The Waiting Metagame: What If You Fail the Bar Exam?

Miss me yet? Aww really? :) But it’s only been like a month since the bar!

Instead of walking around like zombies or recovering your exuberance for life like regular people, why not think about the 2017 February bar for a bit?

Jeez, that escalated fast. You might think February is too far away to be concerned, but there’s power in anticipating the worst scenario (i.e., you fail the bar).

Take a look:

1. Changes to Real Property MBE (and MEE) in 2017 February
2. Should you retake a bar prep course? What’s the alternative?


1. Changes to Real Property MBE (and MEE) in 2017 February

Yikes, yet another change to the MBE. What will they think of next? Note this is separate from the changes to the California bar format coming in July.

Thankfully, the changes aren’t huge. Check it out:

We don’t know yet how heavily these new topics will be weighted, but it doesn’t seem likely that they will be significant. Maybe a few questions at most. Worst case, you take a best guess and move on if you see an unfamiliar issue on the MBE. It’s hard to see the NCBE overhauling the existing classic issues and creating major confusion (although I guess I wouldn’t put it past them to continue to raise the barrier).

For now, I’m letting Barbri et al. decide what are the important laws to know here (if they address them at all for February folks). I don’t know what their recommendation will be, but I’ve done some preliminary research for you on what seems to be the most important of the topics that will be added. Feel free to add this to your Real Property outlines:

a.        Conflict of laws: Principles to determine whether a court of the forum jurisdiction will apply its law or the laws of another interested jurisdiction to a dispute
____i.      Situs rule: For real property (immovables), law of the situs (state where property is situated) governs its disposition
____ii.      Renvoi: Doctrine under which a forum applies the substantive law of the state of reference and also its conflicts rules
________1.       Often applied to validity and effect of transfers of immovable property
________2.       If applied, the forum uses the (possibly foreign) jx’s whole law; law ultimately used may be from anywhere

b.        Who is authorized to execute documents? Indiv. or corp. buyer/seller, their officers or representatives over 18

This is all under common law as far as I know. I didn’t add anything related to personal property (movables). Well, I did at first, but it didn’t make it here because it seemed irrelevant to real property. Let me know if any of this turns out to be inaccurate or irrelevant.

ALSO, if you have notes on Civ Pro MBE questions (statements of law in particular), I’m looking to learn the picky nuances to update my Magicsheets. I’ve never actually seen real Civ Pro MBE questions, but I can craft some pretty neat outlines. I would be truly grateful for anything you send over. 

In addition, I’m contemplating learning the following MEE subjects: Secured Transactions (UCC Article 9), Conflict of Laws, UCC Article 2 (Sales), and Family Law (not sure if covered by my Community Property outline).

Any resources on these that you can point to or donate (or sell if you think you have something really impressive) would be highly, highly appreciated.


2. Should you retake a bar prep course?

Let’s say you took a full bar prep course with Kaplan, Barbri, Themis, BarMax, or whatever. Fancy/grainy videos and annoying “professors,” the works. Maybe it was for this past July exam or another one in another state.

Let’s also pretend it turns out you need to retake the bar in February, and you’re worried about making up for your deficiencies or wondering about the new material for Real Property…

a) Should you retake the prep course? My recommendation is NO. You can activate the repeater version of the course as a reference, if they offer it for free.

You’ve already taken the course, and it didn’t help you. I don’t think it’s going to change anything if you do the same thing again: passively watching lectures (or worse, pausing the video to take notes and thereby doubling the time spent), doing the preset assignments, and going to bed clasping your hands over your chest hoping to die in your sleep.

You must CHANGE your approach if you hope to make significant improvements.

b) So what’s the alternative? Self-study or tutoring.

More and more, it appears like self-directed studying and feedback are the way to go to lower your costs and improve a repeater’s chances of passing.

I took Kaplan and failed the first time. Then I passed with used Barbri books and other references. I did watch Kaplan’s MBE bootcamp review with Chris Fromm at the beginning of my studies, but that’s the only set of lectures I watched.

Otherwise, my stance is that your $4,000 lectures have negative worth because—instead of helping you go at your pace—they are often a distraction from actively building your skills, actually understanding what the hell you’re learning, and applying it in practice.

The bar exam doesn’t just test you on how to recognize or even remember rules; it tests you on applying them correctly.

Think it’s worth the price to have Barbri on your side? Sure, it’s a great program overall, but plenty of people have failed with it.

I’m just saying if the cookie-cutter approach didn’t work for you last time, it’s probably not going to work for you this time. If the “safe path” let you down, who can you rely on? Yourself!

Exception 1: You were very close to passing, in which case you probably don’t need the lectures anymore. But using the lectures as a review or sleep aid won’t hurt as long as you’re making the time for practice.

Exception 2: You truly learn best by listening. Not the delusional “oh, psh yeah, I can hear something once and remember it forever” kind of people who then can’t remember jack on a serious exam, let alone apply what they remember in theory. It’s not just about learning the law; that’s merely the cost of entry.

Instead, you want to be practicing (AKA testing yourself AKA doing what you’ll do on the actual exam). There are past exams all over the place for free. You also have Barbri CMR, BarEssays (CA bar only), essay workbook from Barbri, Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (6th ed. is out btw–get it!) …

See, resources are available, and using them is not the most “fun” activity. However, the more you do the uncomfortable work and reflect on your mistakes, the more you’ll improve.

I will also release a tested, self-study guide by November or December hopefully, which may also help.

As always, the choice is yours. Just don’t let the fancy videos draw you toward the light.

c) What about the changes to Real Property? A cursory understanding should be sufficient. I gave you a starting point above.

Be an overachiever but no need to be a perfectionist. Much like passing over the rule against perpetuity, your time is better spent on topics that are understandable and frequently tested.

You might see at most 1-2 questions on the new topics since each subject gets fewer than 30 questions on the MBE. If you have any acquaintances who are taking a prep course for the February bar, you can consult them for their notes (ask if the course has an updated curriculum). Moreover, no one will have seen the new RP questions, meaning it’s anyone’s guess as to how the new RP topics will be tested.

d) “Should… should I start studying now or…?”

Some people study between August and results to hedge themselves against a fail result. If they pass, the most they lose is the time studied. And it would be a trivial loss at that point. If they end up failing, they’re that much ahead and familiar with the material.

Personally, I think the ideal length of time to study is 3-4 full-time months. It’s enough time to master the material without feeling burned out, demotivated, or maybe even unable to retain the material as everything blends together over time.

But again, you know yourself best. If you foresee yourself only having time for part-time studying come November, perhaps it would be prudent to plan ahead and start part-time studying in September. If you’re going to have most of November-February open, that’s probably enough time to close a 100-point gap. If you feel like you already know the material well enough to pick it up again fast next time, maybe you won’t feel guilty enjoying yourself now.

Many ways to go about this. There’s no one set way. You don’t need to follow some formulaic regimen when you can get creative. You don’t even have to listen to me.

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