Sunday, January 6, 2008

An answer to RG's question in the comments to my last post...


I've read all of Fleming's outlines and listened to hundreds of hours of his lectures and I can't say that I've ever heard him recommend a particular writing style except for IRAC (or IAC if you're in a hurry), so I have no opinion about his recommended essay style. And I can't say that I remember if he even recommends a particular style. However, having said that, the basic IRAC format is recommended by everyone in one form or another so his is likely as good as anyone else's.

But if I was to pick a style from the vast number of bar prep programs I would have to pick BarBri's. That's because it's the one that most people take. And if the graders are going to catch some flavor from your writing and make assumptions from it, that's the one you probably want them to taste.

But, as I said to someone else recently, this is from someone who was unsuccessful in his first attempt at the Bar so take it for what it's worth. (;-)>

My own personal weakness, and what I'm working on right now, is condensing my analysis. I seem to be good at the IR&C part, but when I get to the Analysis, I either write way too much, or way too little. And I don't think that adhering to one style or the other is going to solve that problem. It's just something that I'm going to have to work out for myself.

So my advice is really no advice except to pick the one that works for you. If everything was equal then I'd say it doesn't matter as long as you know the material. But if I was forced to choose between your two options, I'd choose BarBri.

As for the MBEs, if you have a set of PMBR or BarBri books, use those for the MBEs. If those aren't in your personal library then I would suggest finding used copies on e-bay or picking up a copy of "Strategies and Tactics for the MBE" by Walton and Emanuel. The S&T book is only about $50 new so that shouldn't be too much of a burden. In fact because Walton and Emanuel's analysis is equally as effective as PMBR's (imho), you can probably pick up a copy of that book, and supplement with a used set of BarBri MBE books, for about as much as someone wants for a set of used PMBR books. I recommend that only because I thought PMBR's fact patterns were too busy (again, imho).

However, asking which MBE resource to use is like asking which oil to use in a new motorcycle. You're going to get many and varied strongly held opinions. Most people will tell you to use the one that fits your learning style the best. The only problem is that you don't know which one that is until you try each.

Most of the challenge associated with recommending an MBE tool is that they all work from the same core set of past released questions. Since the PMBR CF*, the Bar has changed the questions around quite a bit (again, imho). The ones that I remember from the July Bar Exam had a materially different feel (again, imho) than the ones you'll find that are derived from the NCBE released questions; which is everyone, including BarBri and PMBR.

The best way to beat the current MBEs may be simply to know all of the rules and their exceptions cold. I scored exactly on the California average for MBEs in the July exam (128 raw, 145 scaled) and I had been hitting averages in excess of 80% using the above mentioned pre-CF resources.

Again, this advice is from someone who failed the July bar so take it for what it's worth, and your mileage may vary.

(* Cluster Fu--dge) (;-)>


biff said...

I would say for the application of law to the facts, just match the facts to the elements. For example, "Here, Mary experienced emotional distress because she 'cried.'" etc. It's the least likely part to get read, so it doesn't even have to make sense. Just write a few sentences and don't spend too much time.

weezy said...

GP, the analysis is my problem too!!!
I am either too wordy or too conclusory!

My former instructor (also bar grader) gave us an exercise where we read real bar responses and then graded them. All of the answers had IRAC, but the quality of the analysis really determined whether an answer was a 60 vs. 80.

So I too have been focusing on the "analysis" portions. I am experimenting with some new things, and slowly but surely, I am learning why I keep making those mistakes.

If you are interested in exchanging ideas, I can repost or email. I didn't want to make any assumptions and bore you with things you already did.

Anonymous said...

"My own personal weakness, and what I'm working on right now, is condensing my analysis. I seem to be good at the IR&C part, but when I get to the Analysis, I either write way too much, or way too little."

I think the graders really want you to distinguish between major issues and minor issues. The facts should tell you whether they are inviting a major analysis or only a minor, more conclusory analysis (big facts = big analysis).

Good luck!

RG said...

Thank you so much for your post! I really appreciate it....What I was wondering is more about the checklists he gives ( during bar review ) which are the first page of his outlines, typically. He told us to rely on the checklist as a way to organize your essays ( I see simple differences in the barbri outlines, minor things, like Justification, Excuse, and Mitigation are all grouped together, and defenses are discussed at the very end rather than after each offense. )

And differences in the conviser and flemings I am getting confused as to which order of discussion is best to memorize.

I know I totally sound retarded, but there are differences between both outlines ( Barbri and Flemings ) :) And everyone seems to have variations on their checklists, I think that was more of where I was having a little trouble.

Thank you very much for your advice on the essays and MBEs, your MBE score was actually pretty good.....Good luck in February!

Anonymous said...

I so agree re the MBEs...I was lulled into complacency by scoring well on BarBri Qs and even better on "released" Qs...and yet even better on that $26 NCBEX test. So I focused my last couple weeks on reviewing past essays. I managed to pass but I was shocked at how different and how much harder the actual MBEs were on the July 2007 exam.

Anonymous said...

One more thing...the hard MBE Qs in July seemed to fall into two categories. One category was Qs with two very very very close answers. The other category was Qs where I had never seen/learned that aspect of the law or I had forgotten it. So I would suggest knowing as much law as possible (duh, but still). All those tricks BarBri focused on to narrow answers down I found I essentially did not use at all, since they were not applicable or useful. I didn't take PMBR so I can't speak to what that course teaches.

The Grand Poobah said...

Biff: Wow, that dental work must have cost a fortune. (;-)>

Correct, you are. I can do that now but it takes me too long. After all these years, I'm very used to having as much time as I need to compose a thought and then put it into words. I need to turbo-charge this old diesel brain.

Weezy: Check your in-box.

Anon: Like Biff, you are exactly right. And as I condense my writing style I can make those distinctions more obvious. This should help my PTs as well.

RG: Oh yeah, I remember those checklists. They saved my butt on the Baby Bar. I think some subjects favor talking about defenses after each issue, like Torts, and some, like Property, favor clustering the defenses at the end. I bailed on Jeff's checklists when I got the BarBri material because I wanted to focus on one style. And, again, we all know how well that went. (;-)>

Regarding the differences in the outlines, a good friend made his own outlines by referencing two or three commercial outlines and cannibalizing all of their rules to create one that made sense to him. He's done very well with it. But it's too late to do that now. With the time that we have left you should just pick one and run with it. Either will do. And if you sound retarded then you're in good company because you're having the same issues that my buddies and I are.

Anon: Exactly. One of my buddies said I might have been a little over confident about my MBEs going into July. Of course, he says that now! If I had passed he would probably be saying that I was over prepared. (;-)>

But it's all good. Or, it will be come May!

The Grand Poobah said...

Anon: Yep... A very large percentage of the actual MBEs were quite different than anything I had practiced. But then again, there were a few that I recognized. February will be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Since some people asked for suggestions on how to improve analysis, here's some thoughts from someone who passed in July (probaby by only one or two points)

1. Re-state the facts in your own words, it shows you understand the story (but restating the facts word for word before doing it in your own words might be helpful too).

2. If they give you numbers, try to do some basic math function (for example if H and W married in 2000 and separated in 2003, you could observe that they were married for a period of 3 years, from 2000 to 2003).

3. Bring in the "common sense" - non-legal knowledge that one learns just by living. I did this shamelessly on every essay. For example in the above facts you could observe that even though many marriages end in divorce, the marriage in this case was unusually brief (only 3 years), and this tends to show H and W probably did not get along well...which might lead you to another observation about a material issue in the essay. I tried to be like Sherlock Holmes, making observations about everything. Anyone can do it, you are really not being judged on the quality of the analysis, they just want to see a lot of it (more analysis for major issues than minor issues).

4. When in doubt, say more analysis, especially if it's a big issue. I went so overboard explaining and over-explaining everything, it's almost as if I'd be insulting the grader's intelligence if this was a non exam situation. Your target audience is someone with no ability to make leaps of logic on their own, you have to hold their hand and explain every step of your reasoning (saying "because" a lot helps this too).

Hope that helps!

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