Common Essay Writing Mistakes/Problems
- Misreading/not reading the call of the question
- Not organizing/outlining your response
- Being too conclusory – failing to support your assertions (lack of “because”)
- Reciting abstract rules of law
- Restating facts from the question
- Failing to integrate law and fact
- Using IRAC as a method of organizing your response
- Not including appropriate subheadings
- Not drafting clear, concise topic sentences
- Crafting poorly-organized paragraphs
- Including a meaningless upfront, initial sentence
- Failing to determine/consider the fact pattern’s jurisdiction
Having a Dialogue with the Bar Examiners
Think of essays as your opportunity to have a dialogue with the bar examiners. With every word you write, your goal is to tell them that you are prepared to take your place in the profession, meet with clients, analyze their problems, and represent them in court.
You need to convey those messages to the bar examiners – that is essentially how you need to write. How do you do this? By using the language of the law in the format and structure of legal analysis. Using the appropriate terminology in your discussion of a legal issue is what sets you apart from a lay person. When a grader reads your essay, they should be able to think, “This person can be an effective and competent lawyer.”
Bar Examiner Expectations: Advice from the Graders of the Exam
Bar examiners have the same expectations when reading an essay as did your law professors: one that demonstrates your ability to engage in legal thought and analysis. The bar examiners are clear about what they expect from you in an exam answer:
An answer that evidences “your ability to apply law to the given facts and to reason in a logical, lawyer-like manner from the premises you adopt to a sound conclusion” (California Board of Bar Examiners).
Neither a “right answer” nor a “bottom line” answer but a well-reasoned argument based on an analysis of the relevant issues and an application of the law to the facts followed by a legal conclusion (New York Board of Bar Examiners).
“The ability to reason logically, to analyze accurately the problem presented, and…demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the fundamental principles of law and their application” (Florida Board of Bar Examiners).
A demonstration of “your ability to analyze legal problems and to provide an organized, logical and coherent written response” (New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners).
This article is Part One of a Six-Part series. Here is where you can find Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six.