How to Write an Opinion Letter on the MPT
Why is it important to know how to approach an opinion letter on the MPT? While opinion letters historically show up less frequently than persuasive briefs or objective memoranda, they have appeared on the Uniform Bar Exam four times in the last five years. In fact, on the July 2015 exam, both MPTs required examinees to write opinion letters! Below are five tips to help you draft opinion letters if you happen to encounter one (or two!) on exam day.
Five Tips on how to write an Opinion Letter on the MPT
1. Read the task memo!
Always read the task memo first. Take a few minutes to underline any key terms, basic facts about the client’s case, as well as any guidance on how to format your opinion letter. For example, the July 2015 MPT In re Bryan Carr asked examinees to advise the client regarding his legal obligation to pay for a relative’s charges on his credit card. Thus, you should pay attention to all of the key facts that are relevant to that issue.
2. Check if additional instructions are in the file.
When examinees are asked to complete an uncommon task, the task memo will generally be at least a page longer than usual or an additional document in the file will provide formatting and substantive guidelines. For example, the additional memo for In re Bryan Carr instructed examinees to approach the task as follows:
- Identify each issue separately and present each issue in the form of a “yes” or “no” question.
- Following each issue, provide a concise one- or two-sentence statement which gives a “short answer” to the question.
- Following the short answer, write a more detailed explanation and legal analysis of each issue, incorporating all important facts and providing legal citations. […]
Following instructions is just as important as ever if you see an opinion letter on the MPT!
3. The instructions for all opinion letters are not the same!
While it would be comforting if the instructions for all opinion were the same, that is not the case. For example, the other July 2015 MPT did not include an additional memo on formatting guidelines. Therefore, it is important that you read the task in the file of each MPT carefully. If you find yourself with less direction than you would like, keep in mind that the purpose of an opinion letter is provide your client advice on specific legal issues (e.g., does the client have a valid claim?).
4. Do not include too much legal jargon in your answer.
Remember, the client is usually not an attorney. Therefore, it is important to explain the law in a way that is easy for your client to understand. Avoid directly quoting lengthy paragraphs from the cases or large sections of any statutes. If it is necessary to include legal terms, take the time to explain them. Make sure to include case names and citations. This is a graded legal task and it is important for the bar examiners to know where you got your information from.
5. Review sample answers and high-scoring student answers.
It is crucial to review the NCBE sample answers to see what they expect you to write if you see an opinion letter on the MPT. We recommend students complete the opinion letter task then compare their answer to the sample answers.
If you are not familiar with opinion letters, we also recommend that you spend some time reviewing high-scoring student answers to get an idea of how examinees formatted their answers. It will also give you a better idea of how long your opinion letter should be. Visit the “Essay and MPT Questions and Selected Answers” section of the Georgia Bar Admissions website. Here you can find past MPT questions from July 2011 onwards. Take advantage of this free resource to see what an actual bar examinee wrote in 90 minutes.
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