Monday, April 28, 2008

Thoughts on the D.C. Bar Exam

Now that
the dust is finally settling
the red/orange glow of the sunset on the bar exam is increasing
the silhouette of the cowboy riding off into said sunset is visible

I'm ready to compile my thoughts on the February 2008 D.C. bar exam experience.

I studied a lot for this exam. Maybe a little more time-wise compared to last summer. I think I can chalk up some of my poor performance last summer to:
1. working half-time (20 hrs/week) during the first month of studying
2. working on numerous projects around my house to get it ready to sell in prep for the move to D.C.
3. an unlucky day (mostly in the choice of the essay subjects for me, a few chinks in my armor proved fatal)
4. lack of proper focus on studying for the MBEs (more on this below)
5. failure to compliment/buttress with another form of studying on the MBEs (flashcards and/or listening to CDs)

1. During the summer 07 bar campaign I worked half-time through the first month of BarBri (to keep my insurance benefits). I’m sure some people can do this, but I think I was not one of them. If you can avoid any work during your entire BarBri review, do it.
For the February exam I was working full-time during January and a couple of days into February and going to BarBri lectures at night (6-10 pm). I did study on the weekends but did not study any additional times during the week (no time!) aside from listening to PMBR lectures on my iPod during my commute every day.
I was lucky in that my firm paid for three weeks of study time (including the days for the exam itself) so I had nothing to worry about at work aside from studying during the couple of weeks right before the exam. I kept track of those non-billable hours in February and I think they came to about 225 hours.

2. Needless to say, preparing to move sucks. With the acceptance of a job in D.C., I had many little projects around the house that originally had a longer timeline for completion. A sudden shortening of that timeline during bar study is not idea…dare I say bad. It definitely sucked mental and physical strength from me to worry about/work on these projects. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, but if you can avoid a situation like this, do it. You really should focus all possible energy on bar study.

3. Sometimes you just get unlucky. Had I been asked a couple of different essay questions in subjects that I knew better, I probably would have passed my July 2007 bar. I may not have scored high enough to waive into D.C., but then again, I might have. Realize that you aren’t going to know every single subject that is possible in a robot-like manner. Focus hard on the subjects that you are weakest in since a poor performance is more likely to be damaging on one of those compared to how much you can increase your score in your top subjects (limited return value for your time).
Do everything you can to make sure you are lucky on exam day. For me this included wearing a lucky t-shirt and a favorite pair of shorts.

4. I think my poor MBE score from July 2007 (106 raw/126.7 scaled) was due to improper/less than ideal studying to some degree. I did quite a few questions last summer (approximately 1500 or so). In hindsight, I don’t think that I focused enough on the questions that I got wrong.

I knew I should change up my strategy some for my second attempt. Mind you, I didn’t think I had to rebuild everything from scratch, since I didn’t bomb the exam, but I knew I would want to try and tweak some aspects of my studying to maximize my chances of success.

I read quite a few books during my studying for the February 2008 bar:

-Mastering the Multistate Bar Exam, by John J. Talamo (2007, 2nd Edition)

-Pass the Bar! by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz (2006)

-Bar Exam Survival Kit, by Jeff Adachi (2006)

-MBE Survival Kit, by Jeff Adachi (2006)

-Scoring High on Bar Exam Essays, by Mary Campbell Gallagher (2006, 3rd Edition)

-Strategies & Tactics for the MBE, by Kimm Alayne Walton and Steve Emanuel (2005)
This book was great because all of the questions in it are from previously released MBEs. Granted, many of the questions these days are more difficult and a bit different, I think it helped to look at these since they were written by the NCBE. Also, this saves you from needing to buy the released MBE questions through the NCBE (which can add up quickly)

Another thing I did this time is pay $26 to get online access to the MBE Annotated Preview (2006) through the NCBE site. Here you get electronic access to 100 previously released questions (more recent than any of the other released exams). You can take the questions under a timed situation and the site comes up with a projected score band and some analysis on the questions and answers.

I did more questions this time around -just over 2300 total:
Almost all (90%) of the BarBri Study Smart questions
34 from each subject in the PMBR red book (didn’t get to the blue book)
PMBR 6 Day (50 questions per subject)
PMBR 3 Day (full simulated MBE)
BarBri simulated MBE (full simulated MBE)
100 questions from NCBE Annotated review 2006
17 questions per subject from BarBri MDR book (along with DVD explanations)
20 questions per subject from Walton & Emanuel book

My overall percent correct was around 59%, with a range (by subject) from 53% to 62%. Many times my second choice was the correct answer so I thought I had a good chance of getting many questions correct.

5. Last summer I did not use any flashcards to study or listen to any CDs. This time, I did use a number of the old PMBR flashcards (no longer given out, but you can still find them around on Ebay and the like). I also listened to the PMBR cds (you get them if you sign up for the combined course or you can also find them on Ebay) A LOT. I think this made a huge difference for me. I listened to the MBE subjects on the PMBR CDs every day, to and from work, for about seven weeks. This added up. There were definitely times during various practice sessions that I recalled things I had heard and was able to apply them to the question. Obviously, everyone learns in different ways, but for me, I think adding this auditory facet to my studying this time around helped immensely.

Additional Thoughts

MEE v other essays
I found the MEE questions easier than those in my home state during the summer 2007 exam. I think the short amount of time (30 minutes) doesn’t leave a lot of time to have some crazy deep question. You pretty much have 10-12 minutes to read/outline, then 20 minutes to write. That flies by when you are jamming on six continuous essays.

The D.C. Exam
Having to write the exam by hand sucked. No two ways about it. I typed my exam last summer because I have horrible handwriting (even with printing) and I can type much faster than I can write.
Knowing that you cannot use your laptop during the exam*, I wrote a ton before the exam to build up my hand strength/endurance. I wrote all notes by hand for the PMBR courses, for BarBri and when studying on my own. I did have a typed outline that I adjusted from last summer (because some subjects were added/subtracted). I wrote out about 50 of my own flashcards that I used for specific topics that I wanted to reinforce. I used the PMBR flashcards quite a bit.

All that being said, my hand was killing me towards the end of the exam. I had even hunted for the perfect pen to write with:
very fine point (to help with my messy writing)
larger grip (to help reduce hand fatigue)
blue color (I think it is easier to read compared to black)

I settled on the Pilot G-2 gel with the very fine point (0.5 mm). I wrote exclusively during all my studying with this pen so my hand was used to it on exam day.

*Note: technically, it is possible to type your D.C. bar exam. No, not on a laptop...on a typewriter! I looked into this and decided it wasn't worth the hassle (who has a typewriter?!?). I actually met a guy on day 2 (the MBE day) that had typed his essays the day before. I asked him how many people did that and he told me six (6). Out of 281 people. The official rules I got from the D.C. Court of Appeals said that you needed a typewriter with no lines of memory. This guy said that at least a couple of the people typing had a line or three of memory. When I did a quick search of typewriters online, I didn't find any that didn't have at least a couple of lines of memory. Spending money on a typewriter just for the bar exam seemed like a waste.

Getting to the exam
For the past few years, the D.C. bar exam has been at Catholic University of America. This up the red line on the metro (the eastern half of the line). The metro stop is only about four blocks from the Pryzbilla Center on campus, which is where the exam room is. I didn’t look into it, but a friend contacted CU and obtained a visitor parking pass for free and parked in the large lot next to the exam site. This allowed her to have a quiet refuge during lunch to go eat, relax, study, etc. It was raining on day one of the exam so sitting outside (like I had planned) wasn’t ideal and I wished I had my car at that point (since I wanted to review my outlines a bit for the essays). On day two, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t going to study any more MBE questions during lunch.

I checked out the exam site the week before to make sure I knew where to go, where the bathrooms where, etc. There is food in the cafeteria one floor below the exam room, but it is packed with undergrads and fairly busy, but the food was edible and fairly priced.

The seating in the exam room is a free-for-all ... as in no assigned seats. You just walk in and find the seat that feels lucky. The tables are the cheap long ones with the legs that fold flat, two people to table. There was quite a bit of room in the space and many people only had one at a table (like me).
There is only one door for access so if you are going to need to use the bathroom, you may want to sit closer to it. Of course, you’ll be closer to the action if people come in late or head to the bathroom during the exam.

Someone I know asked if mechanical pencils were OK and the offical word was no. I used mechanical pencils (although I had a box of 20 pre-sharpened ready to go just in case. There was only one sharpener in some back corner...better to have your pencils sharp ahead of time.

I brought earplugs with me, and highlighers, pens and pencils in a gallon ziplock bag and had no problem getting through "security" (a couple of senior ladies that sort of look at you as you come into the room).

It was hard (impossible really) to see a clock in the room from where I was sitting. I had my digital watch on, and an analog watch so that made it little problem for me. I don’t think there were many clocks set up in the exam room - maybe one?

That is all I can think of at the moment. I’m sure I’ll add to/edit this post as I think of other things I wanted to include.

Additional thought:
I definitely think that taking the exam a second time helped me focus on areas that I needed to strengthen:
-I knew I needed to beef up my essay abilities (about half of my essays last summer got pretty poor scores).
-Obviously I knew I needed to work on MBE stuff, which to me, is somewhat of a shot in the dark. Like most other things in life, prior experience helps a lot.
-I knew what it felt like to sit through the bar exam. I knew the stress associated with that.
Things that where different this time:
More stress, but in a different way. The thought that my job would disappear if I failed was horrible image in my mind and provided unending tension for me.
Writing two MPTs and six essays by hand sucks- no two ways about it. I probably should have written more in prep (although I'm not sure how I could have done that as I took all my notes this time by hand aside from reusing 3/4 of my outline from last summer).

Study experience in general:
Last summer I studied with one other person for 50-60% of my time. We weren't always studying with each other, but we would study in the same room and often compare/talk through answers to essay questions that we did, help each other understand various points of the black letter law and just generally support each other. It is easier to have someone that is in your same boat when trying to survive the bar exam. Other people just can't understand what you are going through, thinking, feeling.
Having moved to a new city/state, I didn't know anyone that was retaking the bar here in D.C. I met someone at the 6 Day PMBR class that I emailed occasionally (that person was studying at home via iPod lectures so we didn't cross paths at the BarBri lectures). Other than that, there was almost no interaction between me and any of the other people in my class, which was rather strange.
Last summer, pretty much everyone was a new grad, taking the bar for the first time.
Here in D.C. this February, there were all kinds of people taking the exam:
-those who failed a bar (could have been D.C. or some other state) and were retaking (some on their 2nd, 3rd + attempt at D.C.)
-those that passed a previous bar but didn't score high enough on the MBE to waive in
-those that had a foreign law degree and were taking D.C. for the first time

I definitely felt more isolated this time around as I didn't have anyone to chat with on a daily basis about questions, etc. I guess it worked for me so no complaints here.


Tiffany said...

Hey: Congrats again!

Just a quick question. Did your letter from the court confirm your swearing in date? Or were you told that the committee is looking into questions that you answered on your exam application?

Midwesterner in D.C. said...

The second page with my "you passed" letter said that they were still reviewing my application (whatever that top choice was) and that another letter should be received in two to three weeks.

Tiffany said...

Ok -- me too! I was wondering whether I was the only one -- or perhaps it is more of a standard response. A couple of other people that I met said the same thing -- they are reviewing their applications and will be notified later. I just want to get sworn in already!

By the way -- great job on the MBE score increase!! That is tremendous. I increased my score by 11 and was excited. That's nothing compared to you. Truly impressive performance. :)

Midwesterner in D.C. said...

Both of our increases are substantial and impressive. I still can't believe how much higher my score was. I think it is more accurate to think that my score (based on what my practice averages were) in July should have been a bit higher but the perfect storm occurred and I ended up on the low side of my possible range. I think this time around I was probably on the higher side of things...which is OK by me!

The MBE is six hours of living hell in my book. I'd like to think that some of my increase was due to revamped study methods/strategies. I'm not too proud to say that I think I got damn lucky and that I am not sure I could repeat that performance. The beautiful thing is...I DON'T HAVE TO!

It is annoying that the swearing in ceremony is so far away for us. Being the geek that I am, I looked for the date for the last few years, both February and July exams, and the fall swearing in is usually 2-3 weeks earlier than the spring. There are usually similar numbers of examinees. Go figure.

Tiffany said...

I agree. The MBE truly is six hours of living hell. I doubt your score was because of luck -- you totally knew how to analyze the questions this time. Clearly a result of the change in your preparation!

You are not a geek at all. I have also been trying to find out more about the swearing in date. DC is just so backwards to me. I took NY in July 2007 and was sworn in January 2007. A mere 6 months. Why is it that DC takes almost as long, if not longer to swear in much fewer applicants? It is ridiculous. Nevertheless, I guess I should stop complaining since the worst part is over. Seriously, if I didn't pass, I would move back to NY before taking that stupid exam again!!

Anonymous said...

I think on the DC Bar website it says that if you don't get a letter stating otherwise, you will be sworn in on June 16th. I got a letter saying they needed my MPRE score, which I had sent to another jurisdiction. I called the DC bar office and they said just to send a copy of my score report that I received electronically from the NCBE. I asked if I would still be on schedule to be sworn in in June and the guy at the office said yes.

By the way, I passed NY in July but didn't score high enough to waive into DC. Psychologically, while prepping for DC, I couldn't make myself neglect the new essay topics so I again over-studied for the essays and probably still under-studied for the MBE. I guess this goes to show that you can suck at the MBE and still pass, provided you can make a solid showing on the essays.

Anonymous said...

just heard from a few friends that took MD that they added 18 pts to the raw score.

nice score, btw! i can only hope to score as high!

Anonymous said...

DC's pass rate seems pretty low for a jurisdiction with a comparatively 'easy' bar exam, why do you think that is? Do people understudy, or do a lot of foreign educated lawyers take the exam with a faulty understanding of American law . . . any theories. I have been out of law school 3 1/2 years and am considering taking it next July.

Midwesterner in D.C. said...


I think a disproportionately high number of people taking the D.C. bar exam are:

-repeat testers (I don't know anyone that takes D.C. as their first choice...with its low MBE waive in score needed, why not take another state (like I did) and then get your "below average" 133 and you're done?!)
-foreign lawyers (who are often repeaters)

With between 3,000 and 4,000 people getting admitted by motion per year, most people are not taking the bar exam.

I think the first time taker average is on par with other states (65-70% ish), or at least not out of line.

If you made it through your first bar exam 3.5 years ago, the D.C. exam should be relatively easy for you, it just takes a lot of time to study.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I didn't take a bar a few years ago, I am not a member of any state's bar . . . DC seems easy and I just want to be admitted for the sake of being admitted. Thanks for your response.

Anonymous said...

Do you know anything about the grading of the MEE? It seems a lot of states use the MEE but each jurisdiction grades it a bit differently. So an answer to the same question that could be a failing answer in one state may be a passing answer in another.

Do you know or have you heard where DC stands in terms of grading standards?

Midwesterner in D.C. said...


It is true that each jurisdiction using the MEE comes up with their own points sheet/scoring system.

I'm not sure that I would say that any place, including DC, has a "failing" answer. DC scores the six essays out of 15 points. Since the essay scores are added together for a grand total, you could get a zero on one of the essays, but rock the other five and still pass. I know that some states require you to pass a minimum number of essays based on your MBE score, but DC isn't like that. If you got a 190 on your MBE I bet you could get some awfully low essay scores and still pass.
Also, since DC does not release student answers, we (you, me, and everyone else that is curious) have no idea what a 10 answer looks like, or a 12 or a 15...
The only way you see your scores is if you fail. I know another DC bar blogger that posted that she got a 15 on one of her essays during a failed attempt.
There are two states that post representative student answers (but no corresponding score) to the MEE, but those answers are deemed to be "good" answers by that state. I can't recall off the top of my head what two states- Maybe OK and MO? I can post the states later once I look on my laptop at work (I saved some of the sample answers during my study process).

Midwesterner in D.C. said...

The two states that publish respresentative good answers to the MEE are Arkansas and Missouri. You can find them on the bar examiner sites.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I'll look into those states for model answers.

I'm doing essay only for this test since I got above a 133 but failed my last attempt in another state.

DC requires essay-only takers to score a 133 or better on the essays. Do you know if this is about the median or slightly above average for most takers?

Not that there's anything I can do about it now, but getting a 133 on the essay might be harder than re-taking the whole test and offsetting the difference with a higher MBE score. I guess I just have to rock the essays this time.


Midwesterner in D.C. said...

I met a few people that taking the essays only last winter. I didn't catch their names, so I'm not sure if they passed or not.

I haven't seen any info regarding what the mean essay score might be.
Just looking at the numbers though, If you average 10s on your six essays (60) and 30s on the two MPTs, that gets you 120 raw points (out of 180). There is some scaling factor that converts the raw score to something out of 200 (no info on that, part of the black magic of the DC exam).
I don't think 10s is all that hard. I know another blogger that failed the DC bar and during at least one of her failed attempts got her scores back and one of the essays was 15/15. I think getting 11 or 12 or even 13 is very doable.
Scoring high on the MPT should also get your score up there.

It seems like doing only half the exam (the essays in your case) should be quite manageable. As you pointed out, having a high MBE paired with your essays reduces the necessary essay score, but achieving that high MBE score comes at some cost (and maybe with no guarantee?!). I wouldn't take the MBE again if I didn't have to (and I don't plan on it)!

Anonymous said...

Just curious if you noticed where most of the DC takers were from when you took it.

Were there many takers from Howard and UDC? I ask this only because the rest of the DC area schools rank higher and their students usually take other state bar exams (VA, MD, NY, etc.) Howard and UDC are not very good schools (tier 3 and tier 4, respectively), and the "easy" pass rate of DC combined with the location of both schools being right there in DC suggests that a lot of their grads probably just take the DC exam and hope for the best.

This would also mean that, for example a 77% pass rate in DC would not be the same as say, a 77% pass rate in MA. If the exam is taken by mostly T3 and T4 students (Howard and UDC) it would have remarkably lower grading standards (written portions) than another state with a 77% pass rate. At least this is true if there is some sort of "curve" to the grading, which I think you've suggested.

Unlike CA, there is no info on the DC site as to where the applicants went to school. Thoughts?

Midwesterner in D.C. said...

I definitely can't say that I met most of the DC exam takers so my sample size is rather small.
I did meet a few in the PMBR 6 Day and then a few in BarBri class. Really, I thought the selection of schools was quite mixed. I met a few people from Mason, GW, Georgetown. One Georgetown person I met was taking the DC exam as a first exam. A handful of other people I met had been practicing for a couple of years, but not five (or whatever their state required for admission on motion) and must not have had the MBE score to waive in on that. I also met a couple of people that passed their first bar (VA, MD and CA were the ones I remember) where their MBE was not high enough to waive into DC.
Although the first time DC taker rate is not bad (60-70% I think), the overall rate is much lower because of repeaters and foreign attorneys/students. I met a number of people that were taking the DC exam for 2nd, 3rd, 4th time, mostly because English was difficult for them.
I'd actual content of the DC exam makes it easier than others. Having two MPTs be 25% of your overall score is pretty cushy. Another 25% on the six MEE essays (which I think sound like they are easier than hard states like CA). Really, there is no ball hiding with the MEE essays. With 30 minutes per essay, you just don't have time to get into all kinds of weird nuances of the law. You just have to know the basic stuff clear and crank it out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for getting back on that. One last thing - I heard the following subjects were tested in DC in Feb:

1) Torts
2) Corps
3) Sec Trans
4) Trusts
5) Evidence
6) Wills

Is this what you remember? If so, they don't seem to be jumping onto the opportunity to test MBE subjects in their essays. Might be trying to cut us essay-only takers a break - ?

Also, what were the formats of the MPT (if you reacall) memos, client letters, etc. Just curious if they went with any of the uncommon ones (like trial brief or appellate brief).

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I take back part of what I just wrote.

The DC bar tested THREE MBE subjects in their MEE essays for July 07, also it was the first test where NCBEX offered the MBE subjects to jurisdictions using the MEE essays.

For whatever reason DC went bananas and decided to test all the MBE subjects that were offered in July 07 (Crim, Property and Contracts).

In Feb 08, DC only tested Evidence out of the MBE lineup. I only know 8 out of 9 of the subjects NCBEX offered that time, so there might have been one more MBE subject available that DC didn't pick.

DC also tested Trusts back to back from July 07 to Feb 08.

My guess is if they have a lot of foreign lawyers and repeaters who have to take the whole test every time, DC might lean towards using a lot of MBE subjects, thinking they're doing everybody a favor (since you have to study those subjects anyway for the MBE).

Anonymous said...

Actually, I take back part of what I just wrote.

The DC bar tested THREE MBE subjects in their MEE essays for July 07, also it was the first test where NCBEX offered the MBE subjects to jurisdictions using the MEE essays.

For whatever reason DC went bananas and decided to test all the MBE subjects that were offered in July 07 (Crim, Property and Contracts).

In Feb 08, DC only tested Evidence out of the MBE lineup. I only know 8 out of 9 of the subjects NCBEX offered that time, so there might have been one more MBE subject available that DC didn't pick.

DC also tested Trusts back to back from July 07 to Feb 08.

My guess is if they have a lot of foreign lawyers and repeaters who have to take the whole test every time, DC might lean towards using a lot of MBE subjects, thinking they're doing everybody a favor (since you have to study those subjects anyway for the MBE).

Midwesterner in D.C. said...


From my 2/26 post, here are the subjects (subtopic) and order from February 08:
Wills (undue influence/intestate share distribution)
Torts (strict liability/negligence)
Evidence (correctness of some court rulings on admissibility of three pieces of evidence)
Corporations (duty of loyalty)
Secured transactions (perfection issue/who wins between PAC and LC)
Trusts (violation of numerous fiduciary duties by trustee)

Torts was in there too so it was two MBE subjects (with Evidence). Since I haven't looked at the NCBE book you can buy on the MEE for Feb 08, I'm not sure what all 9 subjects were either. I thought a thread on jdjinx or jdunderground (search for MEE) had enough posts to cover all the subjects, but maybe only 8/9 got mentioned.
With all the different subjects available for the MEE, I'd be surprised if the NCBE wrote more than 4/9 as MBE subjects. Seems like 3/9 is even more likely.
With only the July 07 and Feb 08 exams for DC, it is hard to make much in the way of predictions as to how many MBE subjects DC will pick- two data points just isn't a great sample size. I'd think that DC will continue to pick two MBE subjects, with the occasional three in there. It seems unlikely that only one MBE would be used, but the bar examiners do try and mix things up.

I actually made a chart of the MPT types (by looking at the MPTs available on the NCBE site and the books I had of more recent exams) so I could get a feel for the frequency of some of the oddball formats...
For Feb 08, both the MPTs were memo to partner style (I think the easiest).

Feb 2008 memo to partner memo to partner
Jul 2007 memo to partner motion to court
Feb 2007 memo to partner Letter to opposing party
July 2006 memo to partner motion to court
Feb 2006 memo to partner motion to court
July 2005 Client opinion letter Letter to opposing party
Feb 2005 memo to partner letter to opposing counsel Memo to ? (persuasive)
July 2004 memo to partner demand letter to opposing party motion to court
Feb 2004 motion to court memo to partner memo to partner
July 2003 motion to court memo to partner memo to partner
Feb 2003 letter to opposing counsel memo to partner motion to court
July 2002 Memo to D.A. will clauses with explanation Client opinion letter
Feb 2002 Closing argument Client opinion letter letter to opposing counsel
July 2001 motion to court memo to partner motion to court
Feb 2001 motion to court memo to partner motion to court
July 2000 mediation statement interrogatories with explanations memo to partner
Feb 2000 memo to partner memo to partner motion to court
July 1999 will clauses with expl. Letter to opposing counsel memo to partner
Feb 1999 memo to partner memo to partner
July 1998 memo to partner Client opinion letter
Feb 1998 memo to partner motion to court
July 1997 Client opinion letter motion to court
Feb 1997 motion to court memo to partner

I'm not sure if that will show up or not. Basically it was a little rare for both MPTs to be partner memos. More often, one was that and the other was a motion to the court or sometimes a letter to opposing counsel.
I was pleasantly surprised to see both as partner memos as I think those are the most straightforward and commonly practiced forms.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the data. I agree that memos and client (or opposing counsel) letters are desirable formats, and they appear to be more likely. Just praying I don't get something weird like a trial or appellate brief. Ugh.

I forgot about torts - so yeah, that makes two MBE subjects tested on your exam. The data sample is small, but from the looks of things, if they do go for another two MBE subjects, it'll be the two not yet on the list - conlaw and federal jurisdiction.

It'll give me something to focus on this last week. I damned sure don't want to do this again. Wish me luck.

Anonymous said...

"Howard and UDC are not very good schools (tier 3 and tier 4, respectively), and the "easy" pass rate of DC combined with the location of both schools being right there in DC suggests that a lot of their grads probably just take the DC exam and hope for the best."

Howard is a fine law school. I think that the ranking has more to do with other political factors than actual curriculum or employment rates. We also maintain one of the highest employment rates in the District. I think that HBCU tag tends to kill us in the rankings - but I would rather take the recruiters.

Most of our graduates take either the NY, MD or GA exam. In fact I happen to be lone D.C. first-time taker.

Midwesterner in D.C. said...

I agree with the ranking/pass rate thing. My law school was T3/T4 and I think it was good enough. Without having the stats on who takes the exam (like some states that break out what schools are taking their exam) it is not really possible to know.

In general, I don't think many people take DC as their first bar since it is the easiest to get more bang for your buck by taking VA or MD (the two most common other exams for people that are from here/know they are going to be practicing here).
Before the MBE, everyone thinks they can easily get the "below average" 133 required to waive in...

Anonymous said...


Took the DC essays yesterday. Two MPTs, as predicted they like memo to partner format (they were both memos to partners).

Essay subjects tested:

ConLaw (this was to be expected)
Agency & Partnership
Fed Civ
Contracts (was more like remedies)

No neg instruments or sec trans, refreshingly enough! You can see they like MBE subjects, though. Thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

Do you know when DC issues the bar exam results for the July 2008 exam? They said early November, but I suspect it will be earlier than that.

BTW, your blog is awesome and it was really helpful when I took the exam. As a retaker myself (from another jurisdiction), I totally relate to everything you have shared. I am also workng in a big law firm in DC and the thought of failing this time around just makes me sick to the stomach.

Another question: is it possible to retake the entire DC exam even if you pass either the MBE or MEE/MPE sections (e.g., 133+). The reason I ask is b/c if you only take 1/2 the exam, you have to get 133, whereas if you retake the whole exam, you can rely on the stronger MBE or MEE/MPE to "offset" the score.

Midwesterner in D.C. said...


I know last year, the July 2007 results were posted October 4th, 2007. That is the only data point I have (I saved a copy of the official list posted and the cover letter has the date, similar to the current Feb 08 letter posted).

I'm glad you found the blog helpful. I hoped this blog would increase the info out there for people taking the DC bar exam.

Yes, you can choose to retake the entire DC exam and negate the requirement of getting 133+ on the half you take. I met one guy last winter that was doing it because of MBE issues. I also met a couple of people that were just taking the DC essays because they scored high on the MBE on their California bar exam (but failed).

Anonymous said...

Would anyone like to sell their DC Barbri books? If so, email me at THanks!

Midwesterner in D.C. said...

Anon- for DC bar books be sure to watch craigslist and ebay. I sold my DC bar books on craigslist last spring. I posted and five or six responses in 30 minutes.

Anonymous said...

I find it disheartening that I still come across postings touting that UDC is a poor school with low passage rates. FYI....I only know of two people who failed the bar this July out of everyone who took it and trust me, I am nosy and have tracked down these stats. Of those people, ALL passed DC. We went from 56% a few years ago to what looks like about a 90% this year. That's not shabby at all. UDC is a young school but by no means are we failing anymore.