Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reviews of the Remaining Barbri Summer 2013 Video Lectures

For new readers' convenience, and because many of you take Barbri (my condolences), I am recycling previous posts about Barbri's Virginia video lectures to cater to the summer 2013 schedule. Because the lectures themselves minimally change, neither will my reviews.

Wills & Trusts (O'Brien) (Grade: A)

Excellent. O'Brien is right up their with Freer as one of Barbri's best lectures. You know you're going to get a Wills or Trusts essay.  So do yourself a favor: Maximize your study time by learning cold a subject for which the VBBE will almost certainly devote an entire essay. There's ten points in your corner already. That's how you beat this exam.

What I said about VA Civ Pro also applies here. Get as comfortable as possible with this lecture outline. That doesn't mean memorizing every page. Instead, pay close attention to where O'Brien says, "this is important," or "this was tested last year," etc. Star or highlight those sections - they're very important.

Like VA Civ Pro, Wills/Trusts is all about spotting the problem and knowing which steps to apply to solve that problem. The process is fairly mechanical. That's why the VBBE loves to test on these subjects! There's very little room for interpretation; you either know it or you don't. Sure, a Wills essays might ask you to discuss the validity of a will, and might even set up the facts so that you could make an argument for or against validity, but one argument will likely be stronger than the other. Address the points for the other side, but then reinforce why the position you're taking is the better one.

As to which issues within Wills/Trusts to give extra attention, again READ THE ESSAYS. As I said for VA Civ Pro, the VBBE loves to recycle essays. Take note of where certain issues are tested three, four, five times in the practice essays. . .  If you do every Wills/Trusts essay in Barbri's essay book, you will see very clearly which topical areas you need to know cold. If the model answers still leave you a little shaky on a particular issue, refer back to O'Brien's lecture outline. The only part I would not recommend sweating over (more than once) is his lengthy elective share problem towards the end of the Wills section. It's poorly set up, and might confuse you more than it will clarify.

Finally, while Wills is by far the most tested of the two subjects, they really go hand in hand. Do not skim Trusts to spend more time on Wills. For all you know, the Wills/Trusts essay could end up being a straight up Trusts essay (e.g., the Feb. 2010 exam). Don't gamble on ten points like that.

VA Creditors' Rights and Suretyship (Kraus) (Grades: D)

Waste of time. Way, way too much material for two fairly minor subjects. Moreover, it;s not even helpful; I thought it confused more than clarified. While these subjects aren't heavily tested, they're also not that difficult either.

You're better off skipping the lecture and Barbri outlines here, and going straight to the essays. Let the model answers teach you creditors' rights and suretyship. There's only a small handful anyway. suretyship has about two essays total, one full-on and one mixed. Creditors' Rights has maybe a dozen total, five or six full on and fix or six mixed. If you study those model answers, you will see that while these subjects bark a loud bark (i.e., they look scary), they don't have much bite (i.e., you will grasp the subject matter).

Creditors' Rights is the more important of the two. I lob this subject together with Commercial Paper and Secured Transactions. Historically, the VBBE usually commits one essay on each bar exam to cover one of the three subjects (or a combination of them). Virginia did not test on any of them in the last exam (Feb. 2012), so I think July 2012 is primed for an essay.

Finally, a quick word on suretyship. The one or two essays that have ever covered suretyship are manageable. But in the unlikely event that the VBBE commits an entire essay to suretyship, relax. Do your best, and then take comfort in the fact that everybody else is in your shoes too. The VBBE very rarely commits an entire essay to subjects like suretyship or Income Tax, because they're too specific. Remember, the VBBE only has nine essays to test you with, so they want to make the most of them - and not waste an entire essay on a very minor subject like suretyship or tax law. (They also realize that the students who, for example, specialized in tax law in law school have an unfair advantage.) If you do see these subjects on the exam, they'll likely be part of a mixed essay. That means the surety or tax sub-question might only be worth 3 points. Not a big deal if you're stumped.

Corporations (Kaufman) (Grades: B)

Like Agency and Partnership, this lecture isn't bad, but don't treat it like its gold. Use it simply to get comfortable with the law. Again, the best way to really learn and get comfortable with the law is to dig into the essays. Let the model answers teach you exactly what you need to know - and only what you need to know. Having said that, Kaufman's one of Barbri's better lecturers. He does a good job at trimming the fat from his lectures, leaving only the important material.

Agency, Partnership, and Corporations are middle-tier subjects in terms of testing frequency. Know Agency really well, though, because it can tie into virtually any essay as part of a sub-question. (Translation: That means Agency pops up often on the exam.) Corporations is another subject you should know well. The February 2012 exam had a hybrid Agency-Corporations essay, which was recycled verbatim from a previous exam (in addition to a completely recycled VA Civ Pro essay). If you had read all of the practice essays, you would have easily recognized them and recalled the model answers. Doesn't get much easier than that, does it?

MBE Evidence (Alexander) (Grade: C+)

This lecture is shorter (something like 60 pages), and the jokes and unhelpful tricks are mostly absent, but I reiterate many of the same sentiments above. PMBR's Evidence lecture on CD is a fantastic alternative - use that as your foundation for learning the material. No note-taking, just listening. The rest of your focus should be on learning from Emanuel's Evidence outline and working the practice questions. Again, index cards are your friend.

MBE Contracts & Sales Lecture (with VA distinctions) (Epstein) (Grade: B+)

60 pages. Ugh. Three days. Double ugh. But once you filter out the fat, this one has some teeth. Epstein is old-man funny, and in another life he was probably a cattle rancher or cowboy. His examples often begin with, "Now you're probably thinkin' - Epstein, son, what in the hell are you talkin' about?" I imagine words like "bo diddly" and "hinky" often enter his vocabulary.

This one of the few MBE lectures that's good. The drawback is that Epstein bogs down his lecture with an excess of examples. I also think his overarching Armadillo-Jay-Z-whatever mnemonic is very unclear, never mind unhelpful. But once you sift through some of his excess, you'll find that his outline is good. Get to know those portions well. And, yes, you should chew on a few of his examples in between. I remember early on having trouble distinguishing common law options from U.C.C. firm offers. My index cards weren't helping either, so I went back to Epstein's outline. Here, his numerous examples were helpful. I made a couple more cards for myself, and never felt the need to return to his outline again. Your primary text should be your index cards - almost never the lectures.

Epstein's outline should supplement S&T's Contracts & Sales mini-outline. Translation: the S&T outline should garner far more of your attention. You will find that the greatest strength of Epstein's outline will be in solidifying the points that are made in the S&T outline.

Remember: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Start at 60,000 feet (just the basics). Get comfortable with the most common, testable issues first. This is where S&T's outlines shine. These will serve as your most important index cards. Then, once you're comfortable here, move to 40,000 feet, which will include Epstein's outline and S&T's practice questions. Keep making noteworthy index cards. Once you're comfortable with this material, then take her down to 20,000 feet and begin to tie in PMBR's practice questions. Make more index cards as necessary. Once you're comfortable here, get to know all of your index cards COLD. Apply them everyday to your practice questions. Take the time to really learn from your mistakes. The more practice questions you hit, the more explanatory answers you read, the quicker you'll spot repeat questions, tricks, and traps. That's how you get to be a cold-blooded MBE killer.

Professional Responsibility (Velloney) (Grade: C-)

The lecture is a waste of time. The subject is NOT. The VBBE loves to zing bar examinees with Professional Responsibility (PR) essays. In July 2011, the VBBE devoted one full essay and one half essay exclusively to PR. So be warned.

That being said, Barbri's lecture rambles. Chuck it and head straight to the PR essays. Make your index cards from them. Afterward, take a look at the Convisor outline for PR. Just skim through it once and see if anything jumps out at you. Mostly, though, let the essays and short answers teach you bar exam PR.

While my suggested approach to PR is not 100% fool proof, it'll give you a great leg up over the rest of the crowd. Most bar examinees completely blow off PR, thinking it's BS-able. Don't be one of them! The VBBE take Virginia PR very seriously, and it's quite unlike the MPRE or that joke course you took in law school. Nothing's worse than hitting 1.5 essays on a subject you don't know a lick about. If you read all of the PR essays, which isn't many, then make your index cards from them and diligently learn your cards, you'll be in better PR shape than 98% of the bar examinees around you.

Suretyship and Taxation (Grade: Unrated)

Suretyship is like Taxation in that the VBBE rarely tests it—for the same reasons. But Suretyship rules are much more straightforward than Taxation’s. If you read through the one or two essays related to Suretyship, you should be fine. Again, skimping on the subject is a risk, but it’s a calculated one. Everything about studying for the bar exam is calculated.

Domestic Relations (Schechter) (Grades: B-)

Schechter does not use pre-formatted outlines. Basically, he gives long-winded lectures and you take notes. Helpful in law school. . . but not in a bar exam crunch.

For Domestic Relations, read through all of the essays instead and make your index cards from them. The VBBE frequently tests on Domestic Relations, usually as a full essay. In July 2011, the VBBE did not test on Domestic Relations. In February 2012, they devoted a partial essay to the subject. The good news is that Domestic Relations is a straightforward subject with which you should feel comfortable after some review. Domestic Relations essays are the easy points you NEED to rack up. Don’t skimp on this subject; know it cold.

VA Secured Transactions / Commercial Paper (Franzese) (Grades: C+)

These Barbri lectures are the opposite of Franzese's long-winded Property outline. They’re too brief! These subjects aren’t terribly difficult, but they’re not so easy as to be brief about them either.

What scares people away from these subjects are their terms and definitions. Once you understand them, the rest will fall into place. So, again, read through all of the essays instead and make your index cards from them. Expect the VBBE to devote a full essay to transactions, which will test either on Commercial Paper, Secured Transactions, or Creditors’ Rights (or a combination of the three subjects). Translation: These subjects are important. Don’t skimp on them; know them cold.

Also, all three subjects are similar, so study them together; i.e., during one session, or one right after the other. The majority of Virginia essays are mixed subjects, so it's best to understand how the various subjects interrelate with each other.


Local Government (Sinclair) (Grade: A)

In the last two exams, the VBBE has devoted two full essays to Local Government. I believe, before that, it was a staple in the short answer section. What does that tell you? The VBBE loves Local Government, so you should too! Sinclair's lecture outline is trim (19 pages) and very well filtered of unnecessary law. Virtually everything you need to know about Local Government for the exam is in that lecture outline. And, again, do the practice essays and take note of which issues come up time and again.

Some people disliked Sinclair's dry tone of voice. Some even walked out of his lecture, assuming it would be unhelpful. Don't poo-poo this subject. It's a wolf in sheep's clothing. And Sinclair is your best friend here.

Equity (Sinclair) (Grade: A)

Same thoughts as above. Another big subject. Don't overlook it. Sinclair knows best.

Conflict of Laws (Easley) (Grade: B-)

The VBBE tested on this subject in February 2012. Overall, though, it's a minor subject (and, also, not that difficult). Your time would be better spent reading the five or so practice essays for Conflict's of Law, and making index cards from them. That's about the extend of what you'll need to know.

Personal Property (Easley) (Grade: B)

Most law students do not study personal property, and Easley's lecture and lecture outline are a great crash course lesson in the subject. It's a medium-tested subject and the material's not difficult, so don't try to memorize the lecture. Read the practice essays. They'll point you to which areas you need to know.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

VBBE's Laptop Registration

A friendly reminder to all:

The VBBE's regular laptop registration will begin on Wednesday, June 12, and extend to Friday, June 21. The fee is $125. If you plan on typing your essay answers (and most of you should), don't miss out. Late registration will bump the fee to $175.

Reviews on the First of Barbri's Summer 2013 Video Lectures

For new readers' convenience, and because many of you take Barbri (my condolences), I am recycling previous posts about Barbri's Virginia video lectures to cater to the summer 2013 schedule. Because the lectures themselves minimally change, neither will my reviews. 


Virginia Civil Procedure (Freer) (Grade: A)

Va Civ Pro is the most frequently tested state subject. Expect at least one essay on the bar exam, maybe one and a half or two. Fortunately, Freer is one of Barbri's best lecturers. He's engaging, and his outline is organized and reasonably well-filtered of unnecessary law (for bar purposes). Your time will be well spent getting as comfortable as possible with this lecture outline.  That doesn't mean simply trying to memorize every page. Instead, pay close attention to where he says, "this is important," or "this was tested last year," etc. Star or highlight those sections - they're very important. The lecture's six sections are also hierarchical, starting with the most commonly tested material and working down.

The VBBE does not like to re-invent the wheel. Which is to say, they love to recycle essays. You will see it happen within Barbri's VA Civ Pro practice essays (which are straight-up copies of actual previous VBBE essays). Take note of where certain issues are tested three, four, five times. . .  If you do every Va Civ Pro essay in Barbri's essay book, you will see very clearly which topical areas you need to know cold.

Federal Jurisdiction (Freer) (Grade: A)

Another Freer gem. Same thoughts as above. The VBBE has not tested on Federal Jurisdiction in the last two exams. Given the subject's historical frequency, two absences is a drought. I think the July 2012 exam is ripe for a Federal Jurisdiction question.

Agency and Partnership (Kaufman) (Grades: B)

These lectures aren't bad, but don't treat them like gold. Use them simply to get comfortable with the law. Again, the best way to really learn and get comfortable with the law is to dig into the essays. Let the model answers teach you exactly what you need to know - and only what you need to know. Having said that, Kaufman's one of Barbri's better lecturers. He does a good job at trimming the fat from his lectures, leaving only the important material.

These subjects are middle-tier subjects in terms of testing frequency. Know Agency really well, though, because it can tie into virtually any essay as part of a sub-question. (Translation: That means Agency pops up often on the exam.) Corporations is another subject you should know well. The February 2012 exam had a hybrid Agency-Corporations essay, which was recycled verbatim from a previous exam (in addition to a completely recycled VA Civ Pro essay). If you had read all of the practice essays, you would have easily recognized them and recalled the model answers. Doesn't get much easier than that, does it?


MBE Real Property (Franzese) (Grade: C+)

The Multistate Real Property lecture with Frazese is. . . . not as helpful as you would think. The lecture does a good job of refreshing your memory on (or, for some people, teaching you) first-year law you probably haven't thought about since first-year. That, however, doesn't necessarily translate to a good lecture that will prepare you for the MBE.

First, the lecture is too long, something like 100 pages. That's too much content for the bar, even MBE subjects. I also found Franzese's jokes tedious and, even worse, her little tricks to remember requirements for adverse possession, real covenants, etc. If you find yourself spending more time trying to remember acronyms to remember something else, you need to reevaluate your strategy.

Instead, use Emanuel S&T's (see my post here) brief Property outline, and then start working the practice questions. Additionally, listen to the PMBR lecture CDs at least once, preferably two or three times. Make index cards from the outline and from the practice questions that you get incorrect or had to guess on. That's how you should learn property for the bar. Again, what Barbri outlines don't tell you is that what matters for passing the bar is not knowing everything, but knowing the right things. Barbri outlines include everything but the kitchen sink. If you try to learn everything, you're likely to overwhelm yourself.

MBE Criminal Law & Procedure, with Virginia Distinctions (Vellony) (Grade: C-)

Vellony's lecture is probably the most disorganized of all Barbri lectures. Instead of separating multistate and Virginia law, he zippers them together (e.g., Multistate conspiracy elements and exceptions, followed immediately by Virginia's conspiracy elements and exceptions, whether or not they're actually distinct from multistate law). This format, while good in theory, is counter intuitive in practice. The student is left more confused than before, because now he must sift through two laws (Multistate and Virginia) for every issue, whether or not they're actually different.

Vellony's lecture would have been much more user-friendly had he focused primarily on multistate law and then, at the end, listed the Virginia distinctions to multistate law. Because despite what Barbri tells you, Virginia Criminal Law & Procedure isn't substantially different from Multistate Criminal Law & Procedure. Again, read the Virginia Criminal Law & Procedure essays, compare them to your MBE Criminal Law questions, and you will see that more times than not they reach the same answers. Yes, Virginia has some distinctions - all of them worth knowing - but they are manageable. And yes, while Virginia's elemental language is sometimes worded differently than multistate law, if you read both laws carefully, you'll see that they essentially say the same thing.

So I would probably scrap this lecture. If you have a detailed question, refer to the Convisor for an answer. Otherwise, learn Multistate Criminal Law & Procedure by three resources: Emanuel's Strategies and Tactics (S&T) condensed outline, PMBR's CD Lecture, and S&T's and PMBR's practice questions. Then make index cards from the outline and practice questions. For Virginia's distinctions, read through all of the essays and make your index cards from them. If you do this, you will spot the distinctions. But really, they are not so numerous or so different, as Barbri will lead you to believe.

MBE Constitutional Law (Cheh) (Grade: C+)

Cheh's lecture is organized and comprehensive, but still too detailed for MBE purposes. What you need to know about Con Law for MBE purposes can be condensed into about 10-15 pages, not 50. Scrap this lecture; it'll weigh you down too much. As I said before, refer to Emanuel's Strategies and Tactics (S&T) condensed outline, PMBR's CD Lecture, and S&T's and PMBR's practice questions. Let these resources teach you MBE Con Law (it's quite different from law school Con Law). The MBE isn't asking for an essay, or for citations or procedural posture. It's asking whether you know the tricks and fine-line distinctions, and Con Law has plenty! Remember: Knowing the law is half the battle. The other half is knowing how to take the MBE.

Con Law questions are filled with tricks - answers that are always wrong, answers that could never be correct given the question presented, easy ways of determining whether a question is about equal protection or due process, or simple steps to quickly determine whether a case is final or else appealable to the Supreme Court. All of these tricks and fine-line distinctions are covered in Emanuel's Strategies & Tactics outline. In the 15 minutes it will take you to read that outline, you will already be better prepared for the MBE Con Law questions than Cheh's two-day, 50-page lecture could ever hope to do.

MBE Torts (Schechter) (Grades: B-)

Schechter does not use pre-formatted outlines. Basically, he gives long-winded lectures and you take notes. Helpful in law school. . . but not in a bar exam crunch.

For MBE Torts, use Emanuel S&T's (see my post here) brief Torts outline instead, and then start working the MBE practice questions (from S&T and PMBR’s Red Book). Couple them with the PMBR lecture CDs. Listen to the Torts CDs at least once, preferably two or three times. Make index cards from the S&T outline and from the practice questions that you get incorrect or had to guess on. That's how you learn Torts for the bar. To pass the bar, you don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know the right things. When you try to learn everything, you’ll likely overwhelm yourself. Knowing the right things is hard enough; don’t overwhelm yourself.