For many examinees, the most difficult aspect of the MPT is time pressure. It’s challenging to confront a set of legal sources, extract the relevant rules, apply them to a complex fact pattern, and produce a professional caliber work product, all within 90 minutes. To optimize efficiency, we recommend that you (1) read the task memo, (2) skim the File, (3) read the Library and outline the law, (4) read the File to link the facts to the law, and (5) write your response. Let’s take a closer look at the third step – reading the Library. This is the point where the race against time is often won or lost.
Read the Library with a Plan
You are looking for the legal rule. Where will you find it? In the 34 MPTs from 2008-2016, nine Libraries included only cases; with two exceptions (jury instructions in February 2010, constitutional provisions in February 2015) each of the others included a statute or codified rule (e.g., professional conduct). Regardless of the sources, your task is to find the rule quickly and accurately. Your approach will vary depending on whether your MPT is based on a statute or solely on cases. Let’s look at each possibility.
When the MPT provides a statute, it will typically also include at least one case applying the statute. Where should you begin – with the statute or the case? There’s a danger of getting bogged down in the minutiae of the statute, or of limiting your understanding of the rule by focusing too much on the case. To avoid these pitfalls, skim the statute first, then read the case, paying special attention to the statutory sections it cites and interprets. The analysis in the case is likely to be the heart of the assignment. Begin to outline the law based on the rule set out in the case and the statutory sections it cites, then return to carefully reading the statute in its entirety. The Library may include statutory sections that were not used in the case; these may be necessary for your analysis. But some statutory sections provided in the Library may be extraneous. The directions in the task memo (what were you asked to do? were any issues specified?) and the facts in the File will help you determine what statutory sections to use.
Look for the relationship among the statute and case(s) in the Library. They often have a “nesting” relationship — perhaps the basic rule is stated in a statute, and then a case develops the rule with factors or subparts that expand it. A complete rule statement may require piecing together elements from the statute and the cases.
Be sure to consider the threshold issue of whether the statute applies. It will, but it’s good practice to prove this in your answer. Remember, you’re expected to think and write like a lawyer. That means not accepting unproven presumptions (unless the task memo directs you to).
If your MPT provides only cases, you’ll need to extract the rule from them. While in the real world you might read cases in reverse chronological order or start with mandatory authority, on the MPT it’s usually most efficient to read the cases in the order presented (take note of their dates and jurisdictions). The cases in MPT Libraries are “lean”; there won’t be much, if any, extraneous material. The rule is often set out with a numbered list of elements or clear signaling language, such as “we have held that . . . .” You will be able to pull a basic rule from the first case. As you read additional cases, search for modifications to the rule or interpretations of specific elements or factors. You’re being tested on your ability to synthesize case law, so look for points of contrast and development between the cases.
Statute or Cases
Whatever your Library sources, outline the rule and note determinative facts from the cases. Then return to the File and add facts to your outline. Certain facts will clearly pertain to specific elements of the rule. Remember that you’re organizing by rule, not by source in the File. Different File sources may contain facts that pertain to the same elements of the rule, so read the File with the rule in mind, searching for facts to match with each element.
You should now have an outline that includes both rule and facts. The rule will determine the organization of your analysis as you CRAC or IRAC each element. If you’re running out of time, it’s better to provide some analysis for each element than to fully analyze some and omit others.
By reading the Library efficiently and then returning to the File, you should be able to tackle the MPT within the time limit. You can find more MPT advice here.
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