Tennessee Cancels July Bar Exam, Keeps Fall 2020 Exam

Confused law student

The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners announced that the Tennessee Supreme Court had issued an order today canceling the July 28 -29, 2020 administration of the Uniform Bar Examination in Tennessee:

Although stringent public health and safety protocols were planned for the administration of the July 2020 examination, the potential benefits of administering the examination do not justify the risk of assembling groups of people in limited space for a multi-day examination, when another examination will be administered in Tennessee in two months.

The Court order cited the recent increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee. Yesterday, Tennessee reported the largest single day increase in new COVID-19 cases. In the last week, all three locations for the July 2020 exam, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville, posted their highest single day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Some of the largest increases statewide have been among people aged 22 – 35, the age group of the majority of those scheduled to take the bar examination. The Nashville mayor announced today a major reversal in the plans to reopen the city.

The Tennessee Supreme Court and the Board of Law Examiners are acutely aware of the toll the ongoing pandemic is taking on bar examination applicants and are committed to administering the Uniform Bar Examination in 2020, while making every effort to minimize the risks associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All applicants for the July 2020 examination who have not been determined ineligible for the examination or who have not already transferred their application to the February 2021 examination should expect to sit for the fall examination in Tennessee, to be conducted September 30 – October 1.

“Applicants to the Tennessee bar are afforded broad permissions to practice pending admission and can begin working immediately upon graduation, drafting documents, meeting with clients, and appearing in court. Applicants can continue to practice even if subsequent examinations are affected by the national healthcare crisis,” said Bill Harbison, President of the Board of Law Examiners.  “We understand that this has been a difficult time for recent law school graduates and the Board is committed to making the Uniform Bar Examination available to all July 2020 applicants before the end of the year, absent any new “safer at home” orders or other significant changes.” A copy of the order can be found here.   Complete COVID-19-related bar examination announcements can be found here.

Guest Post on Bar Exam “Trigger Words”

Dr. Kirsten Schaetzel, a linguist and our Emory Law ESL specialist, has written this excellent advice that will help all bar-takers, not just those for whom English is not a native language. The bar exam will play tricks on you; awareness and practice will help:

“Pay attention to trigger words!

Bar questions, both multiple choice questions and essay questions, often contain words that may seem insignificant, but instead carry much legal meaning and usually have an impact on the answer you choose or the answer you write. We call these words “trigger” words because just like the trigger on a gun, these words have an impact! When you pull the trigger on a gun, a bullet shoots out; when a question contains a trigger word, it has an impact on the way you interpret a situation. Some bar questions may have more than one trigger word.

Trigger words concern time, place, and manner (the way something is done). These usually have a legal impact. Examples of triggers are:

  1. Adverbs, such as immediately, recklessly, accidentally, quickly, severely
  2. Negatives, such as not, does not, did not, and prefixes such as il- (illegal), im- (imperfect), in- (inhospitable), and un- (unconscious)
  3. Descriptive qualifiers, such as a person’s age, any physical limitations, gender, familial or business relationships
  4. Dates, distances, and times (may be clues to causation and statute of limitations)
  5. Place, such as country, state, county, city (may be clues to jurisdiction)

A few examples of trigger words in sample MBE multiple-choice questions are listed below (http://www.ncbex.org ):

  1. The man has “Beware of Dogs” signs clearly posted around a fenced-in yard . . .
  2. The neighbor was attached by one of the dogs and was severely
  3. A major issue is whether the train sounded its whistle before arriving at the crossing.
  4. A daughter was appointed guardian of her elderly father . . .
  5. The sales agreement did not mention the shutters, the buyer did not inquire about them, and the buyer did not conduct a walk-through inspection of the home before the closing.

Notice the underlined “trigger” words and think about the impact they have on meaning.

As you read the prompts for multiple-choice questions and the fact-patterns for bar essay questions, keep your eyes open for trigger words and phrases!”

Thanks, Dr. Schaetzel! I recommend, in this final stretch of bar study, doing as many practice MBE questions as you can and use “active reading” by underlining or circling trigger words and other key words on the questions themselves. This will remind you to notice them on the real bar exam (and you should underline or circle them on the real questions too). Time will be tight — you can streamline your pace of answering questions by practicing now how to focus on the essentials.

Oregon Bar (UBE Jurisdiction) Extends Late Deadline

Congratulations, graduates! If you missed earlier deadlines to register for a July 2019 bar exam, the Oregon State Bar has extended the late filing deadline to May 30 for those interested in sitting for the July 2019 Oregon Bar Exam.  The OSB seeks to ensure that Oregon remains an option for applicants throughout the country, as bar licensing becomes an increasingly cross-jurisdictional decision. For more information, see the OSB Admissions page here: https://www.osbar.org/admissions.

Oregon uses the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) as its bar exam.  Applicants who take the Oregon Bar Exam earn a portable score that is transferable to the other 29+ states/jurisdictions that offer the UBE.  Graduates can find the list of UBE states here: http://www.ncbex.org/exams/ube/.  Remember, it is easier to succeed in a job search if you have taken and passed a bar exam, and the UBE is a great option if you don’t yet know where you will be working.

MBE Overview: Prof. Richard Freer

Emory Law Commencement 2016 led by Professor Richard Freer, by Frank Chen.

If you are a graduating Emory Law student and were unable to attend yesterday’s kick-off of our spring “MBE Overview” series, with Prof. Rich Freer talking about the bar and the MBE in general, and specifically about the topics that can be tested on the MBE under Civil Procedure, we are able to provide the recording several of you requested, thanks to gracious permission of Prof. Freer. The recording can be found HERE. Please note that this is a service provided for the use of Emory Law students and not to be distributed elsewhere.

Keep reading On The Docket and watching the electronic bulletin boards for announcement of future sessions in February and March!

Help for DC Bar Applicants!

If you were planning to take the February bar exam in the District of Columbia, which has been affected by the recent federal government shutdown, other jurisdictions (some UBE, some non-UBE) are offering a window of opportunity for DC bar applicants to register with them instead, and have extended their application deadlines. Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee are among them.

Please check directly with the bar admissions office of any state where you think you might take the bar exam in place of the District of Columbia to determine whether this is an option for you. Some of the registration windows, such as Pennsylvania’s, are time-limited, so check ASAP.

UPDATE: The DC Bar has announced that the DC bar exam will go forward as scheduled in February:

In light of the recent announcement concerning a temporary end to the government shutdown, we’re pleased to report that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has determined that the February 2019 bar exam will be administered in the District of Columbia! Please be advised that the District of Columbia Bar has expressed a commitment to ensure that the February 2019 bar exam goes forward in the event of any future government shutdown beyond February 15, 2019.

We apologize for the added stress and uncertainty that the government shutdown has caused; but we are pleased to be able to process your applications to sit for the February 2019 bar exam, and wish you success on the exam.

We expect that our Office of the Committee on Admissions will be reopened on Monday, January 28, 2019. Any follow-on inquiries can be directed to coa [at] dcappeals [dot] gov.

Happy New Year! Bar Readiness 2019

Welcome back to all Emory Law students, but a special welcome back to you who will be taking a bar exam soon! We have a busy schedule of programs every spring semester to help you get ready to get the most out of the commercial bar review courses you will likely take after graduation, so please look out for announcements in On The Docket and in flyers on the electronic bulletin boards. You can also subscribe to this blog to get an email when there is a new post.

We will kick off our annual spring semester series of in-house “bar readiness” programs in late January, but you should take some steps now, before our first program (which will be on January 28, at lunchtime). That will be a Q&A session with Jennie Geada Fernandez about the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, or MPRE. We will then start a series of “MBE Overview” sessions, led by our own faculty, with Prof. Rich Freer walking you through the topics that can be tested under Civil Procedure, on 1/30, during the community hour. Save the dates! And watch On The Docket for details about location, etc.

1) Inform yourself about the requirements and testing for admission to the bar where you hope to be admitted. Every state has its own bar admissions rules and office, and you MUST comply with that state’s requirements. You can view them in detail at the website for the National Conference of Bar Examiners, www.ncbex.org. We strongly advise you to bookmark that site, as well as the official bar admissions site for your chosen jurisdiction. If there is any contradiction between the information provided, it is the state’s official bar admissions website and rules that will supersede any other guidance, so you need to read those carefully. NCBEX writes and scores tests such as the Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”), the Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”), the Multistate Essay Exam (“MEE”), and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”). The last, the MPRE, is given three times a year, separately from the rest of the “bar exam.” Not all states administer all three standardized tests that are given together (the MBE, the MPT, and the MEE). For instance, the state of Georgia writes and grades its own state-specific essay questions, instead of the MEE. States that DO give all three standardized components are giving a “Uniform Bar Exam”, or UBE. You should educate yourself about that at the NCBEX website.

2) We recommend the book “Pass the Bar!” by Riebe and Schwartz. Although some of its information is out of date, such as the exact coverage and breakdown of the MBE, it remains one of the most useful bar readiness books available, since it includes action checklists and various charts to help you keep track of what you are doing to prepare, in addition to sensible, humane, time-tested advice for success on the bar exam. You can see a copy in the law library if you want to take a look at it before you decide whether to get your own copy.

3) The law school will provide at least two MBE Workshops this spring, at no added cost to you. The first one will be on February 9, from 10 am – 4 pm, and will be given by Kaplan. Watch On The Docket for more details and information about how to sign up. These workshops involve you doing a number of practice MBE questions, and then a professional bar lecturer explaining those questions and answers, and the strategies for doing well on the MBE.

4) If you haven’t yet signed up with a commercial bar review course, you should get that done before the end of this month. We don’t endorse any course over another and we suggest that you use the tools in “Pass the Bar!” to make an individual assessment as to which course is right for you. However, NOT taking a strong commercial bar review course is a known risk factor for failing the bar on the first attempt, and no one wants that to happen to you. Find the course you want, and sign up for it now! Most will offer you some “early start” materials, and working on those between now and May will likely reduce the time pressure and resulting stress you may feel during the intensive bar study period after graduation.

5) Plan a “bar vacation” for AFTER the bar exam! It’s fine to take a short week off after graduation before your commercial course class sessions start, but save the long vacations for August, after you’ve taken the bar. Your fulltime job between graduation and the end of July is to prepare for, take, and pass the bar exam. You’ll enjoy your vacation so much more once that is over!

Again, welcome back, and happy 2019! We look forward to helping you get ready for graduation and the bar exam.

Emory Law Commencement 2016 led by Professor Richard Freer, by Frank Chen.
Commencement 2016; photo by Frank Chen.

Practice Questions and Another Free MBE Diagnostic Assessment

Some of you have let us know that you’d like to try more practice bar questions. Some of the printed materials available for doing practice questions for bar study, in addition to your commercial bar review course, come from www.rigos.net. That company also offers a free, online MBE Assessment, which consists of 30 multiple choice MBE-type questions to be done in 60 minutes.  After you complete the exam and submit your answers, you get a summary of your results for each of the MBE subjects. You also receive a detailed description of answer rationales to the questions. This is a timed assessment, which can help you get an idea of the timing you must master for the MBE.

If you’d like to try it this weekend, go here: Rigos MBE Assessment. Remember, practice makes perfect — or if not perfect, better. Other resources for additional practice on MBE questions are available at www.ncbex.org; the Emory Law library also has copies of two editions of Emanuel’s Strategies and Tactics for the MBE, now most recently in its sixth edition. Each one contains 200 actual, released MBE questions from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the same ones you can buy online from www.ncbex.org.

Remember to do practice essay questions also, and some MPT practice questions. Sometimes student believe (or are told) to focus mostly on the MBE. While the MBE score is essential to bar success, and it takes lots of dedicated effort and time to memorize everything AND get used to answering MBE questions, Emory Law students should be able also to gain needed points on essay and MPT questions, since you get such a thorough grounding in legal writing. Don’t overlook preparation to claim those points too, which can make the difference between passing and failing! Even if you don’t always write out full answers to essay or MPT practice questions, you should practice actively reading them (circling key facts, reviewing the “call” of the question, etc.) and outlining answers in writing. You want those skills to become automatic, which will help you a lot on the bar exam itself. You will find old essay and MPT questions on the websites of the bar admissions office of the state in which you plan to take the bar exam, for example at Georgia Bar Exam Essays and MPT Questions and Answers. Past New York bar questions and answers are here: New York Bar Exam Questions and Answers.

Bar Readiness Starts NOW

This post is meant for those of you who will graduate in the coming academic year (2017-18) and plan to take a bar exam. Many, but not all, of you are 2Ls going into your 3L year; some of you are LLM students.

As I wrote this last week, most of your friends and colleagues in the Class of 2017 were just finishing up their bar exams, finding out whether they were as ready as they had hoped and planned and worked to be. Sooner than you think, that will be you! Now is a great time for you to start thinking ahead to what you can do over the coming academic year to maximize your probability of success when you take a bar exam for the first time.

The book I highly recommend you buy and start reading NOW for overall bar readiness is “Pass The Bar!” by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz. One of its first chapters is a set of “Action Plan Checklists” that begin 6-12 months before your post-graduation commercial bar review course starts. That window of time is now. Since many of you will file “character and fitness” applications to bar authorities this fall (they are due by early December in Georgia for those who will take the Georgia bar in July 2018), this is a great time to start getting familiar with the requirements for the jurisdiction where you will take the bar. More than half of all states now administer the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), but each state still has its own requirements and deadlines. Save yourself some stress and start getting to know them now. You may need to gather your own records to answer the detailed character and fitness questionnaires, so getting an early start on that is also helpful.

We will be doing a series of programs to support and inform you all year as you get closer to the bar exam. The first is usually the annual September visit of the Director of Bar Admissions for Georgia, who will explain the character and fitness process and answer questions in person. In the meantime, I hope you will read through the information here: http://law.emory.edu/academics/academic-engagement/index.html (scroll down to see Bar Readiness).

Enjoy the rest of your summer! We look forward to seeing you back here later this month.

What You Can Do Over Spring Break …

to keep getting ready for the July bar exam. If you have the book “Pass the Bar!”, which I highly recommend, it has action checklists, including one for 4-6 months before your commercial bar review course starts. If you haven’t done the things on that checklist yet, spring break is a good time to catch up! If you haven’t decided where to take the bar, consider taking it in a UBE state, as those scores are portable. Both New York and DC are now UBE states, although Georgia is not. It is most important by now to have signed up for a course and started doing any preliminary work they offer. Most commercial courses will also let you switch between states where they offer a course, so ask about that.

Have a great spring break!

What I Did During Winter Vacation — To Get Ready For the Bar

Dear graduating students: I like the sound of that, don’t you? I hope you are all enjoying a well-earned break and the holidays! One thing you can do over the winter break that will relieve stress for you when you return is to start your personal “bar readiness” planning.
If you haven’t yet signed up for a bar review course, you should do that ASAP. A great guide to choosing which course, and getting ready generally, is “Pass the Bar!”, by Riebe and Schwartz; they have created helpful “action checklists” and the first one is relevant right now, as it suggests actions to take 6-12 months before your commercial bar review course starts. If you are unsure about which state to choose because of job uncertainty and therefore delayed choosing a course and getting ready, I advise choosing a UBE jurisdiction. The Uniform Bar Examination is now required in more than half of all US jurisdictions, including two of our top four job markets, DC and New York, and the score is portable. You can find out more about that and the subjects tested at www.ncbex.org. If you commit to a course soon, you can start using review and practice materials now, before time pressure kicks in. Check with the course provider to make sure you can switch to a different state course if you need to.
If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, Emory Law Bar Readiness, I encourage you to do that now. We will be doing a lot of bar readiness programs for you in the spring semester, including MBE diagnostic exams, MBE Overview sessions, etc. Watch for details here, as well as in On The Docket as soon as you return in January. Please don’t be swayed by lawyer friends who took the bar more than a couple of years ago! Many will tell you that you don’t need to work that hard. The MBE has gotten harder and has added topics since most current lawyers took the bar exam. It has been changed in some ways that I think are unpredictable; the only safe way to give yourself the best chance to pass first time is to over-study and start early.
Enjoy your break — and give yourself a break, by thinking about the bar now instead of later!