I’m trying to figure out what “bar courses” to take…

I’m trying to figure out what “bar courses” to take. I plan to take the Oregon bar exam. I went to osbar.org and looked at the exam FAQ (pdf), and it gave pretty broad categories of areas tested. Is this where I should be looking, or is there a better resource?

You’re looking in one of the right places.  Another resource is a pamphlet put out by BarBri that the Career Services office has on hand.  It has information about every bar in the country.  I think what can be a little confusing is figuring out what courses correspond to the the subjects listed by the bar.  Let me explain a little about how the bar works and then lay out the courses that cover the subjects on the exam.

The Oregon bar consists of three parts.  There’s the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) which is one day of  multiple choice questions.  Next, there are 9 essay questions (MEE and Oregon-written questions) and a multistate performance test (MPT) that take place on the second day of the exam.  The subjects on the MBE multiple choice exam are property, contracts, criminal law, criminal procedure, torts, evidence, and constitutional law (I&II).  The essays, on day two of the exam, may be on any of the subjects tested on the multiple choice exam, plus administrative law, business associations, advanced contracts/sales or advanced contracts/commercial transactions, secured transactions, civil procedure — both federal and state, income tax, legal ethics, wills and trusts, and property transactions.  Obviously, with such a long list of possibilities, not all subjects are tested each time in the essay portion.  The MPT is a “closed universe” test where you are given a statute or complete an assignment such as writing an opinion or a memo.  The MPT does not test substantive law. NOTE that in July 2012 Oregon is adding a second MPT and reducing the essay questions to 6 from 9.

Although you didn’t specifically ask for it, I’ll give you my thoughts about bar courses.  First, ask different faculty members and deans about bar courses.  I expect you will get varying advice.  My views are my own and may not feel like the right advice for you, so take it for what it’s worth.  My view is that a person does not have to take every bar course to pass the bar.  So, how to make the decision — which courses should you take?  Which ones to take is shaped by your interests and your fears.  Many of the bar courses will dovetail into an area of interest.  For instance, if you are interested in environmental law, you will be taking administrative law at some point.  If you are on a business track, you will take business associations and perhaps some of the advanced contracts classes or secured transactions.  Some of your choices may be driven by the feeling that you would rather get a whole semester of exposure to a subject that sounds gnarly to you, rather than try to learn it in one to two days in a bar review course.  Maybe you’re a gambler and you’ll decide to take your chances that the course you didn’t take won’t be on the bar.  In the end, I believe that it’s not so important which specific courses you take as that you take a fair number of them.  Keep in mind that the bar review courses are designed to be primarily a “review” rather than learning ten to twelve brand new subjects.

Keep an eye out for a visit from the Oregon bar examiners.  They come to campus at least once a year, usually in the Spring.  They will meet with any interested students and answer questions.  Especially as you get closer to taking it, think about attending a session.  The National Conference of Bar Examiners web site, http://www.ncbex.org/, has detailed information about the MBE and MPT.

Finally, don’t forget that there is one more piece to becoming a member of the Oregon bar. You must pass the multistate professional responsibility exam (MPRE).  It is a half-day test given on Saturday several times a year.  Many students take it during their last year of law school, either Fall or Spring semester.  Some people wait and take it in August after taking the July bar.

—Martha Spence (spence@lclark.edu)
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs