Remember the show "Doug" on Nickelodeon? Yeah, with the guy with social anxiety who has paranoid daydreams more often than Family Guy has flashbacks. Very relatable. I feel like only '90s kids will get these references.
He’s exactly as delusional I was at his age. Our house had a small backyard when I used to live in Cupertino years ago when Apple wasn't as relevant.
One day, I thought there might be something cool buried under the grass. With the boyish thirst for adventure that law school has now robbed from me, I started digging around perfectly healthy weeds in search of treasure and skeletons.
I probably wouldn't have gone to law school if I had actually found doubloons, but imagine all the hidden treasure out there. Artifacts. Nature. People.
In reality, there are many things that you take for granted and aren’t aware of, as if you're constantly sitting on buried treasure without knowing that it’s right under your nose.
Even in your everyday life, you probably don't pay attention to much of what's going on already right in front of your eyes (like in this 81-second video
By now, you've begun dipping your toes in the cesspool of the bar. You may think that bar prep is a lone-wolf, solitary affair, and that hardly anyone out there cares about you enough to help you with the bar exam (unless you pay them thousands of $).
Well, that’s partly true! 99% of people who pass the bar get the hell away from it because they have better things to worry about.
But when you really look beyond your familiar limits, you’ll be surprised at how much help can actually be readily accessible to you.
All you have to do is consciously seek them out. Really sit down and take 5-10 minutes to brainstorm. The #1 cause of failing to figuring things out is not being able to simply think in silence for even 10 seconds straight, let alone 10 minutes. Everything is figure-out-able.
It may not be immediately apparent, but see if you can go beyond the usual and obvious. See the hidden abundance by asking "what else, where else, who else."
To help you get started, here’s what’s in this treasure trove of an email:
- 10 ideas for sources of help (besides me)
- A comparison of my dumb Contracts essay and my passable Contracts essay (with pics)
- How I turned a dumbass essay into a passable essay (gift included)
10 ideas of where to get help
1. Friends who passed
: Just a casual mention that I had to study instead of joining them to play got me offers to help and send me resources they used. They have nothing to hold back now that they've passed.
2. Friends who did not pass
: For commiserating and sharing resources. You feel better discussing and sharing resources with a repeater who understands your situation.
3. Professors (especially those with bar prep experience)
: I got in touch with my bar-prep professor (from a class I was required to take because of my terrible grades) the day I got my first-time results to set up a call to get her thoughts on repeating. I also drove over an hour to talk to her for 30 minutes because she wanted to discuss my returned answers in person.
4. Bar prep course directors
: They are often recent bar passers or repeaters. They also know how to use your bar prep material effectively. I got in touch with the one for my prep company whom I was familiar with to set up a call.
BTW if you failed last time, don’t feel pressured to sign up with the same company again! Instead, you can simply use them as a secondary resource. For my second attempt, I used Kaplan's MBE boot camp in the beginning and then self-studied with a used Barbri outline, along with notes I'd previously taken from Kaplan and law-school classes.
5. Someone you like or trust
: This person might not have a full picture of how terrible the bar was, but you know this person will listen to you and possibly offer an outside perspective that you can apply. I was an emotional tissue once for some pharmacy exam. Contact that person for support.
6. Commercial study aids
: Sometimes inexpensive (< $50 used). Sometimes budget unfriendly ($365 for AdaptiBar w/ coupon code "MTYLT"). See my Resources page
with all you’ll need to prep for at least the MBE (or the California Bar Exam). I didn't include ones that I tried but were not helpful, like Bar Breaker
by Jeff Adachi. Boo!
7. Used bar prep material
: I got used books from another prep company than the one from the first time. More specifically, I got used Barbri books for review, essays, and MBE drilling, and consulted Kaplan’s online course (free as a repeater) for initial MBE review and supplementary study questions. Using two courses can help fill in the gaps in the other. But remember lectures are generally worthless (especially
if you're repeating) unless you prefer auditory learning.
8. Your old notes
: No need to reinvent the wheel. If you've got notes already, you have a head start with entire months to inlcude them in your prep.
: I have never used them. However, to find out more about the merit of hiring one, I interviewed a few repeaters who got a tutor for their second time (they all passed).
Click here for my Q&As with them.
10. Condensed outlines
: A good
outline is something I wish I had the first time. It’s really difficult to handle remembering 800+ pages of bar law. You need a way to cut down those tomes into a manageable size. Your brain is great at processing information but terrible at storage. In a way, it's not how much you know—but which
parts you know. This is intuition you can gain from actually doing essays and MBE questions and seeing patterns.
What can a good condensed outline help you do?
: Compare having to know a hundreds of pages vs. few dozen pages of key law (i.e., the most frequently tested).
: When you're doing practice essays or MBE questions and want to look up a rule, you don't want to waste time flipping through a full outline. A good condensed outline is organized such that issues and sub-issues are easy to spot in a moment.
: Most importantly, the above advantages grant you time, energy and attention actually apply the material in your practice and check your work (with sample answers, BarEssays [CA only], etc.)—as much as you can!
Memorization is just the basic minimum step. Knowing how to approach and answer essays (and MBE questions to some extent) through practice and feedback is just as important, if not more, than just "knowing" the law.
I’ll discuss that last one further below and also next time because it's an important aspect of learning.
By the way, I infiltrated a local law school the other day even though I wasn’t a student there. I felt like I was back in the den of evil.
In fact, I cooked this essay
(1-hour essay from the CA baby bar) for shits and giggles because I wanted to motivate this 1L for finals week… and it turned out TERRIBLE.
I’m utterly embarrassed to show you this cringeworthy piece of shit
Click the below image to see my first attempt at cooking
that essay, in PDF format:
Admittedly, this was a blind run after years of not studying for the bar, and I was getting distracted by a girl who gave me anxiety because I’m a glutton for punishment (just look at me—I spend all my free time on this blog).
But still, this work product is just a vague clusterfuck: I didn’t know what the rule was for an offer, talked about irrelevant concepts like unilateral/bilateral contract, put down something about the mailbox rule… and mentioned NO DEFENSES anywhere. I’m sure you could do better than that right NOW.
After 2-3 days, I went home and pulled out my Approsheets
to come up with this (click below image to see both pages in PDF):
Does this seem more like a passing essay outline than the first one?
What’s the difference? This new version flows better because it has an organized and logical progression of the relevant issues. That is, it included the major issues, including defenses. Remembering defenses is critical for a passing score! Smaller nuances (like an exception to mailbox rule) can be found above as well.
This illustrates a key point:
The more you test yourself + get feedback, the better. Just because you know about
the issues and rules doesn't mean you can put that knowledge to use. Moreover, each subject has its own particular approach.
Answering a question poorly is uncomfortable to the ego, so people avoid it and "wait until they're ready." No, you'll never be "ready" for the bar. Just do it.
Btw the cooked essay above is already halfway to a complete essay. All I’d have to do is plug in the relevant facts and use the word “because” to connect facts to facts and facts to law. Don’t forget headings!
How I Midas’d the dumb essay
So how did my essay outline suddenly go from 0 to 60?
To set up an essay, you only need two things: knowledge of issues + knowledge of rules.
There is a finite
list of issues to know on the bar exam. This is not a real-life scenario that may raise complicated crossover legal issues and whatnot. However, the examiners don’t stray from the universe they have handicapped themselves to.
Given such limitations, there’s a reason hypos are called fact patterns
. Since facts trigger the issues, does this mean…
- …that there’s a bank of likely relevant issues for each fact pattern that are waiting to be put together like a Lego set?
- …we can also find “issue patterns” because the issues are set up similarly for a type of fact pattern?
- …we can systematically identify issues to practically guarantee that the right issues are raised instead of haphazardly “spot” issues?
That’s right. I call it issue checking
(more on it below and next time).
No one ever taught me how to “spot issues” (maybe because UC Hastings is useless—first-time pass rate for 2016 July was 51% -__-). Until I started studying for the bar the second time, “issue spotting” seemed like a mystical process where I was supposed to somehow know what the issues were, as if I could divine them from some sacred alternate dimension (also known as my ass).
Right, and that got me a series of failing essay scores the first time because it was such a haphazard “I’ll know it when I see it” YOLO method of "issue spotting."
Back in college, I let a classmate (who was a living example of YOLO) borrow my cheat sheet for our engineering midterm. Sure, it had all the equations needed, but she got the lowest score in the class because she didn’t know how and when and where to apply those equations. She hadn’t practiced applying those rules on real problems.
Just because you generally know how to apply rules doesn’t mean it will work in all situations. In other words, there’s a difference between “I know how to apply rules” and “I know how to apply the rules for Contracts.”
There are several ways to resolve this:
- Do numerous essays, look at model answers, and learn how to set up and approach the issues involved in each subject
- [CA only] Use an essay repository such as BarEssays.com (to see which issues good vs. bad essays invoke to answer the calls) or BarIssues.com (to see what the issues are, to see which issues are frequently tested, to hone in on essays with the issues you have trouble with)
- Use the codes I gave you in your welcome email for $25 and $20 off
- Anyone can still check out my free essay bank; there are essay donations from CA, NY and NV (if you have some returned essays yourself, please donate!)
- Issue checking
Through one or a combination of the above ways, you gain confidence
, i.e., you come to know what you’re doing. The more you solve essays from the same subject, the more you’ll find that those essays and issues appear… oddly similar… until you get sick of them instead of being confused by them, which is a good thing!
Now for the secret sauce.
To systematically set up the issues in the essay I showed you above, I used essay-attack sheets (issue templates with checklists and flowcharts) I created called Approsheets
. They help you ensure that you identify the issues that are in a fact pattern (and embody the "issue checking" appraoch as I'll talk about more next time).
Here's the one for Contracts in its entirety. It’s yours to try and see if it works for you (click below image for PDF):
To recite the rules, I used condensed outlines I created called Magicsheets
. I used a much-earlier predecessor version to pass the CA bar on my second attempt. All I can say is that they're better any other condensed outlines out there (compare samples since I could be totally biased).
Try the Contracts Magicsheets in combination with Approsheets (click below image for PDF)!
Next time, I’ll discuss more specifically about:
- Issue checking (mentioned above): How to systematically check for issues to practically guarantee that relevant issues are raised. Issues are the seeds that sprout IRACs and points. Although rule statements and application thereof can be given partial credit, you get zero credit for an issue that's never raised
- The value of condensed outlines
- How to craft your own condensed outlines
PS. Here are the previous parts of this revival series if you missed them:
: How to be the ultimate sore loser
(how to have a methodical and deliberate approach to bar study, with three specific action steps)
: Just bear with my lack of social fluency for a sec
(3 myths to discard and 3 myths to adopt in your bar prep)
: Just do it
(what, why, and how to focus on what moves the needle + introducing a brand-new tool)
PPS. Do you have 20 seconds? Yeah you do. You just read this entire email, you nerd. If you know someone who you feel would find this email helpful, could you share it with that person today? Thank you!
If someone forwarded this to you, you can sign up to get your very own emails at www.makethisyourlasttime.com
You can also join our growing support group of people like you preparing for the bar in my Facebook group
(real profile required).