Hey 2Ls, you might want to pay attention to this one. You’re really going to want to pass the July 2014 Bar Exam, because by February 2015 the exam is going to be new.

Really new. In the biggest change to the bar exam in decades, the February 2015 exam will have a new section: Civil Procedure.

I’ll pause now until the groaning subsides….

A letter from the National Conference of Bar Examiners announced the change over a week ago, but it seems like it has been kept very silent:

The full letter is on the WSJ Law Blog.

Let’s review what the bar is, and what it’s going to be. From Kaplan Test Prep:

  • The MBE currently has 6 sections: Constitutional Law; Contract; Criminal Law and Procedure; Evidence; Real Property; and Torts.
  • In what is the biggest change to the MBE in nearly 35 years, a seventh section, Civil Procedure, is being added.
  • To accommodate for the addition of the new section and keep the test the same length, several questions will be shaved from each of the current sections – so instead of six sections with 31-33 questions each, the MBE will have seven sections with 27-28 questions each.
  • It will remain a 200-question, 6-hour exam.

I gotta say, I really like this change. Civil Procedure might be most boring subject of the traditional 1L courses, but that’s the stuff real practicing attorneys are actually supposed to know. If you have a few more lawyers who understand FRCP Rule 11, I’m willing to suffer people who can’t fully articulate the difference between a covenant and an easement.

You don’t have to go scrambling over your old Civ Pro notes just yet. The test prep companies will surely have you covered. Christopher Fromm, executive director of bar review programs at Kaplan Bar Review, told us some more about these changes:

We know from what students tell us that Civil Procedure tends to be one of their most challenging areas of study. Adding a section to the MBE in an area of study that students have traditionally found difficult will make the exam more challenging overall. For many bar takers, it will mean they’ll be ‘double tested’ on Civil Procedure, since it’s a topic often covered on state essays and on the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), which is required by more than half of U.S. jurisdictions.

Kaplan already has a page up on the changes.

Honestly, I don’t think Civil Procedure is objectively more difficult than any of the other subjects tested on the bar. I think it’s objectively more boring. There are no bodies or accidents or hot-button constitutional arguments. There are just rules, technical rules, that you have to learn. How do you properly join a class action?! When can you remove a case to federal court?! More on discovery at 11!

Those topics don’t fire the imagination of prospective law students, but that’s kind of the problem with law students. When you think about what actual lawyers do in the real world, it’s not all about arguing grand theories in packed courtrooms or negotiating billion-dollar deals over a round of golf. The practice of law is about following rules and procedures. It’s about using those rules to get your client what they want.

When I was in Vegas, I had drinks with First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza, who has one of the most exciting practices that anybody could hope for. He helps the porn industry protect its copyrights and gets invited to the AVN Awards. You know what we talked about? Attaching assets in foreign countries so his clients could actually recover money after winning. I mean, we also talked about whether money-shot compilations constituted fair use, but also attachment of foreign assets. That’s Civ Pro, baby. And it’s critical.

And if you can’t kind of see clear to get excited enough by the subject matter to master it to the level required by the MBE (which is a very low bar actually), then you might not like what happens to you after you pass the exam.

The Bar Exam Is About to Get Harder [WSJ Law Blog]


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