Be honest now. Imagine you’re mentoring a starry-eyed 1L starting law school. How would you explain how to “spot issues” in an essay? How exact and specific can you get?
Is it just a mystical process where the crystal ball in your head somehow divines issues from the heavens?
The MBE isn’t the only section you gotta worry about. Every fellow repeater who retook the bar exam with me had to improve on their essays. Unlike multiple choice with an objectively correct answer, essays are subject to the whims of the grader.
On its surface, an essay is simply a string of IRACs (easier said than done of course). Prep companies and law school tend to focus on the “R” and “A” and assume that you already know how to find the “I” naturally.
That’s funny (not really) because an issue that’s never raised, or an irrelevant issue, is completely worthless.
But has anyone actually taught you how to identify those issues? They give you the IRAC framework and leave you to figure it out.
That’s why I’m going to explain it to you in more detail than this:
Ever wonder what you’re doing with your life? How you even got into this mess?
And by life, I’m talking about California essays (and performance tests) that seem to need a beautiful mind to unravel. Because that’s your life now. It should be. I’ve been there. So has Gabrielle:
(If you’re taking the MEE or another bar, you may want to stop reading when you get to the table of contents.)
Part of why the written portion of the California bar is so difficult is what they demand out of your essays. The hypos are dense and packed with a landmine of issues for you to figure out under constant pressure.
This is one of several reasons why the California bar is considered the hardest bar exam in the country. This isn’t up for debate. You can try, but I will win.
We like to tell people we “don’t have time” or that “time is the most valuable resource” or that “life is short” (even though we love to procrastinate). But I think we do have a lot of time at our disposal. We just choose to squander a lot of it, too.
Then what’s the true scarcity of this world? What is the one thing that’s radically limited and expires very quickly?
Money? Time? Milk?
I think there’s something even more scarce: human attention.
Read on to see how you can use this scarcity principle to give yourself an edge on the written portions of the bar exam.
No one starts out being perfect at a skill. For example, cooking involves a bunch of micro-skills you build up over time. Essay writing on the bar exam is a skill also.
It used to be that cooking wasn’t one of my strengths. If you asked me to cook for you, you were risking becoming a permanent resident of the toilet.
There are all these unfamiliar steps involved. Get the right amount of ingredients from outside my cave, handle each tool without creating a zone of danger, and follow an alchemical procedure to put together something that looks edible. I’m not sure if it’s the onions that made me want to cry. And then the worst part—clean it all up after.
Sounds kind of like preparing for essays on the bar exam!
In front of you, a blank canvas ready to be filled but only reflecting a harsh stillness. The cursor blinking at you, urging you for your next order.
It’s confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating in the beginning.
But like anything else, it just takes some buckling down and practice to get better.
And like anything else, there are ways to focus on the biggest levers to make this process more efficient and manageable (especially when you’re in a time crunch with the exam looming).