Though the Multistate Bar Exam is, arguably, the more difficult component of most state bar examinations, most bar takers are more concerned with the essay portion of the test than anything else. The sheer breadth of material that could potentially be tested in essay form creates more anxiety for bar takers than any other challenges inherent to the test.
In addition to the state-specific essays many jurisdictions include in their exams, the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) is an integral part of the bar in 33 jurisdictions and 5 U.S. Territories.
Not only does the MEE draw questions from MBE subjects—Contracts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law/Procedure, Evidence, Torts, and Real Property—it also tests such subjects as Business Associations, Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Federal Civil Procedure, Trusts and Estates, and Uniform Commercial Code.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the creators of the exam, describe the object of the MEE as follows:
The purpose of the MEE is to test the examinee’s ability to (1) identify legal issues raised by a hypothetical factual situation; (2) separate material which is relevant from that which is not; (3) present a reasoned analysis of the relevant issues in a clear, concise, and well-organized composition; and (4) demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental legal principles relevant to the probable solution of the issues raised by the factual situation.
Each year, the NCBE writes nine, 30-minute essay questions drawn from the pool of testable subjects and provides them to the jurisdictions that include the MEE in their state examinations. Each jurisdiction selects six of these essays to administer to their examinees.
Essays are typically administered on the first, or in some cases third, day of any given state’s bar exam. For states that test the MEE, the morning session is typically reserved for testing state-specific subject areas and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The MEE is usually placed in the afternoon session and bar takers are allotted three hours to complete the six 30-minute essays.
One of the most common misconceptions about preparing for the essay portion of the bar exam is that it is necessary to “master” all the material before attempting to do any practice essays. This kind of attitude is common among first-time bar takers and can be detrimental to achieving solid progress in one’s bar preparation.
The best way to succeed on the MEE is simply to write as many practice essays as possible from the outset of bar prep. Many bar takers put off doing practice essays because they only want to attempt them when they “know everything” about any given subject and can do the essays cold. This is a mistake, because most examinees will not be ready to attempt essays completely from memory until the final weeks of the bar preparation period.
A better approach for ramping up your essay prep is to start by outlining essay questions and comparing them to the model answers provided by your bar review course. Next, do practice essays open book, consulting your bar review class notes and outlines when necessary. Don’t worry about doing essays under timed pressure until the last weeks of preparation. For the first weeks of essay practice, just focus on spotting relevant issues, articulating applicable rules of law, and applying the law to the facts in a concise analysis section.
It is not necessary to write a practice essay in every testable subject area, but it is a good idea to read through the sample essays provided by your bar review course to get a feel for how each subject is likely to be tested. In addition, the NCBE provides study aid, practice questions, and example answers here.
The Multistate Essay Exam is part of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). It is a key component of many states’ bar exams. The MEE is designed to test the skills you learned in law school-spotting relevant issues, developing a rule statement, and writing a cohesive argument.
When you sit down to take the Multistate Essay Exam portion of the UBE, you’ll be given a packet with detailed instructions containing six essay questions. Each of the six essay prompts on the MEE will present you with a hypothetical situation. (To get a sense of what the essay prompts will look like, check out the July 2016 MEE questions.) You’ll have three hours to respond to all six questions. This gives you about thirty minutes to read the essay prompt, plan your response, and write.
Since the MEE makes up 30% of your score on the UBE, let’s walk through what topics are tested on the MEE and how to structure your time. This will ensure you get as many points as possible.
(If you’re not sure if your state’s bar exam includes the Multistate Essay exam, check out the National Conference of Bar Examiner’s map of MEE jurisdictions.)
Topics Tested on the Multistate Essay Exam
The MEE tests a wide range of legal topics, and some questions may even test multiple areas of law. Luckily, a lot of the legal topics tested on the MEE are the same as the core legal areas tested on the Multistate Bar Exam portion of the UBE. Namely, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Civil Procedure, Evidence, Torts, Real Property.
However, there are sometimes subjects included in the MEE questions that are not tested on the MBE. Some of those subjects are:
- Business Associations (Agency and Partnership; Corporations and Limited Liability Companies)
- Conflict of Laws
- Family Law
- Secured Transactions
So, be sure to review the entire MEE Subject Matter Outline provided by the NCBE. In fact, you may even want keep a copy of this outline with your bar study materials for quick reference. While there are a lot of topics covered by the MEE, remember that many of those topics you’ll already be reviewing as part of your preparation for the MBE.
Tips for Writing on the Multistate Essay Exam
Review these three tips as you prepare for the Multistate Essay Exam:
1. Get your timing down.
Timing is critical to your success on the MEE. You can’t afford to spend any additional time on any one essay. Why is this such an important point? Because you won’t be directed to move on to the next essay after 30 minutes. So, it’s up to you to only take 30 minutes per essay and keep moving. Trust me: you will need the full 30 minutes for each response.
But don’t fret. Here’s how to be purposeful with your time:
With your 30 minutes, you should:
- Spend about 10-15 minutes reading the fact scenario and question and planning your response.
- Spend about 15-20 minutes writing and briefly reviewing your essay.
Again, your timing must be precise to ensure you get to all the essays and have adequate time to respond. To get better at this, you should practice writing essays in the time given. On the day of the MEE, timing must be second nature, allowing you to focus on spotting legal issues and developing legal analyses.
2. Plan your essays well.
Take the time to write out a quick outline for your essay. Just as you did for your exams in law school, apply the same structure to every essay. Most students use the method introduced during law school—the IRAC approach: Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion.
IRAC will not only help you keep your thoughts clear and ensure you apply a rule statement to each fact scenario, it will help guide those who are grading your essay. And because you make it easier for the grader to follow, you’ll make it easier for them to give you more points. They won’t miss any of your brilliant analyses.
But, this step will also require a great deal of practice. You only have 10-15 minutes to read the essay, spot the issues, and remember all the relevant laws, so keep working on your timing!
3. Write quickly and coherently.
Using your IRAC structure from the planning step, you’ll want to take about 15-20 minutes to write a response to the call of the question. While the graders won’t expect your writing to be perfect given the limited time available, they will expect a well-reasoned, easy-to-follow essay.
Most of all, be sure to write like a lawyer—keep your tone formal and demonstrate your ability to analyze. And remember: be concise.
Take the time to read the sample MEE questions and answers provided by the NCBE. NCBE provides a handful for free and others for purchase at their NCBE online store.
Furthermore, as part of your preparation, write out responses to the sample questions given and compare your response to the sample response. Practice will make a difference to your writing and to your MEE score.
In sum, the Multistate Essay Exam is a challenging exam where you will be asked to write six essays in three hours. The subjects tested include those areas of law tested on the MBE and other areas of law, such as Business Associations and Family Law.
To do well on the MEE, you will need to quickly analyze a fact scenario and develop and apply a rule statement. The bottom line? You’re going to want to practice these steps a lot to ensure you are ready on the day of the Multistate Essay Exam. Luckily, you’ve been honing these exact skills in law school to crush the MEE (and become a lawyer!).