Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Essay Advantage

Today I attended the first of three 4-hour sessions in the BarBri 3-day New York Essay Advantage Series. This program is above and beyond the normal BarBri course. It's designed to help you maximize your essay score for the NY Essays and MPT. Throughout the morning I took some notes to post on my pad. They follow. (Follow what? Follow this!)

The No. 1 skill is Reading Comprehension. Reading fast, identifying the issues and focal points in a speedy manor.

If you know enough about the law to apply and such, you use the suggested IRAC method.

If you don't know enough (and this is the big one), you should use the alternative method they suggest.

The method proposed is nothing new to me. My mind works that way naturally. If you don't know enough:
  1. pull facts known together
  2. based on known rules and mere inference/guess/whim/sense of propriety, decide on the outcome you like
  3. formulate and state a rule that leads to that outcome
  4. reason from that rule, applying the facts, in effect having worked backwards

From observed facts you reason a hypothesis (theory) to explain the behavior. Here, for the essay, from the known facts you formulate a rule to apply to them to achieve the desired outcome. Alright, in explanation this doesn't quite sound the same but in my head it makes a lot of sense. Somehow.

Anyways, today's session was helpful but not quite in the direct manner of adopting a new strategy. The specific implementation (strategy) was a little helpful. The time pressure observed and the guidelines proposed were very helpful. The identification of the issues and discussion thereof (though not the foremost purpose of the seminar) was very helpful.

For my purposes, I could have spent 30-60 minutes instead of the 4 hours and gotten the same out of it. I actually started zoning out and ignoring the tape for portions that were of no help to me.

Why is the bar exam all about regurgitation? In practice you will always look up the law to quote it verbatim and appropriately cite and support it. This is why I like the MPT part so much - it assumes no knowledge of the law and is based solely on applying random law to a new fact pattern in a practical manner.

For the NY day of the bar, we have 50 multiple choice questions and 3 essays in the morning then 2 essays and the MPT in the afternoon. BarBri suggests doing the mult. choice first then the essays. However, since my hand starts hurting after a good amount of writing, I think I may write 2 essays, then do the mult. choice, then do the last essay, to spread out the writing and give my hand a break in the middle.

The other day, on the radio, I heard that Mars will be very close to the Earth in July-August, as big as the moon in the night sky (August) and that this happens every 5,000 years or some such. Then I googled this and found one suggestion that this is an urban legend (also see this). Ah well. Stupid radio morning show...

Caffeine is a prerequisite to my 'productive' mornings now. Dunkin Donuts' coffee is damn good.

It's kind of funny. The essays are graded in 1/3 of a point increments, rounding up or down to the nearest whole point. We're told to chase these 1/3's of a point. But that's kind of odd considering an individual 1/3 of a point this will only realistically help us 1/3 of the time (when going from ___ 1/3 to ___ 2/3). Of course increasing your score on an essay by one whole point is a big deal as this is worth a number of NY mult. choice questions and/or a number of MBE questions.

Application of the law has never been a problem for me, it's the memorization, the recalling of necessary law. See Fed. Tax Exam. I went into the exam (all mult. choice) with a number of outlines given me by a friend. (Perfectly allowable as we were allowed to bring in anything non-electronic.) I knew very little if any Fed. Tax as I had attended approx. half the classes and paid attention in very few if any of those I did attend. Even so, armed with the outlines I managed to pull off a decent passing grade. Let's just say that for the amount of time (or lack thereof) that I put into that exam, I had an excellent return. Locating and applying law - easy for me.

One big thing I learned today is that I really need to be reviewing the basic law asap and hitting it hard. I can learn and remember most of what I need but since that's my weakest point, I need to hit it now and repeatedly do so from hereon out. Once I know more law, then I need to practice these essays. & This is why I love the MPT oh so much... *sigh*

Not that they say knowing law isn't important, not at all - that's implicit. Rather it's the assumption that you know the necessary law. When it comes to patents, copyrights, and trademarks I know quite a bit. I know some of what's in other subjects but it varies wildly. And some I know very little. Unfortunately, the big ones are in this last category - Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Torts, etc.

It's the fact that knowledge of the law is inherently tied into a good analysis. That's my problem.

There is a recurring weakness in Dunkin Donuts' styrofoam coffee cups and lids that potentially results in coffee occasionally dripping out of the lid-cup edge 'seal'. I have seen this on multiple occasions now.

I should generally carry Tylenol with me to these review sessions in case I need it.

And that's what I wrote down today for the blog.