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Advice for the Multistate Performance Test

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Multistate Performance Test

Recent law grads sit down next week to take the bar exam, and nearly every state uses a Multistate Performance Test or two. It’s the only part of the bar where an applicant doesn’t regurgitate memorized information – rather, the MPT already contains all the law you need to know. In other words, it’s free points on the bar!

Here are some suggestions to help you get as many of those points as you can.

Preparation

Many bar studiers skip MPT prep to make more time to study the black-letter law they’ll need for the multiple-choice and essay questions. But it’s a mistake to skip the MPT!

The content of an MPT is not terribly difficult, but the timeframe is. You have only 90 minutes to complete an MPT, and to tell the truth, that’s not enough time. Practice MPTs before the big day so you have a handle on the timing and the rhythm of the assignment.

Approach

Spend 45 minutes reading the File and the Library and making an outline of your answer. At the end of those 45 minutes, you should know 1) what the answer is and why, and 2) how long it will take you to write each section of your response.

There are usually two calls of the question, and they are not always of equal difficulty! If they are equally difficult, you’ll spend half your remaining time (~22 minutes) on each section. If one is more difficult than the other, though, you need to allocate time accordingly. In particular, if the second issue is more complex, don’t dwell on the first issue! Say what needs to be said, and move on to the second issue.

You probably won’t have time to write down everything you want to. Part of what you’re being tested on is your ability to prioritize, so as you outline, be aware of what the most important points are, and what the less important points are. If you’re running low on time, leave the less important points off the page.

Content

Each source of law is in the Library for a reason. Be sure to mention each one somewhere in your analysis. Most MPTs begin with a statute or ordinance or other rule-based law, and there are two or three cases that give examples of how those rules are applied in similar situations. Be sure to mention each section of the statute and the name of each case in your answer. (If one of the cases discusses a previous case in great detail, mention the name of that embedded case, too.)

There will be counterarguments available to the other side, and you should address them. Even (especially!) a persuasive piece of writing needs to deal with counterarguments, so be sure to admit what points the other side can make—then refute them.

Form

Follow directions. If you’re told not to include a Statement of Facts, for pity’s sake, don’t! If you’re asked to write for the defendant’s side, do!

If you are assigned to write a memo, your work product should begin with this:

To: Partner
From: Applicant
Date: July 26, 2016
Re: [same as the assignment memo]

If you are assigned to write a brief, your work product should begin with this:

Case # xyz

[Name], Plaintiff

v.

[Name], Defendant

[Title of the document: Motion to Dismiss, etc.]

If you’re asked to write some other kind of work product, there will be instructions on how to format it (and there may even be a sample for you to follow.)

You do not need to make up full, Bluebook-style citations, but you should include statutory section numbers and case names, like this:

Courts generally cannot compel reporters to disclose their sources. § 902.
A tip from known reliable informant may be sufficient, but tips from anonymous or unknown informants must be corroborated by investigation or independent police observation of unusually suspicious conduct. Montel, Sneed. Not every detail of the tip need be verified. Grayson. Being in a high-crime area alone is not sufficient reasonable suspicion to justify an investigatory stop. Washington.

Your work product must look finished, even if you didn’t get to write down everything you wanted. DO NOT write “ran out of time.” If you have time to only write one more sentence, write one that contains a legal conclusion, then the word “because,” then a rationale or some facts.

Franklin probably has home-state jurisdiction, because Jessica left the state fewer than 6 months before Alex’s filing.

Good luck!

 

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Catherine Christopher Catherine Christopher is an associate professor and Director of the Bar Prep Resources Office at Texas Tech. She passed the Pennsylvania and Texas bar exams, and she is the author of Tackling the Texas Essays: Efficient Preparation for the Texas Bar Exam, available from Amazon and Carolina Academic Press.