Hey guys. So today I want to talk to you about sample essays and PTs. As some of you already know, I have a page on the blog dedicated to showing you real, graded essays and PTs. All of them have been given an operant score of 70 or higher. The idea being that if we can see what the graders have scored favorably in the past, we will start to see patterns in those answers and emulate them in our own.
One pattern that I have seen in not only the essay answers submitted to me and listed on that page, but also in the sample answers that are released by the bar examiners after each administration is this: the rule statements are on point and succinct. They do not include superfluous information. Unfortunately, I have seen essay books and mainstream teaching about providing rule statements that are overkill. For example, let's say you're dealing with a felony murder issue and analysis. If the redline rule isn't germane, don't mention it. There is poor instruction out there that would tell you to give an encyclopedic rule statement that mentions exceptions, etc. Not only do I not agree with this position, I would say do the opposite. Tailor the rule statement to the exact facts and issue at hand - get right to the relevant law.
Why keep it narrow and avoid the big rule statements? It shows the grader you not only know what the applicable rule of law is, but also that you know what it isn't. If you're providing a rule statement that is complete and accurate for the scope of the call, then that is plenty. If you're trying to impress the grader with all the knowledge you have stuffed into your brain related to that rule, it won't work. Everyone in the exam has mountains of legal information oozing out of their pores. The bar graders know this and it doesn't impress them. If anything, providing rule statements that aren't directly applicable may cause the grader to question whether you know what is relevant or if you're just throwing the kitchen sink at it. If bar passage were dependent on your ability to memorize rules, then it would be a test of sheer regurgitation where everyone creates outlines from memory. We all know that is not what you will be doing on the exam.
The way you impress the graders and show them how much you know is by knowing which rules are relevant, filtering out the irrelevant (by leaving them out), and then understanding how they apply to real-life fact patterns (i.e. doing a good analysis). That way the grader knows you have the information stored in your memory banks, that you can decipher which information is important based on the facts presented to you, and can then figure out what to do with that information. Now you're thinking and acting like a lawyer, and the grader will feel confident you can go out into the world and be one.
If you enjoy the essays and want more, there is a company called baressays.com that collects graded essays and allows you to view them for a fee of $99. I haven't ever tried it out, but it may be helpful to some of you. They have a range of essays, so it's not just high scoring essays. I personally don't advocate viewing poorly-scored essays. I don't think you learn how to write well by reading essays that are written poorly. We all know there are a myriad of poor writing habits to avoid. Reading them all doesn't help you avoid them. Read the good ones, look for the patterns, and emulate them.
Interestingly enough, if you are a repeater and have your old essays still, they also buy them for about the same price. So you could essentially trade off your old essays for a membership. The membership lasts until the upcoming administration of the bar exam, after which it expires. And if you do have your old essays, and you scored 70 or higher on any of them, please consider donating them to this blog. You can still sell them to baressays.com, but you will also be doing a lot of people a big favor. I do not charge people to read the essays because I think we all need as much help from each other as we can get. So I'm trying to build up a good collection of essays and PTs to better assist you and the others who will come after you.