ost bar takers are aware that they will be faced with both multiple-choice questions and an essay component on their state bar examinations, but few really understand what they will be facing on the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).
The MPT is yet another creation of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and its aim is to determine each examinee’s ability “to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation.” The tasks set each year are designed to determine each examinee’s ability to tackle an assignment that any new lawyer should be able to competently complete.
33 U.S. Jurisdictions currently administer the MPT, with several more adopting the test over the next couple years. (The MPT is weighted differently depending on the jurisdiction, so consult your state board of law examiners for the particulars.)
The 90-minute test is comprised of a File, which contains all the facts and supporting documentation you will need to complete your task, and a Library, which includes caselaw, statues, and any other relevant rules or regulations. Common MPT tasks include memoranda to supervising attorneys or letters to clients, but the MPT has also required examinees to draft contract or will provisions, create counseling plans, or even write settlement proposals. You can find free sample tests here and purchase additional practice materials directly from the NCBE.
The good news about the MPT is that it is a closed universe, so you are not being tested on any outside knowledge of the law. In fact, the MPT often includes laws or statutes that are only valid within the world of the test. What the MPT really tests is your ability to carefully read and follow instructions and demonstrate your ability to think like a true lawyer.
The best way to prepare for the MPT, like any other component of the bar exam, is to take full-length practice tests until you become comfortable with the format. You should try to administer at least 2-3 to yourself under timed conditions during your bar preparation period. Make sure to...
ow that you have an idea of what you will face on the MEE, it’s time to talk strategy.
One of the most common misconceptions about preparing for the essay portion of the bar exam is that it is necessary to “master” all the material before attempting to do any practice essays. This kind of attitude is common among first-time bar takers and can be detrimental to achieving solid progress in one’s bar preparation.
The best way to succeed on the MEE is simply to write as many practice essays as possible from the outset of bar prep. Many bar takers put off doing practice essays because they only want to attempt them when they “know everything” about any given subject and can do the essays cold. This is a mistake, because most examinees will not be ready to attempt essays completely from memory until the final weeks of the bar preparation period.
A better approach for ramping up your essay prep is to start by outlining essay questions and comparing them to the model answers provided by your bar review course. Next, do practice essays open book, consulting your bar review class notes and outlines when necessary. Don’t worry about doing essays under timed pressure until the last weeks of preparation. For the first weeks of essay practice, just focus on spotting relevant issues, articulating applicable rules of law, and applying the law to the facts in a concise analysis section.
It is not necessary to write a practice essay in every testable subject area, but it is a good idea to read through the sample essays provided by your bar review course to get a feel for how each subject is likely to be tested. In addition, you can review all nine MEE questions created for the July 2011 administration of the bar exam here. You can also practice with sample questions from 1997-2006 here. And you can purchase additional question sets directly from the NCBE here.
Next up: All about the Multistate Performance Test
hough the Multistate Bar Exam is, arguably, the more difficult component of most state bar examinations, most bar takers are more concerned with the essay portion of the test than anything else. The sheer breadth of material that could potentially be tested in essay form creates more anxiety for bar takers than any other challenges inherent to the test.
In addition to the state-specific essays many jurisdictions include in their exams, the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) is an integral part of the bar in 24 jurisdictions (25 in 2013 when Washington adopts the test) and 3 U.S. Territories.
Not only does the MEE draw questions from MBE subjects—Contracts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law/Procedure, Evidence, Torts, and Real Property—it also tests such subjects as Business Associations, Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Federal Civil Procedure, Trusts and Estates, and Uniform Commercial Code.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the creators of the exam, describe the object of the MEE as follows:
The purpose of the MEE is to test the examinee’s ability to (1) identify legal issues raised by a hypothetical factual situation; (2) separate material which is relevant from that which is not; (3) present a reasoned analysis of the relevant issues in a clear, concise, and well-organized composition; and (4) demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental legal principles relevant to the probable solution of the issues raised by the factual situation.
Each year, the NCBE writes nine, 30-minute essay questions drawn from the pool of testable subjects and provides them to the jurisdictions that include the MEE in their state examinations. Each jurisdiction selects six of these essays to administer to their examinees.
Essays are typically administered on the first, or in some cases third, day of any given state’s bar exam. For states that test the MEE, the morning session is typically reserved for testing state-specific subject areas and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The MEE is usually placed in the afternoon session and bar takers are allotted three hours to complete the six 30-minute essays.
Next up: Strategies for success on the MEE.
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ur last post covered the ins-and-outs of the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), so now it’s time to talk about how to prepare for the test itself.
One mistake many bar takers make from the outset is that they approach the MBE like any other multiple-choice test. They believe that if they have a solid understanding of the underlying material that they will easily be able to spot the correct answer choice most of the time. The fallacy of this kind of thinking is that it assumes knowledge alone will equal success on test day. This is simply not the case.
The only way to know what you will be up against on game day is to practice as many MBE questions as you can lay your hands on every day that you plan to study. Your bar review course will provide you with practice questions, you can obtain additional practice questions directly from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and you can even use your mobile device to bone up on MBE basics using free apps.
Your bar preparation period will typically only be 6-8 weeks long, so it is crucial that you begin your MBE practice regime as soon as you can and stick with it. Daily practice will ensure that you not only master the underlying concepts, but that you can apply them on the actual test as well. You should tackle between 33-50 practice questions each day that you study, giving yourself at least two hours for each set. This will allow you to carefully review all your answers and understand both why you got questions right, and why you got them wrong.
Though you will only have an average of 1.8 minutes to answer each question on the actual test, you should not worry about timing yourself when you first begin your bar prep. Accuracy and comprehension are far more important than speed for the first several weeks of your bar studies. As you become more familiar with the format of the test, your speed will increase naturally, and you can...
ne of the most common misconceptions held by new law students is that they can simply sit for something called the Multistate Bar Exam, and upon passing they will be able to practice law in all fifty states. This kind of misunderstanding is understandable considering the confusing moniker, but for most bar takers, the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) is merely one component of the complete test.
Created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the MBE is designed to “assess the extent to which an examinee can apply fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning to analyze given fact patterns.” 49 U.S. jurisdictions–soon to be 50 when Washington State adopts its usage in 2013—and 4 U.S. territories currently test the MBE as part of their state bar examinations.
The test is comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions administered in two, three-hour-long sets of 100 questions each. No state-specific law is tested on the MBE. The subjects you will encounter on the MBE are as follows: Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. (The NCBE is reportedly considering adding Federal Civil Procedure to the MBE, though this change will likely not be implemented in the near future.)
For many bar takers, the MBE comprises as much as 50% of their total bar exam score, so its importance cannot be understated. In addition, many states accept the transfer of MBE scores from other jurisdictions, so those who wish to obtain law licenses in multiple states will not have to sit for another full examination. In fact, the District of Columbia and Minnesota will allow applicants who receive the requisite MBE scores (133 for D.C. and 145 for Minnesota) to waive directly into that state without sitting for the bar at all.
There are many things you can do before you even graduate from law school to ensure your success on the MBE. The first to consider is to take any MBE subject class that is offered as an elective, such as Evidence or Criminal Procedure. These are very nuanced subjects, and they are...
ot every new law school graduate has the luxury of studying for the bar exam full time. Though the majority of new J.D.s will spend 6-8 weeks studying for the test 8-10 hours per day, some graduates simply have to continue working to pay the bills despite the looming exam.
If you must work, consider switching to part-time for the duration of the prep period. Your mental acuity diminishes as your body becomes fatigued, and a full-time work schedule will tire you out before you even sit down to study. Many bar takers who work elect to attend bar review classes in the morning, break for lunch, then return to their jobs in the afternoon. These bar takers will then return to their studies for another couple hours in the evening.
When you have to break up your study time this way, it is important to prioritize and set specific goals that you will be able to achieve in the time that you have. Spending hours passively reading outlines might not be the best use for your limited time. Instead, focus on applying the law you learned during the course of your bar review lectures through practice Multistate Bar Exam questions and practice essays.
If you absolutely must work a full-time position during the bar preparation period, you will have to become a master of time management. One thing you should consider is selecting an online-only bar review course so that you have more flexibility in scheduling when you watch your subject lectures. Most bar review lectures exceed three hours in length, so it won’t be feasible to return from work and watch an entire lecture and complete additional tasks. Your best bet is to watch a portion of a lecture and then transition into practice questions or essays. The bulk of your progress will be the result of the practical application of the principles you have learned, so practice, practice, practice! You will also have to sacrifice most of your weekends to catching up on your lectures, organizing your notes, and identifying your areas of weakness for additional review.
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t’s bar exam season again, and thousands of new law school graduates around the country have already begun to prepare for the most rigorous test they will ever face. It’s natural to be apprehensive going into what many bar takers view as the most stressful time of their lives, but there are some simple things you can do from the outset to ensure your ultimate success on test day.
Unlike law school exams that you might have been able to cram for a day or so before the test, the bar exam requires months of comprehensive preparation. Not only are you going to encounter subjects that you did not study in law school, but with the exception of the Multistate Bar Exam topics, you won’t know for certain which of those 20-plus subjects will appear on the test.
First things first, find a quiet, comfortable space where you can study each day that is as free from outside distractions as possible. It’s not necessary to sequester yourself completely from the outside world, but it is crucial that you be able to focus and concentrate without constant interruptions. Your primary concern when selecting your study space is that you can stay there for long periods of time without straining your neck and back, or becoming so relaxed that you find yourself nodding off.
Considering the sheer volume of material you are expected to master, it is recommended that you study between 8-10 hours per day during the first weeks of your bar prep, and between 10-12 hours going into the last ten days of your review. This includes your time spent in bar review classes, reading outlines, creating flashcards, and, most importantly, doing practice MBE questions and writing out practice essays.
The best way to stay on track—and maintain your sanity—is to treat your studying like it’s a job. Establish a manageable routine and stick to it. Get up at the same time every day, attend your bar review lectures, and spend the afternoon preparing for the next day’s class, organizing your notes, and applying your knowledge through practice questions and essays. Evenings ...
inals are looming, and it’s time to start preparing for success now. The best way to reduce anxiety and get the best possible grades is to know how best to approach the first round of exams before you set foot in the testing room.
Think carefully about each exam question before you commit anything to paper. Craft an outline before you plunge into writing your actual answer. Writing without outlining does not allow for clear thinking and analysis, and is time consuming. First, look at the call of the question. This is the question telling you what the task is for that particular essay. For example, “What causes of actions are available between party A and party B?” Always read the call of the question before diving into the fact pattern as this will help guide you in identifying relevant facts for your argument.
Time management is crucial during finals, as you will likely have three hours or less to complete your exam. Devote between one quarter to one third of your available time to carefully reading the question, organizing your thoughts, and outlining your answers so you can focus your remaining time on writing a clear, well-organized, and thoughtful analysis.
The IRAC Method
Most law students are familiar with IRAC, as it is typically taught in legal writing classes, and is the same method used to create case briefs for class lectures. The IRAC method is just as useful when applied to writing great final exam answers. Most final exams are crafted in the “issue spotting” format, where the professor provides a detailed fact pattern containing a multitude of facts from which various causes of action arise. Let’s take a closer look at how to apply the IRAC model to ensure final exam success.
I is for Issue
What are the issues arising in the essay? Some issues will be easy to spot, while others might be more difficult to ascertain. Above all, don’t panic! A great way to determine what the issue is if you have no idea is to...
hough lawyers in general are considered to be fairly risk averse, for many aspiring attorneys, the lure of being one’s own boss by building a thriving solo practice is too tempting to resist. For other new law school graduates, the recent economic downturn has made going solo a necessity.
Cost-Effective Ways to Launch Your New Business
Starting a new firm does not have to be a costly proposition. Acquiring adequate capital for launching a solo practice is challenging, especially for notoriously impecunious new law graduates. The good news is that it’s no longer necessary to spring for expensive office space. If you have a computer, internet access, and a mobile phone, you have all you need to start your practice. E-Lawyering is the next step in the evolution of the legal profession, and there are a number of great resources available to help get your burgeoning practice off the ground: Total Attorneys, Virtual Law Practice, My Shingle, and Solo Practice University.
What You Can Do While You’re Still in Law School
So, what can you do now to prepare for your future solo career? One thing you can do is to start taking classes that will help you in your business. Legal drafting courses and clinics will help you hone your writing skills and give you experience dealing with actual clients. If your school offers law practice management courses, consider taking them as well. Add clerking to get sense of what you want to do.
Now is also the time to start seeking out mentors, attorneys who practice in the areas of law in which you are interested. Professors are good resources as well, so make sure to nurture good relationships with them while still in school. You should also begin to acquaint yourself with social media for lawyers as a means by which to build your online presence and land clients.
Perils and Pitfalls
However you reach the decision to hang a shingle and open your...
he most stressful time of the year for law students is undoubtedly the final exam period. The good news is that winter break is right around the corner, affording weary students an opportunity to rest, recharge, and prepare for hitting the ground running when Spring semester begins.
So, what are you planning to do during your well-earned break?
While it may be tempting to just veg out in front of the television and sleep in, winter break is actually a great time to continue to build your legal resume and maybe even boost your GPA!
Many law schools allow students to take three to four weeks off after the fall semester. That means, this is also a great time to put in volunteer hours at a local legal clinic, or your city’s State’s Attorney or Public Defender’s office. (Visit your career services office to see what kind of volunteer opportunities are available in your area.) If you’re currently working as a law clerk at a firm, you can also request more hours so you can really hone your skills—and make a little extra holiday cash to boot.
Some schools, recognizing that students in colder climes like to hightail it to warm, exotic locales, offer study abroad programs that allow students to earn credits while soaking in the sun. The added bonus of these types of programs is that professors are more relaxed and there is generally no grading curve!
If you prefer to travel without the hassle of attending class and studying, you can find great deals on hotels and plane fares at a number of sites dedicated to providing discounts to students. STA Travel, Student Universe, and Travelosophy are good places to begin planning your winter travels.
However you plan to spend your winter break, make sure to make it count!