The Multistate Performance Test (MPT) is my favorite component of the bar exam because it approximates what lawyers actually do. Lawyers write memos, briefs, client letters and other documents; we don’t memorize rules and answer multiple-choice questions. So what happens when practicing lawyers, rather than recent law school grads, take the MPT? Is time spent in law practice beneficial or deleterious to MPT performance?
An employed lawyer may face off with the MPT if she’s taking the bar exam in a new jurisdiction, perhaps due to relocation, or if she’s retaking the bar exam after failing it. For example, currently employed lawyers in New York and the Virgin Islands who failed the February 2016 bar exam will confront the MPT in July as part of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), newly adopted in their jurisdictions.
Here’s some advice if you’re a lawyer about to take the MPT.
Enter the MPT ’s closed universe.
The MPT exists in the imaginary state of Franklin, in the fictitious 15th Circuit. When Franklin law doesn’t address an issue, the MPT turns to Franklin’s neighboring states, Olympia and Columbia, for persuasive authority. Thus, the law included in the MPT’s library is synthetic — but it’s not unrealistic. If you’re an expert in a particular area of law and the MPT implicates that area, you may find it varies from law you’ve come to know well in practice. It’s essential that you accept the MPT’s law as controlling, even though you may have difficulty putting aside your real world knowledge. The real law will still be there long after you’ve forgotten the law on your MPT.
Embrace the MPT’s format.
If you’ve practiced law, you’ve likely developed a preferred format for documents and a style for specific components, such as headings and subheadings. The MPT may request a somewhat different format; you’ll have to adapt to the MPT’s requirements in order to maximize your score. For example, it’s not necessary to include a statement of facts in an MPT memo or brief. Doing so will waste valuable time. In addition, many MPTs include specific formatting instructions, such as sample point headings or directions for required components. As with the law, these specifications won’t be unrealistic, but they may vary from your standard style. It’s imperative that you put aside your preferences and carefully follow the MPT’s directions.
Accept the time limit.
Many examinees find the MPT’s 90-minute time limit challenging, for good reason. You’ll have to assess the Task Memo, read the Library, outline the law, read the File, connect the facts to the law, and write your answer, all in just 90 minutes. You won’t have the luxury of contemplating the law or discussing its nuances with a colleague. Luckily, legal issues on the MPT tend to be relatively straightforward and may be less complex than some issues you face in practice. Still, you’ll need to follow an attack plan and stay focused. Answer the question asked, and avoid overthinking the issues or exploring tangential arguments.
Let go of perfection.
You’re probably used to revising and editing your work in an attempt to perfect it. You won’t have time for that on the MPT. Your goal is not to write a perfect answer, but to write the best answer you can in 90 minutes. You don’t need to write the best answer in your jurisdiction – you just need to pass. That said, if you have strong legal writing skills, the MPT may be an area of strength for you that can compensate for some missed points on the MBE.
Get lots of practice.
The best way to conquer the MPT is through practice. Your time spent practicing law has helped develop many skills you need on the MPT, such as the ability to synthesize cases, interpret statutes, and express your legal analysis effectively. But you still need to practice the MPT in order to internalize your attack plan, familiarize yourself with the style and expectations of the exam, improve your speed, and work through the major MPT tasks: memos, briefs, letters, and wild cards (specialized documents typically not covered n law school legal writing courses). With sufficient practice, you’ll be able to conquer any challenge the MPT throws at you. Then you can return from practicing the MPT to practicing law, having passed the bar exam.
Do you have other questions about the MPT? Leave them in the comments below!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Last Minute Tips for the MPT
- How Your Legal Writing Class Prepares You for the MPT
- What are Bar Exam Graders are Really Looking For
- What are You Waiting For? It’s Time to Study for the Bar Exam
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