Five Critical Tips for Issue Spotting MEEs
Maximizing your score on the MEEs requires that you fully discuss each and every issue that the examiners include within each essay. Many times, the call of the question for the MEEs is very specific and identifies the issue that the examiners want you to discuss. Other times, however, the call of the question is open-ended, or the call of the question does not specifically identify the legal issues, and you must figure out what legal questions to discuss in your response to the essay. In this post, we provide some tips for issue spotting MEEs!
Five Critical Tips for Issue Spotting MEEs
1. Focus on the call of the question.
Many MEEs have specific calls of the question, breaking down the various issues to discuss into numbered parts. If you are given a specific call of the question, it is important that you read the call of the question carefully and answer all of the parts of each question.
For example, in the July 2015 Civil Procedure question, which is available on the NCBE’s website, the call of the question provides:
- Does the State A federal district court have personal jurisdiction over
(a) the corporation? Explain.
(b) the engineer? Explain.
- Assuming there is personal jurisdiction over both defendants, does the State A federal district court have subject matter jurisdiction over
(a) the woman’s claim against the corporation and the engineer?
(b) the engineer’s cross-claim against the corporation?
This question has four distinct issues to discuss: (1) personal jurisdiction over the corporation; (2) personal jurisdiction over the engineer; (3) subject matter jurisdiction over the woman’s claim; and (4) subject matter jurisdiction over the engineer’s cross-claim. When you see a call of a question like this, it may be helpful to outline the four issues in your answer right away. This ensures you don’t forget to discuss any one of them.
Keep in mind that when a question includes multiple sub-parts, such as the above Civil Procedure question, it is unlikely that each subpart will have the same answer. So, in part (2)(a) and (2)(b) of the above question, even though they are both subject matter jurisdiction issues, it is unlikely that you will provide the same response to each issue. In fact, this question requires a discussion of federal question jurisdiction for the woman’s claim (question (2)(a)) and supplemental jurisdiction over the cross-claim (question (2)(b)).
2. Take hints from the facts.
Even if the call of the question does not specifically identify the legal issue, there may be facts in the fact pattern that hint at certain issues that must be discussed. Be sure to read the facts carefully. Additionally, completing practice essays will help you identify the types of key facts that indicate there are other issues that must be discussed.
For example, in the July 2012 Torts question, which is available on the NCBE’s website, a woman was injured when an attacker broke into her dormitory. The call of the question asks, “may she also recover damages . . . for PTSD symptoms?” Within the facts, it is explained that the victim had a preexisting condition (PTSD), “caused by trauma she suffered one month before [the] attack when [she] was robbed at gunpoint.” Although the question does not specifically address the legal regarding damages, the facts about the victim’s pre-existing condition are a big hint that the issue is the “eggshell skull” rule. As you practice, be sure to take note of any key or specific facts that trigger certain issues. This will help you be sure to discuss those issues when you see those same key facts come up again on other essays!
3. Look at the arguments the parties are making.
If you are faced with an open-ended question, such as “how should the court rule?”, you should look back to the facts and see what arguments the parties are making. This is a common essay structure in Civil Procedure questions, where the facts will indicate that a party has filed a motion and raised certain arguments within the motion (e.g., motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction). Look back to the facts surrounding that motion and address the legal issues necessary for resolution of such a motion.
The February 2015 Agency and Torts essay (available on the NCBE’s website) involved an accident between a driver for a furniture store who was using a company truck to make a personal delivery to his sister. The call of the question simply states, “Evaluate each of the store’s three arguments against liability.” Therefore, it is necessary to go back to the facts and look at the arguments, at which point it becomes clear that the legal issues are (1) whether the driver is an employee or independent contractor; (2) whether the accident occurred within the scope of the person’s employment; and (3) whether the driver (employee) was also liable for the damages he caused.
4. Be aware of highly tested issues and issues that are commonly tested together.
Many issues often go hand in hand. For example, in Evidence questions, the issue of relevancy is often paired with hearsay (and other evidence rules). In Civil Procedure questions, the issue of removal often requires a discussion of subject matter jurisdiction. In torts questions, discussion of the various causes of action may also require a discussion of the applicable defenses, even when the defenses are not specifically identified in the call of the question.
For example, in the July 2015 Torts question, the call of the question, which involved a boy who was injured on a snowmobile and can be found on the NCBE’s website, asked specifically about the negligence of the friend who owned the snowmobile, the landowner whose property the boy was injured on, and the woman who found the injured boy and alerted the authorities. Because this question clearly tests negligence, it is important to think about the defenses to negligence. In fact, the Examiners’ Analysis includes a discussion of the defenses of contributory and comparative negligence. It also discusses the impact such a defense would have on the boy’s claim against the others.
For a full list of highly tested MEE topics, check out our video and free MEE guide!
5. Review old essays!
The best way to get better at identifying issues, including sub-issues and hidden issues, is to complete more practice essays! If you find that you are struggling to identify issues, incorporate more practice into your study schedule. To save time but still get practice you can bullet-pointing essays rather than writing them out in full. This will allow you to review more essays and get extra practice with issue spotting. There are many issues that we see tested again and again on the MEEs! The more essays you have practiced, the easier it will be for you to spot those common issues and be prepared to discuss all the relevant sub-issues necessary for a complete response to the question!
We hope these tips help you with issue spotting MEEs! For more, check out these 15 MEE tips from someone who scored in the 99th percentile!
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