Course Selection and Bar Readiness

Christen Morgan, Emory Law 16L

Two years ago, Christen Morgan 16L published a great post with some excellent advice for all law students with regard to bar readiness: Three Things I Would Have Done Differently for Bar Prep at The Girl’s Guide to Law School. Her points are valuable for 1Ls, 2Ls, and other continuing students as you consider your course selections for next year; and for 3Ls and soon-to-graduate LLMs as you continue to increase your “bar readiness” this year and once you start your commercial bar review course for a bar exam this summer.

For more specifics on how you can choose courses to optimize your readiness for success on a bar exam if you will return to law school in the fall, and on how to manage your own bar readiness if you are in your last semester, go to the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success webpage and click on links for Bar Readiness, Choosing Courses, and Practice Areas (for practice-focused academic guidance and information). Some are behind tiles you will see if you scroll down the page a bit.

If you missed our session on Course Selection and Bar Readiness last Monday, 10/12/20, it was recorded and the Zoom link is here: OAESS Session on Course Selection and Bar Readiness.

The Powerpoint from that session is here:

Finally, if you will graduate this academic year and plan to take a bar exam next year, you should make a decision now about which commercial bar review course you will use. If you know for sure which state’s bar exam you plan to take, whether or not you have a job offer yet, sign up for that; if your plans change, most vendors will let you switch states. Ask before you commit. If you are unsure or you are keeping options open depending on employment, consider signing up for a course for a UBE (Uniform Bar Exam) bar jurisdiction. The UBE offers a portable score that is valid in over 30 states now. Again, most bar course vendors will let you switch specific courses among their offerings if your plans change, so ask. In any event, don’t delay your bar readiness plan, which should be in process this whole academic year if it is your last one.

Remember the MPT

Dear bar studiers: some of you will be tempted to do scant preparation for the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”) portion of the bar, because it doesn’t require as much memorization as the MBE and the essays. This is a strategic error that can mean the difference between passing and failing the bar first time. Emory Law students, especially, should be able to do well and gain points on the MPT, because of the strength of our legal writing courses and the fact that so many Emory Law students take Contract Drafting and other similar classes.

Take the time now to get familiar with the MPT and how it works. Look at the past MPT questions used on the bar exam you plan to take, whether the Uniform Bar Exam (“UBE”) or the Georgia Bar, which posts past questions and sample answers, to both essays and the MPT, here. February 2020 questions are here. (The MPT parts will be at the end). Most commercial bar review courses offer the option of taking a practice MPT, submitting it, and getting graded individual feedback. Make sure you take advantage of that in time to get and use the feedback, so you can fine-tune your approach.

Prof. Mary Campbell Gallagher, founder of BarWrite and author of books on passing the bar and of a blog on the same subject, gives a detailed analysis, below, of one of the 2018 MPT questions that proved difficult for many bar-takers, including our graduates. She explains what was needed to score well on that question, and how bar-takers may have fallen short, to their cost; most importantly, she suggests how to do better. Because it’s possible to fail the bar exam by one point, you should make sure you are well prepared to grab every point available to you, and I believe our graduates could pick up more points on the MPT with more strategic preparation.

  1. Practice doing the close reading of MPT instructions Prof. Gallagher describes, using real MPT questions, and practice outlining how you would respond to them.
  2. Write out full practice answers to a few, looking for questions that ask for different types of written work product, and compare them to sample answers.
  3. Remember that your answers on the MPT will be graded on your responsiveness to the instructions regarding the task you are to complete, as well as on the content, organization, and thoroughness of your responses.

You may be asked to produce a memorandum to a supervising attorney, a letter to a client, a persuasive memorandum or brief, a statement of facts, a contract provision, a will, a counseling plan, a proposal for settlement or agreement, a discovery plan, a witness examination plan, or a closing argument. You should know what those look like and how to create them with specific reference to the instructions you are given. There are free MPT questions and point sheets from 2010-2015 available here at the NCBE website (scroll down).

Yes, you must do your very best on the MBE and the essays, and that will require memorizing a lot of material, but don’t leave MPT points on the table. Those points count too! Go get them!

Prof Gallagher’s article and analysis:

Bad News on the First July 2018 MPT Task

Some Tips for The Last Weeks before the October Bar

No matter what state’s bar exam you will take in October, it is essential that you complete as much as possible of your commercial bar review course before then. For example, the average completion percentage of BARBRI’s successful bar-takers last summer, July 2019, was about 82%. We advise trying to do more. We also advise that bar-takers aim at having done a total of about 2000 practice MBE questions by the time you take the real thing (that includes all practice questions you’ve done since beginning your bar study). Use the tools your bar course provides to calculate how much time you need to budget daily to finish your work, including — VERY IMPORTANT! — taking the simulated MBE if you haven’t done that yet. And just as important as taking it, you must assess your own performance on it so you can target any subject areas of weakness between now and October 5.

Here’s the recorded Zoom session with Prof. Rich Freer and BARBRI’s Director of Legal Education, Jonathan Augustin, held on Sept. 23: MBE Strategies.

When you review your simulated MBE score, Profs. Riebe and Schwartz recommend analyzing WHY you got any particular answer wrong so you can plan how to do better. They identify four main categories of error: 1) reading comprehension (RC); 2) missed issue (MI); 3) error of law (EL); 4) applied law incorrectly (A). As you review your test results, jot down those letters by each one you got wrong, and identify which kind of error you make most often, then work on improving that skill.

Emory Law graduates, if you weren’t able to attend last week’s session on how to tackle the Georgia essays, plus other tips on the MPT and what you can do to reach peak bar readiness over the next few weeks, that session was recorded and you will find it on Zoom here: Georgia Bar Essays and Other Tips for Readiness. The Powerpoint used during that session is here: 

If you missed last week’s separate session with Georgia’s Director of Bar Admissions, that was also recorded and the recording is available on Zoom: Information about the October 2020 Georgia Bar Exam.

Check communications from the Georgia bar or your bar jurisdiction as to whether you will now be allowed to use any scratch paper during the MPT, as that was a recent change option, but not all states have changed their restrictions.

If this feels like a heavy lift after the long months of delay, quarantine, rule changes, schedule changes, etc. — it is. But this exam is the last obstacle between you and the license to practice law that you’ve all worked so hard to achieve. You’re almost there! You can do this! We are all cheering you on!

Georgia Bar Publishes Details About October Exam

The Georgia Office of Bar Admissions has updated its FAQ section with more details and specific logistical requirements for the remote October bar exam: here. If you plan to take that exam, please review those very carefully, as a failure to comply strictly with all requirements could result in your being disqualified. You all have waited too long and endured too many changes to have that happen in the home stretch!

As set forth in the new FAQ and in an email you should have received from the Georgia Bar this week, laptop registration is now open. It will close on September 18 at 4 pm, so please don’t leave that until the last moment. There is other paperwork you must complete, so do read their email carefully, it has detailed instructions in addition to the FAQ posted. Both are essential for you to review.

The Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success will host a special review session for Emory’s Georgia bar-takers on September 10 at 4 pm, on Zoom, to discuss how to tackle the open-book Georgia law essay questions. Check your Emory email for details and a link.

Take good care of yourselves, the light is showing at the end of the tunnel. 

Georgia Supreme Court Replaces September Bar Exam With Online Exam in October

student with head down on desk

Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced this afternoon that the Supreme Court of Georgia has canceled the in-person Georgia bar examination scheduled for Sept. 9-10 at the Georgia International Convention Center: https://www.gasupreme.us/online-bar-exam/. Due to public health concerns during this pandemic, and concerns specifically for bar-takers’ safety, an online exam will be administered Oct. 5-6 in its place.

Atlanta, July 20, 2020 – Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced today that the Supreme Court of Georgia has canceled the in-person Georgia bar examination that was scheduled for Sept. 9-10 at the Georgia International Convention Center. Due to public health concerns during the pandemic, an online exam will be administered Oct. 5-6 in its
www.gasupreme.us

It is expected that the October exam will use most of the same materials from NCBE that other jurisdictions will use for online bar exams in October, but with Georgia law essays as usual instead of Multistate Essay Exam questions. All the subjects that were previously identified as eligible for testing are still potential subjects on the October exam, for the MBE, the MPT, and the Georgia law portions. Although the exam will still be given over two full days, the exam itself will be shortened.

If you were previously registered to take the September exam, our information is that the bar plans to roll over your registration, but make sure to follow all official instructions and announcements from the Office of Bar Admissions itself. If you had previously decided to wait until February 2021, but would now like to take it this October in the online format, it is likely you will get a chance to register for October, but that window may be brief, so keep checking the bar admissions website, below.

Details will be forthcoming at www.gabaradmissions.org. If you are already registered, look for further direct communications to you from the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions, which will also post answers to Frequently Asked Questions on that website later this week.

7, 13, or 16 Weeks To Go?

Like so many things this summer, bar readiness is confusing right now. You know it’s essential to plan ahead and stay focused on studying for the bar exam, but how to do that when 1) important public events are deeply disturbing and distracting; and 2) for the first time any of us can remember, there are at least three four different scheduled bar exam dates already; and 3) who knows what more might change? (Just as I published this post, the District of Columbia announced it was canceling its September bar exam date and would give a remote exam in October that would not provide a transferable score).

First, the crucial public events and protests. Many of you may have taken part already, more may take part in coming weeks. Please remember that you are already uniquely equipped to fight for justice, if you’re studying for a bar exam: you have a law degree. Only about .5% of the adult US population has that education. Meaning only about .5% of the adult US population has that kind of power to effect change through our legal system. To wield that power, you have to pass the bar. So your success this summer or fall on the bar exam may be one of the most valuable contributions you can make, long-term.

Second, whether you will take a bar exam in late July, early September, or late September, here are some things to keep in mind, at this point in the summer:

Here again is a recording of the MBE Overview program Professor Rich Freer did for us last year: MBE Overview-Prof. Freer 1-30-19. It’s a good reminder right now, as you continue to work in your commercial bar review courses, of his excellent advice. The MBE Subject Matter Powerpoint shown onscreen in this recording is also available on this blog, under Online Learning Resources (above), with the other MBE Subject Matter outline Powerpoints I created for these faculty-led sessions. They are drawn directly from the MBE Subject Matter Outline document on the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

If you will take a bar in July, you now have seven weeks until the bar exam. It may be helpful to look again at those outlines occasionally, to see how the sub-topics within each major subject on the MBE relate to each other, while you continue to do practice MBE questions regularly in sets to test your knowledge. Don’t freak out if your results look worse when you do “mixed sets” of questions in different subject areas, as opposed to “blocks” of questions in one subject like Torts, or Contracts. That is normal, and part of the learning process! Don’t give up on doing the mixed sets — push through the challenge and keep doing them, knowing that you probably won’t score high for a while. Mixed question sets are a very effective way for most students to learn material, especially for an exam like the MBE where you won’t know what subject a given question is testing until you try to answer it. Doing them over an extended period of time, instead of cramming all the practice in at the end of your bar study, is also an effective learning strategy.

If you will take a bar in September, you have the opportunity to spread out practice questions even more, and use principles of “spaced repetition.” As we said two weeks ago in our first online “Bar Study Hall”, it is critical to be using this time wisely, and you should have in place now a written plan for how your personal study schedule will proceed, all summer. Use the gift of extra weeks to do more practice questions and better self-assessment on all parts of the bar exam: MBE, MPT, and essays.

Forced retrieval”, which is what you are doing when you give yourself practice questions and tests, is a highly effective learning technique. Remember that it’s not the initial results you get that matter, no one else is watching! What matters is the process of making yourself answer questions, over and over, and then reviewing your results to understand what you got wrong and how to answer correctly next time. Active learning, retrieval and practice always win over passive “recognition” (re-reading and re-watching material you’ve seen before, without then testing yourself on it). It is well-established that adult learners learn best when their activities are “meaningful, active, motivating, and significant.” Your effort to pass the bar is meaningful and significant, to yourself and to others. Keep it active and stay motivated!

Third, no one knows for sure what this summer may bring in terms of COVID-19. That’s just the reality of life right now, including for the jurisdictions and public officials who administer bar exams. So while it really is essential to have a written personal study plan and schedule, write it in pencil. You might have to change it because of personal circumstances unique to you, or because the jurisdiction where you plan to take the exam has had to change something. Stay up-to-date on your jurisdiction; the National Conference of Bar Examiners updates its summary of jurisdiction information at least weekly, if not more often.

Finally, keep taking good care of yourself. The ABA has provided some great online resources, including this video/audio recording: “Self-Care and Mindfulness in the Age of COVID-19.” The ABA Law Student Division also has lots of good resources and guidance for tackling the project of studying for the bar exam.

It has been a very challenging spring and this summer promises more challenges. Try to remember how important your ultimate goal is, for you and for others, and keep your eyes on that prize — a license to practice law. Stay safe, and stay well!

Featured image from www.law.com.

Bar Readiness, Remote Version

Welcome back to the Spring semester, Emory Law!  Even though we are not with you physically, we are still available and ready to assist you as you prepare for the bar exam.  Professor Rich Freer has recorded an introductory lecture regarding bar preparation, which you can view here. We have also rescheduled our series of MBE subject matter workshops (see schedule below). At these sessions, Rhani Lott 10L (with input from Dean Brokaw and the Dean’s Teaching Fellows) will walk you through the MBE’s scope of coverage as outlined by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The sessions will be recorded, but we encourage you to take part live so you can ask questions.

Wednesday, April 1: 12:15pm

Wednesday, April 8: 6:30pm

Monday, April 13: 12:15pm

Wednesday, April 15: 6:30pm

We also encourage you to review the information here: Academic Engagement & Student Success: Bar Readiness; and to bookmark and subscribe to this blog, Emory Law Bar Readiness, so that you receive new bar-related blog posts. As always, go directly to the website of the jurisdiction where you plan to take the bar exam for specifics and deadlines. You can find a listing of those websites at www.ncbex.org.

Bar Readiness Update, March 13, 2020

Dear students: the bar information session with Georgia bar officials that was scheduled for Monday, March 16, is cancelled due to university-wide changes because of COVID-19 (more information HERE). We are in the process of revising our planned Spring semester bar readiness programming for delivery online; we will provide details as soon as we can. Please make sure to read the weekly On The Docket, which will resume on Monday, March 16, and all Emory emails.

Meanwhile, if you are graduating in May and plan to take a bar exam in July 2020, you can make great use of this extra week of spring break to get ahead on your individual bar readiness. Please remember that getting or keeping job opportunities in the legal profession depends on your taking and passing the bar exam as soon as possible after graduation, so everything you can do right now to focus on bar readiness, including using the extra week out of class, will directly improve your options and your chances for success.

If you don’t already have a copy of the book “Pass The Bar!“, I highly recommend it. Although it was published before some changes to the MBE, it is still the most useful single-volume guide I have found to supplement your commercial bar review course. It has “action checklists” for different timeframes leading up to the exam itself; Checklists 1 and 2 are now relevant to the July bar. The biggest changes in the MBE, not reflected in the book, are the addition of Civil Procedure to the MBE subjects and the increase in the number of experimental questions to 25. Otherwise, the advice in the book is very sound.

If your commercial bar review course is making “early start” materials available by now, I strongly advise you to work on those during the extra break. If you haven’t yet signed up for a bar review course, you should do that right away, even if you’re not sure what state you’ll work in after you graduate. Most courses will let you switch states if you need to. Remember that more than half of all state jurisdictions now use the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) which gives you a portable score. For details, go to www.ncbex.org, where you can find general and jurisdiction-specific information.

Stay well, and stay tuned for more information about this spring’s bar readiness programming!

Good luck on this week’s bar exam!

If you are taking a February bar exam this week, we are rooting for you! I think our graduates overall could pick up some more points on the MPT, and possibly bridge the difference between passing and failing, so make sure you understand what it will ask you to do, and how it will be graded. If you want to look over examples of past MPTs and sample answers, you will find some here: Georgia Bar Past Questions and Sample Answers.

Make sure you review the rules, procedures and instructions for your jurisdiction’s bar exam. Georgia’s are here: Rules, Procedures and Instructions. Most of all, get a good night’s sleep tonight, stay hydrated, plan ahead for challenges like traffic and weather, and get to the test site early. The less stress you have on bar exam days, the better your chances are. Remember, each question is an opportunity to do well and score points; fight for every point, but forget about each question after you finish, and move on. Remind yourself why you know you can pass this exam! Good luck, wherever you are taking the bar– you can do this!

Keep Track of Upcoming Bar Deadlines

Emory Law Bar Readiness State Bar Georgia

If you plan to take a bar exam in July 2020, make sure you are meeting all deadlines! In Georgia, the last date by which you can apply for character and fitness certification to take the July bar comes up the first week of March. Go here for details: Georgia Bar deadlines and fees. And mark your calendars for the March 16 information session with Georgia’s Director of Bar Admissions and one of the Georgia Board of Bar Examiners, Emory alumna Susan Cahoon 68C. Ms. Cahoon is a university trustee and an equity partner in the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend. She is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, has chaired Kilpatrick Townsend’s Litigation practice group, and is the firm’s General Counsel. She is one of the bar examiners who write and grade the Georgia law essay questions on the bar exam every year, so she has valuable insights into how to succeed on the bar. For time and location details, see the announcement in On The Docket, and flyers on the digital screens in Gambrell.