Now that the bar exam is over, I am officially done with the hazing ritual that began three years ago. And I am bored again (and watching yet another Law & Order episode from probably 5 years ago that, unsurprisingly, follows the gruesome-discovery-to-arrest-to-trial routine, just like every other episode). I know I said I’d stop writing for this blog, but I am bored. And I figured I could at least write down a few thoughts about the bar exam to complete my rite of passage, from pre-law days to post bar exam. Hopefully what I have to write down next will one day prove helpful to future foreign students taking the NY bar, like that prior recorded recollection exception to the hearsay rule–or is the “memory refreshed” exception more applicable? I don’t know, and don’t care any more.
1. NY Essays. I had been dreading the NY essays for the longest time. I didn’t take family law or trust & estates in law school, and NY practice is a whole lot different from FRCP. I did take secured transactions and negotiable instruments, so that helped a lot. But it turns out that although BarBri doesn’t teach you everything that’s going to be on the bar exam (my secured transactions notes from law school span 200 pages; only ~10% of the topics were covered in BarBri), it actually does teach you everything you need to know. It’s just a matter of memorizing a sufficient percentage of the lectures so that you can at least get a substantial percentage of the questions right. The issues are fairly straight forward once you spot them and know the law. Heck, even if you don’t know the law you can make some up, and you will probably get some points too for that too if you are sufficiently close. I skimmed probably 30-40 practice essay questions in the barbri material in the weeks before the exam, and thought the actual questions on the exam were quite similar. The real thing was somewhat easier, although not by a whole lot.
As a side note, I freaking hate having to write those essays in IRAC format. Reminds me of my elementary school diary entries that invariably started with “This morning the sun came out” or something to that effect, followed by “I played with my friends,” and concluded with “It was a very eventful day.” Disgusting, but people do certain things at certain stages of their life, and sometimes you have to do what you have to do, so…
2. NY Multiple Choice. Who cares. I did all the practice questions, scored pretty badly, and wasn’t too concerned. The actual exam questions were very similar to the practice questions too. They test you on a discrete legal issue or a NY special rule that you either know or you don’t. I had quite a few “WTF is that” moments during the real thing, but couldn’t care less.
3. MBE. This is where I find BarBri and PMBR to be a big disappointment. The real MBE is so different! The fact patterns on the real MBE test are actually MUCH shorter than BarBri’s and PMBR’s, and vastly better worded. When I was doing the practice tests I found it hugely frustrating that the BarBri and PMBR (especially PMBR) fact patterns were 1) long 2) often irrelevant, 3) poorly worded, and 4) call for the type of judgment call that is typically left to the jury (e.g., whether D’s action was reasonable, whether P’s injury was foreseeable). On the real exam, the questions are 1) short (most have just one short paragraph, the longest ones tend to be conveyance and mortgage questions, and they take up no more space than necessary) 2) most of the facts are relevant to the ultimate issue (or the decoys) in some way, 3) very well drafted and easy to spot what’s being tested, and 4) except for well-settled precedents (e.g., danger invites rescue, so negligence during rescue is foreseeable), no personal judgment calls are required.
The real MBE, at least to me, seemed also a whole lot easier than the BarBri and PMBR simulated exams. I got close to a 150 on the BarBri one and about a 130 on the PMBR one–probably in the 90th percentile or something–and still felt they were very difficult. I even nearly panicked during the couple of days before hte bar exam and was bracing for a brutal MBE day if the real thing would turn out to be PMBR-like. It turns out to be just the opposite. It’s probably the easiest part of the bar exam, and easier than the so-called BarBri intermediate practice questions.
But this doesn’t mean the practice questions aren’t helpful. They are very helpful in the sense that they do in fact test the very same legal issues that will be tested on the real bar. If I have to do this all over again (let’s hope not), I’d probably still do a lot of those practice questions, but will learn to ignore the annoyance of those elong-and-winding fact patterns, while keeping in mind that the real test will be vastly better drafted and more cleverly crafted.
4. MPT. Everyone seems to agree that it’s easy. It just takes a lot of time to write that thing. Ugh.
So that’s it for now. In other news, I managed to squeeze in three side trips–one to Washington (state), one to Montana/Wyoming, and one to Colorado in the two months between law school graduation and the bar exam. I’ve moved to New Jersey. Ping has started working. And I am now officially a full-time stay-at-home dad, for six weeks.
And I was told today that I officially graduated with a m.c.l. So, like my elementary school diary entries always concluded, it’s been a very eventful day.