I am excited to have Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher, the founder and president of BarWrite® and BarWrite Press (a bar-preparation company offering classes to help foreign-trained lawyers pass the New York bar exam and publishing study guides), stopping by to talk about all things relating to the bar exam. She is an expert in her field with over 20 years of bar preparation experience. Not only that, she is a graduate of Harvard Law School with a Ph.D. in theoretical linguistics. This interview will be in three parts – check out Part I and Part III.
Without further ado …
Lee: Should law students perhaps consider taking a program like BarWrite®’s in their third year, to get ready early?
Mary: We have had great success with 3Ls who come to our boot camps in the summer before their third year. They find out what they will have to do when they start their full bar-prep courses, and they also raise their law school grades.
Why do foreign-trained lawyers especially benefit from supplemental courses like yours?
I like teaching LLMs very much, and I frequently speak at conferences on teaching global lawyering skills. I’m especially delighted that wewill be offering a course this spring that will help foreign-trained lawyers get ready for the full bar review courses they will take next summer. We call it BarWrite® Global. But all of our courses are geared to helping foreign-trained lawyers and retakers. In planning our courses, we benefit from the advice of our panel of successful foreign-trained BarWrite® graduates.
Oftentimes foreign-trained lawyers are excellent students. But if they come from a common-law country, they may have done no LLM program, and if they did take an LLM, they may not have studied much American law. They may have come from a country where writing concisely is not valued, they may never have seen multiple-choice tests like the MBE, and they may never have learned to produce a quick memo for an American law office, like the ones on the performance test. In addition, English is often not their first language. They have a challenge. Many of the free articles and tip sheets on our web site are designed for foreign-trained lawyers.
What makes your essay systems different?
With all of the Gallagher/BarWrite® systems I have invented, the distinguishing features are highly-structured organization based on time-management. My book Scoring High on Bar Exam Essays teaches an easy-to-learn system for the essays called Under-Here-ThereforeTM that works, so far as I have discovered, for all states. That’s one reason bar-prep professors in law school like to assign it as a textbook. Every exercise develops a definite skill, so my training is “like a sportTM.” The key is time-management, by which I mean doing an outline by main rules of law, within a limited time, and writing syllogism-like paragraphs, also within a limited time. Ninety-five per cent of the students polled preferred Under-Here-ThereforeTM to IRAC for the bar exam, and we teach it in all of our BarWrite® essay classes. I am “the Organization Coach.”
The objective on the bar exam essays in all states is to solve the client’s problem.
As I say in Scoring High on Bar Exam Essays, some states, including California and New Jersey, require essays that are like law office memos. Those exams require a good deal of issue-spotting. But bar exam questions in other states, including New York, require an answer that is more like a brief. Here’s the law, here’s how it applies to the facts, and here’s why the court should decide in my client’s favor. The examiners spot the issues for you. My systems work for both kinds of essays.
In our New York essay classes, we use an inventory of more than 100 real New York bar exam essays with sample answers written in my Under-Here-ThereforeTM format.
What about the performance tests on the bar exam? Many students dread them, especially because they say it’s so hard to finish them on time.
I am happy to have invented an efficient system for finishing the tasks on performance tests in time and doing a good job. I teach it in New York City and also when I offer MPT Book Camps at out-of-town law schools. My time-saving system for noting all the research and outlining the work product on one sheet of paper is called the MPT-MatrixTM. Along with my time-management protocol, that’s what my new book Perform Your Best on the Bar Exam Performance Test (MPT) teaches. It uses twelve real MPT tasks. My system works both for the Multistate Performance Test and for other performance tests, including California’s. One successful bar candidate who originally trained as a lawyer in Nigeria said, “When you master the MPT-MatrixTM, the performance test won’t scare you any more.”
You talk about “MBE Victims.” What do you mean?
Most law school graduates run up against multiple-choice questions for the first time on the bar exam, and they have no clue about how to prepare. We all know people who did 50 practice questions for the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) every day and didn’t raise their MBE scores by even one question. Those practice-question obsessives are what I call MBE Victims! They think they are working hard, and they are working hard, they just aren’t raising their MBE scores.
What else can they do?
They can do what great tennis players do to improve their tennis games. According to researchers, great tennis champions engage in what they call Deliberate Practice. Deliberate Practice is painful but effective.
It is not the same as mere repetition. Deliberate practice is uncomfortable while it happens. It requires stretching the player’s skills, it takes coaching, and it takes feedback. It is keenly targeted to improvement, and is focused on process–rather than outcomes. So it is emphatically not focused on the number of questions done each day, or on the number correct. Deliberate Practice for the MBE is what we teach in our 10-Day Coaching Group. We also teach it our Skype courses on the MBE.
Your company, BarWrite®, offers both one-on-one coaching and intensive supplemental classes. Which students do you think should take full eight-to-10-week bar-prep classes, versus doing one-on-one tutoring or intensive classes?
To me, Lee, it’s not “either-or.” At BarWrite®, we’re happy to let other companies offer the full-length bar-prep courses, because we specialize in offering tightly-targeted intensive supplemental courses and tutoring. We believe that the full bar-prep courses are essential and that all bar candidates, and especially foreign-trained lawyers, should take a full course at least once. Full bar-prep courses can offer lots of law, schedules, structure, feedback, and company.
Our supplemental classes and our short essay-MPT boot camps are not just for foreign-trained lawyers. They are also for people who want to master the most important rules of law and memorize key rules, or who get their essays back from their full bar-prep courses with mediocre grades, or who struggled with writing in law school. We have a full calendar, but we love to work with law schools out-of-town. Last spring, I spent a week in Houston, teaching a three-day New York essay boot camp for the LLM program at one school and a one-and-a-half day MPT workshop for J.D. students at another school. Next year I will also teach my classes in Europe.
In the same way, our one-on-one coaching is in addition to students’ full bar-prep classes or in addition to our own intensive classes. Coaching provides personal scheduling support, which is key, and it targets our students’ individual challenges. Distance is no obstacle. One student in Kazakhstan was literally on the other side of the world. She would call me for MBE coaching sessions after the end of her work day, but I was speaking to her before my own breakfast in New York City. Closer to home, an American JD came to me who was very bright but who had managed to learn no black-letter law in three years of law school. We achieved the almost-impossible in two months, and she passed the New York bar exam!
For more information, students can visit us at BarWrite®.com. They can read free reports and articles, they can sign up for two free chapters from my book Scoring High on Bar Exam Essays and updates on programs, and they can sign up for our weekly newsletter with tips on legal writing and speaking. Our blog BarWriteBlog.com offers numerous free tips on preparing for the bar exam, legal writing, and speaking, as do my guest posts on Lawyerist.com. The BarWrite® web site also explains our longer courses and our boot camps for the essays and the MPT.
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Thanks, Mary! Your insights are appreciated. Tune in this week for more on Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher’s bar review programs and her suggestions for finding exam success.
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Check out these other helpful posts:
- Part I: When Should Law Students Get Interested in the Bar Exam?
- Part III: Has Using the Computer Made it More Difficult to Write Concisely?
- Establish a Bar Exam Routine
- Bar Exam Essays—You Must Become an Expert at Reading the Facts
- 13 Things to do Before the Bar Exam
- Check out our reviews of various bar exam tools.
Image from BarWrite.