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Let’s all agree to stipulate that legal ethics are indeed a good thing. You, I and everyone else hope that every lawyer we ever interact with is ethical beyond reproach. But the legal profession has decided that all fledgling lawyers need to prove their ethical worth by taking an examination that proves they are ethical — or at least that they are good at pretending to be. This brings us to the MPRE, that one-time, 50-question, multiple-choice test that makes sure all lawyers-elect have at least a limited grasp of the canons of legal ethics. I could write a commentary about the questionable logic of testing legal ethics in this way, but given that I will soon have an application pending before a certain state bar, I will hold off on this sort of criticism. I wouldn’t want my comments to be misconstrued as indicia of an unethical soul, although according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners I am officially ethical, having passed the November MPRE. Instead I’ll offer some advice about the MPRE. If you’re like me, you now have less than a week left to study, as you’ve procrastinated masterfully up to this point. What do you do? Here are a few helpful tips from someone who is certifiably ethical. DON’T PANIC Save your panic for the bar. It’s less than five months away, and much more worth your time and effort than the MPRE. If you are taking the March MPRE, you made a mistake that I avoided — I took it in November, fully convinced I would fail and have to retake it in March. You can’t do that. I know it’s not nice to put that in the “don’t panic” paragraph, however, so pretend that I didn’t say it. DO STUDY — SOME Do study some, but don’t study a lot. With luck you’ve taken some sort of Legal Ethics course and weren’t playing Free Cell or Minesweeper the entire time. The course content must have sunk in at least a little. You would think that legal ethics would be obvious and intuitive, but this is not always the case. It actually does require some study and preparation. Remember, though: They say you study best by duplicating the conditions of your learning, so don’t forget to take a few minutes out of studying to surf the Internet or play Solitaire, just like the good ol’ days in your Ethics class. PRACTICE PROBLEMS Shockingly, every question on the MPRE does not involve the classic law school hypo about a client running into your office, placing a smoking gun on your desk and confessing to the murder. Due to the relentlessly unbridled creativity of the drafting committee, one time it might be a knife; another time they might put the gun on your chair instead of your desk. The lesson here: The absolute best way you can study for the MPRE is to do practice problems. They can only present legal ethics issues in so many circumstances, and the examiners can and do recycle (or at least use similar problems). I only did two things to study for the MPRE — attended a review course sponsored by a well-known national bar review course whose name rhymes with Par-Pri (see below) and worked problems. Lots of them. The well-known national bar review course whose name rhymes with Par-Pri will provide you with a (too big) outline that includes pages of problems. Do them and read the explanations — something is bound to sink in. As explained below, the scoring system really requires only that something sink in — not a lot. PONY UP Go to the review course sponsored by a well-known national bar review course whose name rhymes with Par-Pri (I suppose there are others as well). They go over the vital info in four hours, and the bulk of your studying is done. You don’t need to get a perfect score on this — no one will ever care. If the passing score is an 85, you want to get an 85. There’s no utility in studying extra hard and getting a 90, a 120, or a 150. I can guarantee you that never in history has anyone said, “Wow! He got a 143 on the MPRE! Make him an offer!” You’ll be much better off if you roll out of bed one morning and go to the review. Take some notes, read them a few times, and you’re on your way. THE SYSTEM Read the little MPRE booklet to acquaint yourself with the scoring system. Most jurisdictions require between a 75 and an 85 (unless you’re in Maryland, Wisconsin or Washington, where you don’t need to take it at all). The way it’s scored: You get a raw score out of 50 (there are 50 questions). Then that score is converted into a scaled score comparing your score to everyone else’s, allowing for differences in tests, etc. That is on a scale of 50 to 150. As you can see, 75 seems to be a pretty low score in the scheme of things. Granted, this is not a statistical analysis (far from it), but reading the booklet assured me of one important fact: Although jurisdictions pay lip service to legal ethics by requiring the MPRE, they set the bar so ridiculously low that everyone can pass without much effort. Good luck becoming ethical in one week, but just remember, the hell that is the bar exam is still five months away. Chris Clayton is a 3L.

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