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.

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