So there was this girl in college. Let's call her "Sarah" since that was her name. Sarah had dark brown hair and smelled like fresh green apples. I could tell because my pillow smelled for a few days after she took a nap on it. This was all before my life went downhill, so let me indulge in this memory for a bit.
One day, she asked me what my hobby was... the most dreaded question a guy can get because what the hell is a hobby and where can I find one. "Eating" doesn't count, so stop putting that in mentorship applications pls.
Brain sweating, I blurted out "helping people." I am NOT making this up. I cringe to this day because it sounds so pretentious, which is saying a lot coming from me.
But hey, I've seen worse attempts by a college freshman to look chill for a girl, like one of my two roommates who showed a one-time female guest a video of Triumph the Insult Dog on his seat while laughing alone and making her kneel on the ground, and wore pajama pants to class (or was that just 2004 fashion?). I can't decide whether that's worse than wearing a full suit to law-school classes.
(I promise there's actual substantive bar discussion below.)
Over a decade later, I realized my haphazard answer to Sarah became more tangible.
Make This Your Last Time (aka MTYLT aka my blog with everything you need to pass the bar) started out as a transparent and candid resource for others to take advantage of my experience and insights from the things I've tried in order to pass the CA bar the second time with a 70+ score jump.
ere I am, directly invading your inbox and hundreds of others who enjoy what I put out and depend on me importantly and seriously (some of them, anyway).
Have you ever run into people who slip through closing doors without holding it open... leaving you behind to fend for yourself with hands full of heavy grocery bags or a door in your face?
If there's anything worse than law students, it's them. And 99% of law students peace out after they pass the bar. Understandably, they want to forget about it forever (while complaining about their school's pass rates). But then they slip through the door and leave you trapped behind the glass door, so to say.
I've been saying that my goal is to become obsolete to you. I sincerely dare you to tell me there's someone else who has been:
- putting out free material that's better than anyone else's (I hope so because my articles and emails typically take 10-30+ hours to get to the version you see)
- negotiating the best discounts for your favorite supplements (I've been badgering AdaptiBar since August)
- recommending the best (sometimes subtle) ideas and resources (so don't get Bar Breaker
by Jeff Adachi because I tried it and it sucks fyi imo afaik)
- personally and thoroughly responding to each of your emails (I'd appreciate if you could tell me if it helps or what your next steps are or send me a read receipt or something)
- displaying as much heart as me tbh
It's proof that I put your best interest first to maximize your chances of passing the bar exam. Challenge me on this if I ever stray.
But I secretly want to be your friend too, not just a hunk (of neurons) :(
Would you rather fail NOW or fail at the real thing?
Sometimes it takes a limited period of straight essence to achieve something. 15 minutes of pure concentration as you perform on stage for that moment you witness a standing ovation. 6 hours of frantic thinking and looking up references on Prometric software that won't search properly but not giving up to find out you passed the patent bar. 20 seconds of insane courage to ask out a girl (or to press that send button and turn off the screen).
When you have one chance to make it happen, the effectiveness comes from the concentration of whatever you're putting in, not necessarily its total quantity.
If you're all ho-hum and put in casual effort to pass on the fifth try, is that worth the two years you wasted? Sure, you would have had it pretty easy, and that's a benefit... only if you don't care about passing the bar in the first place. If you're reading this, I assume you want to simply get on with your life after February. Just get it over with, no need for a celebration.
If you had one opportunity to get something you've wanted for the last 3+ years, would you take it? (It sounds like I'm trying to release a prisoner on parole.) Even though that means the next 6 weeks could be concentrated with hits to your ego, that path doesn't have to be full of suffering, because that suffering can lead to confidence, even boredom (a good thing)...
I. BORED > LOST AND SCARED AND STRESSED
This is the weakness of the bar: There's only a finite number of ways they can test you; thus you can learn the patterns by seeing and doing many approaches. Each subject, each type of call wants you to raise issues in a particular fashion.
Unlike real-life situations, the hypothetical cannot go beyond what is a reasonably clear-cut set of facts, especially for MBE questions with one right answer. That's why there's another term for hypotheticals: fact patterns
A few weeks ago, I showed you an example of taking apart a hypothetical in a predictable fashion.
There, the facts drove the rules, which drove the issues. Typically, one looks at an essay to "spot" issues, but there is an intermediate step of recognizing a rule element that corresponds to a piece of fact that was intentionally placed in the hypothetical.
However, if you already know that it can only be one of several paths or approaches you can take, not only does that make answering an essay more boring and predictable and tedious than it is anxiety inducing, it increase your confidence (even when you do a hail mary guess as to the issue or rule).
As a simple and obvious example, if someone is placed in a room in a store, the hypo is praying to you that you will discuss shopkeeper's privilege
because according to the rule, "[a] shopkeeper (one tasked with safeguarding) may detain a shoplifter for a reasonable period of time, in a reasonable manner (can also be defense to battery) if the shopkeeper has reasonable suspicion to believe that the detained person committed or attempted to steal store property" (taken from my outlines
As a more subtle example, you may think that all questions are the same—just know how to identify the issues, plug in the rules, and apply the facts. Yes, law school has programmed us to IRAC (CRAC, CIRAC or others depending on your state). After all, syllogism is the basic argumentative structure lawyers are called upon to follow.
But just that wasn't enough for me to pass the bar the first time. A second layer of structuring was needed, namely the sequence of discussing issues and/or facts.
Let's say you get a transcript-style Evidence essay. At first sight, it seems like a strange hypo that you think is that one WTF essay that appears on every bar. Once you know how to approach it, though, it becomes your favorite type of question because you KNOW what it's going to look like, almost like a template.
[By the way, here's how you'd approach it:
- Any pairs of question and answer are together
considered one item of evidence
- Check for any objections to the form of the question and/or answer (leading, nonresponsive, speculative...)
- If any part of an answer is improper, raise motion to strike as an issue
- Once the above threshold issues are considered, THEN check for more substantive issues (privilege, hearsay, etc.)]
Other less-straightforward-but-OK-once-figure-it-out types of issues include:
- contract formation (analyzing each communication),
- transmutation of community property (consider source, any presumptions, actions, disposition of asset), and
- distribution of decedent's property (screwed if you determine whether the will was valid incorrectly in the beginning because testate and intestate distribution schemes are different)
- crossover questions
All that's left is to move your fingers while sighing "not again" as you simply check for issues like it's routine and out of style.
II. THAT'S AWESOME DUDE... NOW I JUST HAVE TO DO A BUNCH OF QUESTIONS RIGHT?
Yes and no. If you were taking the July bar, then yeah sure, do all the essays and MBE questions and performance tests available out there. The more the better (watch out for burnout).
Given your time crunch for February, however, it would better serve you to REDO the same few essays you've picked out.*
"B-but I just did them......"
Do not be afraid to redo the same practice essays until you "get" it.
I imagine that people avoid doing so thinking it's a waste of time because they already did it, they should know it already, there are other essays they need to grind through, it's scary to think that they'd get the issues rules etc. wrong again...
But the truth is, if you really knew how to answer an essay, you'd be able to get it perfectly the next time. Doing the same essay again helps you:
- know whether you got down that particular essay format and set of issues
- understand and memorize important rules
- see new angles that you don't see with just one attempt (pay attention to
bae, and she'll show you sides you never knew she had)
Much like memorization, one attempt is mere familiarity, and multiple attempts at recall contribute to deeper understanding.
When you claim to "practice essays," it doesn't just mean you do a variety of them. I believe you should also do the same ones (after some time or even back to back) to (i) test yourself on the issues and (ii) practice raising the issues in the right sequence, particularly for less straightforward types of questions (e.g., Evidence transcripts). Essay cooking
comes in handy here since there's no real need to analyze the facts over and over.
We're getting closer to the punchline here... How do we get to that point of being so good with an essay, an issue, a type of question that we get bored of it? Redo it until you know it. An indication that you "get" it is that you can correctly identify all the issues in the correct sequence (verified with sample answers or model answers), even after a suspect amount of time has passed. That time period could be as long as the time between the last time you'll work on that particular question and the last day of the bar.
To be clear, though, I don't mean you should limit yourself by picking only a few essays and then just stopping. At first, you can pick the high-priority issues, essays, and questions. But if you can add
more later, do it. This approach attempts to increase the effectiveness of your study, but it isn't a lazy way out.
(* How do you pick out essays? Try to pick them out such that if you put them together, it covers a broad range of issues. This takes at least 3-4 essays to do. Prioritize the range of issues rather than overlap in issues. Of course, this should be catered to what you want to practice. If you really need practice with contract formation, have more of those.
You can find a comprehensive database of issues tested in previous California bar exams at BarIssues.com
. Access is pretty expensive, but you can get $20 off by using the code BRIAN2742.
One of these days I'll put together a list of essays I personally did to pass my second time.)
I've been talking in terms of essays since it's the biggest "black box" section of the bar. The subjectivity of essay answers leaves them susceptible to the state of the graders. Providing an answer with easy-to-follow, clearly raised issues will make the
grader sigh in relief, think "this person knows what I want," and move on. You don't want to stick out here. Sticking out usually means you're annoying the
grader, and every point
: Redoing problems can apply to the MBE as well even if there are many questions you can work with.
Remember that I want you to work with real MBE questions if you can.
If you don't have thousands of real questions to work with (for example, you only have Emanuel's Strategies and Tactics for the MBE
like I did), you could redo them after you've run out. Complain to me about it after you get 100% on your second round.
: About redoing performance tests, I would be careful because PTs are about analysis—putting together the file and library in a time crunch. If you already know the few issues and where to extract the relevant facts and law, it wouldn't be a true exercise of a PT.
Instead, if you'd like to challenge a PT again, one way to apply deliberate practice (forget the fluff and focus on stuff that matters) here is to review the file to see what other facts you could use. In essence, you'd be practicing pulling out the facts ("fact spotting").
Eventually, the real thing simply becomes just like practice.
I. Getting bored from doing what you think you already know is a good thing
II. Get to that point by redoing the same problems until you really get it
--> Agree? Disagree? Let me know by replying or commenting here.
Btw I'm going to start phasing out longer emails because you want to focus more on study
as you head into February. As go along, there's not much to implore you to do but practice and review once you've set up that study framework. I'd say about 2/3 practice and 1/3 review.
PS. Can you forward this to at least one of your friends? Stop hogging
PPS. If you got this from a friend, you can sign up to get emails like this here