How to gain an unfair (but totally legal) advantage on the bar exam... by approaching essays in a way that racks up points like you just won the jackpot

 

Introduction to Approsheets | Full Samples | Buy Approsheets

 

Ah, Spring—a juris doctor’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of the bar exam.

When you think about the bar, you think of... essays!

You haven't felt like you've had to draw out such artful BS on the fly since that night you accidentally confessed your infatuation to your crush over AOL Instant Messenger.

"I never exactly know where to start and where to take these issues. What am I supposed to talk about? Stop making me pull random issues out of thin air for an hour."

Does that sound like you? The essay portion of the bar is a mystery no matter how long you've been studying for it and no matter which state you're in.

In fact, every single fellow repeater of the bar exam I talked to needed to improve their essays to pass.

Chances are, you're one of many who struggle with knowing which issues to talk about. Either too many ("kitchen sink" approach that risks annoying the grader with irrelevant issues) or too few (AKA "squeeze out random words and with their powers combined, it's Captain Bullshit").

The essay you open stares you in the face without breaking eye contact. It's like a riddle with no solution. Is the answer "somewhere in the middle"? (No, make a conclusion.)

That fact looks important... Hmm, that's definitely (I think) negligence...! What other issues can I pretend to know...?

Have you seen a sushi chef turn seafood into magic?

Should we also cut leftover produce into pretty flowers to add edible feng shui to the plate? I guess there’s something poetic about making art out of something people will consume immediately.

Or should we dump everything in and be done with it? It's all the same in the end, you nihilistically point out.

Oh Bar Exam, of course you won't show mercy. Unfortunately, if you want to raise your chances of being in the passing 43% (if you're in California, based on the 2016 July exam), you need to be mindful like a pro sushi chef:

  • Understand the facts and figure out the right slices of issues being tested
  • Firmly apply well-stated law to the facts
  • Organize it all into a delicious, logical, legible, easy-to-read presentation

(So metaphors aside, no, it is not advisable to just throw in whatever issues and rules you happen to remember, even if the grader will consume your essay in 2 minutes.)

What a shitshow! I'm sure you agree that...

You don't even care for celebrations: Just let this be done and over with, please!

Many examinees spend the majority of their time merely trying to memorize the rules. And I get that. There's a METRIC SHIT TON of law to know, so it is definitely critical.

But consider this: Without the seeds of issues, IRACs can’t sprout in the first place.

Put another way, although you can still get partial credit if you make up a rule or shove in facts until your application looks hefty enough, you will get zero credit for an issue that is never raised. To that end, you should also focus on how to nail down the issues and confidently present them to the grader.

"Just memorize the 'black-letter law' and I should be good to go, right?"

It's not enough to just know the rules in theory. That's just half the equation. To learn the rules means to learn how to apply them as well.

Even if you knew all the law, you still need to present the right ones by first identifying the issues they want you to.

How? I've discussed the concept of issue checking over issue spotting. Rather than thinking of it as spotting issues, you are 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.

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 the game simpler, more systematized?

Because essays aren’t real life, you don’t need to be inventive or creative with issues. The examiners plant each fact intentionally, like an Easter egg hunt.

What you want is a finite list of testable issues and the data or experience to tell you which issues appear often or are important. Then, after narrowing them down based on the facts, check for each of the available issues.

All that to say, memorizing rules is merely the basic cost of entry. You also need to know HOW to apply the rules for EACH tested subject. (Yes, "just IRAC" does not apply equally to all subjects!)

Combine the above with practice, and you’ll be able to open that essay leaflet with near-precognitive clarity and real confidence. And speaking of confidence, let me share my thoughts on how that applies to the bar.

Let's do the math:

MEMORIZATION + MASTERY + PRACTICE = CONFIDENCE

 

Anyone else crash and burn over the phone? Is it weird that I find face-to-face conversation easier than over the phone?

I don’t know if I can call myself a confident person. I can’t even decide whether I’m a confident person. Luckily on the bar exam, it doesn’t matter if you are not a “confident” person in your everyday life. That’s irrelevant to the great equalizer called the bar exam.

“Confidence” seems like a vague catchall term to satisfy us with a reason for why we feel a certain way. Like the word “creepy” (am I right, fellas?) You feel something, then justify your feelz with a label. It’s much easier to dismiss something with a name. Rest assured, no one has called me creepy to my face yet (though in 5th grade a girl said I was ugly… ruthless!).

“But what does this have to do with the bar? You’re always going on tangents that somehow tie in later, but I wanna know right now, you magnificent bastard!”

All right, well...I believe confidence is a mixture of at least:

    • knowing what to do at a given situation (memorization + mastery),
    • being good at something (mastery + practice), and
    • giving whatever you are doing the entirety of your effort (memorization + practice).

You could be a quiet person, but on the inside know what you want and what you’re doing (and the latter is what matters on the bar). And the opposite is true, like gunners vs. snipers in law school. So don't feel like you're going to fail because everyone else appears to be on track.

Some may charge you hourly up the ass for the feeling of assurance. Some may claim they will help you pass the bar with ease and confidence. Those are big claims to throw around without backing up.

Your peers studying for the bar may be frazzled or easygoing. Take their external behavior with a grain of salt. From my experience, neither necessarily indicates whether they passed. Some may study with apparent fearlessness, certainty, or carelessness. I don’t know what these traits (commonly associated with confidence) translate to in general, but they are often an indicator of failing the bar.

Look, I could give you all the mental woo-woo mantras you want, and they might make you feel good and get you off my back for 10 minutes.

You know that’s not what you NEED. Like I say, my work is done if I’ve made myself obsolete. That is what I intend to do.

What about a system that will give you actual confidence to pass the essays whenever you need it? Something that will give you the feeling that you: KNOW what to do at a given situation, are GOOD at it, and/or can now put in your FULL effort.

I came up with a unique resource to do just that.

"I passed the CA bar. I must say that I found both the Approsheets and Magicsheets very helpful."

Marisa Magicsheets Approsheets x

Allow me to introduce...

Approsheets

I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
—Blaise Pascal

Approsheets are a 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 frequently tested issues. There is clarity in simplicity.

Even if you know all the law, you still need to present all the relevant issues.

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.

Full Samples

EVIDENCE

(non-CA, FRE-only version available)

CRIM LAW CA COMM PROP
Approsheets - Evidence Approsheets - Crim Law Approsheets - Community Property

Why one page? Come on, you really don’t need yet another giant stack of papers on your desk. I’ve distilled and purified the essentials so that you can benefit from the most important issues—the 80/20 principle in action.

There is clarity in simplicity.

Maximum coverage with the minimal dose. More than enough for minimum competence.


In other words, if you want a full, detailed explanation of the approach, this is probably not for you.

A condensed yet cohesive essay approach was an idea I conceived back in 2014 June-ish. Since then, I shared a prototype with the bar community and then had over a dozen paying pilot users to study with the beta version of Approsheets. This is a field-tested product!

What this will do for you:

  • Know where to start on an essay question (an overarching roadmap of important issues and sub-issues)

Approsheets can help you with "how to get an essay started" and "issue spotting and practicing"

  • Include relevant issues and sub-issues in your outline/answer (issues to discuss are underlined and grouped together depending on the facts)
  • Rack up hidden points (reminders to discuss easily missed related issues, including exceptions and defenses)
  • Visualize the checklist with a flowchart (a separate page where you can literally follow the arrows to see what issues to consider next)
  • Calm your nerves so you can focus on the task even under pressure (you can even print and carry your plan of attack on one sheet of paper)

Magicsheets Approsheets peace of mind

"Helped me a lot especially to keep me confident and have a good checklist of everything . . . Pretty great value for the price. Thanks."

  • 30-day refund policy (if it doesn't help you, just email me to get a full refund)
  • Lifetime updates (automatic email delivery of whatever tweaks, rearrangements, optimizations I make in the future)

 

Here's what you get

 

You'll get a set of essay approach sheets in the form of checklists, templates, and flowcharts (full samples). Each subject is its own PDF file. 

These subjects are included:

  • Business Associations (agency, partnerships, corporations)
  • Civil Procedure (federal and/or CA)
  • CA Community Property (AKA "Family Law")
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Evidence (federal and/or CA)
  • Professional Responsibility (ABA and/or CA)
  • Real Property
  • Remedies
  • Torts
  • Wills & Trusts

Non-CA (general law) versions of the above subjects that omit all references to CA law are available too!

Are you taking the UBE?

Unfortunately, the above subjects do not completely overlap with some of the MEE subjects at this time (like Family Law, Secured Transactions, and Conflict of Laws).

You may consider getting the variant that omits references to California law (leaving you with general bar law only).

rachel-1

Most UBE folks supplement non-CA variants of Approsheets/Magicsheets with their own sources. However, you may not feel that this collection of subjects will be as useful, which is totally understandable.

rachel-2

 

If you're reading this, you know my free material is unlike anything out there. You can expect the same with my time-tested premium material.

So again, I am taking on 100% of the risk with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you find that these are not for you, email me for a full refund.

 

Now if you want the confidence to attack the essays and rack up points all day long, click below:

 

Get Approsheets — $39

If you're feeling extra ambitious, Magicsheets (my premium condensed outlines) are the perfect companion tool for attacking the essays with Approsheets. You can get both for $10+ less:

Get the Magicsheets ($49) + Approsheets ($39) Suite — $77

Issue checking flipped my whole approach to identifying issues. Let me explain why I am unapologetic about Approsheets.

What is "premium"?

 

Put simply, it’s an investment in your success.

There's something fishy going on... What are the passing half doing to win? All this time pressure and things to remember. How are you supposed to get through an essay with confidence?

If there's one thing I learned all too late, the people who grab the cum laudes and bar cards first invested in themselves. Law school taught me that in this day and age of planetary connectivity, you will suffer if you rely on your “self” only and try to reinvent the wheel.

This is the problem with people who are proactive and creative. They try to be TOO original to solve their problems. Those who leap over the pioneers got their results not by reinventing the wheel or bootstrapping... but by getting the right help.

Sure, some lucky geniuses might practice essays for two weeks and pass because they remember everything from law school. Let them do it their way. You can use the resources that are right for you.

Plead and ye shall receive. 95% of my material (including my PT guide) is already free. And it’s the best free content you’ll see (slight exaggeration)! Delivering these emails and blog articles takes a longer time than you might think, too. It can take up to 30 hours to go from conception, research, writing, simmering, proofing, to publication for each piece of content.

I mean, how else do I come up with my refreshing combination of second-timer insights, psychological concepts, and a touch of humor (give me some credit here) to offer a candid and actionable dialogue with you? And you know I’m not playing around since I’ve been doing this consistently for over a year now.

I think you can find my blog valuable precisely because I’m NOT a first-time passer who may have just happened to pass. It’s like people who passed the MPRE: “Oh, it’s really easy! Just study like the week before, lol.” It was “really easy” because you happened to pass, jackass.

So if you’re reading this, congrats. This is your unfair advantage. And I take pride in this. I’ve been on the front lines, gotten shot, and now know my way around the trenches.

So why don’t I just charge hundreds per hour for tutor access instead? Why do I need people telling me that I’m “wasting time” on you when I could enjoy my free time like a normal attorney? Why am I still thinking about the bar? The nightmare continues.

I could literally write a book or make a course based around all my free material. But I kept seeing people who were in pain, who were upset, who were grinding but it wasn't working. I started this website so you could have easy access to resources, insights and a feeling of support.

Instead of focusing on myself, I could ask what’s in it for you: What would help more bar examinees? Becoming a tutor… or sharing my message with people lost in bar world?

If no one else was willing to put in the effort to do it, then why couldn’t it be me who gives a passionate middle finger to the bar examiners?

That’s great and all, but not every concept on the bar is conducive to neat discussion. In particular, unlike PTs and MBEs, it’s hard to capture all the angles of essay writing in a few blog posts. With over a dozen different subjects and a unique approach for each, there isn’t really a viable way to discuss more than a general framework on the blog.

You can memorize and recite rules on your own, but maybe you want to see if you’re on the right path—to see if you’re getting the right issues and their discussion order for each particular subject.

Maybe you wish you had a magic earpiece that feeds you the right issues as you do the essays. Or even a virtual mentor who holds your hand and takes you through a step-by-step, systematic approach.

Approsheets are the crispy solution I came up with. Throughout prototyping and testing these essay approach sheets with real people taking the bar, I was so convinced of their value that I invested more than 125 hours to complete them. How many episodes of Suits is that??? That’s a lot of hours toward my ever-behind quota at work, but I don’t regret it if I can make a difference at this critical stage of your life.

I hope you can extract many useful things from the 95% of my material that are free. With the new version of Approsheets, there’s no telling what you could extract and how you could take advantage of them.

But if Approsheets were free, they would be wasted on those who would just chuck ’em into a corner of their hard drive. You think I’m nice because I give away a bunch of my time and secrets, but I have boundaries, too:

I am not interested in sharing my best stuff with those who’d take it for granted.

Last July, 43% of testers in California passed (and other states are following suit in a race to the bottom). If half have to fail, you just have to be on the passing side, right?

On your quest to success on the bar, you could continue battling with heavy reference books by yourself… or you could follow the paths I’ve already uncovered.

And on the off chance you want to be righteous and fair to the other bar candidates, know that you're setting yourself up to fail while they are doing whatever they can to crawl their way to the top.

If you're always sabotaging yourself (consciously or not)... if you're just nodding along and thinking "yeah that sounds good" but not doing... if you're looking for excuses to not put in your best...

Are you afraid of your own success?

A door of opportunity is clearly presenting itself to you. It is my privilege and obligation to offer it, and it is your choice to step through.

Seller beware

I’m making this a no-brainer decision for you because all the risk is on me. I’ll show you mine and you show me yours.

RISK SHIFT 1:
Full samples—decide before purchase

Here are the samples again:
EVIDENCE | CRIM LAWCA COMMUNITY PROPERTY

I like systematic approaches. A pre-organized approach will make answering essays and drafting an outline feel more manageable and even automatic.

WHAT APPROSHEETS WILL DO FOR YOU:
- Know where to start in an essay question.
- Include relevant issues and subissues in your outline/answer.
- Rack up hidden points.

WHAT APPROSHEETS ARE NOT:
Keep in mind that Approsheets are not meant to be fully comprehensive but rather a tool to remind you to discuss the right set of issues at the right time. They do not have every possible issue, nor the rules. Approsheets are not intended to be outlines of bar law (see Magicsheets for those).

Rather, they present a map to navigate the most important issues—all on one page. Instead of panicking and getting lost in a sea of words, approach each essay with confidence while saving time and stress.

RISK SHIFT 2:
30-day refund policy—decide after purchase

Here’s my personal guarantee: You will improve your essays. If not, you can ask me for a refund within 30 days of purchase. That’s right—use them for 30 days and decide if they’re the right fit for you or not. Simply email me with why you didn’t like them, and you will get all your money back.

(Can you do this with Lean Sheets? No, boycott Lean Sheets and instead consider Magicsheets, my premium condensed outline with the same 30-day policy.)

RISK SHIFT 3:
Battle tested with real bar examinees—decide vicariously

I’ve tweaked and updated and improved them over the past months. As with Magicsheets, I'll continue to do so if I see ways to improve in accuracy or arrangement. You’ll automatically get any new updates so you don’t have to worry about being stuck with an older version. And here’s what people had to say even with the relatively “work in progress” version:






Marisa

(She passed and got back to me!)

Marisa passed the CA bar x

 

Now if you're ready to attack the essays, identify issues with confidence, and rack up points all day long, click below:

(Reminder: Non-CA versions omitting all references to CA law are available too! Click here to be taken back to the list of exactly what you'll get.)

 

Get Approsheets — $39

Click here to go back to the samples again.

If you're feeling extra ambitious, Magicsheets (my premium condensed outlines) are the perfect companion tool for attacking the essays with Approsheets. You can get both for $10+ less:

Get the Magicsheets ($49) + Approsheets ($39) Suite — $77

 

Of course, if you don’t want to get them right now, that’s cool too. Approsheets will be ready when you are.

I wish you the best on your bar exam studies!

Brian

Approsheets, Appro sheets, Approach sheets, Attack sheets

Hey! Did you just skip down here?

 

Good, you've come to the right place.

I can't tell you if Approsheets are right for you… I can only tell you that they helped many others.

So let me STFU and let these people speak for themselves.

 

Karrie passed her second time

 

Those essay sheets actually helped me a lot

 

Approsheets worth it

 

Approsheets for other states

 

Approsheets good

 

Approsheets

 

Magicsheets awesome

 

Marisa

(She passed and got back to me!)

 

Marisa passed the CA bar x

 

Hey! Did you just skip down here?

 

Good, you've come to the right place.

I can't tell you if Approsheets are right for you… I can only tell you that they helped many others.

So let me STFU and let these people speak for themselves.