Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My Strategy?

It’s fairly simple, as are all good strategies. But first, a little background …

Like most of us who have come this far in the process, I feel fairly comfortable in my writing style. After all, it got me through law school, didn’t it?

For the July ’07 Bar Exam, I thought that all I had to do was to spot the issues, pick out the pertinent facts, do my little, "here, because, therefore" dance, and like the opening scene in the “Get Smart” series, all the doors would open for me and I’d go get sworn in.

And that’s exactly the way things went. Except for the swearing in part.

When I got my answers back from that exam, I realized that I achieved my “Here, Because, Therefore” objective but, in the interest of finishing on time, I left out much of the analysis. The Profs at my school emphasized finding the issues, stating a complete rule, finding all of the pertinent facts, attaching the facts to an element of the rule, concluding, and moving on.

The Bar graders were looking for something exactly the same, but different. (;-)>

Looking at my answers, I found myself writing things like, “The landlord has a duty to provide heat in the winter. Here, Joe-Bob ‘Didn’t repair the heater until June’, therefore he breached his duty.” In my head I was thinking that I had the issue, used the pertinent fact, connected the two, and concluded, therefore I should pass. I was writing a classic “conclusionary” answer. And I almost passed with that style.

For February, I “improved” my style by including more facts and conclusions. As a result, my scores dropped.

So, for July ’08, I'm changing my strategy to include more analysis and less rule statement. I'm not worried about issue spotting because I seem to find enough of those to be able to write a passing answer as long as I write about them correctly. What I am changing is my focus on doing a proper analysis. I'm focusing on writing an expanded IRAC. It’s more like an iRAFc. Instead of writing “Here, Because, Therefore”, I’m practicing “Here, {Fact, Element, And Why,} Therefore. I constant remind myself that a fact, standing alone, doesn’t prove an element.

And because I find myself hurrying through the essays when I’m writing on exam day, I’m practicing my new style by writing exams. I’m not getting as many done as I want, but I have to believe I’m doing enough.

So, that's my new essay "strategy." Exciting, isn't it? Well, it's exciting to me.

As far as the Performance Test goes, I haven’t really developed a new strategy, I’m just trying to become more familiar with the process so I can relax on the exam. My MBE scores have been solid (okay, average) so I'm working on maintaining those by doing some each day.

Finally, I seem to have a problem with managing my nerves in relation to the clock. As soon as the proctor says, “You may begin” I start to stress that I’m running out of time. For this problem I’ve resorted to drugs. I’ve been approved to bring my Morphine/Demerol/Valium IV kit into the exam room. I get to put little red cones around my chair so that no one kicks my plug, so to speak, and rips the line out of my arm. I also get to use a special program that lets me write in colors. I change colors for each subject then use different hues and intensities to show different issues and their relative importance to the conclusion. The system doesn’t make sense to me until I start the drip on my IV. After a few minutes of my Medically Approved, State Bar Sanctioned, Patent Pending chemical supplement, all the colors fall into proper sequence and the words just seem to magically appear on the paper. The Bar also approved my use of a few extra proctors to help me from my chair at the end of each session. It’s all part of the process, baby! No pain, no gain! Well, actually, with my new IV Solution to Bar Exam Anxiety, I really don't have any pain! (;-)> After I pass, I’m going to hire Billy Mayfair to market it on one of those late-night/early-morning infomercials. Yeah… that’s the ticket!*

*PSA (Part of the preceding post was for entertainment purposes only. If you can’t figure out which part that was then you must go have a few beers and try again later. After that, if you still can’t find the non-serious part, you need to get on down to your local Psychiatry-Mart and buy a sense of humor.)


Anonymous said...

GP...quick question....I failed as a first timer in February and LOVE your question is this...I passed the writing portion but BOMBED the MBEs you say that you're average right now...just wondering where that is??? I have 3 more full blown mbe exams set up until the exam day and I did one last week and scored a 122 w/torts being my worst subject...any advice (I promise you wont be putting your license on the line come November :)
-SuperGirl :)

Anonymous said...


Make flashcards for the MBE's for every question you get wrong. Each morning go through those cards and talk them out. Come test time, you'll have hundreds of cards - but you'll have them memorized due to the repetition. Keep going through them. Each.And.Every.Day.

Good luck!

goldenrail said...

Love that you compared your style to the opening scene in Get Smart. That was my favorite show growing up. :)

Anonymous said...

Would you mind giving an example of what you mean by combining the Fact, Element, and Why?

The Grand Poobah said...

SuperGirl: Anon 4:29 is correct. Do that voodoo that he do (or she do) and make 'dem flashcards.

Goldenrail: Yep, it was one of the good ones. I used to watch two episodes of The Flintstones when I got home from school. I can't remember what show came between them, but I do remember that I got to see Fred, Wilma, Pebbles, Barney, Bam-Bam and Betty twice. I'm an honorary Water Buffalo and the Grand Poobah for life!

Anon 9:36: You're the second person to ask that question, so I'll just copy and paste the answer I gave to Stephen. Here go ya':

Regarding my new style, if I had to do that broken heater thing again, I would try to write something like this ...

Since Joe-Bob was the landlord of the building, he had a duty to make sure the premises were maintained in a habitable condition. Further, since the winters in Minnesota get very cold, the lack of a working heater would mean that a resident would have almost no protection against the bitterly cold winter weather. Moreover, since living in an extremely cold environment with minimal protection from the cold weather would likely cause serious illness or even death, the premises were not habitable. Therefore, Joe-Bob, as landlord, is liable for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.

I think the grader would have a hard time giving me a low grade if the entire essay was written like that. I also think that I would never be able to write the essay in one hour if the entire thing was written like that. My challenge now is to write like that quickly, using fewer words. The only way I'm going to get better is to practice the common scenarios like negligence, injunction, defamation, murder, breach, etc., so I can just spew them out during the exam.

The problem with the way I used to write is that there was no analysis, only rules, facts, and conclusions. Let me break down that previous example ...

"The landlord has a duty to provide heat in the winter."

This is true, but it's just an element of a rule and it's worth zero points. Okay, it might be worth a couple of points because it shows I know what I should be writing about. But that's about it. An answer full of these is just an exercise in issue spotting.

"Here, Joe-Bob "Didn't repair the heater until June"

This is a restatement of a fact from the fact-pattern. I'm just telling them what they told me. It takes zero brain power to repeat facts. If I was in a courtroom the judge would say to me "Yes? And? What? Why is that a bad thing?"

"Therefore he breached his duty."

This is a conclusion. I didn't explain what his duty was. I didn't show how he breached his duty. I didn't show a causal connection between the breach and the damage which, in this case, is that the lack of heat causes the sickness and/or death. Zero analysis means very few points. I'm living proof.

So, in a nutshell, that's it. That's what I'm working on. I'm practicing cramming ten pounds of analysis into a five pound bag, or answer, or ... whatever. I'm sure you get the picture.

Anonymous said...

I would also suggest in writing your answers that you include a healthy dose of "A will argue this, and B will argue that" type of presentation. It shows the examiner that you see both sides to the issue and that you are weighing each party's position. It also helps set up a conclusion based on the strength or lack thereof of the various arguments each party might bring to court.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the last post, you need to argue what both parties will argue based on the facts. I mentioned that in a post after the July bar on here and then again after february. It is how my wife and I passed the bar the first time without knowing every single law and every single set of elements for each law. The facts give away the arguments for both sides and while stating a general rule at first and then a conclusion of some sort at the end is fine, your entire middle should not just be a restatement of the facts with the rule, but rather arguments that both sides will make to win the case, and crafty arguments at that, which will seperate you from the general 55-60 point answer. There is a big difference and I guarantee you will pass and not stress with the essays on the exam doing that style.

Also, as I said before, you are smart enough to not outline for very long, especially on the performance. Trust yourself that you can find what you need in the set of facts for an essay or the case packet for the performance, and just start writing right away.

Your dedication to this process is admirable and I wish you all the best in a couple weeks.

Anonymous said...


Wake up -- do 50 questions. (should take you between 1-1.5 hours). then grade and make notecards on the wrong ones. Next, review the ALL the wrong ones every day. This should take 1.5 hours too.

I would start at 9 and do MBE prep until noon. Take a one hour break. From 1-3, i would hit the outlines (usually review three a day). Then from 3-5 outline essays for those subjects. From 5-6 I would write out 1 full essay.

Take a break from 6-7. From 7-9,i would hit two of my tough subjects (Civ pro & comm prop for me). review the outline for a half hour and just issue spot barbri answered essays for those subjects for an 1.5 hours. I would rotate tough subjects with easier ones too, by focussing on obscure topics like 8th amendment etc.

i know it gets discouraging and tough to stay focussed. but, with three weeks left, now is the playoffs.

good luck.

Anonymous said...

GP--I have to say your new and improved example of the property essay is way better. I think you're on the right track to acing those essays! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you!


Anonymous said...

GP, it seems to me that you're trying to guess the style of essay answers the bar examiners are looking for, when actually there shouldn't be any guesswork involved. The bar examiners publish the past essay questions with 2 sample answers per question here.

Just practice doing the actual questions and then compare your results against the sample answers. You'll learn very quickly how to tailor what you know to the style they're looking for.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a style issue. I think GP finally "gets" it and is now doing actual analysis, which is great.

Anonymous said...

With less than a month left, I went to UCLA's law school bookstore and purchased Tim Tyler's Guide to Nailing the Performance test. It's a thin, easy to read, spiral bound blue book that you can keep open right along with practicing your PTs. It's not too late.

The first time I BOMBED the 55 and 50. This time I passed. I sincerely believe it was his method. IT WORKS! (I already gave mine to a friend, but it's not expensive and worth it!)

Anonymous said...

GP: I am a skeptic by nature, but I think you absolutely have the analysis down. You know what to do, so practice it enough to make it second nature. That was good analysis.

And remember this yen that bar candidates have for arguing the other side: That is great, but make sure there is an actual dispute as to a particular element.

I think you have it now. The analysis was REALLY GOOD.

The Grand Poobah said...

A couple of quick responses....

Re: my "average" MBE scores; the CA avg for the MBEs in July '07 was 128 raw, my score was 128 raw. I neglected the MBEs in Feb and my score dropped by 5 to 123.

I agree about arguing both sides when there are two sides to an argument.

I suppose I am trying to guess the style they're looking for, but I think the released answers aren't the best tool for that.

I picked up Tyler's PT book a couple of weeks ago. But thanks for the tip anyway. I'm sure it will help someone who didn't know about it.

And in case I left the impression that I haven't been including analysis like my "new style" in my writing up to this point; I have, but only when I think I have more than 60 minutes to complete my answer.

I can do a great analysis when I have all day. I just struggle when I'm on a time budget. My "new style" is a type of shorthand that I must practice so that it's second nature when the pressure's on. Otherwise I will ramble on forever, then get real conclusionary when I realize what I'm doing.

Jonathan L. Kramer, Esq. said...


I'm glad that Brian/GP has figured out that writing for the examiners is better than writing for yourself. It took me, ah, more tries than Brian to figure it out, but when I did...and I let myself go to do it...I passed the hazing.

Read the released exams. Model your answers on the style and content. If you read years of released tests, as I did, you'll see the patterns marking successful answers pop right out at you.

Hang in there, SuperGirl, and use your superpowers to stick-the-landing.

Jonathan Kramer

Anonymous said...

Much thanks GP and Jonathan :) It's time to really start memorizing now for those essays...I passed the essay portion part last time it was the MBEs for me so now I have spent the past five weeks just doing MBEs and still reviewing the other subjects. OVer it already I just have to stick it out now and memorize memorize memorize for those essays and I will have friday, saturday and sunday before just to look over essays and issue spot....I'm just going to keep praying WE CAN DO THIS!!!!!!!!!!

-Super Girl

P.S. On a happier note I took another full blown MBE exam on saturday and GP you will be happy to know that I scored a 134!!!! I couldn't believe it either...I'll be doing another one this weekend as well :)

The Grand Poobah said...

SuperGirl: That's eeeexcellent! Some of the practice MBE exams can be very difficult. A 134 raw would have scaled to a 149 on the Feb '08 exam. That's well above the average MBE score for CA, which typically has the highest average MBE scores of all the states.

Great work!

Anonymous said...

We can do this GP just hang in there and if there's anything I can help w/as far as essays go please don't hesitate to ask...I have great one pagers/grocery lists for each subject that I spent memorizing the last time around for two weeks right before the exam and I felt MORE than prepared so in case you want to see them please don't hesistate to ask....again just to let you know I failed two of the essays (50s) including the torts one which I can't believe but I passed the essay portion because I received two 75s on the I can't stress enough the importance of a PT I only missed it by 54's ours this July :) I just know it so anyways I should get back to trusts (even though it's not going to be on there) but please let me know if I can help :) You have no idea how much you've helped me this time's been your words of wisdom/kindness that helped me pick up those stupid outlines again so THANKS!!!!
-Super Girl

Blawgin' said...

Just wanted to say that I'm sending you good thoughts daily, as well as checking your blog for updates!

Hope you're hanging in there!

The Grand Poobah said...

Hey, Blawgin'! How's life on the sunny side of the bar exam? There's a big low pressure area movin' in on this side. It smells like a big storm's comin' ...... (;-)>

Thanks for checkin' in. Appreciate the good thoughts, I do!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous here. Just checking in to see if you can hear the crowd starting the thunderous applause for your walk towards the room where you will pass the bar exam.


Go get em. If Karma means anything, you are set.

Anonymous said...

yes, we are stompin our feet, turning on the Rocky music, GP... kick the Bar's butt, GP.!

Anonymous said...

Dear Poobah:

I have followed your blog since my failure in July of '07. I was among the lucky passers this past February but wanted to pass along the good karma and prayers. You have the law and techniques down. Now, don't allow your emotional self to destroy all of that good preparation. Godspeed, my dear.