“Where Were You Three Years Ago?”

Over the last 21 years, I’ve heard this quite a bit. Usually it happens after the first lecture I give, whether it’s in a law school class setting or a 1-on-1 tutoring setting.

I’ve taught Critical Studies I, II, and III classes at Hastings for many years now (and 1L’s for 21 years at Hastings), as well as multiple seminars at Cal Northern School of Law, Golden Gate, UC Davis, University of San Francisco, and Santa Clara over the last 21 years. I’ve also tutored law school students during that time. And the refrain keeps coming again and again and again:

Where were you when I started law school? Where were you after my first semester? After my 1L year?

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“I really wish I had the WINNIN’ TIME! book when I was a 1L”
Steven Harris was my number one cheerleader throughout the entire bar prep process, but he never sugar-coated anything, which is exactly what a repeat taker needs. The WINNIN’ TIME! book was a lifesaver, and the mnemonics – as crazy as they were – actually worked for memorization purposes. I really wish I had the WINNIN’ TIME! book when I was a 1L, but you can’t win ‘em all! (Pun intended). And most importantly, Steven’s memorization plan for the bar was essentially flawless. Thanks, Steven!

2015 Irvine Grad, 2nd timer, passed the February 2016 California Bar Examination

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I remember being at Cal Northern after midterms, delivering my essay lecture. At various times during the day, some students came to me in tears (happy ones).

Their refrains were the same:

“Finally, I have a plan! I had been wandering aimlessly during my midterms and I had no plan on how to read a fact pattern. Time went by so fast! Now you’ve given me hope. I need to go home and practice now! I wish you were here during orientation!”

“Oh, so THAT’s how you do it! Nobody told me! I didn’t outline the answer before writing it up and failed all three midterms. But after hearing your Essay Writing lecture, I have hope.”

“I could never finish my essays on time. So I cut off my nose to spite my face and I outlined for only three minutes… and panicked even more since I had no useful outline. I was reading the fact pattern an extra 45-50 times! Now you put me at ease and I have a plan that can work.”

“I was writing in molasses and couldn’t ever finish my essays. Saving 200 words on my issue statements was a Godsend!”

“My rules took forever to write! I used Emmanuel’s or other hornbooks and I was memorizing a half-page rule. Your rules were so concise in WINNIN’ TIME! that now I have a chance to finish my essays on time! I would have saved so much time and frustration if I had met you three years ago!”

“Throughout law school and in my bar prep course, everyone kept telling me that I was writing in a conclusory manner. But during your Essay Writing lecture, I learned the magic two words that I HAD to write and the three words (certainly, obviously, clearly) that I had to STOP writing. No more trips to Conclusoryville for me! Where were you three years ago when I learned all those bad habits? Where were you 5 years ago during my 1L year?”

“I was taught to write long, transition, synthesized conclusions in 1L and to hedge with words like ‘perhaps’ and ‘likely.’ I always had problems finishing essays on time. Your Essay Writing lecture helped cut the verbosity that was pounded into me over the years. Now I finish exams on time!”

“Nobody ever taught me how to think like the graders do. Imagining myself as Stoplight Guy really helped me focus on how the exam is graded, and how to present my exam so it was as easy as possible for her/him to award points.”

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Performance Tests

For the Performance Test, the complaints were legion. Students would tell me that in law school they would have these thinly veiled PT classes: advanced legal writing, advanced legal problems, capstone courses, etc.

Some of the PTs they covered were from the early 1990s! Can you believe it? Other courses used 90-minute Multistate PT exams that were far easier than the ones on the Cal Bar. Deconstructing just THAT: using the proper materials.

“My prep program didn’t provide me with a plan AT ALL for PTs! I was told that I already knew what to do based on my classes in law school or during my summer internships. Your plan is so concise and simple that it’s doable. Where were you three years and five bar exams ago?”

“My prep program taught me to use an unworkable grid that four people in the country understand. I think the four people who understand the Rule Against Perpetuities are the same people who understand this grid! Your plan makes so much more sense and it’s easier to use.”

“Your PT follow-up lecture cleaned up the mess I’ve always had with doing the Inventory of the Library. I used to have only 20 minutes to write my answer because I read every word and couldn’t ever get through the Library fast enough!”

“I’ve never been able to put it all together on the PT when I outlined. Your real-time Inventory of the Library, Inventory of the File and Outline showed me how to get my thoughts organized and then to implement the plan.”

“Your quality control plan just before I started writing the PT ensured that I could finish the PT on time. First time ever!”

“I was always so depressed after failing each exam. Your inspirational thoughts about how to approach the exam helped me wake up the next day with a plan. Helping me deal with the Psychology of Failure gave me a chance and I took it.”

“Nobody told me that an Evidence essay had so many issues! Your Evidence Boilerplate in WINNIN’ TIME! solved all of my problems! Where were you when I was struggling in my Evidence class?”

“Nobody told me how to prepare for a PR essay! Those PR essays are such a big deal since they are on every exam. Your PR Boilerplate in WINNIN’ TIME! solved the problem.”

“My prep program included MBE questions that were so much easier than what I saw on the exam! Nobody taught me how to approach MBEs. I was just told to do 5,000 of them and it would just all work out. Where were you three years ago when I was so exhausted and not learning anything?”

“I was on the chat boards ALL the time. I reflexively believed all the rumors. Memorize early. Learn the law and don’t practice essays or MBEs. Don’t practice PTs: they’re really easy and there’s only one of them so it won’t matter. My friends are studying 15 hours a day so I feel behind. Helping me shut off all the noise really helped me focus on what mattered.”

“I didn’t take law school seriously. I just figured I’d get by like I did in college. Didn’t study hard. Didn’t outline my classes. And just got through…until the bar exam. And finally, when I couldn’t skate by after two failed exams, I decided to get help. Where were you FIVE years ago in my 1L year to talk some sense into me?”

“My law school dean refused to give me the accommodations I needed to take my law school exams. He said I had to “tough it out.” I had to put a lot of time, effort and money into getting evaluated so I could get the accommodations I needed. It leveled the playing field and then I could pass. Where were you three years ago to help me confront my dean and get the help I needed?”

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2L and 3L students: don’t become the “Where-were-you-three-years-ago-guy”! Get the books you need and get out of the bad habits you formed. Save yourself a lot of time and heartache now!

First-time Bar Exam and repeat Bar Exam takers: I couldn’t help you three years ago. But I can help you now. Use the resources on this site and get the help you need!

To the undergrads taking a pre-law class such as Con Law or other 1L subjects in college: NOW is the time to get ahead of the game! Get the books and get a leg up on your classmates for the years to come.

And to my 1L’s in my Legal Writing and Research courses, you are the lucky ones. You are the ones who learn about the good habits now before you can create bad ones.

For everyone else, I couldn’t teach you before, but I can teach you now. Sign up for tutoring, or get the books, and generate some points!

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