How To Consistently Outline Bar Exam Essays
One of the keys to a successful bar exam essay is solid organization. For each fact pattern in an MEE, you essentially have 30 minutes to read the pattern, read the questions, and write a clear and cogent answer to each question. A typical MEE fact pattern has three or four questions, and each answer is basically a mini-essay. This is a lot to do in a short amount of time. However, if you strategically outline each answer before you start writing, you’ll put yourself in a good position to work through each question efficiently and effectively.
In this post, we’ll show you a fool-proof way to outline bar exam essays to maximize your points.
How To Consistently Outline Bar Exam Essays
You should follow the IRAC format for each MEE answer. As you already know from law school, IRAC stands for Issue – Rule – Analysis – Conclusion. Before you start writing your answer, you should write or type those words out on the page like this:
(For more information on IRAC, check out our post on how to use IRAC on the bar exam).
Once you’ve written or typed that out, you should then begin to fill in each section. Say, for example, that you’re working on a torts fact pattern. If the first question asks about a party’s breach of a general duty of care, then that would be your first issue.
It’s important to note that in law school the issues were sometimes “hidden” in the fact patterns, and part of your task was to “spot” those issues. MEE questions are a little bit different in that the questions usually tip you off to what the legal issue will be. MEE questions will either ask directly about a legal issue, or they will ask the question in such a way that it’s reasonably clear which legal issue the examiners want you to focus on. Don’t waste your time trying to spot all the issues like you did in law school. Instead, focus on the issues the question asks you to specifically address.
Returning to our torts fact pattern example, you should write out the first issue in your outline as follows:
Issue #1: Breach of a general duty of care
Once you have the issue down, you can then move onto your rule section. You should start this section by jotting down the key elements for the relevant rule of law. For example:
Rule: Breach = conduct unreasonable under the circumstances
At this point, you’ve identified the legal issue and you’ve stated the rule of law for that issue. Now you’re ready to apply the rule to the facts in your analysis section. There is NO need to argue both sides of each issue. Again, simply apply the rule to the relevant facts. Here, you should jot down the key facts that go to whether the defendant’s conduct was reasonable under the circumstances. For example:
Analysis: Defendant’s conduct unreasonable because
- [Fact X]
- [Fact Y]
- [Fact Z]
Once you’ve finished outlining your analysis section, your only remaining task is to briefly jot down the conclusion that flows logically from that analysis. For example:
Conclusion: Defendant breached duty of care.
Notice that the conclusion comes at the end of the essay, not in the beginning! Some students might prefer to follow a CRAC method which stands for conclusion, rule, analysis, and conclusion. However, we don’t recommend this. If your conclusion is incorrect, then it’s the first thing that a grader will see. Instead of repeating yourself and risking a rocky first-impression, save the conclusion for the end.
After you’ve finished outlining the first issue, you would then move onto the second issue and repeat the process. After you’ve outlined all of the issues for an MEE fact pattern, you should then start filling in your outline to create a well-written answer.
As you can see, this is a very formulaic way to outline any question that the examiners might throw at you. Of course, some questions will be more challenging than others, but if your outline is well-organized and has a logical structure, you’ll be able to write your answer quickly, and you’ll show the grader that you know how to perform legal analysis and produce a coherent piece of legal writing.
If you’re looking for more tips on how to write a great essay, check out these 15 MEE tips from someone who scored in the 99th percentile on the MEE!
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