Remember Doug Funnie on Nickelodeon? Yeah, the guy with social anxiety who has paranoid daydreams/daymares more often than Family Guy has flashbacks.
He’s exactly as delusional I was. 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. 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 (see this 81-second video
You don’t think anyone wants to help you? You may think that studying for the bar is a lone-wolf, solitary affair and that hardly anyone out there cares to help you with the bar exam.
That’s partly true! But when you really look beyond your familiar limits, you’ll be surprised at how much help can actually be readily accessible to you if you’re proactive.
All you have to do is consciously, mindfully seek them out. Really sit down and take 10 minutes to brainstorm. 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 (if you also didn’t pass) 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 one 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 to set up a call. If you failed last time, don’t feel pressured to sign up with the same company again! Instead, use them as a secondary resource
5. Someone you 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 this person once for a different exam. Contact that person for support.
6. Commercial study aids
: Often inexpensive (< $50 used). See my Resources page
(with all you’ll need to pass the California Bar Exam) for ones I personally used and found helpful. I didn't include ones that were recommended to me but 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 module (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 worthless; avoid those unless you prefer auditory learning.
8. Your old notes
: No need to reinvent the wheel. Plus you now have entire months to study with them.
: 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.
What can a good condensed outline help you do?
: Compare knowing a few dozen pages of key law (i.e., the most frequently tested) vs. hundreds of pages. If memorization has been a struggle for you, see if this article on memorization
: 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, 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 is arguably just as important, if not more, than just "knowing" the law.
I’ll discuss this further below and next time.
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 below image to see the full two pages in PDF:
Admittedly, this was a blind run after almost two years of not studying for the bar, and I was getting distracted by a girl who gives me butterflies AND heartburn because I’m a glutton for punishment (just look at me—I run this blog for fun).
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 Magicsheets and 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, I 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.
Btw with the above cooked 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 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 real life, which may raise complicated crossover legal issues and whatnot. However, the examiners don’t stray from the universe it has handicapped itself 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 “spotting” 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). 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 ether (also known as my ass).
Right, and that got me a series of 55s the first time because it was such a haphazard “I’ll know it when I see it” YOLO method.
Back in college, I let a classmate (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 those equations applied. 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.”
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
- Use a database such as BarEssays (to see which issues good vs. bad essays invoke to answer the calls) or BarIssues (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 $20 off each
- Issue checking
Through one or a combination of the above ways, you gain confidence
—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 I created called Approsheets
. They embody the ways to resolve "issue issues" described above.
Here is the one for Contracts in its entirety. It’s yours (click below image for PDF):
To recite the rules, I used condensed outlines I created called Magicsheets
. I used an earlier predecessor version to pass my second attempt at the CA bar.
Next time, I’ll discuss more specifically about:
If you just can’t wait to shortcut those processes, see if the above tools can be a resource for you:
- How to systematically check for issues to practically guarantee that relevant issues are raised. Issues are the seeds that sprout IRACs and points. Whereas rule statements and application can be given partial credit, you get zero credit for an issue never raised
- The value of condensed outlines
- How to craft your own condensed outlines!
More samples are available, and there is also a link to get both as a bundle in each page.
PS: Previous parts of this series about how to get back into the game…
(1) 11/21 (Saturday)
: How to be the ultimate sore loser
(how to have a methodical and deliberate approach to bar study, with three specific action steps)
(2) 11/28 (Saturday)
: Stuck on where to begin? 3 myths to discard and 3 systems to adopt to improve your approach to studying for the bar
(regardless of whose advice you listen to + some potty humor)