Bar Exam Mind – Journaling Exercise Four

by thedesertion

Which 3 essay subjects do you hope appear on the exam? What about those subjects make you confident in your ability to answer essay questions about them?

The three essay subjects I hope to see on the exam are 1) secured transactions 2) commercial paper 3) and a tie between agency and one specific area of property – mortgages.

Unlucky for me, commercial paper and agency already appeared on February’s exam so I am thinking that it’s a slim chance they’ll be on there again. It was kind of an anomaly for commercial paper to be on there.  I was told it rarely ever gets tested. I was glad the bar examiners threw that curveball because my confidence shot through the roof when I saw that in the essay portion. What makes me confident about these particular areas is that I find commercial paper and secured transactions to be fairly straightforward – there is just a right answer, and it’s not so open ended like some other topics like constitutional law or even civil procedure or conflicts of laws. I feel like the analysis is straight to the point and there’s nothing to really waver back and forth about. I also had a great law school experience in these courses. My professor was an excellent professor.

Agency is also one of my favorite topics because the lecturer, Professor Kaufman, albeit kind of crazy, all over the place, and impulsive, he had a way of presenting the material in a very dumbed-down way that made it easy to digest and memorize. I hated sitting through his lectures but the end result was a very neatly organized outline with the concepts broken down in such a way that it was some of the least painful material to memorize.

I really like the mortgages subtopic of property. I gained a lot of confidence in that area because I took some courses in law school on foreclosures and creditors’ remedies. I felt more prepared for that than I did for any other area of property, so going into the next exam I would really like to see an essay on mortgages. I heard it was heavily tested a year ago and it caught everyone off guard, but if it comes I think I’ll be ready for it.

When there is an essay topic that I feel is right up my alley, as I did when agency and commercial paper appeared on the last exam, my confidence shot through the roof. As a result, my best writing style emerges and I am always happy with the result.

Which 3 subjects do you hope don’t appear on the essay portion? Why? What can you do to prepare if those subject show up? Do you need to change your study methods for those topics? Should you practice with these subjects more?

The three essay topics I hope will not appear on the essay portion of the exam are…well, there are more than three: evidence, conflicts of law, civil procedure, wills, trusts. 

I didn’t get a solid background on these areas of law while I was in law school. I can blame it on myself for some of it, but I think a lot of it had to do with the professors. The professors I had for civil procedure and evidence really weren’t all that great. I didn’t take conflicts, and I didn’t pay attention in wills & trusts. So that part was my fault. Now, as a result, I am seeing that I feel the least confident when it comes to these areas of law. The fact that my base knowledge in these areas is so weak is such a confidence killer.

When I went to see my bar exam counselor, she told me that to quell anxiety on the bar exam, you have to show up as prepared as you can be in ALL the subjects so that when an essay that you normally wouldn’t like shows up, you’ll be confident because you will be prepared. Basically, she said preparedness is confidence. Last time I took the bar exam, I didn’t have time (or rather, didn’t make time) to practice enough essays to gain the confidence I will need for approaching these topics on the exam. This time, I will be certain to carve out enough time for extra memorization in these topics and time to write (or at least outline) a good amount of essays in all these topics.

This time around, I will make outlines for ALL of the topics, all 16 of them. I have already started on many of them.  This is something I hadn’t done last time and I now realize the importance of synthesizing and condensing the information. Outlines are kind of like roadmaps for your mind; they keep you on track when you want to start wandering off in your analysis. Creating my own outline will help me to see the natural flow of thought for each subject area.   Another technique I would like to try is to draw out flow charts for certain topics, like evidence. I think evidence is an area that is very conducive to flow charting, especially when working on hearsay and the exceptions. I just found these amazing evidence flowcharts right now. There’s one on determining hearsay initially, and then one to see if the evidence can come in on a hearsay exception. These charts are a life saver!

When I see an essay topic I don’t like, it’s as if it’s not even “me” writing the essay.  When I read it over, it’s as if I wasn’t the person who wrote it – the end result is completely unrecognizable as something I would have written. My writing style isn’t that quintessential “me” that I am used to when I lack confidence in the topic.