The MPT may “only” be worth 20% of your overall score on the Bar Exam, but that means that it has the potential to make up a lot of points you may have missed on the MBE or the MEE. Don’t underestimate its value. And don’t make the mistake of not preparing for it because you deem it unimportant. Use it to your advantage, and it just may make the difference between passing and failing.
The Key is Time Management
The key to the MPT is time management. You have 90 minutes to complete each task. Keep track of your time. Don’t get bogged down in the weighty library of materials that you are given. Yes, each document is somehow relevant. Each document you are given would assist you in some way – if you had 3 hours to ponder the task.
But you don’t have 3 hours. You have 90 minutes per question. You will not get it perfect. But you can do an amazing job and scoop up valuable points IF you have a strategy.
Step One: Understand the Task
This is pretty self-explanatory. The task is given on the first page of the materials packet. It should be fairly clear what they are asking you to do. Make sure you read it carefully. Don’t skim or you might miss important qualifiers. Know exactly what they want you to do, and how they want you to do it.
In other words, if they are asking for a memo, don’t write a brief.
I hear you laughing…but is HAS happened. More than you’d think. Again, under the pressure cooker of the Bar Exam people’s minds don’t always operate as they normally would. Weird mistakes happen. Don’t let them happen to you.
Step Two: Find the Rules
You are using IRAC here. You’ve read the task, so you know the issues. Now – go find the rules. This is the skeleton upon which you build your entire analysis. So find those rules.
Some Bar prep ‘experts’ say that you should skim through the entire packet once without jotting down or highlighting anything. Well, the truth is, everyone has their own style that works for them. To me, spending time skimming and not making a single note is a time waster.
Now don’t get me wrong! I agree that you should skim the packet once. S-K-I-M. As lawyers, we are not so good at skimming. We who attend law school tend to be perfectionists. But you must skim the first time through. You need to familiarize yourself with what you’ve been given to answer the call of the question and complete the task.
However, for me, skimming without marking something is a bit of a time waster. I would at least have a highlighter in my hand, and every time I see a relevant rule, I’d quickly highlight it. I stress quickly here because you are S-K-I-M-M-I-N-G. Just because you have a highlighter or pen in your hand, do not read the whole packet in detail. You will find yourself spending 60 minutes getting caught up in the minutia, and leave yourself with no time to organize or write your answer.
So skim. Highlight quickly and sparingly as you go through the library the first time.
Step Three: Organize and Break Down the Rules
Now, re-read the task just to have it firmly in your head, then read the materials in the library again. This time, read more carefully.
You’ve highlighted some rules so you have a general idea of what law you’re looking at to complete the task. As you reread the packet, you are now searching for two things.
- More law that clarifies the basic statutes etc., and
- any facts that pertain to the law you find.
Let’s use our example from MPT Bar Exam Topics: Sorting Irrelevant from Relevant Facts. Say that your question centers around the Principal Theory in criminal law. You are given these jury instructions:
JURY INSTRUCTION ON PRINCIPALS
If the defendant helped another person or persons commit or attempt to commit a crime, the defendant is a principal and must be treated as if they had done all the things the other person or persons did if:
- the defendant had a conscious intent that the criminal act be done and
- the defendant did some act or said some word which was intended to and which did incite, cause, encourage, assist, or advise the other person or persons to actually [commit] [attempt to commit] the crime
- To be a principal, the defendant does not have to be present when the crime is [committed] [or] [attempted]
OK, great. You may think this jury instruction is all you need, but search further. There will likely be a statute that essentially states the same thing as the jury instructions, but make note of it and any differences between the statute and the jury instructions. (There may not be any, but make sure.)
There also may be case law in the packet that further illuminates the rules. Let’s say that there are cases that break down the above jury instructions into smaller pieces. This is great information. Highlight it. Jot it down. Find any case law or rule that would give you greater insight into how the facts of the case will affect your argument.
For instance, in the first element of the jury instruction, it is necessary for the State to prove that the defendant had a conscious intent that the criminal act occurred. How do you prove intent in this scenario? What would the courts be looking to as a means to illuminate and clarify intent? Maybe there is case law that confirms that intent can be inferred from actions. This gives you a great deal of wiggle room in your argument. Or maybe the case law takes away all wiggle room by demanding that conscious intent be proven by precise words indicating that specific intent.
Either way, it is critical to find any law or rule that would affect your argument. Comb through the vast library given to you and extract anything of relevance. Then you do the same for the facts. Which facts tend to prove or disprove each element that is listed in the law that you’ve extracted?
This is generally how you want to approach your assignments on the MPT. Just remember, it is simple IRAC format. Don’t make it harder than it is. Follow the instructions, don’t get too mired in the minutia, and use headers and subheaders to keep your writing crystal clear.
You don’t want to make the graders have to work to give you points! Feed it to them clearly, and you’ll walk away a winner.
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