Sunday, June 9, 2013

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.

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