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August 04, 2004

Some Thoughts on the Bar Exam

Although some have suggested abolishing it, I am hesitant to admit that the bar exam was actually an educational experience; I became familiar with several areas of law that I didn't study in school (e.g., conflicts, donations and trusts, Article 9, negotiable instruments, and community property) and corrected a few concepts that I either never fully grasped or failed to properly learn in school. The experience was undeniably miserable, but it was not the "summer of hell" that was promised by so many. One professor indicated that we would never know so much about so many varied legal topics as we knew last week, more specifically, indicating that we would have aa panoramic view of the law by the time the exam started.

A few observations on the test itself. Code I was relatively straightforward, but caused a lot of anxiety because it covered so much persons material. Until this test, the current examiner has illustrated a strong propensity towards property questions with very little on property or community property. Of the five questions, two were strictly persons (tutorship and child custody) and a third covered community property. The first two questions (on tutorship and community property) were exact repeats, which was nice because quieted the test anxiety and established a good groove for the test.

Code II was exactly as expected, ten short-answer questions, each worth 10 points on intestate successions, and one large hypo with ten questions on testate successions. It was both fair and comprehensive.

Code III was the first surprise of the exam. The first question covered Article 9 with an excruciatingly long hypothetical and was followed up with a bizarre question that featured collateral mortgages (a topic the LSU students were apparently told hasn't been tested in 10 years, except in very narrow circumstances) and True/False questions that related to whether or not the requrirement was valid or invalid to effect a mortgage between the parties and then third parties. The test covered five questions, each equally weighted at 20 points a piece. The last three questions were all repeats (although not exact), but it took me almost 2 of the 3 hours to answer the first two questions because they were so long and convoluted. My sympathies to the Code III graders. This was the first test that caused actual time pressure and also the first test where I had to fight being tired and wanting to quit. Starting off with the two hard questions made taking this test an exhausting experience. I'm divided on which way I would prefer to see them, familiar first and hard last, or vice versa.

Louisiana Civil Procedure didn't feature a single new question. Studying for this test was very frustrating because it primarily consisted of memorizing answers to the last 6 years of very detailed and specific questions (e.g.
, outline the process for appointing a tutor, contesting a will, etc.) Nonetheless, I can say that I was familiarized with a significant amount of procedure that I had not yet seen (in both the class and after two years of clerking almost full time)

The torts exam was a straightforward exam with 2 questions. No surprises.

Business Entities and Negotiable Instruments was, without question, the biggest curve ball we saw. For whatever reason, this exam has been short on hypotheticals and has only required very minimal analysis, intstead going for significant short answer questions (e.g., name two reasons that a corporate veil may be pierced). On this test, however, we went from 30+ short answer questions worth over half of the exam to 6 hypos and only 8 short answer questions. Furthermore, over 50% of the test covered partnerships and negotiable instruments. I don't think there has ever been an exam that tested over 25% for those two topics combined. Additionally, the questions were very poorly written. It was difficult to determine what the bar examiner was asking (see subpart 1 on Question 2/3?--did he want us to explain all business entities (e.g. include corporations) or only those relevant to the hypo?). Also, the detailed questions were one thing, but to test the same point of law repeatedly was exasperating. The Bar/Bri outline didn't even cover some of the specific topics that were tested (and then tested in multiple ways). Regardless of how exasperating the test was, the people I talked to felt like they gutted out enough points to pass. I like the new hypo format, but this exam was definitely not polished and could have benefitted from having a few more eyes look over it.

The con law test was as expected and included a Boston gay marriage question that most people expected to see. The last question was a bit of a pain, essentially requiring a high school civics answer regarding separation of powers.

Criminal law was as expected, although the examiner did throw in a few more criminal procedure questions than have appeared in the last few years. This was the first exam that I hit a wall and simply couldn't think or form intelligent sentences.

I also participated in the Laptop Pilot Program, which certainly saved my wrists and hands from injury.

Posted by AJR at August 4, 2004 01:04 AM
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