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The angel on your shoulder whispers to you as you resist studying… Don’t cry, you’re going to be a fine lawyer, <<First Name>>… You’re a good person no matter what… Life is short, just YOLO it…

Screw you, it doesn’t matter even if you never appear again! We’re trying to pass the bar here!
If you missed the previous parts of this crash series on getting back into the game, heed their existence:
Part 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)
Part 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)
Part 3 – 12/5 (Saturday): Watch how I fixed my absolute disaster of an essay

This email has two parts

1. How to use issue checking to ensure that you identify the relevant issues (and rack up all the points for yourself)
2. How to make your own condensed outline

In Part 3, I introduced the concept of issue checking and said I would tell you how you can use it to systematize the mystical process of identifying issues (we try not to use the s-word “spotting” around here).
Recall that you can still salvage partial credit for incomplete rules and application. But without identifying the right issues, you get 0 credit for those issues. This was actually the biggest game-changing insight I had for my second time.


Comprehensive and relevant

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the phrase esprit de l’escalier (staircase wit).
What’s better than getting positive reactions as I abuse a foreign phrase to look high culture? It might be the only of my favorite French phrases that beats oui-oui (only because it sounds like wee-wee and I don’t know any other ones).
You’ve had that feeling, right? You think of the perfect thing to say— after the moment has passed. That feel when a perfect witty response comes to you too late and you agonize over your scumbag brain. Ugh, where’s the warning label that says “life choices are irreversible”?
According to the essay instructions, discussion of the issues should be the opposite of that: “Your answer should be complete, but you should not volunteer information or discuss legal doctrines that are not pertinent to the solution of the problem.
That means there are two parts to the spectrum. Imagine an inverted V:
  1. The more relevant issues you identify, the better. You do not want staircase wit here. You want to feel smug knowing that you’ve had your piece instead of agonizing over missed issues. This includes including issues that travel together like a chain of high schoolers blocking the entire width of the hallway.
  2. The inverted V peaks when you’ve identified all the relevant issues.
  3. After a certain point (where you’ve exhausted the pertinent issues), volunteering information beyond that peak point will hurt your answer. In fact, at no point do you want to volunteer stuff that doesn’t fit, like talking about rescission when you’re dealing with tort liability. We’ll go through an example together below.
Ask law students how to identify the issues present in a fact pattern, and they’ll immediately chirp the dreaded phrase “issue spot”!
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the phrase “issue spotting”… except to me it’s a filler phrase that bears as much meaning as “in this economy.”
Ask those same students to explain issue spotting, and they’ll either say “practice” or change the subject. Practice isn’t a bad answer actually. Grind enough essays and you’ll probably get the gist of which issues are important. It’s good enough.
But what if you’re still lost on where to even start? Wondering how those sample answers knew what to talk about?


A system for identifying issues

I think there’s a more reliable way than “issue spotting” to increase your chances of delivering a comprehensive and relevant answer that racks up points. It’s based on these principles:
  • The ways they can test you are limited by the scope of the exam and the scenarios they can come up with (they are called fact patterns for a reason)
  • Issues often come grouped together, i.e., if you see one, you can expect related ones. You miss out on points if you forget to talk about the related ones. No staircase wit allowed!
  • Facts trigger rules, which trigger issues

It’s called issue checkingRather than thinking of it as spotting issues, you are now checking for issues given the facts. To me, “spotting” implies that you just “see” these issues out of happenstance rather than deliberately matching the facts to known and preexisting issues.

“I’ll know it when I see it” => “if it’s meant to be, it will happen ~ don’t worry about it, you just gotta go and have an adventure” => “why does my life suck so much”

If you knew that there was a tendency for Waldo to be near people with bright blue clothes (I’m making this up), wouldn’t that make finding Waldo simpler, more systematic?
Because essays aren’t real life, you don’t need to be inventive or creative with issues. The examiners plant each fact intentionally and want to see if you can see the signals. If you’re socially awkward like me and can’t see the signals, what you want is a finite list or knowledge of testable issues + the data or experience to tell you which issues appear often. Then, narrowing them down based on the facts, check each of the available issues.
Let’s look at a simple example. Consider this excerpt from 2011 July:
When [Vicky] saw Dan loading computers into the back of the truck, she stepped between Dan and the truck and yelled, “Stop, thief!” Dan pushed Vicky out of the way, ran to the truck, and drove off. He immediately went to Fred’s house where he told Fred what happened. In exchange for two of the computers, Fred allowed Dan to hide the truck behind Fred’s house. What crimes, if any, have Dan, Eric, and/or Fred committed?
So it’s a crimes question for D and F (E is not in this excerpt). Things to consider:
  • D touched someone --> check for personal crimes
  • D took something away or intended to --> check for property crimes
  • D and F interacted --> check for conspiracy or accomplice liability
What issues are available? Learning this should be part of your general studies
  • What personal crimes are available? Battery, aggravated battery, assault (2 types), aggravated assault, kidnapping
  • What property crimes are available? Larceny, larceny by trick, embezzlement, false pretenses, robbery, burglary, receipt of stolen property
  • What about for “helping another”? Accomplice liability
  • Any DEFENSES for each issue? Crim law has plenty
Now looking at the facts, which issues are relevant for D? Let’s check:
  • Since touching was involved (and is an element of battery), discuss battery
    • Related is aggravated battery. However, since none of its elements are met by the facts, it is quickly raised and disposed of as a non-issue (any more and you risk telling the grader you don’t understand the issues or at best wasting precious seconds)
    • Related is assault since he had to approach V to push her away. However, this is also a weak issue since the facts explicitly mention pushing. I would quickly raise as a minor issue, a side note almost
  • Since D took possession of the computers, discuss larceny
  • Since D invoked force against V to get away while/after taking possession, discuss robbery (conclude either way you want)
Which issues are relevant for F? Let’s check:
  • Since F helped D knowing “what happened,” discuss accessory after the fact
  • Since F knew the computers were stolen, discuss receipt of stolen property
Are you having fun yet? Am I the only one having fun?
What’s going on here? Our pool of discussable issues narrowed down as we matched specific facts to the bank of available issues and their rule elements, methodically checking through each of the possibilities. For example, when only touching was involved, battery and aggravated battery were left. If you talked about assault (too extensively) or kidnapping, that would be volunteering “legal doctrines that are not pertinent to the solution of the problem.”
So the gist of it is: To identify as many relevant issues as possible in an essay, use a systematic approach such as “issue checking” to check for issues in the fact pattern rather than happen to spot them.
Combine this with practice, and you’ll be able to open that essay leaflet with confidence.


Would you rather have that confidence already packaged up for you? I came up with a unique resource to do just that.

APPROSHEETS are an easy-to-follow guide to attacking the essays.
These battle-tested one pagers (checklist or flowchart) take you through structuring your essays or outlines in a sequential manner, focusing on the most important issues. Even if you know all the law, you still need to present all the relevant issues in the right way.
One major pitfall of answering an essay is discussing some issues but not others. A checklist or flowchart approach ensures that you don’t forget the related issues—to not have staircase wit come to you after the exam as you engage in TLS paranoia.

Samples: Evidence | Community Property | Civil Procedure


So that covers the approach to uncovering the right issues. What about the rules?

Once you have I and R down, you’re pretty much home free! It becomes fact-hunting season, and the rest of the IRAC is just an open-book fest.
In Part 3, I briefly touched on condensed outlines. Here, you’ll see an overview of how to make your own.
What is a condensed outline? It compresses what you need to know on the bar into a highly dense but organized version of the issues and rule statements for your quick yet accurate reference.
What about flashcards? Nahh, the only time I’d consider them is premade ones like Law in a Flash for solidifying concepts with examples. Making them one at a time seems like busy work to me. But if you choose, the how-to below can apply to flashcards too.
How does it work? According to the “issue checking” approach, there is a finite list of issues and subissues you should systematically check through rather than haphazardly “spot” them out of thin air, which risks other discussable issues slipping through your mind.
Having an organized outline guards against that because you can see all the issues and subissues you should discuss. It's not only useful for essay practice but also for MBE because the MBE tests specific details of bar law. Even knowing that a certain nuance or exception exists allows you to take an educated guess in a pinch.

It's also handy for looking up concepts quickly for learning, cramming, and reviewing. Eventually, these outlines become quick references rather than a source of learning. It's like a CMR (Conviser Mini Review) to your CMR.

Pros and cons? The upside is that you can focus on learning by quick reference rather than wasting time flipping through books looking for that one concept.

It's easy to flip through a few pages than a book whether to memorize or desperately cram the night before—or practice, practice, practice without interruption.

The downside is that you can't capture absolutely everything in a few pages. But that's OK because you shouldn't have to know everything. Focus on the most frequently tested core concepts. Time is better spent on places that have the best chance of return—the best bang for your time buck. Look up the obscure concepts on your own after the bar, but don't obsess over it.

What does a good one look like? A good outline should include all of the basic and majorly tested areas. You can tell the major issues by looking at the major headings in your big bar prep outline, but you only get a sense of which concepts are important by doing MBE questions and practice essays.

A good outline should be concise and organized. There is no point to a mishmash of notes that you have a hard time looking up. You should be able to see what all the issues, subissues, and the rules that go with them.

A good outline should still have all the information in an easy-to-understand fashion. It is a tool that assists, not slows you down. If it takes you longer to flip through the book, there's no point to having a condensed outline.

Tell me how to make one! Whoa all right, have some chill. Maybe this will get you off my back for 3 minutes.

A basic skeleton can be made by looking at existing outlines, such as the ones given by your prep company. Start with a rough outline, then build on it:
- Big, overarching issues (e.g., intentional torts, negligence, strict liability) come first
- Identify all the main issues (e.g., battery, assault)
- Add in accurate yet concise rule statements. Each line is precious, so make them count! Rules can be extracted and/or paraphrased from the prep company outlines, lecture notes, class notes, statutes you find online, etc.
- Identify subissues for each issue (e.g., exceptions, nuances, sub-rule for an element)
- Add in rule statements for subissues
- Keep them short! You're not recreating outlines; you are making a tool to make your life easier. Keep each subject limited to a few pages
Here is a simple example, with my annotations:

I. INTENTIONAL TORTS [overarching issue, often the only big issue in a call or the entire question]
    A. Battery: Harmful or offensive contact with P's person [general definition if it helps you remember]. D voluntarily acted to bring harmful or offensive contact with P's person, intended such contact with P's person, and caused such conduct [elements to prove a prima facie case]
        1. P's person [nuance]: P or something closely connected with P. P need not be aware of conduct. Delayed conduct OK
        2. Offensive contact [nuance]: Direct/indirect physical contact is offensive to a reasonable person, unless D knew P was particularly susceptible
    B. AssaultD intended P's reasonable apprehension of imminent battery [elements to prove p/f case—you also know the general definition of battery above to quickly realize assault doesn't require contact since battery already does]
        1. P must actually suffer apprehension by apparent ability for battery [nuance—this dense statement implies that (minor point) it doesn't matter whether D actually intended or could commit battery (apparent ability) as long as (major point) P actually felt the apprehension (the facts given will signal these one way or another, e.g., "D pointed an unloaded realistic toy gun as a prank, and P tackled D in a panic"...which opens up a whole can of worms re defenses)]
        2. Words alone rarely creates assault (no imminence) [nuance]
    C. False imprisonmentIntentional confinement of P to a bounded area against P's will that P knows of or is harmed by [elements to prove p/f case]
        1. Confinement can occur when [nuance]: No reasonable means of escape known to P. Risk of embarrassment. Not when by reputational harm or future threats
        2. Shopkeeper's privilege [exception]: Same deal, insert rule here

Then cut down on the length of each line to make them fit without wasting space!


What does this mean to you?

With the contents from today’s email and the other parts linked at the top, you’re now geared up with the basics to start tackling your study and pass the bar.
However, if you’d like to save time and effort so you can focus on practice, I have a tool to jump start (or entirely skip) the outlining process:
MAGICSHEETS are 46 pages (previously 44 but now with a side-by-side comparison of ABA vs. CA ethics rules) with 95% of the material you need to know in 5% of the size of Barbri’s CMR, all done for you and ready to go.
“B-b-but... Lean Sheets!!”
I’ve used Lean Sheets the first time, and let’s just let the samples speak for themselves:
We can do better than that because you deserve to make this your last time.
Magicsheets samples: Evidence | Con Law | Business Associations
Can you get Lean Sheets for MBE subjects only? Nope, it’s all or nothing. But I’ll let you pick a package based on your needs.
Can Lean Sheets make me feel safe like Barbri does? Sure, but plenty of people have passed using less-established prep companies and vice versa. Tools themselves (including Magicsheets) will not pass the bar on your behalf.
Can Lean Sheets make issues and subissues easy to see? Not really, they’re double column with text you kinda have to decipher. But you can just scan the left side of Magicsheets to see a bank of issues underlined and indented by related groups—which makes them conducive for issue checking as well.
Can Lean Sheets be refunded? Not that this guy could find. But if you hate Magicsheets, tell me why within 30 days to get a full refund.

I’m not even going to say much here anymore since I know for a fact Magicsheets have helped numerous people (plus no one has ever asked me for a refund for being dissatisfied). There is no leap of faith on your part. All the risk is on me.
Hope you enjoyed this primer on starting your studies. Just add practice, and you’ll be well on your way to success so you never have to listen to me ever again.
Talk to you again soon (with shorter emails),
PS. Here are all the links of interest from this email:
Part 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)
Part 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)
Part 3 – 12/5 (Saturday): Watch how I fixed my absolute disaster of an essay
Premium condensed outlinesMagicsheets
Premium essay attack sheetsApprosheets
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