Bar Prep Advice: It’s Okay to Hate Bar Prep

One thing you may not know about me is that I am a huge fan of sports – all sports – from the mainstream to the obscure, I really enjoy the thrill of both competing personally and watching others in their athletic pursuits. As you also may or may not know, I’m in the midst of recovering from a pretty horrific mountain bike accident that I experienced during my race training in October 2019, and, have recently had multiple surgeries to put ol’ Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Today, I was thinking about how far I have to go on my comeback trail, and wondering if I’m ever going to be able to race again. I was thinking about the state championships I won previously, how out of shape I am now in comparison, and just dreading the idea of getting my arm out of this sling and beginning the dreaded process of training. I was full of self-doubt, anxiety, and concerns that I’ll never be successful again in the future, but I was also filled with the overwhelming thought of how much I hate training. I wondered if it is even possible for me to ever be successful on the trails again, and that also makes the idea of training even more difficult. This is not to mention that I am also worried about my skills deteriorating, and whether I will ever feel confident and capable enough to ride again.

Why am I telling you all of this personal information? How does this relate to you and your bar motivation? Like me, you may be feeling discouraged, and the thought of another day, week, or even month of bar prep may seem overwhelming and daunting. You may be exhausted, and saying to yourself each day, “I HATE BAR PREP!” You may wonder if you can pull this off, and your dread of the day to day may really be weighing you down.

I’m here to tell you that it is okay to hate bar prep, and that liking bar prep isn’t a prerequisite to being successful. Rather, it is what you do after you make that statement that matters.

In fact, it is the next step that I took today that I want to highlight, and I encourage you to do the same thing whenever you are faltering. I pulled this quote out from Muhammad Ali, who once said, “I hate every minute of training. But I said, don’t quit. Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.” 

I felt my anxiety drop today about my recovery when I read that quote because I then remembered that it is okay to hate training. Training isn’t the goal, it’s just a necessary part of the journey. Success in daily pursuing your goals, working hard to give yourself a fighting chance, and knowing that you did everything possible to win – all of these things require that training must be endured. Nothing says that you have to like it or that you can’t get tired of it, but rather what matters is perseverance. Reading that quote reminded me that I’m going to be tired and frustrated, that I am not always going to enjoy the process, but the process is important if I want to be successful and ever have the opportunity to achieve my goals and realize my dreams. I also remembered that there is a reason I mountain bike, I love a lot of things about it beyond racing, and recognized that I am getting too caught up in thinking about a binary event that is taking away from my focus on my daily recovery. I need to live in the present and focus now, versus being worried about the future.

This mentality applies directly toward bar preparation. Although there are undoubtedly aspects of the law that you will enjoy during the process, other aspects will feel like a grind and you will struggle at times to force yourself through your daily activities. Every video that you watch takes effort, every multiple-choice question that you carefully review and study will require concentration, and each essay will engage your mental faculties in ways that can leave you exhausted. Like me, you may find your tasks daunting, and you may hate the thought of another day of studying. In essence, you may find yourself like Ali hating every minute of training and preparation. You may worry so much about the future exam that you fail to recognize the leaps and bounds in learning that you are achieving each and every day.

I encourage you to keep Muhammad Ali’s words in mind and realize that this is all okay. Your feelings about your day-to-day activities, your short-term stumbles, and your mental fatigue may all lead to you hating your own bar exam “training.” These thoughts are normal for everyone, and even the greatest of champions feels this way, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to feel any differently.

However, remember what he said, “…don’t quit. Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.” Put your hard work in now, study outlines, practice, write and review essays, and do everything in your power to be successful no matter how hard it is each day. Work hard, and pass the bar exam. Train now, to later become a bar pass champion. Focus on what you need to be successful each day and accomplish your tasks for that day, and whether you find yourself hating bar prep or not, you will assuredly find yourself on the road to improvement and eventual success.

Work hard. Train hard. Be a champion like Ali. You can do this. You will never look back and regret trying your best, but if you do not put forth your best, you will live your life with regret.

Learn Hearsay the Easy Way: 7 Simple Steps

Introduction

When it comes to the bar exam, one of the areas that students struggle with the most is evidence, and within that topic the biggest struggle seems to occur in the world of hearsay. This article will teach you how to take hearsay from an area of concern into an area you look forward to, by providing guidance on how to handle this area of the black letter law (for purposes of this writing, all references refer to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (‘FRCP’)).

At first glance, hearsay can be overwhelming. After all, when it comes to the topic of hearsay, there are seemingly an endless array of definitions, exemptions (referred to as exclusions in FRCP 801), exceptions, and possibilities for potential questions and answers. However, I’m here to tell you today that hearsay is actually not that complicated, and as long as you follow these seven simple steps you will be able to do well when it comes to hearsay on the bar exam.

1. You must know the terminology. 

Quite simply, you have to know what a statement is, who falls under the definition of a declarant, the definition of hearsay, and always be on the lookout for whether the statement is being made in court or was made out of court. This is the foundation of everything, and if you consistently overlook the basics, you will struggle, guaranteed. You must memorize these definitions verbatim and always be aware of who the declarant is and where the referenced statement took place.

2. You must understand hearsay and the rationale behind its potential exclusion.

What is hearsay? Broadly speaking, hearsay is an out of court statement offered for the truth of the matter asserted. As such, it is generally inadmissible unless an exception or an exemption applies.

You have to know that definition, but you also must understand why hearsay is potentially problematic in court. Imagine how unreliable the judicial process would become if anyone could come into a court and claim that they heard someone say something without proffering proof. What if someone misremembers? What if someone intentionally lies? This is the whole point of the rule against hearsay, in that the law strives to prevent unreliable or unprovable out of court statements from being used as evidence in court.

The best way I have found to teach students this rationale is to have them take on the mindset of a party in a trial. Imagine how it would feel to have hearsay be used as evidence against you without limit. Anyone could walk in and say whatever they wanted, claiming to have heard you say something or claiming to have said something, and offer it as truth of the matter asserted against you. The courts would potentially be filled with make-believe lawsuits, prosecutors would be able to get convictions based on the flimsiest of basis, and our judicial system would fall into turmoil. No one would be safe! You can also flip this around and place yourself in the mindset of the prosecutor or plaintiff, and just imagine what things could come into court that would prevent any successful court appearance because the defendant would be able to bring any number of people in to refute most evidence.

All of that said, you must also understand that despite this underlying rationale regarding hearsay, there is a competing rationale to allow credible evidence into court. This is the basis for the exemptions and exceptions to the rule against hearsay, where courts have more than just a statement to rely upon, and instead can somewhat lean on the surrounding circumstances that make the statement more likely to be reliable. And, this leads us to step #3.

3. You must think about the circumstances surrounding the potential hearsay. 

Do these circumstances in the fact pattern tend to lend credibility to the statement or make it more reliable? If so, it makes it much more likely to come in under an exception or an exemption. Alternatively, if the circumstances seem to indicate no increase in credibility, or seem to add nothing to giving a sense that the statement is more reliable, your odds of such a statement being admitted decrease. This can serve as an early warning radar to help point you in the right direction when it comes to selecting the proper answer.

4. You must divide and conquer.

One of the issues that I consistently see students struggling with is keeping track of the relatively long list of exemptions and exceptions when it comes to determining whether or not a statement is hearsay, whether it falls under an exemption, or whether an exception is required.

However, I’m here to tell you that there is a relatively easy way to handle this with relatively little additional effort on your party. All you need to do is divide hearsay into three categories, and you will soon be able to confidently handle this material. The first thing you do is take three separate papers (or pages in your document, but I recommend separate papers) and create broad overview sheets. Label them as Hearsay Exemptions (things that would be hearsay but-for (as mentioned previously, sometimes referred to sometimes as exclusions), Hearsay Exceptions: Declarant Unavailable, and Hearsay Exceptions: Declarant May or May Not Be Available.

After you make these headings, the next step is to fill in under each heading the full list of what falls under each. The idea is that you create a very basic, one to two-line indicator of what falls under each heading (labeled a., b., c. or 1, 2, 3). After you finish this task, I recommend that you then count everything that falls under each specific heading, and place the total number applicable in parentheses next to each heading. Next, I suggest that you color code each of three three categories and each indicator. Example: Hearsay Exemptions (8).

5. You must take the time to learn and memorize!

Now that you have your lists made, the next step is to work on learning and memorization. This is one of those areas of that law for the bar exam where memorization is especially important, so you want to proceed with a plan. First, take each of your headings and short indicators from your overview sheet and expound upon them in a different document or on a different page.  (You’ll want to keep your initial list relatively clear for memorization of what is under each category). Specifically, you want to go beyond the topical nomenclature and dive into the exact elements of these exemptions and exceptions. I highly recommend that you separate your work into three separate sections, piles, or documents (depending on your strategy and preferred methodology). Color code each page and part of your list according to the broad overview heading that it falls under (this will help you keep track of what you are working on and learning, making it easier to apply and retain). It is very important to memorize each and every element of each exemption and exception, as most bar exam questions come down to a missing element being the difference between an answer that is right and one that is wrong.

Now, you are set to begin the next aspect of learning through memorization, which occurs through repetition and review. Although normally trying to learn hearsay can feel overwhelming, now that you have divided it into categories you will find that you are able to concentrate on one of the three specific areas, boosted by the knowledge of how many exemptions or rules should fall under each heading, and with the color code assisting you as a reminder. You can also make your own mnemonics (make them personal to better remember). Additionally, you should either bring with you or make copies of your initial overview list, and you should review them on a regular basis. This will help you learn the law, create a manageable approach to this important topic, and help you also to keep track of which things should be under each category heading. Put some time into this, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you develop this knowledge.

Bonus tip for flashcard lovers: Although I seldom recommend bar students reinvent the wheel outside of their commercial courses, this is one area where I do highly recommend making your own flashcards. It’s a relatively small amount of flashcards, and if you ensure that you keep the heading, full exemption or exception (broken down into all elements), and color code this side of the flashcard, you’ll find that this builds nicely on the above.

6. You must make examples and engage with practice questions.

There are three final tasks in terms of becoming strong in this area of the law, assuming you have engaged in everything I have suggested. The first is to personally create one or two examples under each exemption or exception that will help you learn and understand the material. Next, whenever you are engaging in practice questions (which you should be doing regularly and with purpose), make note under your own examples of examples you see in questions to build your pattern recognition and cognitive abilities to increase awareness of pitfalls and red herrings. The last must-do is that whenever you stumble with a question, you must then engage directly with your created hearsay review materials to increase your memorization and understanding (for example, if you missed an element, work on memorization for that exception or exemption).

7. You must continuously review on a weekly basis.

You should never be “done” when it comes to studying for the bar exam, and hearsay is no exception. After you find that you have mastered the materials, make sure that you schedule at least a 2-3 times short review of the materials that you have created and continue to work on some practice questions. This will ensure long-term retention and increase your ability to find the correct answer.

Conclusion

If you do everything that I’ve written here, you will be able to confidently approach and get correct multiple-choice hearsay questions, while also improving any relevant essays that you may encounter on the bar exam. Your confidence, performance, and knowledge will grow rapidly, and you absolutely will improve your performance in this area. Try these techniques, and I am certain that you will see rapid improvement after you put in the time and work following the steps put forth here. Good luck, and I encourage you to reach out to me and let me know about your improvements and success!

Failed the Bar Exam? Don’t Worry. It’s Going to Be Okay.

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” 

~Winston Churchill

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and John F. Kennedy, Jr., all have something in common – they failed the bar exam. The fact of the matter is, no matter how smart you are, how hard you study, or what great things you are destined for, sometimes you fail the bar exam. Sometimes, in fact, you’ll fail it more than once.

The important thing to remember is that this is not the end. Just as success on the bar exam would not be your final step on the path towards being a practicing attorney, failure is not the end nor is it fatal to your chances of becoming a lawyer. Instead, failure on the exam is a momentary setback, but it does not have to, and should not, end your journey. You can, regardless of anything that has happened before this moment, pass the bar exam in the future and fulfill your dream of being a licensed, practicing attorney.

But, let’s take a moment and be realistic. If you are reading this right now, the odds are that you do not feel very good about yourself or your odds for future success. You are disappointed, upset, possibly questioning your life decisions, your study habits, your intellectual abilities, and may also perhaps be facing a whole host of other overwhelming doubts and fears that have been lurking in the dark recesses of your mind as you awaited your results. The notification from your respective board of examiners that you failed the bar exam hurts. It makes you feel like you let yourself down, like you disappointed friends, family members, employers, and all kinds of other people that you felt had some type of investment in your success. Right now, you are likely in a dark place, and it may feel hopeless. You may feel like your dreams are dashed, all hope is lost, and that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This is natural. This is okay.

However, as I referenced above, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, the good news is that you aren’t at the end of the tunnel at all. As a specific reference, I’ll tell you about one of the numerous times that I was on the subway in NYC and we came to a halt between station stops. The power then shut off on the train. Darkness was all around us, it felt like I couldn’t breathe, and whether it was seconds or minutes (or once it actually lasted an hour), it felt like time had ceased moving and I was going to be trapped in that moment of darkness forever. 

Guess what though? The train got moving again, and although I was delayed and felt powerless when that subway car was sitting in that dark tunnel, everything worked out and I got to my destination. The same is going to be true for you. You are going to escape this time of self-doubt, anxiety, and worry, and you will be successful on the bar exam. Sometimes a journey does not go exactly as planned, but that does not mean that you will not reach your destination.

I do not have to personally know you to say this. I do not have to know your score, have ever seen a writing sample of your work, or listened to you discuss torts until I want to accuse you of battery upon my ears. It doesn’t matter whether you failed by a few points or by a lot. The fact of the matter is that you can pass the bar exam. 

I’ve seen people fail multiple times, but ultimately be successful. I have seen people on the verge of giving up, who then choose to give it one more try and really buckle down, and then put the time, work, and effort in to be successful. In the end, I have seen it pay off. I have seen them pass the bar exam. You can pass the bar exam as well.

That is what I am telling you today. You can make changes, adapt, work harder, differently, or utilize different techniques. You can study more, do more practice questions, write and review more essays, or work on more performance tests. You are not stuck in this moment. You are merely at a pause, and when you start your journey again you have control of your own success. It is up to you to dedicate yourself to working hard and holding yourself accountable. It is up to you to utilize the resources provided to you by your school and to let the people who care about you assist you, mentor you, tutor you, and guide you. I believe in you.

I also want to make sure that you know that the people at your law school believe in you. Here in Academic Achievement and Bar Success (AABS), we are all here because we are passionate about seeing our students successful, and because we believe that you can and will achieve. The Deans, professors, staff, and alumni all believe in you, and we all want you to be successful. 

Personally speaking, I care about your goals and I am passionate about your legal career dreams. Your ultimate success fuels the fire of the passion that brought me here, and my favorite aspect of being the Director of AABS is when I see someone graduate law school, pass the bar exam, and celebrate all the hard work and dedication paying off. The joy of seeing someone pass the bar exam never gets old to me, and each time a student gets that ‘pass notification’ is equally amazing to me and also makes me appreciate the astounding amount of time, work, diligence, and effort that goes well beyond that individual’s success at that one moment. It encompasses the realized hopes and dreams of families, represents overcoming obstacles, following passions, and is the crowning achievement of your law school career as you transition into your professional role. I want you to feel the joy that comes with passing the bar exam.

Over the next few days, you will be hearing from me personally about assisting you as you prepare for the next exam, but I wanted to remind you today that you are not alone. I believe in you. The school administration, faculty, and our alumni believe in you. We are to do everything in our power and work with you to help you be successful.

Relax and breathe. Prepare to re-dedicate and perhaps try new things that are outside your comfort zone. Take it easy on yourself and realize that you are not alone, even though it often feels that way, and know that someday this will likely be a story you tell to an aspiring law school graduate about how you overcame adversity and this obstacle (and others) to ultimately realize success. Rest now, recuperate, and be prepared to come out with your best efforts for the next round. Your fight isn’t over. Be courageous, and continue forward.

*One final note: sometimes, finding out that you were unsuccessful on the bar exam can be especially overwhelming, and you may find that you need to seek professional help to deal with your troubling thoughts, anxieties, or worries. I highly encourage you to remember that AJMLS has resources, that there are professionals that are only a click or a call away, and that this time of seeming despair will pass. The unfortunate thing getting through something and processing is that it takes time, but everything will be okay. However, if you find yourself considering hurting yourself, please know that you can always contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), utilize the lawyer’s assistance program in your state, call a friend, or even dial 911 if you are in crisis. The bar exam results in the now do not define your tomorrow, so take a deep breath and know that everything will be okay. I promise.

Monday Motivation: Woman Takes Bar Exam While in Labor, Gives Birth, then Finishes the Exam the Next Day – and Passes!

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

Happy Monday! I hope that this Monday following this all-too-short weekend finds you healthy, well-rested, and with your eyes firmly on the prize of your ultimate goal – passing the bar exam!

There are a variety of factors and obstacles that can impact your journey towards success, and one of the things that I always try to make abundantly clear to examinees is that with determination and grit, you can overcome anything and be successful. In order to highlight this, today I wanted to share a story with you about a woman who graduated from Loyola University School of Law.

When Brianna Hill was originally scheduled to take the July UBE bar exam in Illinois, she knew there would be challenges with being around 28 weeks pregnant. However, with all of the uncertainty around COVID-19 and the challenges surrounding a safe exam administration, the exam ended up getting pushed to October. Suddenly, that manageable 28-week pregnancy was going to be a 38-week pregnancy. Determined to success with her goals and motivated to become an attorney, Brianna pushed on and was ready for on October 5, 2020, the first day of the two-day test period.

The remote exam in Illinois was divided into 4 90-minute sections, and 30 minutes into the test Brianna felt a sensation that led her to think, “I really hope my water didn’t just break.” However, due to the exam software proctoring, she couldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom and check. Clearly, this was an opportunity to panic and abandon the exam, but Brianna held fast to her ambitions and dreams, persevering until the break. 

During the break, Brianna realized that her water had indeed broken, and called her husband, midwife, mom, did some crying, but after some discussion around her current state, realized that she had some time before she needed to be at the hospital. Incredibly, Brianna decided to complete the second 90-minute section in the afternoon, before then heading to the hospital where she arrived around 5:30pm. A little under 5 hours later, Brianna and her husband welcomed a new baby boy to the world.

This story could stop right here and already be pretty inspiring, but Brianna, with the support of hospital staff and family, decided to finish the bar exam the following day. Having just given birth, and aware of the strict requirements of the bar examiners, the hospital provided Brianna with a private room, hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the entrance, and fully supported her finishing the exam. You may be wondering about the new baby boy during all this, and amazingly, Brianna was feeding the baby during breaks!

Months later, Brianna got news that probably wasn’t quite as exciting as the birth of a new baby, but had to be satisfying in an entirely different way. Last week, Brianna found out that she passed the Illinois Bar Exam! Can you imagine overcoming all of that, successfully performing on the test despite giving birth, changing locations, and literally having all of your plans upended? It’s really incredible.

I hope this motivates you to remember that anything is possible, no matter what the obstacle or obstacles that you face or must overcome. Remember that people here at the Office of Academic Achievement and Bar Success (AABS), your friends, and your family all want you to succeed, and we all believe in you. And most importantly, you should believe in yourself, because if you put the time, effort, follow a plan, adapt, and believe, you will succeed. 

Brianna had this to say: “I’m so thankful for the support system I had around me. The midwives and nurses were so invested in helping me not only become a mom but also a lawyer,” She added. “My husband and law school friends provided me with so much encouragement so I could push through the finish line even under less than ideal circumstances. And my family, especially my sister, just kept reminding me how I could do it even when I wasn’t so sure myself.” (as reported by CNN)

Remember that you have a support system that is always here for you, the Office of Academic Achievement and Bar Success. Not only are we here to provide guidance and support, but we are also here to provide belief in you and encouragement when you are struggling. I personally believe that each of you has the ability to be successful on the bar exam, and that if you dedicate the time, energy, and effort, you will be successful.

On a personal note, the best moments of my year are when I receive a call, email, text, or note from a student informing me that they have been successful and are going to become licensed attorneys. There is no better feeling than helping someone to achieve their dreams, and I want to help you achieve yours.

Have a wonderful Monday, and remember to stay motivated and believe in yourself. If Brianna Smith can go into labor and give birth in the midst of the bar exam and pass the bar exam, you can overcome obstacles and challenges in your life and also be successful.

I believe in you. You can do this. You will be successful.

You, Me, and the MPRE: 2021 Dates and Deadlines

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

One of the key things discussed in our original You, Me, and the MPRE series is the importance of allocating a proper amount of time to study for the MPRE exam. Of course, how can anyone plan accordingly if they don’t have the dates and deadlines?

No worries, as the information for the MPRE dates and deadlines for the 2021 administrations are available now at https://www.ncbex.org/exams/mpre/registration/, and you can learn about them below.

As a brief overview of the dates and deadlines, this year there will be six total administrations of the MPRE, however unlike last year, these dates will be grouped in three back-to-back dates (you’ll only take the exam on one of the six dates). Remember to ensure that you know the registration deadline for the administration that you want to take. Also, it is important to note that there is a difference between the registration deadlines and the recommended accommodation deadlines, so you will want to make sure to pay close attention to both if you intend to apply for accommodations.

The first administration of the 2021 MPRE will take place on March 29th or 30th, and the deadline for registration is January 28, 2021. If you are seeking accommodations, it is recommended that you submit those requests no later than January 4, 2021.

The next administration of the 2021 MPRE will take place on August 11th or 12th, and the deadline for registration for this exam is June 10, 2021. If you are seeking accommodations, remember that it is recommended that you submit those requests no later than May 4, 2021.

Your final opportunity to take the 2021 MPRE will occur on November 4th or 5th, and the deadline for registration for this administration is September 17, 2021. The recommended submission date for those seeking accommodations is August 2, 2021.

Remember, that the MPRE score requirement in Georgia is 75 (if you are intending to become licensed in a different jurisdiction you can find your specific requirements here). Regardless of where you intend to practice or what score you require, putting in the proper amount of study and utilizing the correct resources are both key to your success.

If you are looking for advice on how to be successful on the MPRE exam, including information about the content, free resources, and studying advice, check out our You, Me, and the MPRE series.

AJMLS Project 470: Supplemental Bar Success Program for First-Time Takers

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

When it comes to the bar exam, there are a lot of factors that come into play in order to achieve success. However, one of the biggest indicators of success is the amount of quality study time that students invest in their preparation. Time and time again, statistical indicators show that students who approach the bar exam in a structured manner and put in sufficient hours perform better than their peers who do not have a plan. Additionally, hitting certain quantifiable milestones in terms of time invested combined with study guidance leads to better bar success outcomes. Generally speaking, students who have an adaptive study plan with enough quality study hours dedicated to learning and skills-improvement perform better than those without such a plan and dedication.

This is where Project 470 comes into play. The numbers 4-7-0 represent more than the new area code that Georgia got on February 26, 2010. They also represent the optimal number of hours for students to study to help ensure they successfully pass the bar exam, and this time commitment is the foundation for Atlanta John Marshall Law School’s Project 470.

The general guidance for most first-time bar exam takers is vague, with guidelines, study plans, and subject order varying depending on which commercial bar course students are enrolled with. This leads to confusion, and can sometimes cause difficulty due to the lack of individualization. Students are also confused about strategies, as there are those that claim you need to only do x amount of practice questions, study y amount of hours, or take z amount of essays. These claims can be misleading, because bar study is not a linear path, and what works for one may not work for another. Further, merely checking off a particular box is not sufficient to indicate understanding and skills development. The ability to course-correct and change in response to progress is of additional paramount importance. There are things that are absolutely necessary for success, it is true, but paying attention to any single metric will not be sufficient to ensure an individual’s success. This is where Project 470 enters the picture.

Project 470 is more than a plan to study for a stated number of hours. As mentioned previously, the time commitment is just the foundation. Project 470 goes beyond taking a certain amount of questions, studying a certain amount of hours, or practicing with some amount of essays. It is a guided, structured program designed to coincide with and supplement your commercial bar preparation course. It includes time management strategies, individualized adaptive study plans, workshops, small group sessions, multiple-choice strategy guidance, performance test practice, essay writing tips, writing review, and individualized tutoring. The commercial cost of this program would be expensive, but first-time bar takers at Atlanta’s John Marshall will receive the entire program at no cost, so long as they agree to adhere to the program guidelines and keep pace with the Project 470 requirements. Participation in the program requires commitment and active participation.

The goal of this unique pilot program offering is straightforward: Project 470’s goal is to help every first-time February 2021 taker who participates in the program to pass the bar exam. Our goal is to be one and done, and we will aim for a 100% pass rate for program participants.

As stated above, Project 470 requires dedication and a firm commitment to participate in the program. All program participants will be expected to fully complete their commercial bar prep courses, attend Motivation Monday check-in activities, attend “Saturday Score More” workshops, and to complete a rigorous, directed program that will be a combination of individually developed guidance, one-on-one tutoring, and directed group sessions. Optionally, Small Group Sundays, Tuesday Tips and Tutoring, and Friday Friends Advice programming will be available and recommended to students.

If you want to achieve bar exam success on the February 2021 exam, and are willing to dedicate your time, effort, and energy to passing the bar exam, then Project 470 is for you. All Project 470 participants will be required to attend a mandatory meeting and to sign a memorandum of understanding regarding the program’s requirements. Additionally, all Project 470 participants will be required to adhere to attendance policies, achieve performance metrics (a combination of attendance at workshops, review sessions, tutoring meetings, assignment completion, and satisfactory progress in a commercial bar review course).

Contact Scot Goins, Director of the Office of Academic Achievement and Bar Success, to join the initial Project 470 cohort. Indications of interest must be received by Sunday, November 15, 2020.

Wondering If You “Belong” in Law School? Feeling Like an Imposter? Part 2

Don’t worry. It’s completely normal.

Part 2

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

Introduction: Law Students and Impostor Syndrome

In Part 1 of this post, we discussed how students here at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (AJMLS) or any law school, can fall victim to negative self-talk and doubts. The stress and new challenges associated with a law school education can lead many to suffer the aptly named Imposter Phenomenon (also referred to as Imposter Syndrome). Below we discuss helpful strategies that you can utilize to be more realistic in assessing your own abilities and to increase your confidence.

Recognize That You Are Not Alone In Feeling Like an Imposter

Sometimes, a simple reminder of the fact that a student is not alone in feeling this way is all it takes to shake them out of these impostor feelings. It is easy to self-isolate when feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, and then to develop a sense of being the only one in the proverbial boat. It can be helpful to take time to look around and realize that self-stigmatization is something internal, and then to focus externally and realize that others are very likely feeling the same way. Communicating with other students generally quickly reveals that other people are also experiencing doubts and struggling with similar feelings.

Talk To Your Mentors

Although reading about feeling like an imposter and developing a cognitive understanding that you are not alone in feeling this way is important, there is something to be said for talking and sharing with someone who has ‘been there, done that.’ Sharing your feelings with someone who has likely experienced similar feelings can be cathartic, and can help you realize that although your feelings are normal, they are also irrational. Here at AJMLS, the Peer Mentor Program can be an excellent resource for students to benefit from social and personal support, and the Office of Student Affairs encourages students to reach out.

Practice Recognizing Your Own Expertise

Although looking to others who are more experienced can be helpful, so can working with your peers. You may find yourself surprised to realize how much you actually have learned and retained, or how in-depth your understanding actually is, upon engaging with a study group or in a discussion about your legal learning with others. This can often be an eye-opening experience and help you to realize that you know more than you think, or that others are also struggling with the same things you are. Not only will this assist you in realizing that you aren’t alone in your feelings, it may also help generate new feelings of support and decreased isolation by opening doors to communicate with others who are similarly situated.

Remember What Got You Where You Are Today

Although you may be currently struggling with self-confidence or experiencing self-doubt, your life before this was likely filled with many academic achievements and personal successes. Sometimes, it is helpful to remember this and reinforce your awareness of everything you have done well that has put you in position to embrace your current opportunities. It can be helpful to write down accomplishments you have previously realized, moments where you have been fearful but ultimately succeeded, and even to make a realistic list of things that you feel are your strengths. An additional opportunity is to also make a list of areas that might be a weakness and to write down things you can do to improve those areas, or to seek out guidance for assistance in those areas. Being proactive in your approach can help you regain a sense of control and confidence. The Office of Academic Achievement and Bar Success at AJMLS is composed of caring and dedicated professionals who are passionate about helping you to succeed on your learning journey, and if you want to seek out assistance you can fill out this form and start the process.

Look Around You and Realize that No One is Perfect

I’m not perfect. You aren’t perfect. No one is perfect. If you aren’t certain of this, I highly encourage you to do an internet search for ‘fails’ for a reminder. The truth of the matter is that everyone makes mistakes, and no one person is perfect at everything. Everyone has their areas of strengths and weaknesses, as well as their good days and bad days. Albert Einstein has a famous quote that says, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Remember that law school is a new experience, and like any new endeavor, may take some time to adjust to and become proficient at, and each individual will have different experiences for how long this process takes. Be patient with yourself.

Be Aware of Your Internal Monologue

Professional athletes and coaches often laud the virtues of a positive internal monologue, or self-talk, and this makes sense on every level. It is difficult to imagine someone catching a successful touchdown pass, hitting the game winning free throws, or pitching a no-hitter if all of their internal monologue is a constant refrain of, “You aren’t good enough. You can’t do this. Everyone is better than you. You are a failure. You might as well give up.” In contrast, making efforts to become aware of negative self-talk and instead substitute it with positive self-talk is more likely to lead to success. When we consider professional sports, something as simple as, “I can do this!” makes sense, but many law students fail to consider that the same is true for them. Positive self-talk can be extremely beneficial for anyone struggling, and it is helpful to practice engaging in such when you recognize that you are engaging in negative self-talk. It is also helpful to visualize success, as opposed to focusing on potential negative outcomes.

Counseling Services

Sometimes, being a law student can lead you to have a vast array of conflicting thoughts, feelings, self-doubts, both in terms of feeling like an impostor and beyond. Here at AJMLS, you always have professional counseling resources that can assist you in dealing with any feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, or really anything else that you have going on. Being proactive in dealing with your mental and emotional well-being can help you be the best version of you!

Conclusion

Although it seems likely that everyone will experience some combination of fatigue, self-doubt, and concerns about belonging at some point in law school, the good news is that there are a variety of ways to proactively take of yourself and to put yourself in the best position to continue achieving success on your academic journey.

 

Wondering If You “Belong” in Law School? Feeling Like an Imposter? Part 1

Don’t worry. It’s completely normal.

Part 1

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

Introduction: Law Students and Impostor Syndrome

If you are like many law students over the years here at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (‘AJMLS’), you can probably relate, at least in part, to the following quote:

“I would sit in class, desperately hoping and praying to any deity that would listen that I wouldn’t get called on. Before, during, and after class, my stomach would be in knots and I would be filled with dread and a sense of impending doom at the mere thought of any of my professors directing their attention towards me. When my classmates were called upon, I would marvel at their answers, certain that if I were to be posed the same question that I would miserably and memorably be unable to deliver a comprehensive answer. I was certain that I didn’t belong. I lived in fear of being found out, and that the law school would figure out that they had made a mistake in admitting me. In my heart and mind, I was a law school imposter, and I was just waiting for everyone else to figure it out. I felt like a fraud, and worried constantly about letting down my family and friends. Everyone thought I was on top of it academically and in life, but I knew better. I was an imposter and didn’t belong.” ~Anonymous Law School Graduate

The above quote resonates, especially with first-year law students who are struggling to adapt to the rigors of law school. Whether it is the Socratic method, time requirements, case-briefing, self-imposed pressure, or any of the other numerous law challenges that can present themselves to new law students here at AJMLS (or really any law school), almost everyone faces multiple scenarios that can potentially create self-doubt. Students can find themselves questioning their abilities, their intelligence, and even their decision to attend law school. However, despite this seemingly bleak picture, there is some great news.

It’s perfectly normal to feel this way!

It surprises many students to learn that they aren’t the only ones that feel like imposters. Too often, individuals get lost in their own thoughts and think that they are the only ones that suffer these doubts and feelings of inadequacy, but in fact the reality is that it is fairly common, especially during the first year of law school. There is even a term for it, ‘Imposter Phenomenon’ or as it referred to more commonly in law school circles, ‘Impostor Syndrome.’ (Note: I’ll use these terms interchangeably throughout.) It is indeed entirely normal to have these feelings. Students tend to focus inwardly when struggling, whereas an external focus would reveal that others feel the same.

What is the Imposter Phenomenon?

Although not officially recognized in the DSM-V or the ICD-11, psychologists such as Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes have been researching the Imposter Phenomenon since the 1970’s, and it is generally said to occur among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their own success. Students suffering from this syndrome often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud. Law students fit nicely into this general student definition as a population subset, as these students are those who generally have achieved success on the undergraduate level, but when faced with the pressures, uncertainties, and challenges of obtaining a legal education, experience self-doubt and lose confidence. This can be further compounded by the limited exposure to feedback typical of many law school environments, where students may only receive midterm and final exam grades, leaving them floundering to develop a sense of where they are at any time during their courses. Further, the issue-spotting skills and analytical reasoning required by law school can be a challenge for many law students. Unlike many undergraduate courses which have a clear right or wrong answer, the legal analysis and the “it depends on” scenarios that present themselves in the study of law can lead students to develop a sense that they will never be able to arrive at a correct answer or gain a firm understanding of what law applies in what situation and when. Finally, the pressures of being called upon by professors and participating in the Socratic method in front of peers can lead students to feel that all of their studies are for naught, especially in comparison to what others may respond when volunteering or called upon.

The Imposter Phenomenon Versus Reality

Although students, again, especially first-year law students, often have moments where they feel like so-called impostors or worry about not being up to snuff, the reality is that their intelligence and abilities are up to the challenge. Although law school does present unique hurdles to overcome and requires the development of new ways of thinking and skills, it is important to note that students are evaluated substantively before being admitted to law school to ensure that they are capable of academic success. The law school application process, through a variety of metrics, assesses and ensures that law school students are in fact suited for the study of the law. By reviewing essays, undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and LSAT scores, law school admissions teams ensure that students who are admitted possess the requisite intellectual skills and abilities to be successful in law school. 

The simple truth and reality is that if you are a student in law school, you have previously worked hard and your labors have borne fruit. You wouldn’t be an enrolled law student unless you were both intelligent and capable of being successful. It may be helpful to realize that about 40% of people who apply to law school don’t get in anywhere (see here for more info). So the truth is if you have been feeling like an imposter, you actually are not.  Instead, you are just a successful, capable individual experiencing the typical doubts that almost every law student faces at some point, again most often in the first year.

That’s great to read, but I still feel like an imposter

Although self-awareness is a great first step in overcoming feeling like an impostor, there are definitely more proactive, positive steps that you can take to help deal with these feelings and to boost your confidence. Check out Part 2 of ‘Doubting Yourself and Your Abilities? Wondering If You “Belong” in Law School? Feeling Like an Imposter? for helpful advice on overcoming this negative mindset.

 

You, Me, and the MPRE – Part 4

MPRE Study Timelines and Review Strategies

Part 4

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

In the previous parts of this MPRE series, we have had an introduction to the MPRE, looked at the 5 W’s, reviewed the four free recommended resources, and generally gotten a good sense of what you will need to know to attain the score you need in your relevant jurisdiction. In Part 4 of the series, we will bring it all together and discuss study timelines and review strategies.

MPRE Study Timelines

The typical ‘how long should I study for?’ questions that arise around the MPRE are nothing new. Generally, as I have mentioned previously, students tend to both overlook the importance of studying for the MPRE and the time requirements that success on this exam takes. Furthermore, almost everyone has heard a rumor of someone who studied for a day or two, or didn’t study at all. Some students believe that completing a professional responsibility course during law school is all that they need, while others erroneously believe that their own personal ethics and morals are enough to guide them.

All of this brings us back to the original question asked, and that is how long should you study for this exam? The answer, like so many things in law school, is that it depends on a variety of factors:

  1. Professional Responsibility Class (PR): The first thing to consider is whether or not you have taken a PR class? If you have not, or if your class was more focused on case law than the model rules and code referenced in Parts 2 and 3 of this series, then you will want to schedule additional time to give yourself time to get familiar with these resources.
  2. Standardized Test-Taking Skills: Are you a good standardized test taker? Do you normally do well on multiple-choice style exams? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then you will want to give yourself additional study time.
  3. Pass Urgency: Given various timelines and the requirements by almost all jurisdictions to obtain a passing score on the MPRE, the closer you get to your required deadline, the more urgent it is to obtain a passing score on the next administration of the exam. If you want to ensure that you pass on the next administration, you must give yourself adequate time.
  4. What Else Is Going On?: Take a look at your life, be it socially, academically, professionally, or any other area that requires your time and attention. Are you going to be busy? Can you afford to allocate enough hours to the MPRE and take focus away from these other areas, or do you have less available time to devote to this exam? Understanding your various time commitments can help you get a head start on your studying and ensure you put yourself in a position to experience success.
  5. Failure to Pass the MPRE Previously: This one should seem obvious, but if you have previously failed the MPRE, then you need to make sure that your next attempt is successful. If you look back on your previous attempt, almost always you will find that you didn’t allocate enough time to your studies. Plan to do things differently this time.

Keeping those five factors in mind, my generally recommended study time is a minimum of 40 hours to guarantee success. This obviously can vary individual to individual, but allocating a minimum 40 hours to this process will put you in the best place for success. This breaks down as follows:

  • 12 hours of commercial bar vendor MPRE course videos
  • 15 hours of practice tests (minimum 4) and review of these tests
  • 8 hours of outline and notes review (provided by commercial bar vendor)
  • 5 hours of model rule and code review (including focus on comments)

Individuals will vary, so if either of the five factors above are an issue for you, it is likely that you will want to devote additional hours to each of these areas to maximize your chance for success. You can break this down however you like, but I would recommend a minimum of two weeks of study at 20 hours a week, up to a maximum of 4-6 weeks (allocating the appropriate hours for your needs). Creating a plan for your studies in alignment with the aforementioned factors and the review strategies that follow will put you in a position to succeed. Remember that a failure to plan is a plan for failure, so make sure you plan!

Review Strategies

As indicated in the previous section, I generally breakdown MPRE study into 4 component parts, and my review strategies align with those.

  1. Commercial Bar Vendor MPRE Course Videos (12 hours): These courses provide lecture-style videos and accompanying notes that will cover the most heavily tested topics on the exam. Watch them at least once, and you may want to re-watch any heavily tested area or areas that you struggle with.
  1. Practice Tests and Review (15 hours): Much like the bar exam itself, all of the knowledge in the world is useless if you cannot apply it, and the MPRE is no different. Not only will practicing help you get a sense for what will be on the exam, but it will also help you to apply the knowledge you have learned and also to identify any gaps in that knowledge. A careful review of the answers and explanations will assist you in focusing your review, and also help you to understand the distinctions and nuances that will help you correctly identify the right answer.
  1. Outline and Notes Review: This goes hand-in-hand with strategies 1 and 2. It isn’t enough to mindlessly read outlines, but rather you need to engage with the material. By watching lectures and taking practice tests, you will enhance your review of the material by allowing yourself to focus on shoring up your weaknesses and building upon your strengths. Identifying where you need work, researching nuances, and clearly understanding distinctions will help you be successful. Lastly, it is important to firmly establish an understanding of the outline material, which will cover most of what appears on the exam.
  1. Model Rules, Code, and Commentary Review: This is what I like to call low-hanging fruit that is often overlooked. The vast majority of the MPRE comes from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct. Thus, it only makes sense to spend some time reviewing the heavily-tested areas at the least, and also to focus on the commentary in those areas. When you take your practice exams, you will develop a sense of where to focus, and you can also refer back to Part 2 of this series. Remember, the commentary provides insight on how to deal with potential problem areas, insight into the mindsets of the drafters, and generally will be beneficial to study.

Conclusion

If you have explored the MPRE series in its entirety, then you will find yourself well-situated to be successful on this important exam. Remember, however, that merely reading through this and gaining the knowledge of how to be successful is not enough. You have to take this information and apply it to your life, your approach, and your studies. If you do that, and invest the time into obtaining new knowledge, enhancing your understanding, taking practice tests, and reviewing the materials appropriately, you will be successful on the MPRE. 

Good luck and best wishes!

 

You, Me, and the MPRE – Part 3

MPRE Resources

Part 3

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

After introducing you to the MPRE, in Part 1 of this MPRE series we partook in a high level overview of the exam. In Part 2, we reviewed what subjects are tested. Today, in Part 3, we will take a look at some available resources that will enable you to successfully pass the exam.

First and foremost, I DO NOT recommend attempting to study for the MPRE on your own utilizing case books, law school outlines from professional responsibility courses, or just by heading to the library and looking up various items. The resources I list, especially in #1 below, provide a comprehensive overview of everything you need for the exam. These resources are FREE, and you should take advantage of them.

Before delving into the resources themselves, I want to provide a caveat about certain resources available on the internet that are available for you to buy. In most cases, for most people studying for the exam, there is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED to purchase any resources. There are so many options that are free that it sometimes can lead takers to think that they need to buy something additional to get an edge. This is especially true of that minority of students that fail the exam, although as you will see in Part 4 of this series, it most often is not the lack of adequate materials to prepare for the exam, but is instead a lack of preparation that leads people to fail to meet their jurisdictions requirements for passing. All of that said, there may be some examinees who struggle with certain materials, timing, test-taking skills, or other issues. These takers may benefit from tutoring or other options, but it should not be your automatic default option until you have utilized all of the other free resources available, and it is unlikely a first-time taker will need anything beyond these resources. A taker who has been unsuccessful multiple times may want to consider additional resources or engaging a tutor to work on strategies and mindset.

Now, let’s take a look at my top recommended free resources:

#1 Recommended Resource: Commercial Bar Vendor MPRE Course *MOST IMPORTANT*

It may surprise you to learn that most commercial bar vendors offer free MPRE courses. After all, the cost of a commercial bar course can be quite expensive. However, if you approach this from a logical perspective, you will quickly understand why a commercial bar vendor offers a free MPRE course.

If you are preparing to take the bar exam with such a course, how will you ever know anything beyond the marketing about any of these commercial courses? Attending a tabling session (in today’s world often virtual), a course demonstration, or talking with those who have previously taken an exam can be helpful, but the only real way to get an effective feel for the courses is to get some firsthand knowledge and experience. Since the MPRE is sometimes considered the ‘baby-bar’ by many, it makes sense to get exposure to bar vendors’ offerings through their MPRE course. Therefore, these companies generally offer a free course to allow students to experience their systems, methods, and interfaces, with the eventual hope that a student will select them for their bar preparation down the road. Additionally, since the MPRE administered does not vary state-by-state, and is instead uniform across the jurisdictions regardless of passing score requirements, an excellent MPRE course is a relatively inexpensive product that serves as both a study aid and a marketing tool for these companies.

My personal favorite free MPRE course is offered by Kaplan Bar Review, and when I last took the exam, this is what I utilized to attain one of the highest national scores (top 10%). I found the lectures, notes, outline book, practice questions, and practice exams left me more than prepared for the MPRE, to the point where I felt extremely comfortable during the exam.

I also really like BARBRI’s free MPRE course, and have also used it successfully in the past. (NOTE: MPRE scores expire over time, so you may find yourself taking this exam more than once if you move around or decide to change jurisdictions before meeting certain requirements). I’ve also reviewed BARBRI’s materials more recently, and would echo what I said about Kaplan Bar Review in that the BARBRI course will also leave you more than prepared for the exam.

Themis Bar Review (part of what I consider the ‘Big 3’ in terms of commercial vendors currently) also offers an excellent free MPRE course. Although my personal experience is not on the same level with this product, I have reviewed many of the materials and believe that this course will also provide more than adequate materials for any examinee to be successful.

There are other quality free resources from other bar vendors out there, but my personal experience with them is limited. The three aforementioned are ones that I feel comfortable recommending to anyone.

#2 Recommended Resource: The Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the Model Code of Judicial Conduct 

As I referenced in Part 2 of this MPRE series, the model rules and code are heavily tested on the exam, and although a commercial bar vendor’s offerings are generally sufficient for passing this exam, you can assuredly improve your score by studying both the model rules and code. The more heavily tested an area is on the exam (also explained in Part 2 of this series), the more time you may want to invest in reviewing that area in the model rules and code. Additionally, and perhaps the thing you can do to increase your score the most, I strongly encourage you to read the comments on specific rules. Not only will this help you gain a deeper understanding of any rules, but it will also help you to understand the mindsets behind the rules, likely leading you to get more items on the exam itself correct.

You can find the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct here and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct here.

#3 Recommended Resource: NCBE MPRE Sample Questions and Answers

The NCBE has released sample questions (and answers) to help examinees develop a sense for what will be on the actual MPRE. You can find these sample MPRE questions and answers here. It makes sense to take a look at what the folks who design the exam put out. It should also be noted that the NCBE does offer other materials for purchase, but as I stated above, it is my personal belief and opinion that the vast majority of examinees do not need to spend money on preparation materials.

#4 Recommended Resource: Your Law School’s Academic Achievement, Success, and/or Bar Prep Programs

In the modern era, a large portion of schools have administrators, staff, professors, and/or other professionals who are dedicated to helping students be successful achieving certain milestones on their journeys to becoming lawyers. Although these programs are often focused on either academic programs and support or bar exam success, often they will also have individuals who are more than happy to assist you with advice and guidance on preparing for the MPRE. Here at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, the Office of Academic Achievement and Bar Success provides our students with such support. However, if you are a student or an alumnus of a different law school, I highly encourage you to reach out to similar offices at your respective law school.

If you utilize the four recommended MPRE resources that I have identified, in conjunction with the study timelines and review strategies in Part 4 of this MPRE Series, you will be well prepared for success on the exam. Remember to check out Part 4: MPRE Study Timelines and Review Strategies to see the final part in the series that will help you to achieve the results you want.

 

You, Me, and the MPRE – Part 2

What Is Tested on the MPRE?

Part 2

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

In Part 1 of this 4-part series, we took a high-level look at the MPRE, reviewing the exam basics and the requirements to achieve a passing score. In Part 2, we will dive deeper into the content of the exam, and review how the exam breaks down into its component parts in order to help guide your studies. The percentages indicated are general guidelines, but remember that specific administrations can vary slightly.

A good starting place to reviewing what is tested on the MPRE comes from the NCBE which states that the exam ‘is based on the law governing the conduct and discipline of lawyers and judges, including the disciplinary rules of professional conduct currently articulated in the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, and controlling constitutional decisions and generally accepted principles established in leading federal and state cases and in procedural and evidentiary rules.’

One question that arises for exam takers is ‘what about changes to either the model rules or the model code?’ The good news is that any amendments won’t be reflected on the MPRE any earlier than one year after the amendments receive approval by the ABA. The bad news is that you have to keep in mind that any such rules or code that are amended may be tested by questions that reflect the aforementioned prior to being amended. It behooves an examinee to review any amendments by visiting the respective ABA sites referenced previously, just to make sure that one is aware of any potential changes that may be ripe for testing (or alternatively, that will not be ripe for testing and require adherence to rules or code that exists in its pre-amended form).

It should be noted that the NCBE states that questions outside of the conduct or disciplinary context are designed to measure an exam taker’s understanding of the generally accepted rules, principles, and common law regulating the legal profession in the United States and apply the majority view of cases, statutes, or regulations on the subject. To the extent that questions of professional responsibility arise in the context of procedural or evidentiary issues, such as the availability of litigation sanctions or the scope of the attorney-client evidentiary privilege, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence will apply, unless otherwise stated. As a general rule, particular local statutes or rules of court will not be tested on the MPRE; however, a specific question may include the text of a local statute or rule that must be considered when answering that question.’

Before we breakdown the MPRE based on this extremely helpful subject outline that the NCBE provides (which is a one-page summary overview of the exam that is helpful to review on a daily basis), there is an additional document that the NCBE provides. This helpful review tool for the MPRE relates to important distinctions regarding what I refer to as ‘may versus must’ and ‘should versus shall’ language distinctions. Much of the language in the rules and code has important modifiers, and this is an opportune time to conduct a highly encouraged review of the key words and phrases document that the NCBE provides for MPRE takers.

Without further ado, let’s examine the 12 MPRE topics prevalence breakdown: 

  1. The Regulation of the Legal Profession (6-12%)
  2. The Client-Lawyer Relationship (10-16%) 
  3. Client Confidentiality (6-12%)
  4. Conflicts of Interest (12-18%) <Highly Tested>
  5. Competence, Legal Malpractice, and other civil liability (6-12%)
  6. Litigation and Other Forms of Advocacy (10-16%)
  7. Transactions and Communications With Persons Other Than Clients (2-8%)
  8. Different Roles of the Lawer (4-10%)
  9. Safekeeping Funds and Other Property (2-8%) <Easy area to get maximum points)
  10. Communications About Legal Services (4-10%)
  11. Lawyers’ Duties to the Public and the Legal System (2-4%)
  12. Judicial Conduct (2-8%) <In my experience, often overlooked by MPRE takers>

Although this list appears short, remember that the topics themselves are internally broad and require the appropriate time and study devoted to each. As you can see from the percentage breakdowns, there are several areas that WILL be worth 10% or more of the entire exam (the lawyer-client relationship, conflicts of interest, and litigation and other forms of advocacy). In fact, those three areas alone could potentially account for anywhere between 32-50% of the entire exam, so make sure you concentrate especially on them. However, given that there are only 50 tested questions that count towards your score, you don’t want to ignore any topical area.

Remember to checkout Part 3, where we will discuss resources for your MPRE preparation, including free MPRE courses, and also Part 4, where we will discuss study timelines and review strategies to ensure that you achieve success on the MPRE.

You, Me, and the MPRE – Part 1

The 5 W’s of the MPRE

Part 1

Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

Previously, in the introduction to this MPRE series, I engaged in a brief overview of the exam, including what states require a passing score, what kind of mindsets students approach the exam with, and then provided an advance overview of what this series would cover. In this section, we cover the 5 W’s in order to get an understanding of where the MPRE comes from, the makeup of the exam, and to provide a firm foundation for Part 2, which breaks down the exam into its component parts. Remember also that Part 3 of the series will cover the resources available for MPRE preparation, and that Part 4 of the series will help review study timelines and strategies to help ensure you are successful on your first take.

Let’s now take a look at the 5 W’s of the MPRE:

Who: The MPRE is developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) and (currently) is administered by Pearson Vue. Beginning in 2020, the test will be administered entirely on a digital platform, thereby removing old worries about sharpening pencils, erasure marks, and accidentally getting tears on your scantron (just kidding, it’s really not that bad!). In 2019, 54 jurisdictions required the MPRE.

Where: Test takers visit a Pearson Vue testing center (if you want to locate your nearest testing go here) to take the MPRE. 

When: Previously, the MPRE was administered on the weekend generally, but that all changed in 2020. During this calendar year, the MPRE takes place during the week and you can see that schedule here. An important thing to note about the MPRE registration deadlines is that they often occur more than a month before the exam. So, if you are thinking about registering for the March or August 2021 administrations, make sure to do well in advance. Also note that unlike 2020, there is no October administration of the exam in 2021 (instead, there will be a November administration).

Registration for the 2021 MPRE administrations opens on December 14, 2020, and is currently slated to have a fee of $135. It also appears the exam will be shifting to a two consecutive day format, unlike the staggered schedule seen in 2020.

Why: The MPRE is administered to test examinees on their knowledge and understanding of established standards and rules related to the professional conduct of lawyers. It does not test an individual to determine his or her personal ethical values and morals. Since lawyers can serve in a variety of roles, including as judges, counselors, legal advocates, and so forth, it is important to ensure that attorneys have an understanding of rules and expectations for them. The test questions generally deal with circumstances

The law governing the conduct of lawyers in these roles is applied in disciplinary and bar admission procedures, and by courts in dealing with issues of appearance, representation, privilege, disqualification, and contempt or other censure, and in lawsuits seeking to establish liability for malpractice and other civil or criminal wrongs committed by a lawyer while acting in a professional capacity.

What: The MPRE is an exam administered over two hours that consists of 60 multiple-choice questions. Of these 60 questions, only 50 are actually scored, and the other 10 are considered pretest questions and are generally said to be indistinguishable from the scored questions. Your takeaway from that is simple: treat all 60 questions like they count. The scaled score that takers will receive can range from a low of 50 to a high of 150.

Scores to pass the MPRE vary based on jurisdiction. Georgia requires a minimum passing score of 75, which ties with Alabama, the District of Columbia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Palau, and the Virgin Islands for the lowest required score for passing. In order to provide some perspective, the mean scaled score for the entire group of MPRE takers in 2019 was 94.9. Although this number is higher than Georgia’s required passing score, that does not mean that you can overlook this exam. Regardless of your intended practice state’s requirements, this is a test that you have to prepare for to be successful, and approaching it with the mindset that the average score is higher neglects the fact that about 20% of takers (almost 12,000!) fail to achieve a score of 75. Don’t be part of that group, and make sure you take this test seriously.

The majority of future examinees at this point, having reviewed the respective score required by their state, will then ask how to achieve that score. This is tough to state accurately because the NCBE equates the scores, so there is no hard and fast answer. However, you can approximate that a required score of 75 requires about 56% correct and an 85 requires about 60% correct. Remember, however, this is a statistical proximation and SHOULD NOT be the metric that you shoot for generally. Like the bar exam, the MPRE is somewhat a test of minimum competence in terms of scoring, but why risk failing by aiming low? My advice is always to put the time in to achieve the best score that you are capable of and EXCEED the minimum requirement, as opposed to aiming low and potentially falling short. Put the time in!

Remember to check out Part 2, where we will breakdown the different areas of professional responsibility that are tested on the exam. As I stated previously, this will help you focus your studies and maximize your time as you pursue attaining a passing score on the MPRE.

You, Me, and the MPRE – Introduction

Introduction

One of the hurdles that the vast majority of law students will face on their journeys to becoming licensed attorneys here at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (‘AJMLS’) is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (the ‘MPRE’). In fact, unless you are intending to practice in the jurisdictions of Wisconsin or Puerto Rico, every other jurisdiction has a MPRE requirement (although it should be noted that both New Jersey and Connecticut allow law students to bypass this requirement via the successful completion of a professional ethics course in law school). However, despite the fact that almost every future lawyer will have to take this exam, it is often one of the most often overlooked and underprepared for tests that students will face. This can lead to students failing an exam that is perhaps the most straightforward and easy to prepare for exams that they will take. This failure often doesn’t serve as a long-term barrier to becoming a lawyer, but it does cause delays, anxiety, and results in costs both in dollars and time that can easily be avoided.

Given that we are a few weeks out from the October administrations of the MPRE, most students find themselves with one of three mindsets. Some students will find themselves wondering how much they need to study (if at all), and whether or not their professional responsibility class in law school or their own personal morals and ethics will be enough to carry them through. Others will have committed to a solid few days of study, likely utilizing a free MPRE course provided by a commercial vendor (recommended to use), and will just hope for the best studying when they can. Lastly, some students are full of anxiety about the MPRE and fear that no matter what they do, success may elude them on exam day.

Regardless of which mindset you have, the good news is that this series will ensure that you are on the correct path to success on the MPRE. After this introductory post, later in Part 1, we will review what the MPRE is and what score is required for your jurisdiction (here we will focus on Georgia, which is where AJMLS is located, and where the majority of our students take the bar exam). Next, in Part 2, we will breakdown the different areas of professional responsibility that are tested on the exam, in order to help you understand where to spend the majority of your study time. Then, in Part 3, we will discuss resources for your MPRE preparation, including free MPRE courses (Disclaimer: I have a favorite, but there are several nice options). Finally, in Part 4, we will review an appropriate timeline and review strategies for your studies (although individuals vary a great deal, so you may have to adjust your timeline according to your own progress).

The MPRE can be a hurdle, but the reality is that it should not be much of one. By preparing correctly, allocating adequate time for preparation, and engaging in the appropriate practice and review, this test will be one and done for you (unless you need your score later – in most jurisdictions, your MPRE score will expire after a certain amount of time). Put your time in before the test and ensure you are successful the first time you take this exam.