that be super! 

And, as illustrated by the movement of the MPRE to an online testing format, bar examiners also have the expertise to convert the MBE from a paper & pencil exam to a computer-based exam.  

Finally, although there are exam security issues raised with using online testing, particularly because online testing for this summer would most likely have to take place under "shelter in place conditions," those concerns can be mitigated by bar examiners as regulators make character and fitness decisions.

In short, it's time to move to online multiple-choice testing.  

In my opinion, failing to act now, in the midst of this ongoing crisis, not only harms bar applicants because of the delays that might befall them due to COVID-19, but also fails to protect the public, who disparately need (and will need) legal expertise, now more than ever, as the U.S navigates through this world-wide crisis.  Just food for thought!

(Scott Johns)

P.S. Note: The biggest issue with respect to any licensure exam, it seems to me, is whether it actually assess what it purports to assess, minimal competency to practice law.  As best I can tell, most states evaluate written exam answers - not for minimum competency - but rather based on a process of rank-ordering exam answers.  And, with respect to multiple-choice exams, I suspect that much of the success lies not so much with assessing competency but with developing test-taking skills and the knowledge of U.S. legal culture.  But, there seems no inclination to abandon the bar exam regiment.  Hence, I suggest retooling the bar exam as a one-day online comptuter-tested MBE exam available for law students to take after their first-year of legal studies.

April 2, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Bar Examiners Don't Seem to Be Listening

There is so much that goes into the making of a bar exam. There are layers of research, accountability, and quality control involved in the drafting of the questions. There is beta testing of the exam content. There is scoring, rescoring, and equating. And there are levels of exam security that rival Area 51. The parties involved range from statisticians to politicians, who cautiously weigh input from the podium, the bar, and the bench. To top it all off, the job of bar examiner – at least at the state level – is a modestly compensated appointment that is held all the while keeping a day job of managing a law practice, or ruling from the bench. Too little appreciation is shown to our almost volunteer bar examiners in times of rest and high passage rates. So, I sincerely and thankfully shout out bar examiners everywhere who discharge an office of such societal importance. And I use the term bar examiners in the collective to include every role, from essay graders to the character and fitness investigators, from the licensure analysts to the admission administrators and honorable members of the board.

Bar examiners have to operate independently and make decisions about scoring and bar admissions that will be unpopular to some. But the examiners must make decisions, and it is the failure or delay in reaching a particularly important decision that has placed examiners under fire across the country. That decision: what about the July 2020 exam?

It is understandable to the legal and lay public that a law license is a privilege not to be indiscriminately awarded. It is equally clear that security protocols must be in place to maintain the integrity of the exam. What is not understandable is how some examiners can fail to make adjustments in the face of the extreme and dire circumstances of the COVID pandemic.  In less than two weeks’ time, the nation’s ABA-accredited law schools went entirely online, trained faculty (many with limited technology skills) for online teaching, and adopted pass-fail grading. There is simply no excuse for bar examiners to not be just as creative and as willing to implement emergency protocols for the prospective July 2020 examinees.

This week 1,000+ students, representing all of New York’s law schools, petitioned the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on the New York Bar Examination for an emergency diploma privilege. Days later, New York canceled the July exam. Adding ambiguity to injury, the exam has been rescheduled to the fall, but no date is provided to examinees who need to make study, travel, and lodging plans for the two-day exam. Are you kidding us?  It’s almost like the examiners are not listening. At all.

A reasonably prudent person will interpret the New York decision as a signal for other states to follow. New York is considered highly influential, as its 2016 adoption of UBE was followed by Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and others. The 2020 bar takers are not asking the examiners to give away law licenses without merit. They —joined in large number by law faculty, deans and alumni— are asking for necessary emergency licensing measures. They are asking examiners to think outside of the traditional bar exam box. They are asking that fairness, humanity, and the chance to earn a living be prioritized  over security worries. They are asking the examiners to listen.

(Marsha Griggs)

Excerpted from An Epic Fail,  Volume 64 Howard Law Journal _____ (2020)(forthcoming).

March 28, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Theory, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 27, 2020

New York Bar Exam Postponed

Sometimes what you plan to write gets scrapped.  As I sat down to post this evening, New York postponed the July Bar Exam.  You can read the press release here:   https://www.nybarexam.org/Press/PressRelease_NY_BarExam.pdf

This will have a major impact on a number of students.  I encouraged my potential New York takers to look at other UBE jurisdictions with late filing deadlines in April and May.  The NCBE Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions has information here.

This is unprecedented, so advice will be rampant.  Everyone should evaluate their own individual situation to make a decision.  More information on the timing for transferring scores is needed to know whether another UBE exam would work.  

I hope everyone is healthy and safe during this unique situation.

March 27, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 23, 2020

It's Time to Consider Licensure Alternatives for the Class of 2020

The Class of 2020 has suffered blows like no other graduating class. Domestic K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students alike have been informed that they are not allowed to return to their physical campuses, and must continue their school year online. Hardest hit are the presumptive graduates of the class of 2020. They must forego prom, senior skip day, all manner of internships and externships, competitions - from moot court to state basketball playoffs, science fairs, presentations, and call-back interviews. These students resume academic life, complete with homework and online class presentations, only to confront the added heartbreak of not being able to walk across the stage adorned in cap and gown or hood. My heart aches for the entire class of 2020 who will be unavoidably denied a great rite of passage: the commencement and hooding ceremony with all its pomp and circumstance. 

But for law school graduates, the heartache may not end with foiled graduation plans. All medical and environmental indicators would suggest that the July bar exam cannot go forward as scheduled.1 But eleven law professors have said: Enough. While none of us can undo any of the devastating impact of COVID-19, state and national bar examiners can and should consider alternatives to licensure to maintain the influx of new lawyers into the legal profession. In a recently distributed policy paper, The Bar Exam and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Need for Immediate Action, Professor Deborah Jones Merritt joined with ten other notable legal scholars to pose alternatives to licensure that would allow 2020 law graduates to enter the ranks of the legal profession without costly and undue delay.

According to the paper, the legal system depends on a yearly influx of new law graduates to maintain service to clients. The scholars, in a unified voice, reasonably predict that the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will create an increased need for legal services. Says Merritt et al., “[o]ur 2020 graduates have knowledge and skills that will be particularly helpful in responding to the legal needs of a population stricken by COVID-19,” as “these graduates are fully equipped to function online, a skill that some senior lawyers lack.”

The paper poses six alternatives to the standard summer exam administration, and argues that postponing the exam for weeks or months is not a viable alternative with the uncertainty and medically likely resurgence of the COVID-19 virus. The paper’s authors urge the licensing jurisdictions, and most notably the NCBE that controls the Multistate exams, to consider an emergency diploma privilege, or supervised practice as an alternative in this limited and exigent circumstance that the pandemic presents.

Whether or not the bar examiners agree with the proposals, the time to act decisively is now. Keeping the class of 2020 in limbo about the administration of the July exam, piles onto the existing educational disruptions it has already suffered. Any substantial postponement of the exam will have harmful effects on the candidates who hope to join the legal profession this year.

According to Tammy King, Assistant Dean for Professional Development at Washburn School of Law, “the public service employers who need someone who can practice immediately are among those most likely to wait to make offers or to make offers and start dates contingent on bar passage.” According to reported NALP data, as many as 41.3% of 2017 graduates who were employed within 10 months after graduation secured their jobs after bar results were released. CUNY Law professor @allierobbins may speak for the class of 2020, in a March 23 tweet, "Dear Bar Examiners, Please Listen to these Women."

(Marsha Griggs)

1 The National Conference of Bar Examiners’ website contains the following update regarding administration of the July 2020 exam: “The bar exam is administered by individual jurisdictions, not by NCBE. We are in close contact with jurisdiction bar admission agencies as they consider possible options for the July exam in the event that shutdowns and prohibitions against large gatherings remain in effect.”

March 23, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

An Experiment in Learning to Think Reflectively

Let me ask you a couple of questions posed by a recent article (illustrating how easily our minds can mislead us). M. Statman, Mental Mistakes, WSJ (Feb 9, 2020).

First, do you consider yourself an above average driver?

Second, do you consider yourself an above average juggler?

Most of us answer the first question: "Yes, of course I'm an above average driver."  In contrast, most of us answer the second question: "No, absolutely not. Why, I can't even juggle so I'm definitely below average."  But context matters in determining whether our answers to these questions are accurate.  Id. 

Let me explain.  

Take driving.  Most of us think that we are at least average drivers (and most likely above average) because we drove today and didn't (hopefully) have an accident. But most drivers are just like us. They didn't have accidents either.  Id. Consequently, at least half of us have to be below average and the other half above average.  And, because we haven't yet explored any factual evidence in order to accurately gauge our driving abilities (such as accident records, traffic tickets, etc), we are often mistaken about our driving abilities. 

Now let's take juggling.  Most of us can't juggle at all, and, because that includes virtually all people, we are probably at least average jugglers (and maybe even better than average jugglers!). Id. You see, evidence matters in judging accurately. Id.

Likewise, with respect to learning, most of us think that we are at least above average with respect to easy tasks (like driving) but below average with respect to the hard tasks of learning (like juggling).  However, without concrete facts to evaluate our learning, we are likely wrong.  And that's a problem because if we don't know what we know and what we need to know we can't improve our learning...at all.  Indeed, that's why learning can be so difficult.  We tend to get stuck within our minds, our own framework, seeing what we want to see rather than what is really true about our learning.

So, as you evaluate your own learning, step back.  Ask yourself how do I know what I think I know.  Challenge yourself to see from the perspective of others so that you don't miss out on wonderful opportunities to improve your learning.  Be honest but not harsh.  Focus on identifying ways to improve.  

If you're not sure how to go about self-reflective learning, here's a quick suggestion:

Take for example an essay answer that you've written.  

First, find, identify, and explain one thing that in your writing that is outstanding (and why).  

Second, find, identify, and explain one way to improve your writing (and why that would be beneficial).  

Indeed, towards the end of most meetings with students, rather than telling my students to do "this or that," I ask them to tell me what they've learned about themselves from talking together and what can they do to improve their own learning.  And, I don't stop with just one answer.  I keep on asking until we have at last three concrete action items, all of which sprung out from them rather than me.  That's because the most memorable learning happens in "aha" moments, when we see what we didn't see before.  And, after all, isn't that the essence of learning...seeing anew with free eyes to boot.

(Scott Johns).

February 13, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Other Side of Bar Prep

And you'll finally see the truth, that a hero lies in you. Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff

Every lawyer who has completed the journey that begins with law school and ends with a multi-day bar examination knows the anxiety, the overload, and the sheer exhaustion that is bar study. There is no shortage of horror stories involving the bar exam.1 Virtually every attorney has a bar-related cautionary tale. Some of these tales recount the angst of making up legal rules to answer an essay question about which they had no clue how to answer.2 Other tales may involve the heart-stopping panic brought on by “Barmageddon” when technology glitches prevented examinees from electronically submitting their essays.3 The bar exam is a grueling rite of passage that no attorney wants to revisit or repeat.

But not accounted for in the published bar pass lists and statewide bar statistics is a group of unsung heroes that contribute in meaningful ways to the attorney rosters of each state. This group is largely unnoticed, unnamed, or misnomered as law school academic support staff, professional development personnel or even student services providers. These gifted folks, whether or not named or recognized, essentially relive the nightmare that is bar prep two times per year, every year, without break or exception, and without earning any additional licensure.

So, here’s to the bar prep heroes who, despite already having at least one law license, restudy, listen anew to lectures, and peruse endless pages of commercial outlines in search of changes to a majority rule or a better way to explain testable material. Hat tip to my colleagues in the trenches who biannually endure the round-the-clock cries for help, the endless essay grading, and the ulcer generating impathic nervousness for the aspiring attorneys in whom we are emotionally invested.

As the end of February draws nigh, you will soon return to regular sleep patterns and be able to answer the 100+ unread messages in your inboxes. Yes, all will be back to normal . . . except for the two to three months filled with delightfully dreaded anxious anticipation of released results. You are the heroes on the other side of bar prep.

[1] Marsha Griggs, Building A Better Bar Exam, 7 Tex. A&M L. Rev. 1 (2019).

[2] Id.

[3] Karen Sloan, Software Maker Settles Barmageddon Class Action for $21 Million, NAT’L L.J. (May 15, 2015, 12:26 AM), https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/

(Marsha Griggs)

February 10, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Feeling Overwhelmed By Bar Review?

It's that time of year, where you might start to feel overwhelmed by the amount of bar review tasks in front of you. First all, this is not at all unusual, and you are not alone. 

Second, a brutally honest fact  - statistics show that the more bar prep course a student completes, the higher their chances of passing. For every single percentage point of your commercial bar course that you complete, your chances of passing the bar also increase.

However, whilst it is true on a general level that you need to be working hard to cover as much of that course as possible, it is also worth remembering that you are not a statistic. Students are unique individuals, not numbers. Most importantly, whilst working hard, you need to ensure that you keep your health and sanity for the end of Feb.

So, all that being said, here are a few tips if you find yourself getting overwhelmed:

  1. One thing at a time.The best thing to do when feeling overwhelmed is to take one step at a time, and DO one thing at a time. Yes, it’s good to have a big picture idea of what you need to accomplish between now and the end of Feb, that’s what will keep you on target. But, on a day to day basis, you need to focus on what you can do in the next 5 minutes, the next hour, the afternoon. Make lists for yourself, or use the ones given to you by the commercial prep companies (which are usually online) and tick one thing off at a time, even if it’s a small thing.
  2. Prioritize active learning. Don’t get bogged down in reviewing outlines, making outlines, making flashcards, etc. Your priority should always be practice essays (especially if you will get feedback) and practice MBE questions, not to mention, practice MPT. As for the law, of course you need to know it, and remember it, but you will remember it better by writing about it, with a unique fact pattern, then you will simply by reading the law, or even putting it on a flashcard. Succeeding on the bar exam is a SKILL, so you need practice. You wouldn’t prepare for a hockey game simply by reading about hockey; you’d get on the ice and run skating drills, you’d have practice games. The bar isn’t really any different.
  3. Extra Questions. I often get questions about whether students should be doing MORE, or a good source of extra questions. The right answer to this is going to vary from student to student. I always think more questions are better, in general, and varying the types of questions you are doing can be beneficial. However, you don’t need to pile on extra books and questions for the sake of doing so. Focus on getting through your normal schedule first, if you get through that, and you are not completely exhausted, then consider extra sources of questions.
  4. Don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing.Remember, you are not a statistic, and there is no cookie cutter bar student. Comparing notes with others on what works, or what doesn’t, is fine, but don’t judge yourself by how many hours someone else is in the library, or how many sample questions they are doing, or whether they’ve bought 10 extra books. This is like the first year of law school; everyone is different, and you might be working at a different pace, or in a different way, from someone else. That’s ok!

Remember you still have over 5 weeks left,  this is not a sprint, it’s an endurance race. That means pacing yourself. Working hard, yes, but also remember that working smarter is more important than just working harder.

Good luck, you got this!

(Melissa Hale)

January 15, 2020 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Allure and Allusion of Score Portability

The Uniform Bar Examination (“UBE”) has juggernauted from an idea to the primary gateway for entry into the practice of law. To the resounding support of law graduates and law schools, a supermajority of states has abandoned individual state law exams for a uniform exam written by a private entity. The UBE is the exam of the future and I anticipate that at least three more states will have adopted the UBE by year end. The UBE remedies many voiced complaints about varying degrees of exam quality and exam difficulty across states. Perhaps the most touted feature of the UBE is score portability.

UBE takers may "port" or transfer their scores into other UBE states, thus, relieving examinees from the arduous chore of having to sit anew for a bar exam. However, the promise of score portability is allusive at best. Transfer procedures vary by state. The fees to transfer one’s UBE score may be as high as $1700, possibly more than the cost of taking the bar exam in the transferring state.[1] For a majority of students who exit law school burdened with student loan debt, these transfer costs will make the promise of portability unrealizable.

According to attorney and bar prep professional Ashley Heidemann, “the UBE is not as portable as law students are led to believe.”[2] Heidemann feels that the promise of portability is highly deceptive to law students who believe that a widespread uniform exam means that once licensed, UBE attorneys will be able to transfer into other states at any time.[3] “The biggest misconception students have,” says Heidemann, “is that UBE scores can be transferred to a different UBE jurisdiction at any time. In reality, UBE scores are only good for generally two to five years, meaning one cannot transfer a score from one state to a different UBE state after their specified time period is over.”[4]

Even staunch supporters of the UBE seem to think that the UBE has not yet reached its greatest potential. UNLV Professor Joan Howarth advocates for a uniform cut score, citing that a six point score differential could effectively exclude hundreds of bar takers from the practice of law.[5] Melissa Hale, Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law says, “I’d love to see a more uniform process [regarding admission and transfer policies].” Hale, who sees the UBE as an improvement over predecessor exams and self-identifies as pro-UBE, wants to make sure that students understand the score transfer process and that it is “not without hurdles.”

As more and more states adopt the UBE, academic support professionals will need to stay in the know and keep students informed about the true costs and limitations of score portability. That is — until or unless a uniform cut score becomes a reality. Stay tuned, we may be closer than we think!

(Marsha Griggs)

 

[1] Marsha Griggs, Building a Better Bar Exam, 7 Tex. A&M L. Rev 1 (2019).

[2] Interview with Ashley Heidemann, President, JD ADVISING LLC (Mar. 25, 2019).

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Joan W. Howarth, The Case for a Uniform Cut Score, 42 J. LEGAL PROF. 69, 72 (2017).

January 13, 2020 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Current Affairs, Exams - Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 13, 2019

Turning Fear of Failure Into Acts of Success

Basketball player "...Duncan Robinson was open and didn't shoot." So reads an article about the "Most Improbable Player in the NBA."  The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 13, 2019, p. A14.  

In response to Duncan's decision, "...[H]is coach immediately called timeout.  'That's selfish.... You're being selfish if you don't shoot.'" Id.

For our February 2020 takers, bar prep begins for many next week.  But, as we approach bar studies, if you're at all like me, I'm much more comfortable being on the sidelines, not taking shots so to speak, watching others talk through hypothetical scenarios and work through practice problems.  

That's because I often don't feel like I'm ready to take shots because I don't feel like I know enough to play the game.  

Instead, I try to learn to "play basketball" by reading about basketball and by watching others play basketball...a sure recipe to fail at basketball.  

Let me put it concretely.  With respect to bar prep, I'm much more comfortable listening and watching professors from the sidelines as I observe them work through bar exam problems and scenarios.  

However, take it from Duncan (who went from high school to a small time college basketball program to a big time basketball program to a minor league professional basketball team to now a multimillion dollar contract with a big time professional basketball team).  Id.  What was the key to Duncan's success?  As Duncan indicates, "I was having a tough time figuring out what was a good shot--and I quickly realized that everything was a good shot...I needed to literally shoot everything. [my emphasis]"  Id.

For those of you beginning to prepare for the winter bar exam, take Duncan's advice.  Take every shot at learning.  Know this:  That every problem that you work through, every time you close your lecture book and then force your mind to recall things that you have learned, every time you take action based on the bar review lectures that you are hearing, you are becoming a better "shooter", getting closer to your goal in passing your bar exam.  

So, be of good courage as you boldly study for your bar exam.  After all, you're not going to be tested about what you saw from the sidelines. Instead, you're tested on your ability to play the game, to score points, to solve bar exam problems.  Consequently, take every shot you can, everyday throughout this winter, as you prepare for success on your bar exam this upcoming February 2020.  Oh, and by the way, Duncan missed lots of shots on the way to success.  But, he kept at it.  You too, keep at it, because as it's in the midst of our missed shots that we learn how to perform better!

(Scott Johns).

December 13, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)