If you’re studying for the bar exam, I’m sure you’ve heard of mnemonics. You probably came up with some colorful examples of your own during law school to help you study for finals. What if you have a lot of elements you need to remember, though, and the mnemonics just aren’t doing the trick?
Welcome to the wonderful world of what are commonly called “peg systems.” Peg systems are a way to give you a visual cue to latch onto that will help you remember a list of words of phrases in a particular order. This idea is premised on having rhyming trigger words for each number.
For example, here is the standard list of triggers from one to ten:
One – Bun
Two – Shoe
Three – Tree
Four – Door
Five – Hive
Six – Sticks
Seven – Heaven
Eight – Gate
Nine – Vine
Ten – Hen
Once you memorize the triggers, which should be pretty easy, the next step is to come up with a detailed visual image of each one. What does “bun” mean to you? Is it a dinner roll-type piece of bread, is it how a ballerina does her hair? What about “shoe”? Is it an old sneaker or a Louboutin? Come up with examples that you can visualize clearly. Go with the most vivid and obvious examples. The ones that come to mind first.
Next, find the list you want to memorize. For purposes of this example, let’s use Personal Jurisdiction from Civ. Pro. since it’s definitely going to be on any California bar taker’s memorization list. In case you need a refresher, you can find the elements (or the “attack plan”) below. Notice how each line corresponds with what might become a header or sub-header on an essay about Personal Jurisdiction:
(1) Traditional Bases of Asserting Jurisdiction
- Presence in the state when served,
(2) Statutory Authority (long-arm statutes)
(3) Minimum Contacts
(a) Purposeful Availment
(4) Fair Play and Substantial Justice
(a) Relatedness of contact and claim
- State’s interest
Now, let’s match up the elements from Personal Jurisdiction with the rhyming trigger words from above, like this:
One – Traditional Bases (Domicile, Presence, Consent)
Two – Long Arm Statute
Three – Minimum Contacts
Four – Purposeful Availment
Five – Foreseeability
Six – Fair Play and Substantial Justice
Seven – Relatedness
Eight – Convenience
Nine – State’s Interest
Ten – . . . We don’t need this one!
This next part is where it starts getting interesting. The goal of this step is to create a word association between the rhyming trigger word and the rule element so you can remember your attack plan in order. Usually, the more unique, zany, detailed and vivid each example is, the easier it will be to remember. Let’s try it!
One – Okay, so we are trying to use “bun” to help us remember “traditional bases.” You might imagine a hot cross bun with frosting and little raisins. Then, take the most memorable word from the phrase “traditional bases.” A hot cross bun might be “traditional” on a holiday, but that is sort of hard to remember. Let’s go with “bases.” Perhaps this makes you think of the bases on a baseball field. So, final product, you have a hot cross bun sitting on third base. Get the mental image clear in your head. One, bun, hot cross bun, bun on third base, traditional bases. Got it? Okay, next one!
Two – Here, we need to use “shoe” to help us remember “long arm statute.” You might imagine a stinky old high-top sneaker with a super long arm sticking out of it. Or, maybe you see a runway model with ridiculously high pumps on and arms so long that they drag behind her on the catwalk. Make the picture something absurd or funny if you can, these examples are usually easier to recall. Okay, so two, shoe, stinky sneaker with a long dangling arm, long arm statute.
Three – By now, you’re probably getting pretty good. Three, tree. Maybe you think of a Christmas tree or a weeping willow. The words we are trying to remember are “minimum contacts.” “Minimum” might be trickier to remember, so perhaps go with “contacts.” How can you associate “tree” and “contacts”? Maybe a lady pops in her contacts and all of a sudden she can see the Christmas tree in all its splendor. Maybe the lady in your imagination says, “Wow, without my contacts, I never would have seen the tree!” Three, tree, Christmas tree, contacts, minimum contacts.
Four – Alright, “door” needs to match up with “Purposeful Availment.” Hmm… Both “purposeful” and “availment” are sort of difficult words to remember. They don’t really come up in everyday life. Maybe we could use some sound associations. Availment sounds like it has the word “veil” in it. So, you might imagine a bride getting her wedding veil shut in the door as she gets ready to walk down the aisle. Let’s see if it works. Four, door, chapel door with a bride’s veil getting stuck, sounds like availment. Bingo! Purposeful availment.
Five – Hive, foreseeability. How is this going to work? Hive is pretty straightforward, you could imagine a hive full of bees rather than a rash from allergies, it will probably be easier. So, you’ve got some bees hanging out in their bee house, how do you add in foreseeability? Foresee sort of sounds like the number “four” and “see” or “sea.” Perhaps you see a big red number four with beehives stuck all over it. Maybe it’s easier to imagine four seas converging with a bunch of beehives in the middle about to get washed away. Better yet, maybe you think of a guy walking down the street and tripping on a beehive. If only he had been able to “foresee” that the beehive was in his path. Check if it works: five, hive, beehive in the middle of the sidewalk, a guy comes along and trips on it because he didn’t foresee it. Five, hive, foreseeability.
Six – Sticks. “Fair Play and Substantial Justice.” Now, if you’re lucky, this is already a stock phrase in your vocabulary ever since your Civ. Pro. professor told you to remember the International Shoe case. If not, you might have to remember this rule phrase as a unit before the word association will work. Maybe you see two little kids sword fighting with sticks and one of them isn’t playing fair. Maybe he hits the other while he has his back turned. Or, perhaps the word “fair” makes you think of a county fair-type carnival where you see a carnie filling up the Ferris Wheel cars with a bunch of sticks instead of people. Six, sticks, fair, fair play and substantial justice.
Seven – Heaven. Bear with me on this one… Religious beliefs aside, it really is one of the only things that rhymes with seven! The phrase you need is “relatedness.” Maybe you imagine your idea of “heaven” (whatever that might be) where everyone looks alike because they’re all “related.” Seven, heaven, related, relatedness.
Eight – Gate and “convenience.” Maybe you see a garden gate in a rock wall or a big drawbridge fortress gate at a castle. The gate sure is a convenient way to get from one side to the other. Perhaps you focus in on the word “convenience,” as in a convenience store. Why not visualize someone selling a gate at a convenience store. Eight, gate, selling a gate at a convenience store, convenience.
Nine – Vine. The words you’re looking for are “state’s interest.” So, imagine the outline of the state of California on a U.S. map. Then, picture it covered in vines. They might even be grape vines because of all the California wine. Nine, vine, state of California covered in vines, state’s interest.
Final step: Come up with a regular mnemonic to help you remember the sub-elements of Domicile, Presence and Consent. Use the letters “D,” “P” and “C.” The trick here is to use words that are unique enough that you won’t get them mixed up with something else. For example, you could say “Dial Pest Control” or “Donkey, Pig, Cat,” but these might not be memorable enough since you could just recall something vague about exterminators or farm animals. Each word needs to have significance on its own. If, on the other hand, you said something like “Drinking Powdered Chalk” or “Dripping Porcupine Clowns,” that would likely give you a much clearer (and potentially way more disturbing!) visual to latch onto. The weirder the better! Aim to use verbs and stay away from words that are too common in your everyday language. Hopefully for you, porcupines and clowns come up pretty rarely. Finally, find a way to tie what you come up with for D, P, C to the one, bun, traditional bases scenario above.
And there you have it! Coming up with your own examples could be somewhat time-consuming, but if your word associations are vivid and strange enough, I bet you can remember this entire attack plan by heart and knock it off your list by the end of today!
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- When and Where I Studied for the Bar Exam
- Tackling Bar Exam Materials Like a Pro
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