I just received an email from M.A., who has a question about the CA Evidence distinctions. It reads:
Hi Ms. Klein -
I just received your book, and read through the whole thing - I love it and may use it for my Bar preparation! I am a third year law student in Georgia and my husband and I will be moving back to [California] after I finish (we were living there, then moved, now we are moving back). Do you have any recommendations on which materials to use in order to study California Evidence vs. FRE? We studied the FRE in school but I understand the California Bar tests California distinctions? If you have any suggestions can you let me know?
This is an important question if you are going to self-study. The California Bar does in fact include the CA evidence distinctions within the scope of testable topics. You might not end up facing them on the exam, but you will need to be prepared nonetheless.
Unfortunately, my favorite substantive review materials (Law in a Flash) do NOT include the CA evidence distinctions. So if you purchase Law in a Flash, you will still have to fill in the gaps another way. Despite the inconvenience, I highly recommend you get these flashcards because they are EXCELLENT! Besides, the CA evidence distinctions are not extensive, and it is not difficult to come by the needed information other ways as I am about to show you.
Here are a few ways you can source the necessary materials:
1. At your school's law library. If you are in California, there will most certainly be lots of bar prep materials available to you from a variety of sources. Included will undoubtedly be books from major bar review courses, which will certainly have the CA distinctions included in their outlines.
But, if you are like M.A., and are going to school in another state, California bar prep materials may be hard to impossible to come by at your school's law library. If that is the case, read on...
2. You might get some outlines from a friend. In fact, this is what happened to me. At this point, I couldn't tell you who passed it along because over time so many things were shared between so many people. If you went to law school in California, I'd bet you already have friends who have passed along an outline with the CA evidence distinctions. But if you didn't, like M.A., you are still needing to find a resource. That leads to another option...
3. Buy the information. There are plenty of people who want to sell you their book or outline if you look on Amazon or do a Google search. But since we only need to fill in a few gaps, that would probably be overkill. There is another, more economical option...
4. Google it and get it for free. Now, before you have a heart attack and think I am reckless for suggesting such an option, hear me out. Like ANY resource, you need to use a discerning eye and consider whether the information seems credible. You can look at the source of the information, as well as the quality of the information. Just because you Googled it doesn't mean it's unreliable per se.
Think about the outlines you get from friends, whether for law classes or the bar exam: do you use them without giving them a second thought or checking them for accuracy? Here's another thought: even the big name courses sometimes get it wrong. I was witness to a conversation about how a big-name bar prep instructor instructed his students during a lecture that the published outline had some errors and to correct their books. The lesson is that you can't simply accept information to be completely trustworthy and accurate based solely on its source; the information has to prove to be accurate independent of its source.
That said, Googled outlines CAN be used to get the information you need. The way you can do this (and ensure as accurate information as possible) is to cross-check the content. This is how you would do this. First, type in your Google search. I literally typed in: ca evidence fre distinctions. I opened every link on the first page of search results and took a quick look at them. The ones that were clearly not what I wanted I closed out (ex., a website trying to sell their outline). The ones that look useful I kept open.
At this point, what you do is open up your own document. Using the information contained in the first search result about the CA evidence distinctions, make notes in your new document, using whatever format you prefer. When you're done with that link, close it and move on to the next search result. Start checking the information against your document. If the second link has more detail/information, be sure to note that in your document. If it has different or contradictory information, also be sure to note that in your document. Once finished, close the link and move on to the next one, doing the same thing. Go through this process with all the good links you find. Be sure to use at least 3, and probably no more than 7 or else you'll be wasting time.
As you go through this process, you will see that information which is common to every source is accurate. For different or contradictory information you will need to determine what is accurate and to be trusted. If you use 5 links and 4 had the same information and 1 had different information, it is safe to assume that that 1 source is an outlier and contains an inaccuracy. You might also want to look at the websites to help you decide. For example, maybe one website is a peer-reviewed source like wikipedia and the other source is a stand-alone .pdf.
Finally, your last step should be to do a specific web search of the particular legal rule that you have different or contradictory information for. See what comes up in the search results and if you can resolve the discrepancy with more in-depth information. To be safe you will want to do this even if you feel certain you know what information was faulty and what was accurate.
Once you have completed these steps, congratulations!, you now have your own CA Evidence Distinctions outline! This should not be too difficult since these distinctions are not extensive. It is completely do-able and will actually be a good exercise for getting to know the rules since you will be reading through them at least 3 times to make your outline.
For your convenience, I have provided direct links below to the search results that popped up when I did my Google search in preparation for writing this post. These were either first page search results, or were from a link I found in one of the first page search results. I BRIEFLY glanced at these links, and if I were to create the outline myself, I would look at the contents more closely to determine if I wanted to use them before going through the process of taking notes and creating my own document. If you decide to use them, you are doing so at your own risk.