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You have just about completed your bar review class and you have a precious few weeks to take all your knowledge and figure out how to showcase it for the bar examiners. Your bar review course required you to write practice exams, but now is the time to consolidate your skills. This is the time for you to sprint to the finish line in top form. FIND THE RIGHT STUDY BUDDY FOR THE END RUN I found the preparation during the last few weeks before the bar exam to be the most productive and rewarding of my summer efforts. I worked with my friend Bridgit Lawley. Bridgit and I met during the bar review course and concluded that it would be good to study together in order to avoid the patterns and distractions of working with old friends from law school. We had attended different law schools but I could see that her study habits were compatible with mine. This small team approach kept logistics simple and motivated us to push ourselves. We each brought different strengths and weaknesses to the process. We cheered each other on when energy levels were low. We competed with each other when it was helpful. In sum, we alternately served as student, teacher, and colleague for each other, and the result of this intense collaboration was success on the bar exam first time out. We both teach law now, and I think our bar studies had an influence on our teaching styles. CHART A NARROW COURSE AND STICK TO IT Once the bar review course sessions concluded, we worked out a daily schedule (including weekends) for the two weeks between the end of the class and the bar exam itself. We did 50 multiple-choice questions in a given subject area every morning and reviewed our answers together. We took a lunch break and a walk every day at noon, and every afternoon we outlined three or four essay answers. We stayed right on schedule throughout. VARY YOUR AGENDA We worked separately as well as together. We never met in the evenings. This allowed us to concentrate on individual problems without using each other up. I tended to keep working after dinner, whereas Bridgit did not. Occasionally we invited other people to work with us in the afternoon to vary the routine. We certainly reviewed substantive material as we answered the questions, but we concentrated on organization and communication and labored to avoid getting bogged down in the fine points of the law. Our mantra was “time is precious” and neither of us wanted to waste a nanosecond. Because we were preparing for the California Bar Exam, we also had to deal with the Performance Test. We did not practice performance tests together. They take a great deal of time to write. Reviewing our answers together took forever and it was impossible to keep on track, although it was very entertaining. It was more efficient to work individually on this component of the bar exam, comparing our answers to the model answers provided by the bar review course. Because we were working closely for extended periods of time and were under enormous stress, we tried to be sensitive to each other’s moods and needs. To be perfectly honest, we did not particularly discuss the dynamic of our working relationship — there just was not time. We stayed focused on preparation and worried as little as possible about anything else. CONCENTRATE ON ANALYTICAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS We both preferred the stripped-down approach to essay answers suggested by our bar review instructors rather than the type of answers favored in law school. We were both good writers, so we decided not to write out complete answers — too time consuming. Instead we generated comprehensive outlines for the essay questions, which allowed us to spot issues, refine our rule statements, and inventory relevant facts. This also enabled us to do more questions per session. We included the practice exams that we had done during the bar review course, finding to our amazement that we did not remember as much as we thought! The second time was indeed a charm. WORDS OF WISDOM Here are some tips we found useful for essay exams — both in practice sessions and on the exam itself. � Move from start to finish. When you practice, work each essay question through. Don’t abandon a question because it seems too hard. On the exam, answer the essay questions for each session in order. This is not a good time to juggle. Never abandon an essay in the middle and turn to another question, hoping that inspiration will strike if you take a break. There is too much risk of confusion. � Be boring. This is not the time to be creative. Just produce standard IRAC answers. Incorporate issues in the headings to save time. Take the time to formulate a precise rule statement. Analyze closely, trying to use every relevant fact. Wrap up the issue with a brief, logical conclusion. � Underexplain. Less depth and more breadth are usually keys to success on the bar exam. Skim the surface. Bar examiners are not likely to seek the type of cerebral analysis that may have been effective in law school exams. Manage your time so you can hit every issue that could yield points. � Answer the call of the question. Misreading the question is fatal on both the multiple choice and essay parts of the bar exam. Double check before you write! If the fact pattern includes Able, Baker, Charlie, Dave, and Ellen, but the question only asks about Ellen’s rights against Baker, you will earn no points by discussing the other players. Furthermore, the interrogatories often provide a ready-made organization for your answer. Take advantage of it! � Tighten the rule statement so it fits the facts as closely as possible. The bar examiners want to do more than test general legal principles. The fact patterns often invite discussion of exceptions or defenses. Include these in your rule statements if they are relevant. � Organize, organize, organize. Take the time to outline your answer before you start to write. Devote 15 to 20 minutes to outlining the answer for a one-hour question. Bar exam readers are much more sympathetic if the structure of your answer is readily apparent. They will not bother to guess what you mean or where you are going. � Use the facts but don’t recount them mindlessly. The facts in the hypothetical are chosen for their potential legal significance. Do not introduce your answer by repeating the facts; instead, weave them into your legal analysis. My heart falls when I see an opening paragraph that summarizes the facts without placing them in the context of any legal issues. � Be superficial. Exam readers probably spend about three minutes or less on the average essay answer. They look for the relevant terms of law, doctrinal concepts, and facts, and are not overly fussy about the fine points of your logic. Let the reader know you know the law. � Cut to the chase. Present your answer; don’t narrate it. Phrases such as “and now we must turn to” or “there are any number of justifications for the defendant’s conduct” waste precious time. The bar exam is not an exercise in artful prose. One of my students observed that the best essay answers seemed dangerously close to outlines that had been arranged into text form and enhanced with relevant facts. � Make it easy on the reader. Stick to your outline so your answer follows a plan. Provide a very brief introductory paragraph explaining your overview. Use lots of headings. Number the sections of your answer to correspond to the interrogatories. Underline key words, write on every other line, skip double lines between sections, use an erasable pen to avoid cross-outs, and employ just about any tactic or technique that will help the reader understand your answer. Good luck to everyone! Lois Schwartz is a full-time lecturer at U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and an adjunct professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

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