Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 2009 New York Bar Exam EssayTested Subjects

Today, the July 2009 New York Bar Exam Tested essay subjects were:

Question 1: Agency and Contract

Question 2: Domestic Relations

Question3: Criminal and UCC 3

Question 4: Tort and Conflict

Question 5: Wills and Trust

Please see barprofessors.com for more information.

July 2009 California Bar Exam Tested Subjects – Essays and Performance Test

Today, July 2009 California Bar Exam's Tested Subjects were:

Essay Exam 1: Torts and Civil Procedure

Essay Exam 2: Professional Responsibility

Essay Exam 3: California Evidence

Performance Test: Motion and Demurrer

BarProfessors.com is coming to California for February 2010. E-mail us at pass@barprofessors.com

July 2009 Florida Bar Exam Tested Subjects

Today, the July 2009 Florida bar exam essays tested were:

Contracts/Professional Responsibilities

Family Law

RealProperty/Professional Responsibilities

The July 2009 Florida Bar Exam Multiple Choice Questions tested were:

Criminal and Civil Procedure


Business Entities

Please see BarProfessors.com

Today is The Bar Exam and You Will Began the Rest of Your Life

Today is the bar exam. Relax, be confident and do your thng. You have studied hard for this day and you'll will perform to the best of your ability. Tonight, go back to your home or to your hotel and rest. Don't do anymore studying for the MBE. Eat, watch a little television and then go to sleep. You will be so tired, you will be asleep before your head hits your pillow. But it will be a well earned rest. Good luck to everyone. Keep believing in yourself. This is the first day of your life as an attorney.

Monday, July 27, 2009

1 Day Until the Bar: Relax and Be Confident

You are almost to the finish line. Get ready today by relaxing and being confident in your abilities. You have been preparing for your chance to be a lawyer for 3 years or more. You can do this. Go ahead on Tuesday and kick butt!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Schwarzenegger: Overlook Glitch, Let Paralyzed Grad Take California Bar Exam

I saw this at CNN today. Yet another example of bureaucratic nonsense.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Saturday called on the state bar to overlook a technical error and allow a paralyzed law school graduate to take the bar exam next week.

“It is outrageous that someone who has overcome so much in life is penalized by a bureaucratic error that prevents her from taking the bar exam next week,” the governor said in a statement.

“Government should work for the people, not against them, and I’m calling on the state bar to allow Sara Granda to take next week’s test. Sara is a fighter, and I am with her all the way.”

The state bar’s Web site never processed Granda’s application for Tuesday’s test because California’s Department of Rehabilitation paid her $600 fee with a check, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Web site requires a credit card number, but Granda said she was assured by a state bar representative that she was properly registered with the check, the newspaper reported.

Granda, 29, a University of California-Davis Law School graduate, has petitioned the California Supreme Court to allow her to take Tuesday’s test.

She said she was “surprised” to hear about Schwarzenegger’s statement in her defense.

“I’m not used to a lot of attention,” she told CNN television affiliate KCRA. She said she went to the governor’s office last week, “but they wouldn’t let me in.”

“So I knew there was no way that the governor was going to get involved,” she said.

Granda was paralyzed from the neck down after a car accident in 1997, when she was 17. The accident happened a month before she was to attend California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, on a full scholarship, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Granda, who has been studying 11 hours a day for the bar exam with the help of assistants, said she wants the state of California to resolve the matter because it spent about $100,000 for her education.

“I worked very, very hard for every cent,” she told KCRA. “So for everything to come together in the end and for it to just kind of fall through on such a minor, minor detail.”

2 Days Until the Bar Exam: Good Luck to All

For those taking the bar exam, good luck to all of you and remember the lessons I gave you in this blog. Come in with a plan, remember your goals and you will be calling yourself an attorney in a few months.

Be confident in your abilities. You have studied hard these past couple of months, you have practiced endlessly, and you know what you need to do. Don’t psych yourself out. You can do this and will do it. Keep your focus and you will do well.

A special shout out to my students. Good luck people – now you know why I was so hard on you and you know that the “Parson Group” believes in you.

Good Luck to all.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

3 days Until the Bar Exam: Find the Exam Zone

Being in the Moment

No matter how hard you’ve studied and how many practice exams you’ve taken, once you get to the bar exam, you will do well.
Everything you’ve been doing during your bar review has prepared you for this moment. And, if you’ve prepared properly, you will know what to do once you get started.

Allocating Your Time

Using the exact time you were told to begin the exam, set your timetable and write down the starting and ending times for each question.

You have to complete between 16 and 17 questions in a 30 minute period, averaging 33-34 questions every hour to complete the 100 questions in a three hour period; set your clock on the half hour with appropriate milestones.

If You Get Stuck on an MBE Question

Make your best choice, but circle the question and if you have time at the end of the exam, you can go back to it.
With only 1.8 minutes per question, there’s only so much time to allow for doubt. There will be questions you just don’t know. Don’t squander precious time that could be spent on questions you can answer.

If You Get Stuck on an Essay Question

Write the issue, whether or not you know the rule at this point. Formulating the issue will get your points from the grader even if you blank out on the rule. Rely on your knowledge of general legal principles and standards to guide you, even if you don’t know each and every element of the rule.

Be confident in your abilities to have prepared as best you could for the exam.

Friday, July 24, 2009

4 Days to the Bar Exam: Coach, Let Me In the Game

Take Monday off so you can rest and be alert during the exam. Keep the final day low key and try not to think about the exam. If you are staying at a hotel, get to your hotel early, check in and relax. Keep your anxiety under control and you’ll be fine.

The Night Before the Exam

The night before the exam is the one time you may want to read a little material or study because you probably will have trouble sleeping on Monday night. Try reading a bar outline or your one pagers. If you can’t fall asleep, just lie there. Don’t try to do extra studying, just rest. If you can’t fall asleep, don’t get out of bed, pace, watch television or do anything to keep your mind active. You want to keep your mind at rest, even if your body can’t rest.

The Exam is Now

Make sure you have a positive outlook. You’ve done hundreds of practice questions by now. You can do this

Food and Drinks

The night before the exam, eat something that gives you some strength but nothing that you know can make you feel sick. You know your own body, so play it smart. Avoid anything that makes you feel queasy.

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and for those in California, Thursday, eat a solid breakfast that will get your mind working, but don’t eat so much it makes you sleepy. Don’t drink too much that it causes frequent restroom visits.

Also important is your lunch. Once again, avoid heavy foods that will make you sleepy. Avoid food that makes you sleepy. Again, limit your drinks to avoid frequent restroom breaks.

Leave your cellphone at the hotel or in the car. Do not bring it in to the site. You can be kicked out of the bar if your phone rings. If your cellphone rings, you will be back in the same place, taking the bar again in 6 months if you get kicked out of the bar.

During Your Breaks

Do not talk to anyone about the exam during your breaks. Inevitably someone will want to talk about the bar and inevitably that person put down something different from what you did. Do not second guess yourself by rehashing the exam.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 days until the bar exam: Powering Down This Weekend

Like most law students, you’re probably conditioned to study hard even the day before the exam. In fact, you may think it’s wise to study right up to the last minute. With the bar exam, that’s a serious mistake. This isn’t a two or three hour exam. The test’s duration is nearly eight hours, including your lunch break.

One of the most important factors in your performance is going to be your endurance. You need to remain focused and energized throughout the bar exam and this is difficult. Most students find themselves hitting a brick wall somewhere during the exam day. There are some ways to try and minimize this detrimental impact.

First, you need to catch up on your rest and start powering down on your studying.

This weekend try to have a “normal” couple of days. Put in study time, but also sleep, rest, watch tv, go out to dinner and relax. Do your sleeping this weekend. Why? Because you probably will not be able to sleep soundly on Monday night. Tuesday night you will sleep like a rock because you will be exhausted from a good day of focusing. Sleeping longer on the weekend prior to the exam will enable you to get rest and not be too groggy on Tuesday.

Second, eat well this weekend since you probably have had a lot of fast food these past 6 weeks. You may not be able to eat much on Monday if your nerves start showing. Do not drink any alcohol. You do not want that in your system. Obviously, no drugs are needed now or any other time. Try not to eat rich food or foods you know have adverse effects on your stomach. Monday, eat solid but light foods to keep you alert. Just think boring foods because you stomach may be upset due to nerves. Try to relax a bit because you have done your preparation and now its time to get in the game.

Tomorrow, we will talk about Monday and the exam days.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

6 Days Until the Bar Exam: Blueprint for the Taking the California Performance Test

I’ve had a number of questions about the California performance tests. Here is an Outline for taking the California PT and the MPT.

1. Review the Instructions

a. Skim the paragraphs to check the requirements. There is an instruction sheet on the back of every MPT. Read it during your preparation so as not to waste precious time on the exam.
b. Verify the jurisdiction paragraph to know what is mandatory as opposed to what is merely persuasive authority. You must know the court structure before you read the cases so you can determine what is mandatory and what is merely persuasive authority.

2. Scan the Table of Contents

a. Identify the general area of law. From the listings in the Library, you can often determine the general subject area and use it to inform the rest of your reading. Don’t freak out if the subject area is unfamiliar to you. You’ll be given all the relevant law you need to solve the problem.
b. Determine whether it’s a statutory or common law problem

3. Read the Task Memo Carefully and Completely

a. Identify the issue you’re asked to resolve. Are there sub-issues? The Task Memo reveals the precise issue you’re asked to resolve. Read these paragraphs two or three times to be certain you have identified the issue. It’s usually in the last 2 paragraphs of the memo. Write the issue on your scratch paper so that you remain focused as you proceed. Be careful not to change or vary the language of the question.
b. Read the directions carefully. You may be asked to identify additional facts. Also, note any exclusions.
c. Identify your specific assignment by noting the precise nature of the task: memo, persuasive brief, client letter, contract provision, etc. Identify your point of view – whether it’s objective or persuasive. This will inform the nature of your reading because you’ll read the materials with a critical eye.
d. Identify your audience – is it a lawyer or layperson?
e. Note any exclusions. Sometimes you are told not to consider a specific issue. Your job is not to discuss it.

4. Review the Instruction Memo

a. The bar examiners include this memo if they think you need guidance in completing the assigned task.
b. Note for a particular format or structure required for your answer. The memo provides guidelines for opinion letters, persuasive briefs, memos, etc. telling you exactly what to include and sometimes what not to include.
c. If a brief is required, make sure you need to include a statement of facts, a jurisdictional statement or persuasive subject headings. The Instruction Memo will advise whether your persuasive brief requires a statement of facts or not. A persuasive brief might require a factual statement while a trial brief might not.
d. Are there specific examples/models to follow.

5. Read the Library

a. Although the first part of the exam booklet is the File, you’re going to begin with the Library. Reading the law first informs your subsequent reading of the File. If you read the File first, with its various excerpts from depositions, client communications and attorney notes, it would be very difficult to sift the relevant from the irrelevant information. It would not be possible to know which fact were “relevant” until you knew the law and how the cases in your jurisdictions have interpreted that law. While reading the Library first does not guarantee you won’t have to review it again, it will make your subsequent reading of the File meaningful and immediately productive.
b. Read the cases first. Often, they will explain the statutes that are also in your file, thus saving some time.
c. For each case read the earliest case first and proceed chronologically; verify the jurisdiction to determine whether it is mandatory or persuasive authority for your problem; skim the facts to get a sense of story; identify the statement of the rule including determining if it is element-based or if you need to synthesize the rule from the cases or if it is a multi-part test formulated by the court; note any footnotes.
d. Adapt the rule in the cases to form your outline. Use the elements, the prongs of a rule or the components of a statute to form the roman numerals of your outline. A general outline is then in place as you read the rest of the Library. Add to and refine your understanding of the rule as well as add any exceptions or limitations to the rule as you read the other materials in the Library.
e. Be sure to leave adequate space under each section of your outline so you can add the appropriate facts when you read the File.

6. Read the File

a. After reading the Library and outlining the rule, you’re ready to read the File and add the relevant facts to the appropriate places in your outline. Use your outline of the issues and rules to keep focused.
b. Write your issue above your rule outline. By reading the File with the issue clearly in place, you can more easily identify the legally relevant facts from the sea of material in front of you. As you proceed, add the critical facts to the appropriate part of your outline.
c. Characterize the legal relationship of the parties
d. Identify the relevant facts based on your knowledge of the law from the library.
e. Add these facts to the appropriate sections of your rule outline.

7. Begin to Write Your Answer

a. Review the Task memo and make sure your outline incorporated or accounted for each required issue; note the relevant facts; cite applicable legal authority; account for how the law and facts support your theory; and if appropriate, cite contrary authority and distinguish it.
b. Review the Instruction Memo quickly to verify your task format and its required components

8. Write the Required Response

a. After completing your reading of the Library and File, you’re ready to begin the task of writing. Your job is to discuss the issues and the controlling rule of law. Here is where you get your points. Don’t waste time by reciting the facts or providing needless background information.
b. Answer the question that was asked of you
c. Adopt the tone and format required for the task
d. Write persuasive subject headings including stating the legal conclusion you want the court to reach and the factual basis on which it can do so; write each point heading as a conclusory statement combining the law with the relevant facts; and write in a coherent, logical and persuasive thesis sentence.
e. Gove adequate treatment to the cases in the Library.
f. Avoid copying passages from cases or statutes.
g. Make the relevant arguments on how the law and the facts support your theory
h. Make sure the contrary authority has been cited and distinguished.
i. Cite to the appropriate authorities for statements of the rule.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

1 Week Until the Bar Exam: Stay the Course

Your goal for this last week is to stay the course while you solidify your knowledge of the black letter law and improve your timing. The week before the exam is a time when you should stay the course personally and professionally.

Take care of your body and mind. This means eating well, getting some sleep and working on self-confidence.

As to practical things, make sure you have confirmed your hotel reservation, that you have packed what you need to take with you, including your admission ticket, your identification, your watch, etc.

Whatever it is you’ve been doing the past couple of weeks, keep it up. Stick with what you know, confirm you knowledge and reinstall your confidence in the material.

As to the bar exam itself, make sure you have taken at least one or two simulated exams.

• Make sure your timing was within range for the MBE, MPT and the essay questions.
• Make sure your scores are within range to pass

Your focus is critical.

Monday, July 20, 2009

MBE Question Worksheet for the Bar Exam

As you practice your approach to the MBE, you might want to use this MBE Question Worksheet to track your reasoning process until it becomes second nature.

1) What is the Subject Area?

2) What is Happening?

3) Isolate the Legally Relevant Facts

4) Steps of Analysis:

a. What is the Legal Issue?
b. What Rule of Law Addresses this Issue?
c. What Should be the Outcome?

5) Identify the Issue in Each Answer Choice:

a. What is the Issue in Answer Choice A?
b. What is the Issue in Answer Choice B?
c. What is the Issue in Answer Choice C?
d. What is the Issue in Answer Choice D?

6) What Answer Choice Best Corresponds to My Answer?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Analyzing the Answer Choices of the Multistate Questions for the Bar Exam

Watch out for “Because,” “If,” and “unless”

a) Working with because

On the MBE, because is the predominant modifier and the simplest to master. Because statements are relatively straightforward. Simply ensure that the reasoning supports the conclusion both on a factual and legal basis. If either is incorrect, then the entire answer choice is incorrect and can be eliminated.

b) Working with if

Unlike because, when if is the answer choice modifier, you need determine only whether the reasoning could support the conclusion. It need not always be true, but only possible under the facts in the hypothetical. Be alert to possible if synonyms: as long as, and so long as.

c) Working with unless

In its own way, unless is as restrictive as because. For an unless answer choice to be correct, it must present the only circumstance under which the conclusion cannot happen. If you can conceive of even one other way the result could occur, then the answer choice cannot be correct.

4) If You Must Guess, Do So With a Strategy

a) Eliminate all the obviously incorrect answer choices

Usually you can safely eliminate one or even two responses as incorrect. Now that you’ve narrowed the field a bit, even if it’s a little bit, you’re ready to make the most of some informed guesses.

b) Dismiss answer choices that address other principles or unrelated rules of law

c) Be wary of words which speak in absolutes

Assuming that the issue is disguised, then you still need to distinguish between answer choices. In this case, carefully consider statements that include such words as always, never and must. No doubt you’ve learned as a first year law student that there are few if any certainties in the law. For practically every rule, there is an exception, if not two or three.

d) Finally, move on

With only 1.8 minutes per question, there’s only so much time to allow for doubt. No matter how well you’ve prepared, there are bound to be questions that present difficulty.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Analyzing the Answer Choices of the Multistate Questions for the Bar Exam

It is important to recognize that analysis of the answer choices deserves as much of your time and attention as the fact pattern or story. Perhaps, this analysis deserves more.

1) Identify the Issue in Each Answer Choice

Not only is there an “issue” in the fact pattern, but there is an “issue” in each answer choice. It’s more of a legal theory that’s operating in each of the answer choices and unless you figure out the individual theories, you won’t be able to distinguish between the answer choices. Only the issue that addresses and answers the one presented in the fact pattern can be the correct answer choice.

Use “the Process of Elimination”

Sometimes, despite all you best efforts to work through a question according the your process, you may find that the only way to arrive at an answer choice is through the process of elimination. In these cases, you’ll have to examine each of the answer choices and eliminate those that can’t possibly be correct.
When can’t an answer choice be correct?

a) When it’s Not Completely Correct

The first rule for eliminating incorrect answer choices is that an answer choice must be entirely correct or it is wrong.

b) When It Misstates or Misapplies a Rule of Law

You need to know the law to distinguish between answer choices that misstate or misapply the law.

c) When the Answer Choice Mischaracterizes the Facts

Look for contradictions between the facts in the story and the facts as characterized in the answer choice. Such an answer choice cannot be correct. Nor can an answer choice that requires you to make assumptions that go beyond the facts in the fact pattern. While it’s often necessary to make reasonable inferences, you should never have to add facts to arrive at the correct answer choice. If the bar examiners want you to consider additional or different facts, they will provide them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to Analyze Multistate Questions for the Bar Exam

Now that you know how to read multistate questions, let’s talk about analyzing MBE questions and coming to the correct answer.

Perhaps because of the stringent time constraints on the MBE, the tendency to panic is greatest on this section of the bar exam. When you panic, you’re no longer in control. When you give up control, you’re at the mercy of the answer choices. They, then pick you, instead of the other way around. Instead of panicking, have a plan. This way, you’re going to act in response to the question presented and not react to the answer choices. How do you act and not react to the answer choices?

Very simply, you have an answer in mind before you even look at the answer choices.
There are 4 basic steps for answering an MBE question. You should follow this sequence for every question you practice and on bar exam day. After a bit of practice, the process will become second nature to you, although initially it will seem difficult.

1. Read from the bottom up

Begin each MBE question by reading the question stem. It helps to identify the area of law. Often, you can determine the subject area of the problem from the call of the question. Then you can use this information to inform your subsequent reading of the fact pattern.

It often identifies the point of view you must adopt to answer the question. For example, if you’re asked to determine a party’s most likely claim or best defense, then you’ll want to read the fact pattern with an emphasis on the party’s point of view.

2. Find the issue in the facts

After reading the interrogatory, you’re ready to read the fact pattern and find the issue. Your ability to identify the main issue in each question is crucial to selecting the correct answer choice.

3. Move from the issue to the rule to articulation of the answer

After you’ve identified the issue raised in the facts, determine the appropriate rule of law, apply the rule to the facts, and reach a conclusion. All without so much as a peek at the answer choices.

4. Look at the choices from answer to answer

After you’ve decided what the answer should be, you’re ready to look at the answer choices. Don’t expect the bar examiners to phrase the answer in precisely the words you’re looking for – these words won’t be there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2 Weeks to the Bar Exam: Practice Makes a Passing Score

You have 2 weeks until the bar examination. Instead of spending the day getting nervous about the time, concentrate on what you have left to do.
By this time, you should have pretty much memorized as much black letter law as you can cram into your brain. It is now time to put away the books and stop studying the law.

What you now need to do in these final 2 weeks to prepare yourself for the bar exam is to practice, practice, practice and do more practice tests. You want to become some familiar with your state test and the MBE that you can almost do it in your sleep.

Try to do an essay or two every day, testing yourself on a variety of subjects that you know your state tests. Do the essays under test conditions. If your state is Florida, do a series of 1 hour essays, including subjects like property, torts, constitutional law, family law, trusts and the other subjects Florida likes to test. If you are from a state that does 30 minute tests, do 3 or 4 a day. Once you finish your essay under time constraints, an equal amount of time reading your essay and comparing it to the model answer. Read for comprehension, also. There might be a point of law that you did not know that you can learn from reading the model answer.

For those states like California who have performance tests, you also must include taking the time to do the performance test also. In California, your performance tests take 3 hours, so your practice sessions will be much time intensive. Try doing 1 performance test every other day. This way you can probably get 7 or 8 performance tests in practice prior to the bar exam. On the days you do not do a performance test, practice your essays.

In between the essays and performance tests, you also need to prepare for the Multistate. Try to get in at least 50-100 MBE questions per day, if you can. This way you can really be sharp when exam time comes.

Don’t take the time to panic, but do take the time to practice. You will be more prepared than you think possible if you follow this schedule.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How to Read Multistate Questions for the Bar Exam

I will concentrate on the Multistate for a few days since everyone must go through the process and with the weight of the test on your overall grade.

Reading a Question

Because of time constraints, you will have time for only one reading of the fact pattern. However, don’t make the mistake of sacrificing a careful reading for a quick one. Do not read the fact pattern as a novel. As you know, one of the major changes of the multistate is that there will be one fact pattern for one question.

You must read carefully and actively to spot signal words and legally significant facts. Pay attention to the bar examiners’ particular use of language and look for the following as you read:

1) Relationships between parties that signal the area of law and legal duties: landlord/tenant, employer/employee, principal/agent, buyer/seller;

2) Amounts of money, dates quantities and ages;

3) Words such as “oral” and “written,” “reasonable” and “unreasonable,” among others;

4) Words that indicate the actor’s state of mind. These are crucial for Criminal Law and Tort questions. Look for such language as:

• Intended
• Decided
• Mistakenly thought
• Deliberately
• Reasonably believed

Since you may write in the test booklet, circle or highlight these words and others which “legally” characterize the behavior of the actors.

Never Assume Facts

The bar examiners carefully construct MBE questions to contain all the facts you need to answer the question. You must rely solely on these facts and no others, to answer the question. Of course you may draw reasonable inferences from the facts but you cannot fabricate your own or create “what if” scenarios.

Don’t go off on tangents based on possible theories you see raised in the facts. Sometimes when you read a fact pattern, you’ll see the potential for a number of possible causes of action. In such instances, you must refrain from anticipating what the bar examiners will ask by moving forward on your own and formulating responses based on what you think might be asked. This is one of the reasons you have to read the call of the question before you read the fact pattern – to keep from going astray. This is just as dangerous as misreading or adding facts.

Stick to the Law

You must apply the rule of law to the facts without hesitation or equivocation. You cannot get emotionally involved with the parties or substitute your instincts for what you know is legally correct. Don’t think someone is guilty when the call of the question say he is not. That is not what the question is asking you.

Do not consider what you think would happen if you were in actual practice. This isn’t real, this is the bar exam. The bar exam is no time to worry about the great divide between theory and practice – simply apply the rule of law as you’ve learned it to answer the questions and you’ll do fine.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Bar Exam Writing Process: Make It Automatic

As you practice your bar exam question, you want to make the writing process as automatic as possible so you can go into overdrive while you write your answer. Here is a suggested list that you might want to try as you continue to practice your essays.

Once you read the fact pattern, you will organize your essay, then you must analyze.
This is where you make the outline looking for issues. Look back to the fact pattern for facts which should be used for applying the law and then you can apply the facts to the law.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Finding Debt a Bigger Hurdle Than Bar Exam

I saw this in the New York Times last week. I could not believe the arrogance of the judges for refusing the applicant’s admission. How else do they think he’ll be able to pay off his incredible $400,000 student loans? They have admitted applicants who have committed criminal behavior in their background. Is debt worse than committing crimes? Or do they think he will succumb to pressure to steal his client's money in order to pay his overwhelming debt?

But more importantly, for us, is the fact that the applicant passed the bar after his 4th attempt. If you have failed the bar, know that you can pass the bar as long as you don’t give up.

Finding Debt a Bigger Hurder Than Bar Exam

By Jonathan D. Glater

All his life, Robert Bowman wanted to be a lawyer. He overcame a troubled childhood, a tragic accident that nearly cost him a leg and a debilitating Jet Ski collision.

He put himself through community college, worked and borrowed heavily to help pay for college, graduate school and even law school. He took the New York bar examination not once, not twice, not three times, but four, passing it last year. Finally, he seemed to be on his way.

In January, the committee of New York lawyers that reviews applications for admission to the bar interviewed Mr. Bowman, studied his history and the debt he had amassed, and called his persistence remarkable. It recommended his approval.

But a group of five state appellate judges decided this spring that his student loans were too big and his efforts to repay them too meager for him to be a lawyer.

“Applicant has not made any substantial payments on the loans,” the judges wrote in a terse decision and an unusual rejection of the committee’s recommendation. “Applicant has not presently established the character and general fitness requisite for an attorney and counselor-at-law.”

Mr. Bowman, 47, appears to have crossed some unspoken line with his $400,000 in student debt and penalties, accumulated over many years.

New York’s courts have overlooked misconduct like lawyers’ solicitation of minors for sex, efforts to deceive judges and possession of cocaine. Those instances have led merely to temporary suspensions from practice.

“It usually takes a pretty significant record of some underlying misconduct to keep you out permanently,” said Deborah L. Rhode, a law professor at Stanford who has studied bar admissions across the states. Excluding someone for having too much debt was odd, she said; the hard questions about loans usually involve applicants who have used bankruptcy to try to escape loans, she said, and Mr. Bowman has not.

Mr. Bowman concedes that he has never made a payment on his loans, partly because of medical and other deferrals and problems with his lender. But he says he intends to make good, adding that his only hope is to begin practicing law — which means overturning the judges’ decision.

While thousands of indebted students have complained about their treatment by lenders, Mr. Bowman has documented his personal debt crisis with remarkable, obsessive intensity.

He claims Sallie Mae overcharged him, imposing hefty and unjustified fees; did not allow him to defer payments when he was entitled to do so and improperly accounted for periods when he did defer.

According to his detailed records, a Sallie Mae representative even threatened him. “If you default, your license will be taken from you,” the representative said. “Do you understand that?”

When Mr. Bowman said that he did not yet have a law license, the representative responded that the company would prevent him from getting one.

Martha Holler, a Sallie Mae spokeswoman, said that such threats would violate the company’s rules.

“The size of this account is extremely unusual, but not surprising given that the customer took out 32 loans to pursue undergraduate, law and masters of law studies and has not made a single monthly payment over his 26-year student loan history,” Ms. Holler said. “We are performing an extensive review of his extraordinary case, and if we identify any errors we will quickly rectify them.”

Mr. Bowman has not had an easy time of it. He was shuffled through foster care and various legal proceedings as a child. He was impressed by the lawyers who represented his interests and saw a possible life’s work.

Getting a college degree took 10 years because he had spent nearly six in rehabilitation, relearning how to walk after an all-terrain vehicle hit him while he was stopped on his motorcycle. The accident nearly cost him his left leg; he graduated from the State University of New York in Albany in 1995.

He enrolled at the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco in 2000.

After his third year, he began a masters of law program in London, where he lived with a girlfriend. He graduated in December 2004 with about $230,000 in student loan debt, and she helped support him while he studied, and studied again and again, for the bar exam.

In 2007, Mr. Bowman asked for an accounting of his loans, the payment deferrals he had used and his repayment options. He said he did not receive that information for nearly two years — a point disputed by Sallie Mae, which said it tried to reach Mr. Bowman several times in 2007.

Mr. Bowman passed the New York bar in February 2008. Soon after, while living with his once-estranged mother in Miramar, Fla., he was swimming at a beach when a Jet Ski lost control and slammed into him, breaking his good leg in four places.

“My luck on these things,” Mr. Bowman said. “So I contacted Sallie Mae and I’m like, I need a medical deferment and advice. Their response is, none available.”

Sallie Mae transferred Mr. Bowman’s private student loans, the ones not guaranteed by the federal government, to a collection agency, which tacked on a 25 percent fee. That agency transferred the loan again, and he said the next collection agency tacked on another 25 percent fee. Sallie Mae denied this, saying he was charged the fee only once. But suddenly, Mr. Bowman found that he owed more than $400,000.

Knowing it would be difficult to explain his debt to New York’s Committee on Character and Fitness, which reviews applications for admission to the bar, Mr. Bowman gathered correspondence with Sallie Mae, loan statements, even the emergency room report on the Jet Ski incident.

The three lawyers who interviewed him in Albany in January found Mr. Bowman’s “determination to pursue a postsecondary education remarkable,” according to the written evaluation. As for the loans, they continued, “it appears unconscionable that a student loan indebtedness could go from $270,000 to $435,000 in four years.”

Two of the committee members did not return calls seeking comment; the third could not be reached.

In April the judges rejected the committee’s recommendation and ruled Mr. Bowman could not be a lawyer. Michael J. Novack, the clerk of the court that handled Mr. Bowman’s application, declined to comment specifically on his case.

“Generally speaking, if the committee on character and fitness recommends admission of an applicant, the court approves of it,” Mr. Novack said. “But not always.”

Along with asking the court to reverse its decision, Mr. Bowman has consulted lawyers and is preparing a lawsuit against Sallie Mae. One way or another, he vows, he will make the switch from client to lawyer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

3 Weeks to the Bar Exam: The End Game

3 weeks to the bar exam is a good time to evaluate how you are doing. You have enough time to now pinpoint your weak areas and enough time to change your schedule if you feel you’re spinning your wheels. Consider this day your line in the sand.


By now you should have done several hundred multistate questions, at least 10 state essays and at least 5 performance tests.

If you haven’t done it, get busy. Change your schedule if you need to, work on your weak areas and keep testing.

Make sure you are absolutely on exam time. If you are like some of my students who study all night, stop it today. Get up at 6 am or 7 am and start studying at 9 am until 12 pm, with no breaks, then study from 1 pm to 4 pm, with no breaks. Then go do your exercise, take a nap, eat, relax and, if you think you need it, do a more relaxed evening session.


Don’t pretend you’re not nervous. We know you are, so just accept it. Accept that it’s okay to be nervous. Channel that nervous energy properly by attacking your study schedule and transform it into confidence.

One of the most important things to do during this 3 week period is not to doubt your abilities. You can pass this bar and you know it.

Take Time Off

You have been studying hard for the last month. Now that it’s almost end game, you can take a few hours off. As I said above, if you feel good about your knowledge, take the evenings off. Don’t goof off, but you will start to wind down the studying in anticipation of resting and having enough brain power left for the bar exam. You do not want to be overly tired for the bar exam. This is the time to take an occasional few hours off.

Keep those Distracting People Away

In prior blogs, I’ve talked about those districting people in your personal life, but I have one more. I have found that there are a group of toxic law students in every law school that try to distract their fellow law students that have been studying hard. Those toxic law students haven’t studied as hard as you have and they’re going to be a detriment to you. They’re going to be freaking out and if you listen to them panicking and re-analyzing rules you already have mastered, they’re going to make your question your own confidence and freak you out too. Those are the benign ones, but others are more lethal. There was one student in my school last year who tried to get people to ditch their work to go play golf with him. Then on the day of the exam, he was walking around asking about the elements of negligence, or some other such nonsense. Of course, he failed the bar exam and apparently wanted others to fail with him. Stay away from those people.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Controlling Your Jitters on Bar Exam Day: How Not to Panic

A question I am asked is what to do if you mind draws a blank as you open the test book on bar exam day. I have seen my own share of interesting happenings in bar exam land and heard stories from colleagues regarding the bar exam test day. You too will have your own stories to swap with your fellow lawyers. Even when you are old and gray, you will remember the guy who threw up near you and nobody even looked up, or, in my case, the power failure (in my day we didn’t take the bar exam in windowless warehouses) and, of course, like a good bar taker, I didn’t even stop when the lights went out. I’ve been in a bar exam when 5 minutes in, people start to return their test materials and walk out. You do not want to be the one who throws up or runs out because you are in a panic.

That is why having a plan with enough time to put your plan in practice will help you turn on your auto pilot and get down to work before you wonder what the heck you got yourself into.

For the next 3 weeks start to envision yourself in the bar exam testing area, working and answering the bar exam. Since it is your own vision, you know you are going to be a star, correctly answering every question.

As the proctors yell out, the words “begin” or “time”, take a deep breath, exhale and break the seal. You want to regain your sense of control and composure immediately.

Then follow your method:

Review the question

Start with what you know; identify the area of law again and see if it provides insight.

Focus on the basics. See if you can provide definitions. Remember, rules are just definitions. The next step is to see if you can build on these definitions to write a paragraph of law.

Finally, call on the resources you developed in law school. Lawyers act; they do not react. Think deliberately and respond accordingly. Reread the interrogatory and begin again.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The 4th of July Weekend: Incorporating Your Family and Loved Ones in Studying for the Bar Exam

Those that really love you want to see you pass the bar. Know that with certainty. Those who are pulling and picking at you, saying you don’t have to study that long or want you to go to the clubs and party are not your true friends and do not want you to be successful. Hopefully, you have ejected them from your life for these 2 months that you are studying.

Sometimes those loved ones see you study and see your struggle and wish they could help you, but don’t know how. Bar applicants who have children find it hard to be both a parent and have a full time study plan. Don’t ignore them. Try to incorporate them into your “experience”.

I’ve known students who bring their mom to the test site. What mom does is to make sure their kid has food during the breaks, go over study material or just give their kid a shoulder to rely on during this trying event.

During this 4th of July weekend, look at those that are supporting you in ways you may not even realize. Maybe your mom makes you breakfast every morning before you leave for your bar course. Maybe your spouse is doing the heavy lifting as you study. Almost 3 weeks before the bar, let them know you appreciate their support, even if they are just getting out of your way during this stressful period.
If you have family that would like to attend a cookout this weekend, go and take a few hours off to relax your mind and have quality time with those that love you. At this point in your studies, you deserve an afternoon off. Go see the fireworks. Take the time off with no guilt attached.

For those who still want to study and for other times beyond this weekend, have your family help you. They will be glad to help and they will be proud of the little part they played in your success. Give your family members or your children one of your study books and have them test you. This is particularly good for the elements of a cause of action. By now you should be close to having them mostly memorized, but especially with those subjects that are difficult for you, have your family help you recite those causes of action. See if you can make a game out of it, with your children or family members each calling out an element of a cause of action.
You may be surprised on game day when you are calling up the exceptions to the hearsay rule and you remember the face of your loved ones yelling it out to you.

Have a wonderful 4th of July. If you worked hard, you deserve it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Answering the Multistate or Multiple Choice Questions on the Bar Exam

Today we will talk about how you answer the Multistate and State Multiple Choice questions. The procedure is the same, whether you are answering the multistate or if your state requires you to answer state multiple choice questions, like Florida.

1) Read the Call of the Question Critically

Reading the call of the question will determine what legal inferences you see, and what subject you are in. What does the call of the question ask for?

2) Skim the Answer Choices for the sub-topic of the subject

Look at the answer choices quickly and find out what sub-topic it is discussing. For example, if it’s a constitutional question, are the answer choices about procedural due process?

3) Read the Fact Pattern in a Directed Fashion

What words of legal significance do you see? What important facts do you see?

4) Eliminate Wrong Answer Choices

Look through the answer choices again and identify the issue. You can usually get eliminate one or two wrong answer choices based on the issue right away.

5) Apply the Elements of the Law to Pick the Right Answer

Once you have identified the sub-topic the fact pattern is discussing, remember the elements of the law. For example, if it’s a procedural due process issue, remember that the elements of procedural due process – is there a governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property? If no, there is no violation of due process. If yes, apply the balancing test of interest to see if the petitioner is entitled to notice or a hearing or both.

You are in the process of memorizing these elements of law so that you can do this analysis on the multistate or multiple choice examinations.

6) Reread the Call of the Question to Pick the Right Answer Choice

Prior to you picking the right answer, reread the call of the question quickly to make sure you have the right answer in sight.

7) Don’t Look Back

It is very common for bartakers to let a difficult question haunt them throughout the exam. Often, your first instinct is right and you’ve picked out the right answer. If you have confidence, you won’t let doubt get you. Even if you picked the wrong answer, there are still 199 more questions to go. Forget about it and move on. You do not want to mess up the next questions because you are still thinking about the one you let slip away.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Approaching the California Performance Test and the Multistate Performance Test

In order to put a successful answer together for the California Performance Test and the Multistate Performance test, you must outline your approach.

1. Have a Plan

Have a plan so you can save time and prevent panic. If you know what you are going to do and practice the routine, it becomes second nature to you by test day. #5 below is a good plan you can implement.

2. Practice from Actual PTs

Since the PT tests your ability to extract legal principles from cases and statutes and apply these principles to solve a specific client problem, you will need to practice this skill. Work from past PT questions and use the grading guidelines to evaluate your answers. Review sample PT answers.

3. Allocate Your Time

You must complete the assignment to maximize your points. The bar examiners suggest that you allot 45 minutes to reading the materials and 45 minutes to organizing and writing your response, if the MPT is 90 minutes. In California, allot 90 minutes to reading the materials and 90 minutes to organizing and writing your response.

4. Find Your Baseline

You have no idea how long it will take you to answer a PT until you’ve already done one. After you’ve read one or two PTS to see what they’re like, start practicing writing PTs. First, note how long it takes to read and outline the answer. This is your baseline reading time. Second, proceed to write the response. Once again, time yourself. This is your baseline writing time. Don’t be surprised if it takes longer than the suggested time to get through the materials. Keep practicing and work on writing the assignment within the time period.

5. Follow the Blueprint

Practice this approach until it becomes automatic. Follow each step of the sequence for each PT you take.

a. Skim the Instructions
b. Review the Table of Contents
c. Read the Task Memo
d. Review the Instruction Memo
e. Read the Library and use the rule from the cases to form your outline
f. Read the File and add the relevant facts to your outline
g. Re-read the Task Memo to verify the task
h. Review the Instruction Memo to verify the task formal
i. Write your Response