This is the final part of a three-part series regarding success on the bar exam. In this part we will be covering the Performance Test (PT). Previously we covered cover essays and the Multistate Bar Exam. While many states use the Multistate Performance Test, the California General Bar Exam currently creates its own performance.
The PT is a practical test that appears in some form on most bar exams. The PT tests your skills to review a case file and prepare a written document. All the instructions, law, and other information needed will appear in the PT packet you receive at the test site, but you are also expected to apply knowledge of the law. You have three hours to complete the California PT. This will change when California implements to two day bar exam, when the PT will be reduced to 90 minutes.
The often taught strategy is to manage your time efficiently. This is done by devoting the first ninety minutes reading and organizing your answer. The remaining time is used to write your answer.
A major portion of the PT is simply following instructions. Make sure you read the instruction sheet and note any parts of the document they do not want you to include. This test is examining your attention to detail more than anything else.
Having said that, the best way to prepare for the PT is to actually write memoranda, legal briefs, letters, transactional documents, and closing arguments. The more of these you write, whether in class or for an actual lawyer, the easier it will be for you to complete and achieve a satisfactory score on the PT. Many of the practical writing and drafting exercises that are incorporated into St. Francis School of Law’s practical professional skills also help you prepare for the PT by developing your capacity for legal analysis.
You should already have already written many of transactional and litigation related documents in law school. That should help. Getting real world experience also makes this portion of the exam much, much easier. You may be asking, “how do I get such experience?” I recommend asking lawyers if you help do research projects and prepare transactional documents for them.
In addition, the California State Bar’s website includes past PTs along with sample student written answers that are available online. At the end of the day a letter is a letter and a memoranda is a memoranda. You can figure out a general structure you can follow regardless of the letter or memorandum’s subject matter. The point is, get used to writing after having read a few cases, a statute, and a case file.
Another point to remember is that the graders are not looking for perfection. They understand there are time constraints. If you have time at the end, go back and proofread your work. If not, don’t sweat it.
Just remember, the PT is an exam where the examiners give you all the information that you will need. The only thing you need to bring into the exam is the knowledge of how basic legal documents are structured.
I am confident that you will do well on the PT is you just practice writing basic legal litigation and transactional documents. After all, if you have the format down you are literally just filling in the blanks with the information provided by the bar examiners.
St. Francis School of Law also offers a bar review course for credit that provides you with further instruction on all aspects of the bar exam, including the PTs, as well as simulated PTs with feedback.