Top 17 Bar Essay Writing Tips
The MEE is normally the first part of the first day of the bar exam (some states reverse the order and have you do the MPT first). You have three hours to write six essays. That makes for about 30 minutes per essay. The six essays account for 30% of your total UBE score. Twelve topics are fair game, and you won’t know which will actually pop up—almost any combo is possible.
MEE Tips & Tricks
Tip #1 – Study all the MEE subjects. Trying to streamline your studies by guessing which subjects you’ll actually have to write about is a risky recipe for ulcers.
- What are the MEE subjects? All seven of the MBE subjects plus five MEE-specific subjects. Again, the seven MBE subjects are Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. The five MEE-specific subjects are Business Associations (which covers agencies, partnerships, corporations, and LLCs), Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Trusts and Estates, and Secured Transactions. Typically, each essay only hits one subject area, but some combine multiple, like Family Law and Conflicts, Criminal Procedure and Evidence, Agency and Torts, and so on.
Tip #2 – Competence before practice. You want to practice writing good essays, not bad ones. Good ones require knowing the right rules.
- Remember the tips we gave you for memorizing the MBE rules; use the same techniques in tackling the MEE rules—target the right content within each subject based on the NCBE’s—the company that writes the UBE’s—own outlines, and use accurate prep materials, mnemonics, flashcards, audio outlines, chunking, and so on.
Tip #3 – Use real practice questions and point sheets.
- The NCBE publishes old MEE questions and their point sheets—the sheets actually used to grade those old MEEs. Like past MBE questions, you can buy past MEE questions directly from the NCBE or through Crushendo.
Tip #4 – Practice writing each essay under timed conditions.
- As with the MBE, your pace and productivity are half the battle. Though strenuous, push yourself to complete each practice essay within 30 minutes.
Tip #5 – Practice writing some full MEEs under timed conditions.
- It won’t be enough to rock one essay in 30 minutes, you’ll need to do be ready to do six back-to-back. Don’t let exam day be the first time you attempt that grind.
Tip #6 – Tackle the most familiar subjects first.
- You can do the essays in any order. Do the less intimidating ones first. This does not mean you should read all the questions and fact patterns top-to-bottom before diving into your first question. It should only take a minute to glance at all six questions and get a decent feel for familiarity.
Tip #7 – UROC. I mean it. Some use CRAC; others use IRAC.
But why use something that sounds like an illegal drug (or a way to smuggle it into a prison) or a torture apparatus when you could just remember UROC?
UROC is your basic structure for addressing each issue in each essay. Each essay will have multiple UROC structures. Bar essays are not creative works; organization should be formulaic and predictable.
- Upgraded issue
- Operate on the facts
Tip #8 – Upgrade the issues.
- Each question will hand you the basic issues. Write those down; you must address each. But don’t settle for how they’re framed; upgrade them. Issue statements in point sheets are normally more detailed and helpful than the issue statements in the questions. Your issue statements should be similar in caliber and quantity to those in the point sheets. Study point sheets carefully.
- Example. Don’t just say: “Is Jane liable for Bob’s injuries?” even if the question puts it in such basic terms. Instead, say something like, “Can Bob recover damages from Jane under a negligence claim when they crashed after Jane ran a red light while Bob was speeding?”
- Upgraded issue statements not only give graders a good first impression, but they offer a basic outline for each UROC structure.
Tip #9 – Avoid lengthy intros and summaries. Your upgraded issue statements should suffice.
Tip #10 – Keep rule statements simple. Lay out the basic elements or factors and mention any relevant defenses.
- Example. Negligence requires duty, breach, actual cause, proximate cause, and damages. A common negligence defense is comparative negligence.
Tip #11 – Write all your upgraded issue statements and general rules before operating on the facts under each. This will give you a solid outline to follow for your entire essay.
Tip #12 – Operate on the facts. Four things to remember about operating:
- First, operate by cutting out the bad facts. Not every fact helps. Some are cancerous.
- Like the MBE, one thing that will help you isolate helpful facts is reading the actual questions before the accompanying fact patterns.
- Second, operate in order. Work through the facts in the order of the elements, factors, and relevant defenses laid out by your basic rules.
- Third, use a scalpel, not a hammer. This is the part of your essay where you should be detailed and exact—not just about the facts, but the relevant laws, too. Explain the detailed laws and facts side-by-side.
- Example. You could begin your paragraph addressing proximate cause with “Proximate cause means the type of harm was reasonably foreseeable.” And then immediately apply the specific facts to that specific law by saying, “Serious broken bones are a reasonably foreseeable type of harm for blowing a red light and causing a high-velocity car accident. Thus, Jane’s actions were likely the proximate cause of Bob’s broken back.”
- Fourth, like any good surgeon, don’t leave behind foreign objects. Don’t invent or assume facts. Stick with what you’re given.
Tip #13 – Conclude quickly, highlighting the scale-tipping facts.
- Remember: Graders don’t normally care much about what you conclude, but instead, how you got there. Stress less about whether you got your conclusion “right” and more about whether you supported your conclusion.
Tip #14 – Embrace active voice.
- Active voice normally uses fewer words and is easier to follow.
- Jane hit Bob.
- Not: Bob was hit by Jane.
Tip #15 – Don’t waste time on specific citations.
- With the exception of key constitutional amendments, you normally should not spend study time memorizing the specific sources of law, or exam time citing them.
- That said, it does not hurt to name other basic sources that you happen to know, if name-dropping does not slow you down or interrupt flow.
Tip #16 – Spend a couple minutes at the end of each essay double-checking that you hit all the issues, major rules, and key facts.
Tip #17 – Type faster than 50 words per minute. If you cannot comfortably type at least 50 words per minute, consider taking a typing course. Some good free ones are available online.