There’s a lot to do on a bar essay. You spend so much energy trying to spot issues. Then you immediately try and reach into the deepest depths of your memory to come up with a rule of law. You can’t forget the conclusion. But all too often writers gloss over what is really the most important part of any essay: the analysis. Within the discussion of each issue, you should include an analysis of how your facts apply to the rule of law you cited. Here are five easy to follow tips to make your analysis section strong.
1. Use Every Fact
Bar essay prompts are usually pretty short. But they are packed with facts that are useful to your analysis of different issues. You should assume every fact in the prompt should be addressed in the analysis section of one issue or another. Check off each fact on the prompt as you incorporate it into a piece of analysis. If you notice a fact that you haven’t used, see which issue it might be relevant to and tell the reader why that fact matters to the pertinent rule of law. This is an easy and quick gut check for whether you’ve fully analyzed a prompt.
2. Parallel Your Language
Once you’ve regurgitated the rule of law and moved onto the analysis section, it’s easy to forget the exact wording you used in your rule statement. However, by paralleling the language in your analysis with the language in your rule, you draw a clear connection for the reader to how a particular fact is relevant to the rule you are discussing.
For example, assume your rule is, “A Terry frisk requires officers to have reasonable articulable suspicion that the person is armed and dangerous.” Assume further that the facts say the suspect had a bulge in his jacket pocket. Instead of simply telling the reader that the bulge in the jacket suggests the person had a gun, you could say, “Seeing the bulge in the person’s jacket would give the officer an articulable reason for thinking the person had a gun. If the person had a gun, then it is reasonable for an officer to think that person is armed and dangerous.”
By paralleling the words “articulable,” “reasonable,” and “armed and dangerous,” you’ve indicated to your reader that your analysis of the bulge in the jacket ties directly back to the exact wording of your rule of law. Always go back and check your rule statement against your analysis to compare the language.
3. Address Counterarguments and Bad Facts
You’ve certainly been told at some point in your academic career that it’s a good idea to address counterarguments. The bar is no exception to this rule. If you see a bad fact in the prompt, meaning a fact that doesn’t comport with your conclusion on the issue, don’t ignore it! You can identify the bad fact and tell the reader why that fact doesn’t tip the scale to reach a different conclusion. Alternatively, you could posture the bad fact as a counterargument to your conclusion. If you include it as a counterargument, be sure to tell the reader why your conclusion is still the proper outcome.
4. Write Concisely
Concise writing is a rule of thumb for the bar regardless of the section you are writing. Keeping your sentences short helps the reader follow along with your thoughts. Don’t try to jam every fact into one sentence. Instead, tell the reader one fact. Then, in a separate sentence, tell the reader why that fact is relevant to your rule statement. This form of writing may feel jagged and uncomfortable. But it is much easier for readers (who are reading hundreds of essays sometimes) to follow along.
5. Retain the Order of your Rule Statement
Oftentimes rules of law you’ll cite on the bar will have multiple parts, elements, or factors. Sometimes, you’ll label these with numbers. For example, “For a contract to be formed there must be (1) an offer, (2) acceptance of that offer, and (3) consideration. “Alternatively, you could simply say, “For a contract to be formed there must be an offer, acceptance of that offer, and consideration.” Either way is fine. But when it comes to your analysis section, you should address each element or part of the rule in the order they appear in your rule statement.
Even if the prompt seems to be focusing on consideration in contract formation, for example, you should still go through the elements of contract formation in order. Start with offer, move to acceptance, and then to consideration. This will make it easier for your reader to follow your logic.
If you follow these simple tips your analysis section for each aspect of your bar essay will be sound. Good luck!
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