Recap of the Summer and Fall 2020 Uniform Bar Exams
Here we give a detailed recap of the summer and fall 2020 Uniform Bar exams — we tell you what surprised us, what didn’t, and what it means for future bar exams!
If you were unaware, the coronavirus pandemic upended the standard bar exam administration in the summer of 2020. Instead of one bar exam administered in July, states chose all kinds of different dates for bar exams. The National Conference of Bar Examiners provided material for three Uniform Bar Exams and then an abbreviated bar exam in October.
Here, we give a recap of the summer and fall 2020 Uniform Bar Exams.
General Thoughts on the Summer and Fall 2020 Uniform Bar Exams
- These three exams were standard exams, with the July bar exam being (in our humble opinion) slightly more difficult than the remaining two Uniform Bar Exams.
- It was interesting to see that on all three exams, the most difficult questions were Wills/Trusts questions. The Corporations questions were moderately difficult. And the “harder” subjects, like Secured Transactions, Real Property, Evidence, and Contracts — tested more straightforward issues.
- We were surprised that Torts was not tested at all. (We suspect it will be coming up.)
- We were surprised to see a Constitutional Law issue in each exam!
- Civil Procedure was only tested on one of the three fall exams (October 2020). This is a big change from it being a virtually guaranteed subject on every MEE.
- It was interesting that the October 5-6 exam tested the exact same essays that the September 30-October 1 bar exam did. We do not ever expect to see repeat questions again.
July Bar Exam
(Administered July 28-29, 2020)
1. Evidence (moderate difficulty)
- subsequent remedial measures
- authentication, best evidence rule, hearsay—statement against interest
- physician-patient privilege (as applied by state law)
2. Corporations and Constitutional Law (difficult and nuanced)
- shareholder right to inspect
- shareholder action/board approval
- Citizens United free speech issue
3. Wills/Trusts (difficult and nuanced)
- charitable trust not subject to RAP
- noncharitable trust can only last 21 years after creation under UTC (but under common law void)
- consanguinity method: uncle and niece take in equal shares; parentelic distribution: only niece
4. Family Law
- A state may grant a divorce if a person is domiciled (even if no PJ over other spouse)
- State may grant custody even if no PJ over other respondent parent
- State may not grant property though because need PJ over respondent
- Fault basis may be established for divorce
- best interest of the child factors
5. Secured Transactions
- first to file or perfect rule, equipment (identify), PMSI is perfected and superior over non-PMSI
- equipment (identify), not a true lease, perfected takes over unperfected
6. Real Property
- Fair Housing Act of 1968
1. A persuasive cover letter (functions the same as a brief but technically a “wildcard” task)
2. An objective memo
This was a moderately difficult exam. The Evidence and Family law questions were moderately difficult. The Corporations and Wills/Trusts questions were difficult. And the last two questions (Secured and Real Property) were relatively straightforward (that is, they were “easier”– but these are still very difficult subjects to master so we hesitate to call the questions themselves easy even if the issues were straightforward!) Note that this is why it is important to keep track of time — the “easier” questions were at the end so you don’t want to miss the opportunity to fully analyze these!
The MPTs were not extraordinarily difficult. Even though the first MPT was a persuasive cover letter, it was really very similar to a persuasive brief. So it should not have been too surprising for examinees.
September Bar Exam
(Administered Sept 9-10, 2020)
1. Criminal Law (easy to moderate difficulty)
- first-degree murder (interpretation of statute)
- voluntary manslaughter (interpretation of statute)
- defense-of-others defense
- felony murder
2. Real Property (easy to moderate difficulty — required issue-spotting)
- constructive eviction
- acceptance of surrender
- covenant of quiet enjoyment and privity of estate with future tenant
3. Wills (difficult, lots of issue spotting and nuanced law)
- mental capacity to create a will
- proof of mistake and DRR
- valid codicil, holographic will, incorporation by reference doctrine
4. Constitutional Law (moderate, only because examinees tend to hate takings!)
- regulatory taking
- permanent physical invasion (taking)
- “public use”
5. Agency & Corporations/LLCs (moderate/easy)
- member-managed LLC
- actual authority of agent
6. Contracts (moderate)
- implied warranty of fitness
- rejection or revocation of acceptance
1. Persuasive brief
2. Opinion letter
The exam, on the whole, seemed a little bit more straightforward than July’s exam. The Criminal law question was mostly statutory interpretation, which was a little bit surprising. The issues were slightly more straightforward. The Wills question was again pretty difficult.
October Bar Exam
(Administered Sept 30-October 1, 2020)
1. Civil Procedure (moderately difficult — new law on ESI)
- ESI must be electronically preserved
- adverse inference instruction
- default judgment
2. Trusts (moderate difficulty)
- definite beneficiaries
- special power of appointment
3. Evidence (easy to moderate/straightforward)
- opposing party’s statement, then-existing state of mind
- statement against interest
- police officer report not admissible
- Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause
4. Agency & Partnership (easy)
- partners are agents of partnership
- partners are personally liable for partnership obligations
- partner can be reimbursed for partnership funds
- partner not automatically reimbursed for hours worked
- sale of land not in ordinary course of business
5. Constitutional Law (moderate)
- content-based speech v. content-neutral speech
- “narrowly tailored” meaning
6. Family Law (moderate/difficult)
- reduction of child support award
- spousal support modifiable
1. Objective memo
2. Persuasive memo
This was a moderately difficult exam, in line with a standard Uniform Bar Exam. The Civil Procedure question was nuanced and tested a slightly more recent change in the law on ESI. Trusts was difficult. The most straightforward questions were Evidence (the issues tested were standard though this is typically a difficult subject for many) and Agency and Partnership (which tested very straightforward issues). The Constitutional Law model answer went into a detailed discussion of the different meanings of “narrowly tailored.” We would be shocked if most examinees underwent a similar analysis…
Additional October Bar Exam
(Administered October 5-6)
This was not technically a Uniform bar exam as only 100 MBE questions were given, 3 MEEs and 1 MPT. The written portion was the same as the above exam (with the last three MEE’s — Agency & Partnership, Constitutional Law, and Family Law — administered).
We wondered if the NCBE would repeat questions on the 9/30-10/1 exam. This was in part due to the fact that states prohibited taking multiple fall bar exams. We did not fully expect them to do this, though.
We hope you found this recap of the summer and fall 2020 Uniform Bar Exams helpful! We are glad that the 2021 bar exam season is looking to be a bit less crazy and complicated!
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